Beef as a complementary first food – and a family food

As one of the first foods introduced to infants (starting at six months), beef provides the nutrients babies need to set the stage for successful development and lifelong health. Make sure to incorporate beef into your meals to help your family members make the most of their days and meals.

Vital Bundle of Nutrients

Beef has a unique mix of nutrients, including high-quality protein, iron, zinc, choline, selenium and vitamins B6 and B12, essential for growth and development in infants and children. Additionally, children need iron and zinc for their development, learning, behavior and growth. Beef is a natural source of more than 10 essential nutrients including protein, zinc and iron, which can help prevent harmful nutrient deficiencies.

Strong Minds and Bodies

Eating beef as a complementary first food supports healthy growth in infants without excess weight gain. It also supports brain health and development in little ones, with nutrients including iron and zinc, which our bodies absorb more easily from beef than from plants.

Healthy Immune System

Parents worried about their children getting sick should know that foods rich in iron and zinc support the growth of healthful bacteria in an infant’s gut, which enhances immune function.

Creating a Healthy Palate

Introducing a variety of flavors and textures, including meats like beef, encourages infants to accept the taste of healthy foods as they grow older.

For a nutritious take on a kid favorite, try these Sweet & Sloppy Joes. Packed with veggies, savory ground beef, tangy tomato sauce and sweet golden raisins, these kid-approved sammies will be a hit with the whole family.


Serves 4

All you need:

1 pound ground beef

1 cup small diced bell peppers, ¼ to ½ inch (red, green, yellow or orange)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup golden raisins, finely chopped

2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (optional)

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

4 whole-wheat hamburger buns, split

Toppings (optional): Chopped mango, chopped tomato, chopped fresh cilantro, sliced green onion, shredded cheddar cheese

All you do:

1. Heat large nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Add ground beef, bell pepper and onion; cook 8 to 10 minutes, breaking beef into 1/4-inch crumbles and stirring occasionally. Remove drippings.

2. Stir in tomato sauce, water, raisins, ancho chile powder and oregano; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 15 to 18 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly, stirring occasionally.

3. Evenly divide beef mixture on bottom half of each bun. Garnish with toppings, as desired; close sandwiches.

Nutrition information per serving using 93% lean ground beef: 397 calories; 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat; 4 g monounsaturated fat); 85 mg cholesterol; 658 mg sodium; 44 g carbohydrate; 5.9 g fiber; 28 g protein; 9.7 mg niacin; 0.6 mg vitamin B6; 2.8 mcg vitamin B12; 5.4 mg iron; 40.3 mcg selenium; 6.7 mg zinc; 105.4 mg choline.


The information is not intended as medical advice.

Please consult a medical professional for individual advice.

Laura Schmidt is a registered dietitian representing Hy-Vee as a nutrition expert promoting healthy eating throughout the community.


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