As the basic building blocks for muscles and a full list of other functions, protein is a powerful player in children’s health. Here are 3 tips to make sure even picky eaters get what they need throughout the day
By Dr. Kate Morrison, ND
Protein is vital for muscle contraction and movement and the production of hormones like insulin, which regulates blood sugar and reduces cravings for carbohydrate snacks. This means fewer tantrums for toddlers, more focused children, and all around happier, healthier kids (which means happier parents, too!).
Protein is also involved in each and every biochemical reaction in the body, and it contributes to cell repair and the maintenance of balance and vision. With all these important jobs, it’s essential that children get enough.
According to the Institute of Medicine, toddlers aged 1-3 require at least 13g of protein every day and kids aged 4-8 need 19g. In order to meet their daily requirements, I recommend including 4-7g at every meal. Here are 3 ways to ensure your child is getting enough.
Power-up with breakfast foods
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but there’s no need to restrict traditional breakfast foods to the morning meal. Try a tablespoon of organic peanut butter, which contains 5g of protein, or organic almond butter with 4g, on sliced apples for dessert or snack time. Another fan favorite in my house is soft goat cheese. 1.5 ounces serves up almost 5g of protein – my kids love it on toast!
Eggs are also a classic, and fantastic, choice that can be prepared in countless ways for breakfast, lunch or dinner. In addition to supporting the body’s protein needs with 6g each, they are a source of Vitamin B12, as well as other vitamins like Vitamin B6 and Vitamin D.
Blend it for protein-packed smoothies
Smoothies are versatile and make a great breakfast, healthy snack, or even dessert (just add fresh fruit!) for busy families. Adding protein powder is a great way to help children get their daily requirement.
My recommendation for a healthy protein powder is Vega’s Protein Smoothie. Just 1/3 of a package (26g) delivers 5g of plant-based protein. To pack an extra protein punch (and yummy flavor!), try using Kabrita Goat Milk Yogurt and Fruit as a base. One 4oz pouch of Mango Peach has 2g, and Mixed Berry and Banana and Natural Vanilla Bean contain 2.5g.
Helpful Hint: try blending in supplements like omega-3’s and probiotics for extra nutrients (they won’t even notice!).
Get an all-day boost with beans
While 1oz of chicken, beef, or fish provides 7g of protein, beans and lentils can be a great alternative for any meal. A bowl of vegetarian chili or lentil soup is perfect for a cold day. You can also try a burrito made with black beans, brown rice and vegetables – for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 1/3 cup of black beans contains 5g of protein, plus a healthy dose of fiber.
Protein is an important piece of the nutrition puzzle and there are many options to make it fit into your family’s life – even for picky eaters. Bonus: Serving delicious, well-balanced meals not only ensures your child gets enough protein, it can help encourage healthy eating for life.
Dr. Kate Morrison, N.D. is a board-certified naturopathic doctor and is co-founder of KABRITA USA.