Mom and RDN Share the Health Benefits of Beef for Growing Families

With so much buzz on social media about food and nutrition, it can be difficult for parents to decide what is best to feed their families. Sustainable nutrition is also a growing concern. In addition, with the growing popularity of plant-based diets, you may be tempted to skip meat in your child’s meals.

When deciding what type of diet is best for your child, it’s important to know the facts, says Mariana Dineen, registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and mom: “Poor beef more nutrient dense than many other protein sources, offering a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.” All cuts of beef, with A unique blend of beef nutrientsbe part of a complete balanced diet when enjoyed in sensible portions.

Beef in a delicious tacos dish
Photo Credit: Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner

In fact, according to the US Department of Agriculture, three ounces of cooked lean beef provides 10 essential nutrients in about 170 calories, including high-quality protein, zinc, iron and B vitamins. No other protein source offers the same nutrient mix. That’s a lot of nutritional payoff in one food.

Busting nutrition myths

There’s a lot of misinformation about beef being unhealthy because it’s associated with high-fat diets and fast food, notes Dineen.

“Beef is often unfairly criticized because it leads to unhealthy eating patterns,” she says. “However, lean beef can be part of a healthy diet such as the Mediterranean diet, without raising LDL cholesterol, as it has been suggested A 2021 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

With the growing popularity of plant-based diets, some parents assume that these diets will prevent obesity or childhood obesity in general. Indeed, recent research shows that switching to a plant-based diet is unlikely to affect healthy weight management.

“Beef is a very satisfying protein. It fills you up so you don’t snack or keep eating because you’re still hungry,” says Dineen.

Beef is packed with nutrientsBeef is packed with nutrients

The unique benefits of beef

Beef has a unique combination of nutrients, all in one food. Here are some of the benefits of beef in your baby’s diet:

Beef is a high quality protein

Beef provides a high-quality protein source that is especially important for growing children. “A three-ounce serving of lean beef provides about 25 grams of protein, meeting half of children’s daily protein needs,” says Mariana. This protein is essential for building and repairing muscles and tissues, supporting overall growth and development.

Beef is nutrient dense

Beef is more nutrient-dense than many other protein sources.

“In our family, we don’t look at foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Some are more nutritious than others. I aim for a balanced diet that includes lean beef for its nutrient density.” Dineen says a healthy way to look at food is to consider its nutritional value above all else.

Beef is satisfying, which helps maintain a healthy weight

Lean beef provides a satisfying source of protein without excess calories, says Dineen.

“People often think that beef is too high in saturated fat and calories, but half of the fat in beef is monounsaturated fat, which doesn’t raise cholesterol levels. Also, lean cuts can help cut fat and calories. A three-ounce serving of lean beef has only about 10 grams of fat, and just 4.5 grams of saturated fat.”

A delicious beef dishA delicious beef dish
Photo Credit: Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner

Plus, according to a 2022 study by the National Institutes of Health, beef only makes up about 5% of the total calories in Americans’ diets. However, that small percentage of calories packs a significant amount of nutrients.

Delicious and nutritious beef recipes

Here are some of Dineen’s favorite healthy, kid-friendly family meals with beef as the main ingredient:

  • Pepper Stuffed Pizza: Lean beef, red pepper and mozzarella stuffed in stone pepper.
  • Beef and Vegetable Pasta: A simple but nutritious dish with lean beef and a variety of vegetables. “This is a great way to get a lot of nutrients in one dish,” says Dineen.
  • Traditional Tacos: “I’m of Mexican heritage, so we prefer this family,” says Dineen. “I use lean beef, fresh veggies and a dollop of cheese.”
  • Mexican Pizza: Add ground beef and cooked vegetables to pita bread for a fun twist on traditional pizza.
  • Ground Beef Pita Pockets: This makes a filling and delicious main dish. Season ground beef lightly to taste, add veggies and add whole grain pitas.

Is beef sustainable?

The short answer is: yes! Cattle play an important role in sustainable agriculture. For one thing, cattle have the ability to convert plants that are inedible to humans into high-quality protein.

“About 90% of what cattle eat is forage and leftover plant food that people can’t eat and would otherwise go to waste,” explains Dineen. This process is called upcycling, which contributes to environmental sustainability.

Photo Credit: Beef: It’s What’s For Dinner

Another way you can increase the sustainability of your choices is to reduce the amount of food waste in your household. Almost one-third of food is wasted in the US, which makes up about 22% of landfill. Consider planning your weekly recipes to include leftover ingredients and get the most out of your grocery cart!

The bottom line on beef? “It’s about making informed choices and enjoying a variety of foods that provide good nutrition,” says Dineen. “Beef is a valuable and sustainable part of a growing family’s diet, offering essential nutrients that support the growth and development of children and young people.”

Mariana DinneenMariana Dinneen
Photo courtesy of Mariana Dineen

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