Beef Up Your Baby’s Iron Intake – here’s how!

Discover five different textures of beef that are perfectly safe for babies (and why beef helps to meet your baby's unique nutritional needs!)
An overhead image of five different beef baby foods: meatballs, steak, pasta sauce, slow cooked beef, and pureed beef

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This post was written in paid partnership with ThinkBeef.ca. As always, all opinions are our own.

Did you know? There are a variety of reasons for starting babies on solid foods. 

We start babies on solids to assist with their oral and motor development.

We start babies on solids to promote their social skills. 

We start babies on solids to satisfy growing appetites.

And, of course, we start babies on solids to meet their nutritional needs!

The main nutritional reason for adding in solid foods is that babies start to need a food source of iron. Babies are born with a supply of iron that begins to deplete around 6 months of age. To put things into perspective, at 7 months old a baby needs to consume more iron than a grown man! Mind blowing. Human milk and formula provide some iron but at 7 months it’s just not enough. 

Therefore, thinking logically… what type of foods should be baby’s first food? 

Foods that are high in iron! And since babies’ tummies are small, it’s important to make every bite count, so choose foods that are a top source of iron.  

You can make this easy by being mindful to serve iron rich foods to your whole family, and then adapting components of the meal for your baby. For example – a beef meal can easily serve as a top-notch way to serve up the iron baby needs – and your family will benefit too.

Okay… so how DO I feed beef to my baby?

Perhaps you and your family enjoy having a beef vindaloo, a hamburger, or a classic stew. 

If you’re trying to wrap your mind around how exactly you’re going to offer these meals to a baby…don’t worry! We’ve got you covered. 

We used to think that babies could only handle a puréed texture at six months (the sweet age when most babies are ready to start solids) but recent research clarifies that there are a variety of textures that are safe for your baby.

So pull up that high chair to the table, and let’s look at how you can offer your family’s favourite beef recipes to your baby!

Try These 5 Different Textures of Beef with Your Baby

Slow Cooked Beef

Slow cooked, tender meats are a baby’s best friend! Slow cooking in a liquid allows the tough collagen to break down, making it a great, soft texture for a baby just learning to eat!

Make your favourite shredded beef recipe, or try this one. Depending on your baby’s ability or interest, you can puree this recipe or offer your baby a little pile of shredded meat that they can explore.

shredded beef in a bowl: perfect for a beginner eater!

Meatloaf or Meatballs

Ground beef is so so handy for feeding babies! If you think about it, ground meats are essentially a crumbly texture when cooked. So for a little one with few or no teeth or who’s just figuring out how to chew food, it’s the perfect option! 

You can use ground beef in a variety of ways; you can form it into meatballs or little oblong shapes, you can make a mini burger, or cook up a meatloaf and cut a slice for baby!

In our e-book, Whole Food Recipes for Your Baby, we have two ground beef recipes you can try:

two meatballs in sauce: perfect for a beginner eater

Beef Steak

Yes, you really can cook up a steak dinner and share it with your baby. Minute steak or tenderloin are great options for ‘starter steak’. Here’s what you do:

  • Set aside a piece of steak to remain unsalted (sodium-free herbs, spices, and seasonings are fine!)
  • Cook the piece of steak until it’s medium to well done. Use a digital instant-read thermometer inserted sideways into the middle of the steak – it needs to read at least 160°F/71°C
  • Slice the steak WITH the grain into adult finger size pieces (yes, this is the opposite to the way you typically slice steak for yourself)
  • Or you could even grate the steak on a cheese grater and place these shreds in a little pile for your baby to explore.

Your baby may not actually be able to break down, chew, and swallow the steak. But she will get to enjoy the flavour and practice important self-feeding skills! 

Thinkbeef.ca has a delicious beef tenderloin recipe with grilled veggies and creamy pesto quinoa, with further adaptations for your baby as he/she grows and develops eating skills.

how to cut steak for a baby

Pasta Sauce

Juicy slow cooked beef is a great option for a baby…formed ground beef, like meatballs, is a great option for a baby…

Put them together by cooking ground beef in a sauce and what have you got? 

The ultimate baby friendly beef texture!

I (Jessica), have fond memories of my second son gobbling up ground beef pasta sauce as a baby. He loved pasta sauce so much we decided we had to serve it to all the party guests at his first birthday party!

Thinkbeef.ca has this tasty three cheese lasagna recipe with spinach (for bonus non-heme iron!!) that can be adapted to your baby’s age and stage. 

rotini noodles with ground beef pasta sauce: perfect for a beginner eater

Puréed Beef

Want to include puréed foods in your baby’s food repertoire as well? It’s so easy to make a beef purée at home.  Simply choose a soft, fully cooked piece of meat and place it in a blender or food processor. Add a little bit of breastmilk or formula for easier blending and process until smooth. You can also use some no added salt broth. It’s really as easy as that!

You can either blend a little of your own dinner (modified to be low sodium) each meal or you can make a larger batch and freeze into ¼ cup portions for your baby. 

baby beef puree

First Food Reactions Are All About Learning

When babies embark on the journey of starting solids, they are exposed to a variety of   flavours and textures, and it’s an entirely new sensory experience. Which means…time to get out your camera! You can take photos of your sweet baby making all sorts of faces. Sometimes, a first reaction can come off as a look of disgust…have you ever seen that reaction from your baby? We have!

When parents see this look on their baby’s face they often interpret it as their baby not liking the taste of the food. In reality, babies are likely not making a judgment on the flavour. But rather the look could be interpreted as “hmm, this is something new and I’m not sure what to make of it yet!”

If your baby makes this face, keep offering the food until they give clear signs that they don’t want anymore such as turning their face to the side or pushing the food away. 

If you’ve offered the food several times and your baby isn’t showing any enthusiasm for it, give the food a break for a bit and try a different option. Sometimes it’s not the taste that your baby needs to adjust to but the texture. Some babies do really well starting with purées while others show an initial preference for handheld foods.

Beef: A Great First Food for Your Baby

Contrary to older advice, we now know that meat and other iron containing foods are best introduced around 6 months of age. In engaging with our little community here at Happy Healthy Eaters, we know that you have questions around how to best serve your baby meat, including beef. We hope the advice we’ve given will help you feel more confident and answers some of those burning questions.

If you’d like to further enhance your learning, we had a fun opportunity to shoot short videos with Think Beef and first-time-mom, Andrea who had loads of questions on the topic of starting solids!

You can catch all those here:

jess and nita, registered dietitians
Meet Jess and Nita

Hi! We’re both Dietitians & boy mamas! We’re here to help you confidently raise kids who will grow up to be lifelong Happy Healthy Eaters. Dig into our site for kid-tested recipes & feeding tips. 

collage of foods you can make in the instant pot for baby food: grains, eggs, veggies, beans, and even sterilizing bottles!

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2 thoughts on “Beef Up Your Baby’s Iron Intake – here’s how!”

  1. Thank you for this helpful article. I love all of the creative ways to get beaf into baby. My baby almost always refuses to eat baby oatmeal now (I’ve tried making it into pancakes etc.). I get some into her if I combined it with purred Apple/pear or sprinkling it in other things, but I’ve been looking to get more iron sources. My question is, how many times/week is it okay to give babies beaf? We know it’s not the best for us adults to eat it too many times per week. Is this true for babies too?
    Thank you for your website/blog/resources!

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