Why It's Important for Kids to Eat Beef | Zephyr Foods

Why It's Important for Kids to Eat Beef

As a registered dietitian and parent, I make sure my family eats plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables. We also eat plenty of beef. In particular, I feed beef to my toddler, who is my entire world. Why is this so important and why is it something parents should consider? 
I recognized early in my career, before I even left graduate school, the critical role the nutrients in beef plays in my life and the lives of growing children. I even studied the effect these nutrients had on cognition in kids. Beef is a great source of many nutrients that they are important for literally everything that happens in our bodies. This includes growth and development, physical performance, and immunity - just to name a few.

Preventive Measures

Speaking of immunity, can we pause for a moment to appreciate the fact that cold and flu season is finally over? While it’s virtually impossible to completely escape (it managed hit our household with a pretty good punch right at the end), we’re able to minimize the effects of this oh-so-fun season with the food we eat.  

In the fall, or any time my family starts feeling run down, I like to make more soups. Specifically, butternut squash and red pepper soups. I also add kiwi, mango and citrus fruits to the grocery list. All of these delicious foods are chock full of immunity-boosting nutrients. What else? I increase our beef consumption. When almost all of my daughter’s preschool class was taken down with the flu right before spring break, I told the mommas to put beef on their grocery lists. Beef truly is a major part of my family’s proactive and reactive cold, flu, and whatever weird-bugs-the-preschooler-brings-home plan. I know it’s proven to have some of the best nutrients for immunity.

Packed with Nutrients

Beef naturally contains more than 10 essential nutrients, so let’s talk about a few of them: 


I mentioned a little about iron, but there’s more to know. Beef is a good source with a 3 oz. portion clocking in around 12% of our average daily need. You would need to eat 8 oz. of chicken to get the same amount of iron you get from 3 oz. of lean beef. More importantly, beef contains heme iron, which our bodies absorb much more readily than the non-heme iron found in plants.
Another fun fact: meat increases our body’s absorption of that non-heme iron in plants, a phenomenon known as the Meat Factor. 
What does this mean? Eat beef with your veggies! We need iron for growth and development, and it helps the body transport and use oxygen. This is especially significant when we talk about being physically active and performing at our best. Iron is also important for cognition throughout our lives.

Beef is an excellent source of protein, which is the building block of life. You don’t get much more important than that. It’s necessary for the body’s growth, repair, and maintenance, and it optimizes muscle synthesis. Muscles are important throughout our entire lifespan – we want kids to build strong muscles; adults want to maximize muscles; and as we age, muscle retention is of utmost importance for everyday activities.  


Beef is an excellent source of zinc. I laughed out loud as I typed this line because my husband suggested this post be more than “beef: it’s a good source of zinc.” Yet, while discussing with several dietitians, the number one thing that surprises most people is the amount of zinc beef contains. A 3 oz. portion of lean beef contains 36% of our average daily need, to be exact. Zinc is important for immunity, but it’s also necessary for growth and cognitive development. Some research even shows that zinc plays an active role in better recall skills, reasoning and attention in kids.  


Some B-vitamins, such as B6 and B12, are important for brain function. Some, like riboflavin and niacin, help convert our food into fuel during digestion. And there are others vital for energy production (as in, to get you through those days when your to-do list is a mile long). Regardless of your specific need, a serving of beef has you covered!  

We can’t forget a few other goodies like choline, which supports our nervous system; selenium, which protects the cells in our bodies; and phosphorus, which we need for strong bones and teeth.   

Bottom Line 

Beef contains a lot of good stuff. Can you get these nutrients from plants? Sure, you can a lot of them. However, I’ll leave you with a little perspective: 4 oz. of 1 Source Ground Beef contains 22 grams of protein and 240 calories. To get the same amount of protein, you would have to eat 2 ¾ cups of quinoa (610 calories); 6 ¼ Tablespoons of peanut butter (588 calories); or 1 ½ cups black beans (341 calories). Calorie for calorie, the protein alone cannot be beat. Beef is a smart way to load up on the good stuff – for everyone in the family.

Be sure to stop back next week. I’ll expand on the science that supports the important role that beef’s nutrients play throughout our lifespan. It’s fascinating!

About the Author

Jill Turley, MS, RD/LD
Jill Turley, MS, RD/LD: Jill Turley is the Chief Creative Officer at Real Noshes. She is a registered dietitian, joyous eater, lover of the kitchen and fan of keeping life simple. She resides in Northwest Arkansas and is mom to a four-year-old whackadoodle and equally whacky bernedoodle. Follow her food adventures on Instagram @realnoshes and check-out www.realnoshes.com for more resources and kitchen fun.
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