A Mom and RDN Shares the Health Benefits of Beef

Beef is a nutritious and sustainable food for growing kids (and healthy adults). Mariana Dineen, RDN and mom, shares why beef is a delicious part of a healthy family diet.

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

When deciding what kind of diet is best for your child, it’s important to know the facts, says Mariana Dineen, registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and mom: “Lean beef is a nutrient-dense protein source, offering a broad range of essential vitamins and minerals.” All beef cuts, with beef’s unique nutrient mix, can be part of an overall 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 U.S. Department of Agriculture, a three-ounce serving 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 nutritional myths

There is a lot of misinformation about beef being unhealthy due to its association with high-fat diets and fast food, Dineen notes.

“Beef is often unfairly criticized because it gets lumped in with 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 supported by a 2021 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.”

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

“Beef is a highly satisfying protein that helps you feel full, reducing the likelihood of snacking or overeating due to hunger,” says Dineen.

Unique benefits of beef

Beef has a unique combination of nutrients, all in one food. Here are just a few of the benefits of beef in your kids’ diet:

Beef is a high-quality protein

Beef is a high-quality protein source, providing all necessary amino acids in sufficient quantities needed for human health that are particularly important for growing children.

“A three-ounce serving of lean beef offers about 25 grams of protein, meeting half of the daily protein needs for children,” says Dineen. This protein is essential for building and repairing muscles and tissues, supporting overall growth and development.

Beef is nutrient-dense

Beef is a nutrient-dense protein source. In addition, beef also contains nine other essential nutrients that are necessary for proper body function. Many Americans may not get enough of these nutrients in their diets.

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

Beef is satisfying, which helps maintain a healthy weight

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

Beef delicious dish
Photo Credit: Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.

“People often think beef if very high in saturated fat and calories. Actually, it contains a substantial amount of monounsaturated fat, which is considered healthier and has a less significant impact on raising cholesterol levels compared to saturated fat.”

Plus, according to a 2022 study at the National Institutes of Health, beef only accounts for approximately 5% of total calories to 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 a main ingredient:

  • Pizza Stuffed Peppers: Lean beef, red pepper and mozzarella stuffed in bell peppers.
  • Beef and Vegetable Pasta: A simple yet nutritious dish with lean beef and a variety of vegetables. “This is a great way to get lots of nutrients in one dish,” says Dineen.
  • Traditional Tacos: “I’m of Mexican heritage, so this one is a big family favorite for us,” says Dineen. “I use lean beef, fresh veggies and a sprinkle of cheese.”
  • Mexican Pizza: Put cooked ground beef and veggies on pita bread for a fun twist on traditional pizza.
  • Ground Beef Pita Pockets: This makes a filling and tasty main dish. Season lean ground beef to taste, add veggies and wrap in 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 turn plants that are inedible for humans into high-quality protein. 

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

Photo Credit: Beef: It’s What’s for Dinner.

Another way you can boost the sustainability of your choices is to reduce the amount of food waste in your household. Nearly one third of food is wasted in the U.S., making up approximately 22% of landfills. Consider planning your weekly recipes to incorporate leftover ingredients and make the most of your grocery cart!.

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

Mariana Dineen
Photo Courtesy of Mariana Dineen

For more information on beef and its benefits, visit BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com.

Jennifer Kales
Jennifer Kales
Content editor Jennifer Kales has been in the business of writing for more than 20 years creating advertising copy, blogs, books and everything in between. She loves helping Chicago Parent clients tell their stories in a way that resonates with audiences.

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