In this 7-day meal plan, we included plenty of delicious iron-rich foods to help improve your iron levels and kick anemia to the curb.

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Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red-blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to tissues throughout your body. There are a few different causes of anemia, both diet-related and those caused by other conditions like sickle cell disease, kidney disease, certain autoimmune disorders and heart conditions. Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common and is often caused by blood loss and low dietary intake of iron-rich foods. Due to the high iron needs in pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, iron-deficiency anemia, sometimes called pregnancy-related anemia, is common during these phases of life.

Other nutrition-related causes of anemia include vitamin-deficiency anemia, which is caused by a lack of folate or vitamin B12 in the diet. Pernicious anemia is specifically caused by the body's inability to absorb vitamin B12 in the gut. In the case of pernicious anemia, diet is helpful but medical interventions (like B12 shots from your doctor) will likely be necessary due to absorption challenges.

The best diet for anemia has plenty of iron-rich foods. In this plan, you'll get at least 18mg of iron per day, which is the recommended dietary intake for people aged 19 to 50 years who experience a menstrual cycle. If you don't fit into that category, it's okay to get a little more iron than your recommended levels from food sources, especially if you've been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia. Because people have different calorie needs, we set this plan at 1,500 calories per day and included modifications for 1,200 and 2,000 calories per day.

Signs of Anemia:

Here are some common symptoms of anemia. If you think you might have anemia, ask your doctor to check your blood levels.

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Thinning or fragile hair
  • Irritability
  • Feeling cold when others feel fine (especially in your hands and feet)
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Pale skin
  • Headaches

Iron-Rich Foods for Anemia:

There are two sources of dietary iron: heme and non-heme. Heme iron, found in animal products like meat and seafood, is absorbed much better by our body. Non-heme iron is from plant sources, such as leafy greens and legumes and isn't absorbed as well. They key to upping your absorption of iron from non-heme vegetarian sources is to pair it with vitamin C foods, which makes it more available for our bodies to use.

Heme Iron Sources

  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Oysters, mussels and clams
  • Tuna
  • Sardines
  • Chicken and beef liver
  • Organ meats

Non-Heme Iron Sources

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Spinach and most dark leafy greens
  • Dark chocolate (greater than 45%)
  • Nuts and seeds, especially pumpkin seeds, sesame, hemp & flax
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Fortified breads and rice

Vitamin C Foods

Pair with non-heme iron foods to increase absorption of iron.

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons and grapefruit)
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bell peppers
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
  • Pineapple
  • Tomatoes
  • Winter Squash
  • Potatoes (sweet and white)

How to Meal-Prep Your Week of Meals:

  1. Make 3 servings Pumpkin Overnight Oats to have for breakfast on Days 2 through 4.
  2. Prepare Meal-Prep Vegan Moroccan Lettuce Wraps to have for lunch on Days 2 through 5.

Day 1

Greek Roasted Fish

Breakfast (342 calories)

A.M. Snack (200 calories)

  • 1 cup edamame in shells

Lunch (422 calories)

P.M. Snack (135 calories)

  • 3 Tbsp. dried pumpkin seed kernels

Dinner (409 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,521 calories, 66g fat, 164g carbohydrate, 42g fiber, 78g protein, 18mg iron, 4.5mcg vitamin B12, 1,173mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the A.M. snack to 1 clementine and change the P.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumber.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Peanut Butter & Chia Berry Jam English Muffin to breakfast, increase to 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds at the P.M. snack plus add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to dinner.

Day 2

Cheesy Ground Beef & Cauliflower Casserole
Credit: Jason Donnelly

Breakfast (244 calories)

A.M. Snack (196 calories)

  • ¼ cup dried pumpkin seed kernels
  • ¼ cup raspberries

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (200 calories)

  • 1 cup edamame in shells

Dinner (455 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,521 calories, 79g fat, 137g carbohydrate, 40g fiber, 74g protein, 20g iron, 3.1mcg vitamin B12, 1,651mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the pumpkin seeds in the A.M. snack and change the P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie and add 1 cup cubed avocado to the salad at dinner.

Day 3

One-Pot Lentil & Vegetable Soup with Parmesan
Credit: Antonis Achilleos

Breakfast (244 calories)

A.M. Snack (275 calories)

  • ¼ cup dried pumpkin seed kernels
  • 1 medium apple

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (155 calories)

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Dinner (402 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,501 calories, 58g fat, 193g carbohydrate, 39g fiber, 63g protein, 18mg iron, 2.2mcg vitamin B12, 1,671mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the pumpkin seeds at the A.M. snack and omit the baguette at dinner.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie to breakfast, add 1 medium apple to the P.M. snack and add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to dinner.

Day 4

Photo of the Ground Beef & Pasta Skillet recipe

Breakfast (244 calories)

A.M. Snack (90 calories)

  • 2 Tbsp. dried pumpkin seed kernels

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (155 calories)

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Dinner (582 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,497 calories, 63g fat, 156g carbohydrate, 31g fiber, 82g protein, 18mg iron, 2.3mcg vitamin B12, 1,696mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change the P.M. snack to 1 clementine and change dinner to 1 serving American Goulash.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie to breakfast and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.

Day 5

Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili with Black Beans

Breakfast (342 calories)

A.M. Snack (155 calories)

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Lunch (425 calories)

P.M. Snack (90 calories)

  • 2 Tbsp. dried pumpkin seed kernels

Dinner (491 calories)

Meal-Prep Tip: Reserve two servings Vegetarian Butternut Squash Chili with Black Beans to have for lunch on Days 6 and 7.

Daily Totals: 1,503 calories, 70g fat, 174g carbohydrate, 47g fiber, 56g protein, 18mg iron, 1mcg vitamin B12, 1,471mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change breakfast to 1 serving Green Smoothie, change the A.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumber and change the P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Peanut Butter & Chia Berry Jam English Muffin to breakfast, add 1 large pear to the A.M. snack plus add 1 medium apple to the P.M. snack.

Day 6

Massaged Kale Salad with Roasted Sweet Potato & Black Beans
Credit: Jacob Fox

Breakfast (342 calories)

A.M. Snack (180 calories)

  • ¼ cup dried pumpkin seed kernels

Lunch (307 calories)

P.M. Snack (100 calories)

  • 1 cup edamame in shells

Dinner (588 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,518 calories, 58g fat, 200g carbohydrate, 47g fiber, 61g protein, 18mg iron, 0.3 mcg vitamin B12, 1,315mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Change breakfast to 1 serving Raspberry-Kefir Power Smoothie, change the A.M. snack to 1/4 cup sliced cucumber and change the P.M. snack to 1 clementine.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Peanut Butter & Chia Berry Jam English Muffin to breakfast, add 1 medium orange to the A.M. snack plus add 1 serving Everything Bagel Avocado Toast to dinner.

Day 7

Scallion-Ginger Beef Broccoli

Breakfast (342 calories)

A.M. Snack (212 calories)

  • ¼ cup dried pumpkin seed kernels
  • ½ cup raspberries

Lunch (307 calories)

P.M. Snack (200 calories)

  • 1 cup edamame in shells

Dinner (440 calories)

Daily Totals: 1,502 calories, 48g fat, 195g carbohydrate, 45g fiber, 79g protein, 19mg iron, 1.3mcg vitamin B12, 1,396mg sodium

To Make it 1,200 Calories: Omit the pumpkin seeds at the A.M. snack and change the P.M. snack to 1 medium orange.

To Make it 2,000 Calories: Add 1 serving Peanut Butter & Chia Berry Jam English Muffin to breakfast and add 1 serving Guacamole Chopped Salad to dinner.