MBC Team Winter 2023 16:9

Beef in the Early Years

Ashley Kraemer | February 22, 2023

Is your child getting the nutrients they need? Let us help with mealtime and explain why beef as the main protein can help fill nutritional gaps. Plus, we'll share recipes that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Starting from 6 months of age, beef can be part of a child's diet. Why choose beef as a complementary food? Let us explain...

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Women Infants and Children's Program (WIC), and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend introducing solid foods, like beef, to infants and toddlers in order to pack in every bite with protein, iron, zinc, and choline.1-5 Experts agree that breastfed infants need a good dietary source of iron and zinc by 6 months of age as their requirements for these nutrients cannot be met by breastmilk alone.

Wondering how to serve beef to your child? While continuing to breastfeed, children around 6-8 months may start with pureed beef as it boosts iron and zinc. Doing so may provide long-lasting benefits for your baby, such as developing a healthy immune system, improving recall skills and reasoning, as well as promoting growth and learning milestones. Children around 8-10 months can transition to shredded or ground beef, and at 10-12 months of age, kids can start consuming tender, chopped beef. 

Toddlers can be both a joy and a challenge to feed. Picky eating may start to become more prominent at this age and their appetite can vary greatly from day to day. Anyone ever heard the very confident "NO" from their child at mealtime?!

Here's some tips to keep in mind when feeding your toddler:

  • Include your toddler at the family table as often as possible. Research consistently supports the value and importance of family meals.
  • Offer a variety of foods from all food groups. Vary cooking methods, presentation, and flavor components. Repeated exposure without pressure to eat is the best way to encourage your toddler to taste and like new foods.
  • Don't pressure your toddler to eat or try a new food. Pressuring a child to eat often backfires, leading to food refusal.
  • Don't sweat it if your toddler refuses food. Stay positive and consistent with the meal you have planned and try again another time.
  • Avoid making a separate meal for your toddler. Rather, plan meals and snacks with food variety in mind, including one or two foods you know your toddler enjoys eating.

Here's some nutritious beef recipes you can try that won't require you to make multiple meals to fulfill the whole family's needs:

For more recipe ideas, check out our page, mnbeef.org/recipes. To learn more about beef in the early years, visit beefitswhatfordinner.com/nutrition

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. 7th ed. Elk Grove, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014.
  2. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, D.C.
  3. Schwarzenberg SJ, et al. Advocacy for improving nutrition in the first 1000 days to support childhood development and adult health. Pediatrics 2018;141:e20173716.
  4. USDA WIC Works Resource System. Infant Nutrition and Feeding Guide. https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/resources/infant-nutrition-and-feeding-guide 
  5. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Food Data Central, 2019. https://www.fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170208/nutrients