Food & Diet

Iodine Deficiency In Children: Foods To Add To Your Kids' Diet

Written by Kaushiki Gangully
Published: May 21, 2024

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An essential trace mineral for all humans, iodine is not made by the human body and, therefore, must be consumed through food to meet the daily dietary requirements. As iodine deficiency is a leading cause of brain damage and thyroid gland and hormone issues in children, it is important to ensure your kids consume adequate amounts of iodine in their diet, neither a deficit nor an excess.

Understanding Iodine Deficiency In Children

To fulfill the daily dietary requirement of iodine, infants to 6-year-olds require 90 mcg/day, children aged 6 to 12 years need 120 mcg/day, and adolescents and adults need 150 mcg/day. For pregnant and lactating women, it is important to hit 250 mcg/day, as a lack of proper iodine in expecting mothers leads to poor cognitive and brain development in the fetus.

Also, children born to mothers suffering from iodine deficiency can suffer from a disease called cretinism, which involves a poorly developed brain and causes intellectual development disorder in school-aged children, who lag compared to their peers in learning.

But when children have adequate iodine in them, they have a healthy and functional thyroid gland with appropriate levels of the gland’s hormones thyroxine and triiodothyronine. These hormones help in protein and enzyme activity, regulate metabolism, and prevent diseases like hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and goiter.

Therefore, to ensure your child’s iodine levels are healthy, here are some wonderful food sources of iodine to add to your kids’ diet.


Seaweed is the best source of iodine for humans, especially children. A rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, the amount of iodine varies in the different types of seaweed like kombu kelp, nori, and wakame. A one-gram seaweed sheet of kombu kelp can contain up to 2984 mcg, while wakame offers 66 mcg per gram, and nori provides somewhere between 16 to 43 mcg of iodine. With the burgeoning popularity and interest in seaweed thanks to nutritionists and global chefs, parents can try using seaweed in salads, stews, and even as air-fried or roasted chips for their children as a nourishing and iodine-rich snack.


Seafoods like tuna, salmon, cod, shrimp, and oysters are rich sources of iodine as they absorb iodine from being naturally present in seawater. While three ounces of shrimp provide 35 mcg of iodine, the same serving of cod offers between 63 to 99 mcg, and the same serving of oysters (85 gms) serves up to 93 mcg of iodine. This makes seafood, especially lean fish, a wondrous powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and of course, iodine.

Iodized Salt

Though non-iodized salt is still sold, it is the daily companion of every Indian meal and kitchen for a reason. ¼ teaspoon of iodized salt offers 71 mcg of iodine. If you simply season your kids’ homemade meals with a light sprinkling of salt and pepper, you are ensuring a deficiency-free and healthy future for your kid.


Dairy, milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and cheddar cheese offer children a decent source of iodine due to their enticing taste. While the iodine content of a cup of milk from different brands varies between 88 and 168 mcg, one cup of cottage cheese provides 65 mcg of iodine, and one ounce of cheddar cheese provides around 12 mcg of iodine. Therefore, it is wise to incorporate more dairy into your kids’ diet to improve their iodine levels.

Meat, Poultry, and Eggs

Eggs, poultry, and meat are good sources of iodine. A single hard-boiled egg provides 26 mcg of iodine, while animal organ protein sources like the liver can provide 14 mcg of iodine, among other essential vitamins and minerals. Incorporating more meat, chicken, and eggs into your kids’ diet will help increase their protein and iron intake and improve their iodine levels daily.


Though nuts and seeds are not that rich in iodine, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and pine nuts are moderate sources of iodine. Hazelnuts provide 0.2 mcg of iodine, sunflower seeds clock in at 6.8 mcg of iodine, pine nuts offer 2 mcg to 2.5 mcg of iodine, and walnuts provide between 3.1 and 7.5 mcg of iodine per 100 gm of weight, respectively. Make nuts, nut butter, and seeds daily part of your kids’ snacks to ensure optimal iodine levels.


Prunes are another name for dried plums and a great vegan iodine source. 5 dried prunes provide 13 mcg of iodine, which is a great deal. Make your own prune juice at home or incorporate them in your kids’ trail mixes as the dried fruit is known for relieving constipation, improving heart health, lessening the risk of colon cancer, and aiding weight loss by decreasing appetite. You can even add dried fruit to smoothies for kids but do not use them excessively as they have laxative properties.

Iodine deficiency can cause serious problems in children if not prioritized and repleted primarily. Therefore it is important to properly take care of pregnant and lactating mothers as well as infants to guarantee adequate consumption of iodine via food and iodized salt. This will lead to a well-formed brain, improved cognitive abilities, and proper growth in children, whose healthy futures will thank you for your timely, nutritious intervention and proper iodine supplementation in their childhood diet.

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The views expressed are that of the expert alone.

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