Zinc is an important mineral for growth and development and is abundant in meat, shellfish, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and some vegetables. Although zinc can be found in several familiar foods, zinc deficiency is surprisingly common in kids and can lead to some serious symptoms if left untreated.
It’s estimated that 30-50% of American children don’t get an adequate amount of Zinc in their diets and that 6-10% of kids are deficient in zinc.
Kids at the highest risk for zinc deficiency are infants over 6 months of age who are exclusively breastfed, children who eat a vegetarian diet, children from low income homes, and children with digestive conditions (eg. IBS) that lead to reduced absorption of nutrients.
Top Dietary Sources of Zinc
- Beef (3.5 oz of cooked ground beef contains 5.9 mg of zinc)
- Turkey (3.5 of of cooked ground turkey contains 2.9 mg of zinc)
- Chickpeas (1 cup of chickpeas contains 2.5 mg of zinc)
- Chicken (3.5 oz of roasted chicken breast contains 1 mg of zinc)
- Sunflower Seeds (1 oz of dried sunflower seeds contains 1.4 mg of zinc)
- Pumpkin Seeds (1 oz of dried pumpkin seeds contains 2.1 mg of zinc)
- Eggs (1 large hard boiled egg contains 0.5 mg of zinc)
- Yogurt (1 cup of yogurt contains 1.4 mg of zinc)
- Cashews (1 oz of cashews contains 1.6 mg of zinc)
- Ricotta Cheese (1 cup of ricotta cheese contains 2.9 mg of zinc)
- Cheddar Cheese (1 oz contains 0.9 mg of zinc)
- Peas (½ cup cooked peas contains 0.5 mg of zinc)
- Avocado (1 avocado contains 0.9 mg of zinc)
- Almonds (1 oz of almonds contains 0.9 mg of zinc)
- Cocoa Powder (1 tbsp contains 0.4 mg of zinc)
- Potatoes with Skins (1 medium baked potato with skin contains 0.4 mg of zinc)
Zinc from meat sources is more easily absorbed than zinc from vegan sources because fiber and phytates found in vegetables interfere with absorption. This is why vegetarians are at higher risk of zinc deficiency than omnivores even if they are mindful of their zinc intake and have a healthy digestion.
When To Consider Zinc Supplementation
Zinc is vitally important for healthy growth and development in kids, and this is one of the biggest reasons that I don’t recommend a vegetarian diet for babies and children. However, I know that some little ones prefer not to eat meat for whatever reason. For these kids, I would strongly recommend a zinc supplement, and I encourage their parents to keep a watchful eye for zinc deficiency symptoms.
Kid-Approved Recipes Featuring Zinc-Rich Foods
If you’re looking for ways to add more zinc-containing foods into your diet, check out this list of recipes that we love in our family. Do you have great recipes that feature zinc-rich foods to share? I’d love to see them in the comments.
Tacos! Fillings can go in gluten free corn tortillas, in lettuce wraps, on salad, or on rice.
Here are a few stew recipes that may satisfy even picky eaters.
Lasagna is always a favorite and a great way to get kids to eat almost anything, so long as they can eat eggs and dairy. We use gluten free pasta.