Toddlers aren't known for their culinary daring, but getting a variety of food into them is ideal for making sure they're getting the nutrients they need to grow and develop. Ground beef is something that many toddlers are willing to eat, and it's versatile enough that you can combine it with other items that keep him healthy. It's also easy to cook with a toddler underfoot.
Cooking Ground Beef
There are two basic ways to cook ground beef. One method requires a skillet and a stirring utensil, which is what you'll do for stews, soups and casseroles before mixing the ground beef with the other ingredients. Simply place the raw meat into a skillet over medium heat. Break it apart for more even cooking. Stir the ground beef occasionally until it is cooked throughout, which means there will be no visible pink. The second method, which is what you'll use if you're making burgers, starts with forming the raw ground beef into patties and flattening them. Grill or bake until cooked through, usually about 10 to 15 minutes. Once the meat is cooked, the serving possibilities are endless -- so if your toddler turns down one thing, you'll still have other tricks up your sleeve.
Ground beef doesn't have a strong flavor, which means it pairs well with many other foods. That's good news if you're trying to get your toddler to eat a variety of edibles, since he may be distracted enough by that yummy hamburger meat to overlook what's keeping it company. Stir cooked ground beef into pasta and add chopped steamed vegetables for a complete meal in one bowl. Sprinkle ground beef into your favorite spaghetti sauce or fold it into a tortilla with melted cheddar cheese. If your family prefers burgers, top your toddler's with a whole-grain bun and a slice of cheese. Add ground beef to soups, stews or casseroles, and your tot may never balk at those culinary creations and demand PBJ again.
Serving ground beef to your toddler increases her intake of several important nutrients -- a real benefit if her typical meal request is potato chips dipped in ranch dressing. Beef is a good source of protein, which is important for proper growth and development during her childhood years. Iron is also plentiful in ground beef and is important for preventing anemia and keeping your toddler's blood healthy. Your toddler will also be getting zinc for a healthy immune system and B vitamins for all that toddler energy he's been burning.
Most toddlers are still learning how to properly chew solid foods and are at risk of choking if you offer large pieces of ground beef. You don't have to scratch it off your list, though, as long as you're careful. Don't just hand your toddler a burger and hope for the best. Instead, break it into small chunks that he can feed himself. For casseroles, soups, stews and pasta dishes, dice the meat and other ingredients into very small pieces so your toddler doesn't choke if he swallows without chewing.