Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrition deficiencies in young children. Before birth, infants take iron from their mother and store it in their bodies. After birth, they only get a little bit of iron from breastmilk. By 6 months, those stores of iron run low, and infants need more iron from their diet. Enter in solid foods! Six months is the perfect time to start infants on solids so they can 1) learn how to feed themselves (yay!!) and 2) get some iron.
Pureed red meat is the best source of iron. The second-best source is iron-fortified infant cereal (like baby rice or baby oatmeal). If your baby is vegetarian, pureed beans and lentils are also a good source of iron.
Iron is also important for women who are having their periods. Iron deficiency is common in women. I used to think that red meat was bad and avoided it all costs. I thought I was getting enough iron from beans. When I developed iron deficiency, I changed my mind!
The problem with red meat is that it is high in bad fats, called saturated fats. However, foods like cheese and butter are also high in this type of fat. So, I cut back on the amount of cheese I eat and have red meat instead. It is more nutritious than cheese and I'm not eating any more bad fat than I was before.
Red meat is expensive! Serving size to the rescue: a 6-month-old infant only needs about 1 Tablespoon per meal! If you made a pound of ground beef and pureed it for your infant, that meat would last several weeks. Serving size for an adult is the size of 1 deck of cards - also less than most of us want to eat. Eating smaller serving sizes cuts down costs! Mixing beans with your meat also helps it to last longer.
That being said, my menu this week includes a lot of red meat. My husband is a hunter, so we have a freezer full of elk meat, which is similar to beef. He made a large roast yesterday. We had small servings yesterday and will eat the rest this week in other things.
And with that long primer, here is my IRON RICH menu:
Monday: enchiladas w/beans and leftover roast (I'll use meat and beans) + chopped bell peppers + corn + mangoes
image from foodhero.org
Tuesday: barbecue beef sandwiches (no recipe: I'll just heat the meat in store bought barbeque sauce with some lentils I already have cooked) + bean salad + watermelon
image from foodhero.org
Wednesday: beef & bean stew (no recipe: I'll just put meat, onions, carrots and lentils in a crock pot with broth and let cook all day) + cornbread + watermelon
Thursday: cheese tortellini salad (no recipe: I'll cook tortellini and put it on top of green salad with pecans and store-bought dressing) + apples
Friday: hummus + tzatziki + tabouleh + pita bread
image from ddinutrition.com