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Dietary guidelines suggest beef in youth diets

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

The recently released 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests incorporating beef into infant and toddler diets at a younger age. This presents an exciting achievement for the U.S. beef industry.  

The effort was brought forward by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Women Infants and Children’s Program and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Together, these organizations are paving the way for healthy Americans, starting at a young age.  

Wisconsin Beef Council Dietitian Sara Agena joined the Mid-West Farm Report after the report was announced to share how this will look in young people’s diets.  

She began, “What they are recommending is introducing beef to infants and toddlers in order to incorporate every bite with protein, iron, zinc and choline.” 

This new guideline pushes parents to include beef,  the nutrient-dense protein, in their child’s diet to provide them with a unique taste and texture.  

With many different ways to prepare meat and make it safe for all stages of life, babies and toddlers can reap the benefits of beef.  

The Beef Council has found ways to make it easier for parents to put the new dietary suggestion into practice, saying, “Serving nutritious food 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.” 

Babies’ growth 

The decision to include more beef into infant and toddler diets did not come easily. Still, looking at the data, the benefits beef provides combined with the growth and development babies endure make it logical to proceed with this plan.  

Babies take on so much growth in the first year of life. Their body weight triples and they more than double their length. All of this change requires high-quality nutrients and beef helps to meet their growing demands.  

Recognizing an infant’s brain capacity grows by over 40 percent, the Beef Council shares, “The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes key nutrients found in beef are essential to support growth and cognitive development during the early years.” 

Still, less than 10 percent of infants fewer than 12 months of age have eaten beef, and many believe this needs to change.  

Safely incorporating beef 

While the 2020-25 Dietary Guidelines for Americans is pushing for more beef in a child’s diet, the Beef Council has proposed a safe plan to teach young ones how to enjoy beef.  

It is recommended to begin introduction of beef around six months of age.  

“What we are looking at is beef being a complement to other foods,” shares Agena. “We are not feeding a six-month-old a steak, we are looking at pureed beef.” 

She continues, “Around six months of age, it is important to introduce nutrient-rich solid food, along with breast milk or formula.” 

If a baby is able to sit up with or without support, have control of their head and act interested in food around six months of age, it is safe to start feeding them solid foods.  

The added health benefits beef has to offer is not the only positive impact it has on a baby’s growing experience.  

“This introduction of complementary foods provides babies with an opportunity to experience new tastes, textures, colors and enjoy food,” says Agena. “Foods like beef can provide babies with a good source of iron, zinc, choline, B vitamins and protein. Plus, beef is a real food.” 

Continuing growth 

By the time babies are six months of age, they are needing more nutrients than breast milk alone can provide. By adding beef into their diet, the extra iron and zinc intake can help improve their immune system, promote growth and accelerate learning milestones.  

As babies continue to grow, their safe eating texture and iron requirement change.  

“Each month of the child’s life is different. At six months we are using puree, while children six to eight months can consume a lumpy texture and at eight to 10 months maybe shredded or chopped beef. At 10 to 12 months, babies can start to practice self-feeding,” explains Agena.  

After six months of age, a baby’s ability to store iron depletes. The Beef Council recommends 11 milligrams (mg) of iron in babies seven to 12 months of age and seven mg of iron in infants 12 to 36 months of age. 

It can be challenging to keep babies and toddlers eating safe and healthy foods. However, by incorporating beef into their everyday meal young people can greatly benefit. 

Savannah Peterson is an intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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