One of the biggest gripes many people have about their parenting journey is how picky their kids can be. From what they wear to what they eat – it can be an all out battle. When it comes to their diets, it’s our job to keep them healthy and teach them about healthy eating. When kids are incredibly picky about what goes in their mouth, how can you win the battle? In this article we will look at why kids need enough protein each day and some tips on how to reach this goal. Getting enough protein daily might be easier than you think.
How Much Protein Do Kids Need Each Day?
A staggering number of American children are coming up short every day in terms of protein consumption. With sports, activities and busy social calendars, kids need to stay nourished to thrive. Protein is an essential building block for brain health, physical growth, repairing cells, healing from injury and many other fundamentals of growing and developing properly.
Ever wonder just how much protein your child should eat each day? The answer depends upon a number of factors, including their age, weight and activity level. Generally speaking, the following guidelines should be followed.
- Toddlers: Kids between the ages of 1 and 3 should get 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight. So, if your toddler weighs 40 pounds that would equate to 22 grams of protein each day.
- Kindergarten Age Children: As kids reach the early school years their protein needs actually drop. Kids between 4 and 6 need 0.5 grams of protein per pound. A 6-year-old weighing 50 pounds would need about 25 grams daily.
- School Age Children: Kids between the ages of 7 and 14 need 0.45 grams of protein per body weight. So a healthy 12-year-old weighing 90 pounds needs 40.5 grams of protein each day.
It is important to note that these guidelines apply to healthy, normally developing children. There are some instances where a child may need more or less protein, depending upon their body. It is smart to check with your child’s healthcare provider to assess for any such causes.
Two Types of Proteins
Many adults are not aware that there are two kinds of proteins that can be included in your diet. Protein is made up of the 22 existing amino acids. The first group of proteins is those with complete amino acids. The second are the incomplete amino acids. Complete proteins have all of the essential amino acids as well as some of the nonessential amino acids. Incomplete proteins are missing one or more of the essential amino acids. It is critical that your child’s diet captures of all of the amino acids, as our bodies do not produce these.
Animal proteins, like meat, eggs, dairy, are considered complete proteins. Kids who eat these proteins get all of the amino acids that our bodies do not produce. There are some plant foods, like hemp seeds and soy that are also complete proteins. Plant proteins, such as nuts, beans, rice and whole grains, are the incomplete proteins. Although they do not have all the amino acids, combining two types, such as peanut butter and whole grain bread, can create an effective complete protein.
What Are The Best Kid-Friendly Protein Sources
When you ask parents about getting their kids to eat, most will acknowledge that it can be tough to get kids to eat their proteins, specifically meat. What might be overlooked is that meat is just one of a few ways to get kids to eat protein.
Meat is a great high protein food, but so are foods like Greek yogurt, cheese, eggs and milk. Include things like peanut butter, yogurt, soy, whole grain cereal, beans, lentils, grains and tofu to up their daily protein intake. When parents branch out they might be surprised that while their little eater isn’t crazy about beef or even chicken, they may fall in love with proteins like hummus, beans or tofu. Be creative and give them lots of options.
Tips For Getting Kids to Eat Their Protein
Tip #1: Dress It Up
One fun way to get kids to up their daily protein intake is to dress up something boring and make it fun. Instead of a boring sandwich on sandwich bread, slather a vegetable tortilla shell with hummus and pile on sliced protein, cheese and wrap it up. You can even cut it into fun pinwheels to delight your little ones. Remember that any food your kids can eat with their hands will be that much easier to convince them to try.
Tip #2: Mock Desserts
Maybe your little guy or gal has a serious sweet tooth. If so, yogurt and fruit might be your new best friend. Yogurt parfaits, layered with Greek or regular yogurt, fresh fruit and fortified cereal are an awesome sweet treat or meal. You might also want to try a fruit pizza on a whole grain wrap. For your “sauce” make a fruit yogurt dip and make it your own creation.
Tip #3: Be Inventive
Kids will often give you points just for being inventive. In fact, it might just be enough to get them to try something new. One fun way to implement this is to let your little chef help you create a new recipe. Give them protein rich main ingredients and work together to make a new creation. Chances are, if they had a hand in making it, they will be more likely to dig in.
Tip #4: Kids Love to Dip
Kids and adults alike have a love for anything we can dunk or dip. Keep this in mind to add extra protein throughout the day. Dips and spread made with hummus, cheese, yogurt and beans make a nice way for kids to enjoy their protein. Use either fresh veggies or whole grain crackers to delight little eaters.
Getting your kids to eat enough protein does not have to be a daily battle. Take a step outside of the idea that protein must be meat and get creative. When you branch out to other protein sources you might find you have a little protein eater on your hands.