Life with a toddler is hectic, to say the least. Their little brains are working harder than they literally ever will (fun fact: from birth to age three, children’s brains are learning something every second resulting in a million neural connections per second). And do they ever stop moving? Tiffany Selchow, Director of Social Marketing and Consumer Outreach at the Arizona Beef Council, shares in this blog how her family includes beef in their busy lifestyle, made only that much sweeter (and crazy) by their young daughter, to help ensure all nutrient needs are met.
Hayes Katherine, my three-and-a-half-year-old spit fire, is as active as ever and learning more every day. She only holds still for a few seconds at a time and is taking in every word those around her dare to let past their lips. Luckily for us, we live on a working cattle ranch so there are lots of places for her to go to burn off her abundance of energy. During the cooler months, we like to go on long walks down the dirt roads, learning about the flora and fauna of the Sonoran Desert and sometimes do so in her best Elsa dress. She also enjoys helping her dad check on the cows, splashing in muddy puddles, and dragging the ranch dogs along with her on most of these adventures. The heat doesn’t stop this girl. Even when it is hot, she wants to be outside, riding her bike or one of the patient ranch horses.
Keeping up with her energy and nutrition needs tends to be a challenge, because another difficulty of toddlerhood is finding food you can both agree on. Children at this age are literally supposed to question everything we tell them, and they take that job VERY seriously. This is where beef saves the day for us. It’s probably pretty obvious that in our house, we eat a lot of beef and should come as no surprise that beef was one of Hayes’ first foods.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Women Infants and Children’s Program (WIC) and now, for the first time ever, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, all recommend the introduction of solid foods, like beef, to infants and toddlers, in order to pack every bite with protein, iron, zinc and choline. Babies’ tummies are small, but their nutrition requirements are great. It’s our job as parents to ensure that nutrient-dense foods, like beef, get into that small space and fulfill those requirements.
Beef contains 10 essential nutrients including zinc, iron, and protein in just a few calories. For example, one recommended serving size for adults is 3 ounces of beef. This single serving contains about 160 calories while also including almost half of your daily needs for protein. Break that down into a toddler size portion of beef (1 ounce of beef) and you have something your small human enjoys eating because it’s tasty while also offering you the peace of mind knowing they are getting the nutrients that they need.
Hayes enjoys beef in many ways, but her favorite is in the form of her dad’s delicious and almost world-famous spaghetti sauce served over pasta. While this is a closely held secret family recipe, I’ll give you a small hint: Try ground beef and some Prego sauce and you’ll come pretty close to finding out the secret. We love to do family dinners at the dining room table or out on our ranch house porch and often grill up a Flat Iron Steak while Hayes runs around with the dogs in the ranch yard. The Flat Iron Steak happens to be the second most tender cut of the whole animal so you can basically add whatever seasoning you want, grill it up, let it rest, and then slice against the grain and you are almost always guaranteed a good eating experience. As a smaller kiddo, we used to give Hayes a long slice of beef to let her gnaw away and not worry about choking. Now that she’s a little older, we cut up bit size pieces and put those next to some grapes or other fruit and cheese and she has a plate full of healthy foods she is happy to chow down.
Serving nutritious foods babies and toddlers love to eat, like beef, is simple and easy—puree, mash, chop or shred meat at various stages to meet their changing feeding needs. Check out https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/nutrition/beef-in-the-early-years for more information on feeding beef to your small ones and don’t forget to click on the recipes tab for inspiration and kid-friendly beef meal ideas.
Unless noted, photos provided by the author.