Kids need Protein to Thrive!
Protein is a macro-nutrient that plays an essential role in thousands of functions within the human body. The building blocks that make up protein are known as amino acids. They are a requirement for normal and healthy development.
Amino acids are located in muscle, bone, ligaments, skin, hair, blood, effectively almost every tissue and cell in your body, so this means that kids (and adults) need protein to thrive.
Of the 20 amino acids the body needs, it can produce eleven but the other nine must come from food. These nine amino acids are known as “essential” amino acids.
For optimal health, your body needs all the essential amino acids in the right ratios.
Animal derived food sources, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, are similar to the protein found in your body. These are complete sources of protein because they contain all of the essential amino acids that your body needs to function effectively.
On the contrary, plant-based foods on their own are considered to be incomplete, as they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that your body needs.
There are vegetarian friendly food options that can provide the essential amino acids needed, but should be combined with proper nutritional sources to make a complete protein. This requires eating a variety of whole grains and vegetables with other foods such as beans, lentils and nuts, in order to provide their bodies with the proper nutritional content needed.
The absence of any of these amino acids will compromise the ability of tissue to grow, be repaired or be maintained.
Also, many food sources of protein supply varying amounts of zinc, magnesium, B vitamins (thiamine, niacin, vitamins B-6 and B-12), and vitamin E. Some proteins also provide iron, with the type in animal products coming in the “heme” form and better absorbed than the iron found in legumes such as dried beans or peas.
If your child is not getting enough protein, it can lead to more serious effects down the road. Without enough in their diet, a child may experience fatigue, lack of concentration, slowed growth, lowered immunity and more.
We recommend that kids opt for a combination of healthy animal sources (fish, chicken, eggs, and beef) as well as plant-based sources to meet their protein needs.
“My kids won’t eat protein!”
Kids can be picky and some may not like the sources of quality protein you are asking them to eat for optimal growth and development, but don’t give up.
Here are some tricks to increase your child’s healthy protein intake!
Cottage cheese is also a good source of calcium (assuming your child is well adapted to dairy). Since most kids will not eat cottage cheese straight, mix it with fruit, or their favourite flavoured (unsweetened) yogurt.
You could even add in a scoop of grass-fed whey protein and use a hand blender to smash into a pudding. Try chocolate, because everyone loves chocolate!
Kids love their food in the shape of animals.
Use animal shaped cookie cutters with chicken breasts or other meats, dip the shapes into egg whites, coat with almond flour and bake or pan fry with coconut oil.
The result will be a feast your kids will beg for regularly.
While real food first is ideal, sometimes convenience is necessary, especially if we want to ensure that our kids are eating healthy. This is when smoothies can become a game changer.
Choose a high-quality protein and liquid. Try a dairy-free, unsweetened nut milk as a base, and the rest of the ingredients is preference.
Add a scoop of nut butter for taste or a powdered greens product to boost their antioxidants.
Pay attention to one major pitfall here… the sugar bomb.
Sure, adding lots of fruit or other sweeteners makes it more palatable but it also defeats the purpose.
A simple snack of natural nut butter or hummus spread on sprouted grain crackers or whole grain bread makes for a great plant-based option.
The combination of protein from legumes plus a healthy grain provides a quick and delicious boost of necessary nutrients. Ezekiel bread is a great choice as it’s considered to be a complete protein containing all the essential amino acids.
Let us know how your kids get their protein!