Beef As An Early Food For Babies (Plus Easy Beef Taco Bowl Recipe!)
I am so excited to be partnering up with BEEF. It’s What’s For Dinner. to discuss how and why to offer beef as an early food for babies. I’m also sharing a delicious recipe for Easy Beef Taco Bowls that you can make to put these tips into practice!
This post is a collaboration with Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. on behalf of the Beef Checkoff. I received compensation, but all opinions are my own.
Disclaimer: it is recommended to wait until at least 6 months of age and showing all signs of readiness to begin offering solids to baby. If you have any questions or concerns about starting solid foods, please be sure to consult your pediatrician and/or health care provider. None of the information in this post is meant to be medical advice.
why to offer beef as a first food for babies
In the first few years of life, rapid growth and development is occurring and there are specific nutrients that are needed to support children during this time. Beef is a wonderful source of many of these nutrients for babies and toddlers, including iron and zinc. Health authorities like the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend animal sources, such as beef, to ensure important nutrient needs are met. (Sources: 1-8)
At around 6 months of age, babies iron stores are depleted, and breastmilk alone can no longer meet all of the infant’s nutrient requirements. With that said, proper nutrition is critical during this time, and beef can help fill in that gap. (Sources: 4, 11, 12)
Beef is also a source of complete protein, as well as choline. Choline and iron specifically are important for healthy brain development in babies and toddlers. (Sources: 1-4)
Introducing meat, including beef, into your baby’s diet is not only a great way to provide essential nutrients, but it offers new and different flavors and textures to support oral and motor development. This is another reason why I’ve tried to incorporate meat on a regular basis in these first several months of offering solids to Rhett.
I will admit – I had to work up to it as I got more comfortable with his ability to safely chew and swallow different foods! Go at your own pace.
The more variety you can offer your baby in those early months, the better! This will help them be more accepting of new foods as they grow, and develop healthy eating habits long-term.
In this post, I am going to share more tips on how you can safely offer beef to your baby in those first few months of introducing solids, and beyond!
You can also click here to learn more about offering beef in the early years of life.
ingredients needed for easy beef taco bowls
These Easy Beef Taco Bowls are flavorful, packed with nutrition and easy to customize based on your personal preferences, or whatever you have on hand!
Here’s what you will need:
- Ground beef
- Black beans
- Tomato sauce
- Yellow onion
- Bell pepper (color of choice – I used yellow here!)
- Fresh greens (baby spinach, arugula, etc.)
- Brown rice
- Optional toppings: avocado, salsa, shredded cheese, tortilla chips
how to make easy beef taco bowls: step-by-step
First, wash all produce. Dice onion and chop bell pepper. Drain and rinse black beans.
Rinse 1 cup of dry brown rice well in a fine mesh strainer. Transfer rice to a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring contents to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes.
While rice is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and diced onion. Cook for a few minutes, until translucent.
Next, add Ground Beef and season with various spices: garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin and pepper. (If feeding to baby, omit salt. If just for yourself, feel free to add salt to taste.)
Cook and crumble until browned through. Mix in the tomato sauce, stir and cook until warmed through. Ground Beef must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F. Use an instant read thermometer to ensure it is cooked all the way through.
Once beef and rice are cooked, it’s time to assemble your taco bowls! See recipe card below for approximate amounts of each ingredient per individual bowl. (Of course, you can adjust per your preferences.)
Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
You can either store ingredients in individual containers (i.e. one container for brown rice, another for beef, another for chopped veggies, etc.) or you can assemble pre-made bowls for “meal prep” for future meals, if you are packing ahead for work, for example.
how to safely serve easy beef taco bowls to baby
There are a few things from this recipe that you will want to leave out or modify when serving to a 6 month to 12 month old baby. Infants of this age range may be at risk of choking due to certain food textures. Look out for foods that may be dry or crumbly, as well as raw foods that may not be soft enough for baby to eat safely.
- Omit raw bell peppers and raw spinach/greens or quickly sauté in some olive oil to soften.
- Mash black beans. We mash and mix with a little plain Greek yogurt or splash of breast milk.
- Add plain Greek yogurt, tomato sauce and/or formula or breast milk to your Ground Beef to ensure it is not dry when serving to baby. Also, make sure meat is ground up well so there are no large chunks (again, depending on baby’s age and comfort level with solids.)
For recommendations on how to modify this recipe for other ages, check out my baby-led weaning post here.
meal prep tips for easy beef taco bowls
There are several steps that you can do ahead of time for this recipe if you want to save time later, or if you want to assemble the taco bowls fresh each day. I work from home, so I personally like to do this. However, if you are going into the office, you can definitely pack them into separate containers to make it easy for yourself throughout the week!
Steps to do in advance:
- Chop veggies — dice onions, chop bell peppers (note that you only want to keep pre-chopped bell peppers in the fridge for a few days)
- Drain and rinse black beans, and store in fridge
- Cook Ground Beef
- Cook brown rice
As a reminder, a general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage for cooked leftovers is about four days. (Source)
other ways to introduce beef to your baby
Here are a few other recipes on my blog that you could try as a way to incorporate beef into your baby’s diet!
If you want to read more about my tips for starting solids for your baby, check out my baby-led weaning post here.
Easy Beef Taco Bowls
- 1 cup brown rice dry
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 1 lb Ground Beef
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp paprika
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- Black pepper to taste
- 3 Tbsp tomato sauce
- 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 avocados sliced
- 1 bell pepper chopped
- 4 cups fresh spinach optional
- 2 limes
- plain Greek yogurt
- shredded Mexican cheese
- Wash all produce. Dice onion, chop bell pepper. Drain and rinse black beans.
- Rinse 1 cup of dry brown rice well in a fine mesh strainer. Transfer rice to a medium saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring contents to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer 15-20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes.
- While rice is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and diced onion. Cook for a few minutes, until translucent.
- Next, add Ground Beef and season with various spices: garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, paprika, cumin and pepper. (If feeding to baby, omit salt. If just for yourself, feel free to add salt to taste.) Cook and crumble until browned and internal temperature reaches 160 °F measured by a meat thermometer. Mix in the tomato sauce, stir and cook until warmed through.
- Once beef and rice are cooked, it's time to assemble your taco bowls. Rough amounts needed for each bowl (adults – feel free to adjust to your liking): -1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked brown rice-1/2 cup Ground Beef-1/3 cup black beans-1 cup fresh spinach/greens (if adding; I like to tear into smaller pieces for easier mixing) -1/4 cup bell pepper-1-2 Tbsp salsa-1/4 avocado-Sprinkle shredded cheese on top if desired -Squeeze juice from 1/4 of a lime
- For baby: serve using tips provided above in the amounts and portions appropriate for your baby's age and comfort level with solids.
- Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
I hope the tips in this post helped explain why to serve beef as an early food for babies, and that you’re feeling inspired to give it a shot in your home! If you try this easy beef taco bowl recipe, be sure to tag us @wellnessforthewin and @beefitswhatsfordinner on Instagram so we can see!
Thanks for reading!
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatric Nutrition Handbook. 7th ed. Elk Grove, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics, 2014.
- Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC.
- Schwarzenberg SJ, et al. Advocacy for improving nutrition in the first 1000 days to support childhood development and adult health. Pediatrics 2018;141:e20173716.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. FoodData Central, 2019. https://www.fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/170208/nutrients
- American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/Pages/Starting-Solid-Foods.aspx
- American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/growing-healthy/Pages/assessment.aspx
- USDA WIC Works Resource System. Infant Nutrition and Feeding Guide. https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/document/Infant_Nutrition_and_Feeding_Guide.pdf
- USDA WIC Works Resource System. Starting Solid Foods Handout https://wicworks.fns.usda.gov/resources/starting-solid-foods
- Prado EL & Dewey KG. Nutrition and brain development in early life. Nutr Rev 2014;72:267–84.
- Hermoso M, et al. The effect of iron on cognitive development and function in infants, children, and adolescents: a systematic review. Ann Nutr Metab 2011;59:154-65.
- Krebs NF, Sherlock LG, Westcott J, Culbertson D, Hambidge KM, Feazel LM, Robertson CE, Frank DN. Effects of different complementary feeding regimens on iron status and enteric microbiota in breastfed infants. J Pediatr 2013;163(2):416-23.
- Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium and Zinc. Washington DC. National Academy Press, 2001.