Protein is Power for Kids!

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If you have picky eaters on your hands, you may worry about whether or not your kids are getting the nutrients they need. Protein is one component you definitely don’t want your little ones passing up – protein is important for growth and development during childhood.  Just how much protein, though, do your kiddos need to grow big and strong? You’ll find out here along with some tasty ideas that might just have them crying, “More, please!”
Why protein?  Proteins are the building blocks that repair and maintain a healthy body. A balanced meal of lean protein, fiber-rich fruits and veggies along with unsaturated fats will provide long-lasting energy and keep your kids feeling fuller longer.
How much protein should children have each day?  Chances are, they’re getting enough protein in the foods they already eat. If your kiddos turn their noses up at any type of meat, they are more than likely finding protein in other food sources. Dairy foods, grains and veggies are good sources that you may not think of as traditional proteins.
According to KidsHealth from Nemours, a 70 lb. child should have about 35 grams of protein each day. So, how much is 35 grams? Here’s how your little ones can add it all up:
  •  7 grams – 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 8 grams – 1 c. low-fat milk
  •  7 grams – 2 domino-sized pieces of cheese
  • 2 grams – ½ c. broccoli
  • 11 grams – 1.5 oz. chicken breast
Check out these protein-packed foods and see if your kids are on the right track:
  • Milk or soy milk
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Peanut butter
  • Lean meats, fish, poultry
  • Beans
  • Nuts or seeds
But my kids are picky….VERY picky. I’ve never met a kid who didn’t like chicken nuggets – while nuggets may not be the absolute healthiest option, the protein power in chicken is something to be grateful for. Here are some ideas for protein-packed meals all day long:
Breakfast
  • Oatmeal made with milk, not water
  • Oatmeal with peanut butter stirred in (add bananas for a yummy variation)
  • Egg sandwich on whole grain toast
  • Breakfast burrito with egg and cheese (maybe even some cooked veggies) on a wheat wrap
Lunch
  • Ants on a log (peanut butter on celery dotted with raisins)
  • Ham and cheese rollup
  • Apple slices with peanut butter
  • PB&J (switch up the classic by adding honey or bananas instead of jelly)
  • Tuna fish on whole grain bread
  • Chicken salad on whole grain wrap
Dinner
  • Lean burger with cheese on whole grain bun
  • Grilled cheese sandwich (add in some ham or turkey for a change)
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Serve a glass of milk as their dinner beverage (this was my mom’s trick…“Can’t get up till you finish your milk!”)
If you think you have a child who is still not getting enough protein, check with your pediatrician.  Protein is a necessary nutrient for all age groups, so having your children learn to enjoy protein-filled foods at an early age is important. Remember, don’t be afraid to get creative with your approach – if you have to be sneaky, your kids may never find those mashed up cannellini beans mixed into their mashed potatoes.

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