Meat is not necessary for iron. There are several options. At 6 months stored iron in an infant becomes depleted so even though breast feeding should continue ideally till a child is 3yrs old if possible an iron source in the diet is needed. Green smoothies are great if a child will take and must include vitamin C containing fruits for best absorption of the iron in the greens. Also steamed pureed greens are good add to other steamed veggies. Can also provide small amounts fresh pressed juices e.g. apple/kale. Some like to introduce an iron fortified cereal such as rice ( this is the least allergy causing grain). A little later quinoa is good for iron and protein.Other iron sources are lentils and beans.Can also make nut and seed milks. Soak all nuts and seeds. A good one is a blend of almond walnut and unhulled sesame seeds. Sesame seeds are high in iron, folic acid and calcium. Walnuts for omega 3s and almonds for sweetness and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. Mother should supplement with B12 so it will be abundant in breast milk. When child completely weans B12 supplement needed for child. Vitamin D important. Child should be walked daily in sunlight.
Small amounts of Chia seeds can also be added to pureed foods they are high in omega 3s and iron. Or they can be added to the nut and seed mils to make chia pudding.
Another option is vegan iron drops- find a high quality option
Remember that breast milk is the most perfect food on the planet for brain development in a small child. Brain development is very rapid form 0-3yrs old in human beings. So slowly adding iron rich plant foods with continued abundant breast feeding is optimal.
Hope this helps.
Vegetarian Sources of Iron
Please note that this section contains my personal notes from my readings on this topic.
From Disease-Proof Your Child (2005) by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D.; pages 150 – 151
It is a myth that a vegetarian diet, rich in green vegetables, beans, and whole grains, would likely be low in calcium or protein. Plant foods contain adequate levels of these nutrients. However, if a vegetarian diet is not carefully designed to include foods such as nuts, seeds, green vegetables, beans and whole grains, then levels of calcium, iron, zinc, and protein could be low.
For example, iron-deficiency anemia has been reported in some macrobiotic vegetarians who followed a very restrictive diet and consumed a diet with rice as their staple food. This iron deficiency would have occurred if these individuals had eaten more green vegetables and beans, which contain adequate iron.
A natural-food-based vegetarian diet does not cause iron-deficiency anemia, it gives you the ideal amount. By the way, chicken and turkey do not have much iron in them. Vegetables and beans have much more.
Nowadays it is easy to be scared into believing the mythology that vegetarians will become anemic… The research, however, shows this is just another cultural myth diseemniated through the flesh-centered Chinese or American medical establishments. One of the most startling historical events to repudiate this myth is evidenced by the British statistics during World War II. When the meat supply was seriously curtailed due to scarcity and the diversion of meat to the fighting soliders, the population in England had significantly less flesh foods in the diet. The rate of anemia significantly decreased in the total civilian population during the time of the least flesh food consumption.
Why do vegetarians have less anemia? The answer, I believe, lies in the leafy greens, which often have a higher concentration of iron than flesh foods. For example, according to the U.S.D.A. Handbook no. 456, gram for gram, kale has fourteen times more iron than red meat. Spinach — Popeye’s comic strip power food — has approximately eleven times the iron of ground beef. Strawberries, cabbage, bell peppers, and even cucumbers have more iron per weight than ground beef or sirloin steak. Researchers have also found that vitamin C, which is high in fruits and vegetables, significantly enhances the body’s ability to assimilate iron.
In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1984, research by Hallberg and Roassander showed that nonheme iron (iron found in vegetarian food as compared to the heme iron of flesh food) was absorbed four times better if there were enough accompanying fruits and vegetables to provide 65 mg of vitamin C. There is at least that much vitamin C in one-half green pepper. Vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, and mustard greens are high in both vitamin C and iron. Beans and peas are also high in iron. Cooking in iron pots is another indirect source of iron. According to White, in Let’s Talk about Food, the iron in food can be increased by 100 to 400% by being prepared in iron pots. The clinical evidence as reported in such science journals as the Journal of Human Nutrition, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and Journal of the American Dietetic Association clearly shows that in vegetarians, iron assimilation is as high as, or higher than, tha tof flesh-food eaters. Anderson, Gibson, and Sabry, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, report that the hemoglobin and iron levels in vegetarian women who were regularly menstruating were higher than that of women of comparable age in the general population. The iron in the vegetarian diets of these women was also higher than in the diets of the general population.
Eating a lot of milk products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream, contributes to an iron deficiency. A high-dairy product intake not only blocks iron uptake, but because it is filling, it dimishes intake of high-iron foods such as fruits, grains, and vegetables.
From Conscious-Eating by Gabriel Cousens, M.D., Nutrition for Pregnancy, pgs 648-649
Iron is needed for development of fetal red blood cells, white blood cells, and to support the blood volume which is increased by 50% to help build immunity and for the development of the placenta. There seems to be a large variation in the ability to absorb iron. Dairy products block the absorption of iron, and vitamin C enhances the absorption. The recommended daily allowance is thirty to sixty milligrams per day, which is a high amount. Women whose systems are better able to absorb iron can get most of this from foods such as raisins, green leafy vegetables, wheat, oats, barley, millet, corn, buckwheat, apricots, nuts, seeds, spirulina, chlorella, and sorghum molasses. One tablespoon of chlorella supplies approximately twenty-five milligrams of iron, and one tablespoon of spirulina supplies approximately nine milligrams… The natural vitamin C in fruits and vegetables also significantly amplifies the absorption of iron.
- Sprouts! All sprouts have a good amount of protein
- Grains (especially quinoa and amaranth)
- Soy (tempeh, tofu, edamame)
- Leafy greens (1 cup cooked spinach has 13 grams of protein)
- Sea vegetables (spirulina is 60% protein!)