Are Aussie toddlers low on iron?
Date: 2014-09-02
Author: - Editor
Access: Public

Only 56% of Australian toddlers regularly consume all five food groups – fruit, vegetables, cereals, meat and dairy – which may be compromising their iron levels, a new study shows.1

Researchers from the University of Technology Queensland investigated the diets of more than 550 children aged 12-16 months over a 24-hour period. 

Results showed 1 in 5 toddlers did not consume meat and almost half of those that did ate less than 30g a day. According to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating, toddlers’ daily requirement of cooked lean red meats is 65g or 80g of poultry.2

Dairy and cereal were the most commonly consumed food groups and the greatest contributors to daily energy intake. Most children ate fruit (87%) and vegetables (77%) on the day of the study.

Dietary factors that enhance kids’ immune systems include all essential nutrients and antioxidants. For optimal immune function, children require a diet that:3

  • is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and essential fatty acids
  • excludes junk foods, excessive amounts of saturated fats and refined sugars 
  • has adequate protein
  • has plenty of pure water

Key minerals required for optimal brain function and healthy growth include iron and iodine. Iron deficiency during childhood may be associated with impaired cognitive development.4

Several randomised controlled trials and reviews have shown that iodine supplementation improves perceptual reasoning, information processing, fine motor skills, and visual problem solving in mild, moderately and severely iodine-deficient children.5

Supplementing with vitamin C may also improve iron levels in children, as vitamin C is involved in a range of functions including helping the absorption of iron.6

Children who consume inadequate protein in early childhood may have negative effects to their brain size as well as their intelligence. Missing breakfast and/or consuming inadequate protein for breakfast plays havoc with blood sugar levels over the course of the day. This causes children to become irritable, easily distracted and hyperactive. 

To supplement a fussy child’s diet, look for a good source of protein, such as pea protein; a vegan plant source of protein with a complete amino acid profile. Pea protein contains key amino acids taurine, lysine and glycine, which are necessary to improve cognition, mood and physical performance. 

Additionally, pea protein is low allergenic and therefore suitable for children with food sensitivities or digestive conditions. 

Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about children’s health. Make sure to always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare practitioner.

To find a healthcare practitioner in your local area, visit our Find A Practitioner service!


  1. Byrne R, Magarey, A, Daniels L. Food and beverage intake in Australian children aged 12–16 months participating in the NOURISH and SAIDI studies. Aust NZ J Pub Health 2014.
  2. The Australian guide to healthy eating; background information for consumers. Commonwealth of Australia, 1998.
  3. Murray MT, Pizzorno J. The encyclopaedia of natural medicine, 3rd ed. NY: Simon & Schuster, 2012.
  4. Drake VJ. Micronutrients and cognitive function. Micronutrient information center, Linus Pauling Institute 2011. Viewed 20 June 2014,
  5. Zimmermann MB, Connolly K, Bozo M, et al. Iodine supplementation improves cognition in iodine-deficient schoolchildren in Albania: a randomised, controlled, double-blind study. Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83(1):108-114.
  6. NHMRC. Nutrient reference values for Australia and New Zealand 2005. New Zealand Ministry of Health and Australian Dept of Health and Ageing,