10 ideas that help you add more protein to your child's diet
Proteins are an integral part of your child’s growth, development and overall wellbeing. Without this nutrient, bones, muscles, cartilage and even skin cannot develop properly. Moreover, the formation of many hormones and enzymes is also dependent on proteins. So, if your child’s diet lacks sufficient amounts of protein, he might lose muscle mass, become more prone to fractures, and face problems related to skin, nails and hair. The risk of protein deficiency is higher among kids who eat a vegetarian diet, since it cuts out the powerful animal sources of protein like egg, meat, fish and poultry. However, no matter which diet you follow, it is always possible to serve meals to children that are protein-rich. What is needed is a little bit of creativity, knowledge and planning.
What is the impact of insufficient protein on your child’s diet?
Children need the recommended amount of protein daily to build muscles and repair tissues. The protein requirement is more vital in those children who are involved in sports or other physical activities. Protein also helps in the transportation of vitamins and minerals in the body. The chances of infections increase when children do not consume a sufficient amount of protein.
How much protein does your child need?
According to the WHO, the recommended dietary allowance of protein (grams per kg per day), for Indian children is:
- From birth to 3 months - 2.40 grams.
- From 3 to 6 months - 1.85 grams.
- From 6 to 9 months - 1.62 grams.
- From 9 to 11 months - 1.44 grams.
- Children who are 1 to 3 years old – around 1.2 grams.
- Children who are 4 to 6 years old – around 1 gram.
- Children who are 7 to 9 years old - around 0.9 gram.
In simpler terms, an egg contains around 7 grams of protein and a cup (244grams) of milk contains 8 grams of protein. So, you can meet the daily requirement of protein by spacing out 5 portions in a day. It is that simple. If your child is fussy about protein food sources, here are some tips that can help.
Tips to sneak in more protein into your child’s diet
- Get creative with milk
All mothers understand the value of milk. It is a vital source of protein for children. However, some children don’t like it for various reasons. Instead of serving it as is, make a smoothie out of it and serve it for breakfast. Adding milk, nut butter, yoghurt, or chia seeds to a smoothie is a clever way to sneak in some extra protein into his diet. You can add some fresh fruits or maple syrup to entice him with the sweet taste. You can also make a French toast with whole wheat bread dipped in a beaten egg. If your child is lactose-intolerant, he can have soy milk.
- Make a wholesome meal with eggs
Eggs are rich in protein and also contain amino acids. They can be included in breakfasts or in meals. If he is bored with the regular boiled eggs, you can try masala fried or poached eggs. These are tasty and can be served with toasted bread or roti.
- Add lean meats like chicken
Chicken is an ideal source of lean meat and is common in the Indian diet. You can make a variety of items with chicken, like soups, stews and curries.
- Add yoghurt which is rich in gut-friendly bacteria
Yoghurt is a probiotic food that has millions of gut-friendly bacteria and can help with the digestion process. It is also a good source of protein. You can try making a variety of foods with yoghurt. Add some fruits to a cup of yoghurt for instance and top it off with some tasty cereal. Your kid will also not miss his carbohydrates this way, while getting the recommended amount of protein from the yoghurt.
- Make shapes with protein sources
Kids get easily attracted to fun shapes and colours. They get bored with bland and routine items. Now, meat and cheese are good sources of protein. So, make skewers with meat slices, cheese cubes, and fruits, and you will be amazed at how fast they get eaten. You can try out various shapes by using cookie cutters as well.
Let him eat his fish Fish is an ideal source of protein. Choose a fish variety that does not have many bones, to avoid choking. Rawas, ahi, and bangada are some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids along with protein. You can make fish fingers or chops and serve them as a snack. >
Add a bit of peanut butter to his diet Peanut butter is an all-time favourite with children and is a good source of protein. You can spread it on whole-grain breads or crackers and serve them for breakfast. You can also try other kinds of nut butters like sunflower seed, almond and cashew butter, to add some variety. Just make sure your child is not allergic to peanuts. >
- Amp up the carbs
If your child prefers eating carbohydrates most of the time, don’t worry. You can add variety to his regular carbs and sneak in some high protein in your child’s diet. Here are some interesting options.
- Green moong sprouts dhokla: It is a favourite Gujarati breakfast dish that is liked in other parts of India as well. It is made with sprouted moong dal, palak saag (spinach) and besan.
- Porridge: You can make porridge with Indian cereals (example jowar) along with some vegetables, to improve the taste and nutritional value.
- Poha: It can be made with flattened rice or poha, onions, and veggies.
- Paneer paratha: You can stuff paratha with paneer, which is a rich source of protein and serve it for breakfast.
- Idli with sambar: It is made with rice and curd butter. It can be commonly had with sambar made with lentils.
- Soy upma: It is made of sooji (semolina) or soy granules. You can also add urad dal, carrots, onions and French beans, based on your child’s preferences.
- Roti made with spinach: This can help provide additional nutrition to those children who avoid greens or spinach in particular. Add spinach to his daily roti and serve him for breakfast or meals.
- Let him snack on proteins
If your child has missed his protein during mealtimes you can always try to sneak in some during snack time. You can try this with a slice of baked chicken, yoghurt, string cheese or fresh veggies. Fish fingers are also a good option.
- Go nuts with nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are another rich source of protein and some are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can include them as a quick snack or something that can be consumed on the go.
Getting your child to consume the recommended amount of protein every day is quite simple. Many children do like common food sources of protein like eggs, milk, cheese, etc. However, if your child is a fussy eater, use the above tips to add in the regular dose of protein without much hassle.