If you make sure your child finishes their glass of milk or bowl of yoghurt or dal every day, the effort is worth it. Protein is important for their growing bodies as they have the essential amino acids that your kid needs for overall development and well-being. Children are also physically more active than adults and need extra protein and carbs for their daily energy requirements. Around 10 to 30% calories should ideally come from protein according to experts. (Also read: Are we overeating our proteins? What Nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar says)
It is right for parents to worry if their children are having enough protein as not having this essential nutrient can result in fatigue, poor concentration, slow growth and low immunity. However, one should also avoid feeding children excessive protein as that can be harmful too. Too much protein can be stored as fat, lead to organ damage or cause kidney issues.
Protein requirement for children also changes with age and to ensure your kid is getting enough of it, here’s a guide on how much protein to consume.
“Parents often tell me they are concerned that their infant, toddler, or child isn’t getting enough protein. Protein is critical for human growth, particularly during times of rapid growth- infancy and puberty. If your child is seemingly not eating enough protein, you may be concerned,” says Nutritionist Bhakti Arora Kapoor in her latest Instagram post.
Here are some general guidelines for protein intake (per day):
Infants (0-6 months): 9 gm of protein
Infants (7-12 months): 11 gm of protein
Children (1-3 years): 13 gm of protein
Children (4-8 years): 19 gm of protein
Boys (9-13 years): 34 gm of protein
Boys (14-18 years): 52 gm of protein
Girls (9-13 years): 34 gm of protein
Girls (14-18 years): 46 gm of protein
Here’s a list of protein-rich foods your kids should have:
2 cups milk – 16gm
Dahi (200 gm) – 22 gm
2 eggs – 12 gm
1 tbsp peanut butter – 4 gm
Pasta (1 serve – 60 g) – 7.7 gm
Bread (2 slices) – 4.5 gm
Paneer/tofu (100gm) – 15-17gm
Almonds (30g/1/4 cup) – 6 gm
Cheese (28 gm) – 7 gm
Cooked rajma – 8.7 gm
Tempeh (50gm) – 9.5 gm
Cooked rice (1/3 cup) – 3 gm
Most fish (100 gm) – 18-20 gm
How to make sure your child is not undereating or overeating protein
Kapoor shares tips on ensuring right protein intake for kids:
1. Calculate the protein requirement of your kid and a rough estimate of what their protein intake per day is. Consult a qualified nutritionist if required.
2. Focus on quality and quantity of protein per day.
3. Make protein a seamless part of everyday meals.
4. Menu planning helps you see at a glance if your kids are getting adequate protein in a day and during week.
5. Provide your children’s protein requirement from a variety of sources so they get a wide range of essential amino acids and other nutrients. Along with protein, ensure that children are meeting their overall nutritional needs. A balanced diet that includes a variety of foods, such as fruits, vegetable, whole grains, and healthy fats, in addition to protein, is crucial fo their well-being.
6. Protein supplements are unnecessary for healthy kids. A balanced diet should take care of the dietary requirements. In some cases, protein supplementation may be required, but only under the advice of a paediatrician.
7. While adequate protein intake is necessary, excessive protein consumption can have potential health risks. It’s important to strike a balance and avoid excessively high protein diets.
8. Read nutritional labels.
9. Do not give adult protein supplements to kids as these may have presence of artificial sweeteners, aflatoxins, pesticides, heavy metals and anabolic steroids, which are unsafe.
The protein requirement may vary with every child, but these general guidelines will make sure you have a fair idea of what should constitute your child’s diet.