It is not easy to know if your child is getting the right amount of macronutrients such as proteins.
We know that proteins are an important part of our diet and they help build our muscles. But what most parents may not know is the right amounts of protein a child needs, and the various food sources from where you can get them.
Protein is a macronutrient needed for building muscle mass. Macronutrients provide energy and are required in large amounts to sustain life, and hence the term “macro”. The other macronutrients are carbohydrates and fats (1).
Proteins are made up of thousands of amino acids. The amino acids are of 20 different types and are segregated into essential and non-essential amino acids. The body can make the 11 non-essential amino acids by itself, while the nine essential amino acids are sourced from food sources.
[ Read: Protein Powder For Kids ]
Now, let us understand how proteins work in our body and why children need them (2):
These functions make it inevitable for a child to take proteins in the right amounts.
Here is what the World Health Organization/Food and Agriculture Organization (WHO/FAO) recommends (3):
|Age||Daily protein recommendation|
|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, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ 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.
According to experts, 10-30% of your child’s calories should come from proteins, while the rest should be coming from foods containing fats and carbohydrates (6).
[ Read: High Protein Snacks For Kids ]
Here we share with you the US MyPlate chart of foods and their protein content (5).
|Foods||Specific amount that counts as 1oz-equivalent protein foods||Common portions for kids and their ounce-equivalent|
|Meats||1oz cooked lean pork/ham|
1oz cooked lean beef
|1 steak = 3.5-4 ounce-equivalent|
1 lean hamburger = 2-3 ounce-equivalent
|Poultry||1 sandwich with a slice of turkey|
1oz cooked skinless turkey/chicken
|1/2 Cornish game hen = 4 ounce-equivalent|
1 small chicken breast half = 3 ounce-equivalent
|Seafood||1oz fish or shellfish||1 trout = 3 ounce-equivalent|
1 salmon steak = 4-6 ounce-equivalent
1 can of tuna = 3-4 ounce-equivalent
|Eggs||1 egg||3 egg whites = 2 ounce-equivalent|
3 egg yolks = 1 ounce-equivalent
|Nuts and seeds||1tbsp almond butter|
1tbsp peanut butter
Pumpkin, squash seeds, sunflower (hulled and roasted) = 1/2oz of seeds
12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves = 1/2oz
|1oz of seeds or nuts = 2 ounce-equivalent|
|Beans and peas||1/4 cup cooked beans|
1/4 cup cooked peas
1/4 cup tofu
1/4 cup roasted soybeans
1 falafel patty
1oz cooked tempeh
|1 cup split pea soup = 2 ounce-equivalent|
1 cup lentil soup = 2 ounce-equivalent
1 cup bean soup = 2 ounce-equivalent
1 soy or bean burger patty = 2 ounce-equivalent
Note: Protein foods are also important sources of minerals and vitamins like vitamin B6, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B12, iron, vitamin D, vitamin E, etc.
[ Read: High Protein Breakfast Ideas For Kids ]
If your little one is a picky eater, try the foods that children find appetizing, and are also an excellent source of protein.
While choosing protein-rich meals, take care that the foods are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, and added sugars.
In their eagerness to supply proteins to their children, some parents might want to try supplements such as protein shakes or powders. But before buying them, know if your child needs those extra proteins.
Your child may not need supplements as long as they are getting it 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 (7):
Proteins are the building blocks of the body. Children need a balanced diet that contains all the essential nutrients. And that comes only with a varied supply of healthy and nutritious food. Remember, there are no shortcuts for a healthy growth of your child.
[ Read: Healthy Snacks For Kids ]
Do you have any questions to ask or inputs to share on proteins? Let us know in the comment section below.