Dakota Farmer

Add beef to your plate to meet fitness goals

Young Dakota Living: A powerhouse of protein and nutrients, beef should share space on your plate.

Sarah McNaughton, Editor, Dakota Farmer

June 14, 2024

3 Min Read
 Steak with wine glass
BEEF IT UP: To me and my family, all beef is good beef. We enjoy beef often to make sure we’re keeping our bodies healthy and fueled. Jupiterimages/GETTY IMAGES

While I spend most of my workdays chasing down stories and most of my weekends chasing steers during team roping, fitness and nutrition is another passion of mine.

Sure, I enjoy indulging in funnel cakes and cotton candy at county and state fairs, and perhaps I imbibe a few too many barley-based beverages, but what fun is life without a little balance?

My mom is a registered dietitian, so my upbringing was always full of what I’d call “whole foods” — lean proteins, starches that don’t spike your glycemic index, and plenty of fruits and veggies.

I follow a similar pattern with my food intake today, with my meals being heavy on protein.

With May celebrating beef month, it’s a perfect time to talk about the benefits of including beef in a healthy diet, especially if you share a passion for fitness.

Physical well-being and fitness for me is less about being as lean or small as possible, and more about being able to do what I love more easily.

Protein powerhouse

Backpacking and running require that I have a solid cardiovascular base. To participate in team roping and rodeo, I need to have enough muscle to get a heavy saddle up on my horse, throw my rope to catch a steer and be able to do the behind-the-scenes work that goes into roping. I do still get humbled, though, when I’m out of breath at the top of the stairs.

Protein is one of the building blocks of muscle and is essential to a healthy diet. Many dietary groups recommend lean steak cuts or lean hamburger. However, as I learned at Barbecue Boot Camp hosted by North Dakota State University, fat is flavor!

What's in your steak infographic

A little more fat in your steak does not take away from the protein content in your beef. And if you’re going to eat a steak, it might as well be a good one.

While my success at getting to the gym daily varies, life is all about balance and longevity, fitness included. A combination of daily movement and exercise paired with a nutritious diet helps me feel my best now and as I start getting older.

So what’s exactly in beef that makes it so heathy? Let’s break it down.

The North Dakota Beef Commission refers to beef as “Big nutrition. Small package.” That’s because in just a 175-calorie, 3-ounce portion of steak, you can get nutrients that:

  • help your body use oxygen

  • support nervous system development

  • build and preserve muscle

  • promote strong bones and teeth

  • maintain brain function

  • help the body convert food into fuel

That 3-ounce serving of beef provides half of your daily value for protein, and your exercise is more effective when paired with a higher-protein diet. While foods like quinoa, peanut butter, black beans and edamame all have high levels of protein, beef has more in a smaller serving than the rest. I love this because it means I can get more protein in a day with fewer calories.

Pair it properly

My favorite meals all involve beef of some kind. To make a quick lunch, I love to add browned ground beef to a bowl of broccoli and brown rice, tossed with a little Asian-inspired sauce.

If I am using a cut from the chuck or round, I’ll cube it up and pan sear it before tossing in garlic and butter. I’ve found the cut doesn’t matter with those bite-sized pieces, and everything is better with butter. Pair steak bites with any type of potato and a seasonal vegetable like asparagus or a salad for a plate full of protein and fiber.

Finally, there is nothing I love more than a tenderloin steak (always rare) with a Caesar salad and crispy french fries. I eat this meal less often, but it’s a favorite, for sure.

No matter what type of foods you like to enjoy, pair beef with a starch and a vegetable to keep your fitness journey fueled. Whether for breakfast, lunch or supper, there is always space for beef on your plate. Find more recipes and ideas from your local beef commission.

Read more about:

Healthy Living

About the Author(s)

Sarah McNaughton

Editor, Dakota Farmer, Farm Progress

Sarah McNaughton of Bismarck, N.D., has been editor of Dakota Farmer since 2021. Before working at Farm Progress, she was an NDSU 4-H Extension agent in Cass County, N.D. Prior to that, she was a farm and ranch reporter at KFGO Radio in Fargo.

McNaughton is a graduate of North Dakota State University, with a bachelor’s degree in ag communications and a master’s in Extension education and youth development.

She is involved in agriculture in both her professional and personal life, as a member of North Dakota Agri-Women, Agriculture Communicators Network Sigma Alpha Professional Agriculture Sorority Alumni and Professional Women in Agri-business. As a life-long 4-H’er, she is a regular volunteer for North Dakota 4-H programs and events.

In her free time, she is an avid backpacker and hiker, and can be found most summer weekends at rodeos around the Midwest.

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