One of the most important parts of your kids’ growth is their well-balanced diet. Unless they have healthy meals every day, they won’t grow properly and their risk of becoming obese or malnourished will increase day in day out. Protein is one of the most important nutrients for children’s development. This is especially true when it comes to the growth years of the child when they need to reach their maximum in development. If you’ve maybe noticed that your child isn’t as big as their peers, maybe you’re not offering the little one enough protein. Aside from promoting growth, protein is also vital for recovery and repair of tissues in the muscles, skin, organs, blood, hair and nails.
What is protein
We know that it’s essential for our well-being, but unless you’re a doctor, you probably don’t know what protein actually is. Namely, protein is one of the fundamental building blocks of muscle tissue and an indispensable part of everyone's diet. Precisely because it aids the growth of the muscle, it's vital for children and highly essential part of their everyday nutrition. Body proteins are constantly being repaired and replaced throughout our lives, through the process called ‘protein synthesis’. In order for the synthesis to happen, the body requires a continuous supply of amino acids. As protein is digested it later becomes broken down into its amino acids, which the body later uses to make the proteins our body needs to maintain muscles, bones, blood, and body organs. Out of 20 slightly differing amino acids available, our bodies can produce around 11. Furthermore, human bodies cannot make 9 amino acids. The essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce, must be obtained through foods rich in protein.
Along with carbohydrates and fats, proteins are a major nutrient for the body because they fuel the body with energy. What this means is that your child will stay satiated for longer, not needing to snack in between meals. This will further lead to healthy eating habits that will prevent the little ones from often snacking on unhealthy savoury foods which can be bad for their health in the long run. What’s more, as kids move through multiple phases of development, protein helps their bodies in repairing cells and making new ones.
Protein benefits the muscles, immune system and more
Without protein, your child wouldn't be able to grow and develop in the right way, but that's not the only reason you should make sure to offer your bundle of joy enough protein-rich foods. Namely, protein also plays a crucial role in hair, skin and the body's organs maintenance. From the day a baby is born until it reaches its total growth capacity, it will need more protein than an adult because the body is only starting to develop and grow. Children's growing immune system and brain will require protein in abundance. Your kid will need protein for the generation and regeneration of cells in their body, but also because of protein aids in blood replenishment. It is quite potent when it comes to healing wounds. To make sure that your child's metabolism is strong, be sure to feed them enough protein. Blogs such as the one True Protein has, can offer you more detailed information on the general importance of protein for older people too. However, when it comes to the health of your youngest, protein is also essential for keeping their immune system strong and able to fight off disease-causing bacteria and viruses. Children experiencing fatigue, poor concentration, slowed growth, bone and joint pain, delayed wound healing and decreased immune response may be suffering from protein deficiency.
Reduce cravings with more protein intake
Starting a day with a breakfast rich in proteins will make your kids satiated for much longer, having them ready for lunch without snacking in between. Kids who eat breakfast are more likely to get fibre, calcium and other important nutrients necessary to keep them focused and energised. Children accustomed to having regular breakfast are also likely to keep their weight under control, have lower blood cholesterol levels and fewer absences from school. Food cravings are usually not connected to real hunger but are merely the body's way of saying it lacks something and it makes you compensate for it with unhealthy alternatives. Cravings are not always that easy to control and if your child is prone to throwing tantrums once they want candy or a bag of chips, you'll be in a pickle. That's why you should focus breakfasts around foods which in protein to keep the kids full and their brain not needing junk food.
Essential for the brain
Protein is responsible for much more than your appetite and energy levels. It also forms parts of the insides of brain cells and the connective tissue around them. Protein helps your child's brain think clearly, concentrate and learn. Unless your child gets enough protein early on in their development, it may cause protein-energy malnutrition. Children with chronic protein-energy malnutrition have been found to have lower IQs and test scores in school. Their memory is also poor and other cognitive deficiencies may arise due to lack of protein.
The best sources of protein
Your child will require more protein as they grow older, so at the infant level, you should offer the baby 9.1 grams of protein every day until they turn 1. In the period between 1 and 3 years old, children require 13 grams of protein every day. Between the ages of 4 and 8 you should offer them 19 grams of protein every day, and 34 grams per day from the ages of 9 until they're 13 years old. Protein-rich foods include dairy, eggs, milk, meat and beans. Cheese, curd, yoghurt and cottage cheese are just some of the milk products that have a high level of protein. That's why you should think about making dairy a part of your child's breakfast and dinner. What’s more, offer them a glass of milk in the morning and before bed, and they’ll have 8 grams of protein in each glass. In addition, hard-boiled eggs or an omelette is another great suggestion for protein-rich breakfast that your child will eat with pleasure. It will be a true nutritional charge for the kid, fuelling them with enough energy to do their daily tasks.
Peanut butter, soymilk, tofu, nuts, legumes, soy yoghurt and seeds can all be perfect alternatives for meat-based food and offer just enough protein to kids. Beans and lentils are good sources of protein as well. You can also munch on hummus or white bean dip during your evening meal and have all the protein intake you need. Some of the meals that almost all children enjoy include grilled cheese sandwich, scrambled eggs with cheese, turkey roll-ups, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Add pasta with chicken or turkey, meatballs with pasta or in soup, quesadilla or burrito with beans and cheese, cheese pizza, yogurt parfait with layers of fruit, and protein-enriched cereal and your child will be nicely fed. Aside from them having a yummy meal, they'll also eat enough protein to take them through the day and ensure healthy development.
Helping tips for picky eaters
Many kids prefer junk food and unhealthy snacks over healthy foods, which can be a huge problem for you as a parent in terms of cooking food they like. However, it will definitely be a much bigger problem for the kid who’ll be at risk of having protein deficiency and a series of other potential health problems. That's why you should think about several alternatives for usual meals and make breakfast, lunch and dinner more fun for the little ones. Everybody loves waffles for breakfast, all you need to do is offer the kids peanut butter instead of maple syrup and there you have it. A perfectly healthy meal your kid will always look forward to.
Is your child fussing about having to eat chicken? If so, just don't let them actually see it before eating it but conceal it sneakily. Slice the chicken and put it between two slices of bread or inside a bread bun. Add some lettuce, some tangy sauce to it and your child won't be able to get enough of it. To make sure you mix protein and calcium to your kid's diet, offer them some Greek yoghurt alongside berry sauce. Mix it together and let them have a healthy dessert after every meal.
Some kids won't have a glass of milk willingly, so you'll have to be creative in that field too. You can easily whip up a smoothie for breakfast. Make sure to add healthy sweeteners such as a little bit of fresh fruit and a drizzle of maple syrup. If they’re not fans of Greek yoghurt either, make them a parfait. Greek yogurt mixed with cut-up fresh fruit in a parfait dish and topped off with crunchy cereal can be both a delicious and highly nutritional snack. If you’re having trouble persuading your puddin' to eat some cheese or any other healthy food, think about improving your presentation game. Having in mind that children love shapes, why don't you present meat and cheese in shapes of heart, stars, or whatever shape your kid might find amusing. Alternate cubes of cheese and fruit on kid-friendly kebab skewers to make a true little game out of their meals.
The dangers of a high protein diet
While protein is essential for children’s growth, you should remember to feed the child the optimal amount of protein. Don’t focus too much on that nutrient because there’s a fine line between enough and too much protein. Namely, Australians, for example, tend to eat far more protein than they need, which further leads to serious health issues. Some protein-rich foods including, red meat and full-fat dairy products may increase the risk of heart disease. Being high in cholesterol-raising saturated fat, these foods will eventually wreak havoc on your organism, which is why you should feed your kids just enough protein and teach them to continue to eat only as much as they need, and not go overboard.
A diet high in red meat such as ham, bacon and salami may increase the risk of bowel cancer later in life. Considering, high protein diets often restrict your carbohydrate intake, your kids may miss out on important vitamins and minerals, and lead to problems associated with not getting enough fibre. The signs of those problems may be bad breath, headache and constipation.
The brain needs carbohydrates to keep it running too, so if you focus your kid’s diet too much on protein and too little on carbs, their body may even start to convert protein into carbohydrates to feed the brain. This is a potential hazard for heart and kidneys.
As we could’ve seen, protein is essential for healthy development and life. It’s building block for all the major body functions and it is responsible for supplying the essential amino acids needed for the growth and maintenance of our cells and tissues. The protein requirement depends on the stage of life, so as your little one grows, they'll need more proteins to maintain healthy development. Mix eggs, milk, meat, beans and legumes into your daily diet and your child will have just enough protein every day. Aside from eating enough proteins, you should also make sure to offer your child a varied diet that will provide them with enough vitamins, enzymes and fibres too. With enough proteins in your kids' diet, they will have strong bones and nicely built muscles, and their cognitive function will be perfect too. Remember, if you have a picky eater, all you need to do is turn your food serving game up a notch and they will eat even the least favourite food. Make sure you don’t offer too much protein to your little one because they can have too much of it and you don’t want to risk depriving them of other necessary nutrients just because you went too far with proteins.