This week is World Iron Awareness Week with the focus of this year’s campaign being the importance of iron during pregnancy. Having recently had our first baby, I know first-hand how tiring growing a human can be and how much you need to focus on fueling yourself with nutrient-dense foods. Because after-all, everything you eat is passed onto your developing baby and as a mum you want to offer the best possible start in life to your baby.
A recent New Zealand study found that only 1 in 5 women ate at least two serves of quality protein foods such as red meat, fish and eggs each day. Given that pregnant women require 2-3 times more iron than normal during pregnancy and meats (especially red meat and organ meats) provide a rich source of iron, women are missing out on important nutrients, particularly iron during this critical time. Iron is a mineral vital for optimal energy, immunity, healthy foetal development and it can also assist with breastfeeding and reducing the incidence of postnatal depression.
As well as being important for pregnant women and the developing foetus, iron is also important for little ones once they begin complementary foods at around 6 months of age. This is because the iron levels in a mother’s breastmilk (if breastfeeding) aren’t enough to cover a babies’ daily iron needs. As a result, iron-rich foods need to be offered such as beef, lamb, organ meats, legumes and leafy greens in an age-appropriate manner for your baby. Easier said than done you say! I have an almost 10-month old who is fiercely independent and who refuses to be spoon fed meats so I’ve spent a bit of time creating baby-friendly iron-rich recipes for Isabella to enjoy, including foods that she can pick up and safely eat with one hand.
This ‘Nourishing Meatloaf’ is super easy to make and packed with bioavailable iron, meaning it is efficiently absorbed by little bodies. If your little one isn’t keen on eating vegetables on the side (Isabella will happily scoff steamed broccoli, carrots and beans!), then you could also add in some grated carrot and courgette for extra nutrients. I’ve taste-tested it and happily ate two slices with Isabella for lunch! Just be aware I haven’t added any salt, so adults may find it bland but little people have far more taste buds than us so they think it will be super tasty without any added salt!