There are nine essential amino acids and 11 non-essential amino acids, thus bringing the total to 20 amino acids. In this post, you why protein is essential for children, how much they need, and the food sources that are rich in protein.
Why Is Protein Essential For Children?
Proteins support the body in having a healthy growth. Protein intake in childhood is said to help ward off the risk of non-communicable diseases in adulthood. A few of the crucial functions of protein in the body are:
- Each cell in the human body is made up of protein and hence is imperative for the growth and development of children.
- Protein supports the body against the wear and tear of the tissues. Thus, it is essential for the wellness of the skin, bones, hair, nails, and internal organs. It is also found in all body fluids.
- Enzymes, which are made of proteins, act as catalysts in various biochemical reactions in the body to ensure proper growth and development in children.
- Antibodies are crucial for children as they are most vulnerable to infections. Protein is required to make antibodies that are the tools of the immune system.
- Hormones are vital for the body. Some crucial hormones like growth hormone and epinephrine are made from protein.
These functions make it imperative for a child to have sufficient proteins.
Protein Rich Foods Your Children
If your little one is a picky eater, try the foods that they might find appetizing, and are also an excellent source of quality protein.
- Egg sandwich
- Grilled cheese sandwich
- Peanut butter sandwich
- Tuna sandwich
- Scrambled eggs and cheese salad
- Smoothies (made of milk)
- Turkey roll-ups
- Pasta (with turkey/chicken)
- Tofu and green bean burger
- Soup with meatballs
- Protein-rich cereals like quinoa
- Yogurt parfait with fruits
- Nuts such as almonds and pecans and seeds such as sesame and pumpkin
Note: While choosing protein-rich meals, take care that the food sources selected are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, and added sugars. Prefer to add lean meat cuts and explore high protein cereals and grains. While doing so, do not get overwhelmed with the aim and divert from natural food sources to supplements.
How Much Protein Does A Child Need?
The recommended average dietary intake of protein for children in the age group 3-8 years is 19g a day. Children in the age group 9-13 years are recommended 34g a day. World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization (WHO/FAO) makes the recommendation based on the child’s body weight and age:
- 9g/kg/day for boys aged 3 to 18 years and girls aged 3 to 15 years
- 8g/kg/day for girls between 15 and 18 years of age
Age-Wise Daily Protein Requirement for Your Child
- 1-3 Years: 13 grams (g) or 2ounce-equivalent*
- 4-8 Years: 19g or 4 ounce-equivalent
- 9-13 Years: 34g or 5 ounce-equivalent
- 14-18 Years: 46g (girls) or 6 ounce-equivalent 52g (boys) or 6.5 ounce-equivalent
In general, 1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, 1⁄4 cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or 1⁄2 ounce of nuts or seeds can be considered as 1 ounce-equivalent. Until a kid is 14 years of age, the amount of protein intake is the same for boys and girls.
Should Your Child Take Protein Supplements?
Your child may not need supplements as long as they are getting proteins through natural food sources. Do not give protein supplements to your child without the doctor’s advice. Here are some facts you should know about protein supplements:
- Contrary to popular belief, a child who is physically active or trying to put on muscle mass does not need to consume extra protein.
- Although many dietary supplements are made from natural sources, it does not necessarily mean they are safe.
- Federal regulations for dietary supplements like protein powders, drinks, or protein bars are less strict than prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
- Supplements may be of poor quality with contaminants such as chemicals or drugs. Studies have proven that there are differences between what’s on the label and the actual content.
- If the supplements are really necessary, the child’s doctor will recommend them accordingly.
Children need a balanced diet that contains all the essential nutrients. Remember, there are no shortcuts for the healthy growth of your child. So follow the principle of moderation and variety and plan a wholesome high-quality protein diet for your growing child.
Image Credit: freepik
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