Easy ways to get kids Protein with a balanced diet

Adding high quality protein food to a kids daily diet can be challenging specially when the child does not eat meat. Kids aside, adults also face deficiency of protein in their daily diets. According to the Protein Consumption in the Diet of Adult Indians Survey, 9 out of 10 Indians consumed less than adequate proteins daily. 91% of the vegetarians and 85% of the non-vegetarians were protein-deficient.

Protein is considered the body’s building block and repair agent. It’s also integral in forming enzymes and hormones in the body. From digestion to immunity, from hair to nails, everything requires protein. The suggested intake of protein is decided at 0.8 gm per kg of body weight. For athletes or kids in active sports, few studies state that it is best to eat protein within 30 minutes of exercise. This is the period when most of muscle formation or muscle repair happens, and timely protein consumption enables that.

One of the most common signs of not getting enough high quality protein is swelling. This usually happens in legs, feet, hands or abdomen. Proteins circulate in blood and keep fluid from building up in tissues. In the absence of enough protein, fluid begins to collect together thereby resulting in swelling. More generally, kids who are protein deficient develop weaker bones and muscles, damaged skin, hair nails, lower immunity and also compromised or delayed physical growth.

The suggested intake of protein is decided at 0.8 gm per kg of body weight. It can be helpful to include a high quality protein food in most meals and snacks to help child achieve the daily intake. It is even better to give protein in kids preferred food formats like chocolate covered nuts (recipe), lentil wraps (recipe), pizza (recipe), nut butters and others. Here is a quick list of some easy high quality protein food for kids:

  • Nuts & Seeds: Consuming protein though nuts can be an easiest form consumption. Peanuts, Almond and Pista (what are their benefits?) are higher in protein than other nuts. 20g of these nuts or 1 tablespoon of nut butter spread can be enough for 7g of protein.
  • Pumpkin seed is the highest source of protein with 7g protein in just a spoon of seed powder.
  • Mixing this in the batter or dough is an easy way to feed nutrition to kids in their favourite formats.
  • Lentils & Beans: All types of dried beans, lentils, split beans are great sources of protein. They can be cooked to consume directly, or sprouted (why sprout?) or made into a batter for wraps (recipe). These can also be boiled and added to the dough (along with the water).
  • It is necessary to soak these before cooking. Soaking (why soak?)breaks down the phytic acid which makes it easy for the body to absorb all the nutrients and also digest the food better.
  • A cup of cooked lentil can give roughly 18g of protein which is around 50-60% of the child’s daily requirement.
  • Dairy: Dairy and its products are a great source of protein. Dairy can be consumed directly, or mixed with nut powder or, flavoured with fruits. Dairy products like cheese (which cheese is better?) can be consumed raw or with pizza and wraps. Together the meal will be rich in protein.
  • For those who are off dairy, soy or nut milk, tofu is a great alternative for added protein (tofu wrap recipe). It is although less preferable to consume nuts or soy or oats in milk form after filtering out all the fibre.

If your child is not a fussy eater then other sources of high quality protein can be spinach, cauliflower, broccoli etc which can be grated and added to whole-wheat or multi-grain dough to make bread/ roti/ pizza or batter for wraps/ cheela/ dosa.

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