What's the second most rejected food group? You guessed it, protein. After
veggies, proteins like fish, red meat and legumes are the most disliked foods
amongst children. While children will get some protein from other foods, it is
often lacking from their favourite snacks and main meals. A low protein diet
can impact on a child's ability to concentrate as well as their energy levels.T
he good news is that with a few tweaks and swaps children can receive their
daily quota from a variety of protein sources.
How much protein do children need?
Protein requirements differ at different ages, based on the body’s need for
growth and repair. Young children need more protein than adults per kilogram
of body weight. This often equates to children eating one to two serves of
good quality protein on a daily basis. As a rough guide, children between one
to three years require around 13g of protein per day, and children four to eight
years need 19g of protein per day.
The Best Sources
The best sources of protein are grass-fed beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish,
eggs and good quality dairy products, plus vegetable proteins such as
legumes, beans, nuts and seeds.
My advice is to avoid processed deli meats whenever possible, because they
are excessively high in sodium and also contain nitrates and nitrites.
For fussy eaters, protein is often problematic as favourites such as breakfast
cereals, jam, Vegemite and honey sandwiches (which contain little to no
protein) are usually preferred. In my book and online courses, I offer
numerous strategies that encourage fussy eaters to start enjoying a wider
variety of protein-rich choices.
Simple recipes and ideas to boost protein:
- Adding a boiled egg, or mashing it up with some tzatziki or mayo and adding to a whole grain sandwich or wrap
- Fish frittata
- Lentil veggie cakes
- Shredded leftover roast chicken, lamb or beef
- Healthy macaroni & cheese portioned into cupcake cases
- 4-ingredient chicken pizza
- Tasty salmon and millet rissoles
- Chicken nuggets with homemade tomato sauce on the side
- Leftover spaghetti bolognese placed into mini muffin trays, covered with grated cheese and baked for 5-10 mins
- Beef and veggie meatballs
- Dips such as hummus and tzatziki to accompany veggie sticks
- Protein rich sandwich fillers such as ricotta spread and yellow cheese
- Smoothies boosted with Protein+ powder
- Brownies boosted with Protein+ powder