Happy November to everyone! It is almost time for Thanksgiving turkey. Our high protein seasonal dinner fits well with what we learned last November from guest author Katherine Sumner about fall/winter seasonal eating. She told us about the importance of increasing protein and fat intake this time of year. (To read more about fall/winter seasonal eating, please click here). I grew up with a biochemist (my wonderful dad) constantly saying, “make sure you eat enough protein!”. I always try to make sure that I’m eating protein throughout the day, and that my kids are too, but what is the right amount? Why is protein so important? How can you be sure that you and your kids are getting enough protein every day? To help us answer these questions, I asked UIC dietetics student Kristen Ide. She has provided us with a lot of great information, supplemented by recipe links and daily meal plans. Enjoy your Thanksgiving turkey!
The Importance of Protein, by Kristen Ide, MPH
Chances are, you have heard about protein. You know you need to eat it. You probably at one point in time have also worried about whether or not your child is getting enough of it. But what is it and why is it important? Protein makes up the building blocks for our body. It builds the tissues in our body like muscle, and organs like our heart. It also helps in other roles like transporting oxygen to breathe, and maintaining our immune system to fight disease. It is even in our DNA! The protein in our body is constantly breaking down, which is why it is essential to make sure we eat enough protein to replace it.
When protein is consumed, our body breaks it down into smaller units called amino acids. The amino acids are what our body uses to replace the muscle and tissues in our body. Scientists have discovered 22 different amino acids. Some are much more important than others. Many of those we don’t need to worry about because our body can automatically make them. However, there are 8 amino acids that our body can’t make. Those are considered “essential” because our body requires us to eat them.
Now why am I telling you about amino acids? For the simple reason that different foods contain different types. Protein can be found in a variety of foods including eggs, meats, dairy, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds. The foods that contain all of your essential amino acids are animal sources which include beef, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy products. Vegetable protein, which includes beans, nuts, seeds, and soy, is considered incomplete because it is missing at least one of the 8 essential amino acids. However, even if these are your only sources of protein, you can still get what you need by mixing it up. As each food contains different amino acids, by mixing it up and eating a variety of foods, you can still get what you need for your body to function properly.
For our children, protein is essential for growth. Is your child consuming enough protein? A general rule of thumb is that a person needs 0.4 – 0.5g of protein per pound the person weighs. An easy way to calculate that is to take the weight, and divide by two. So a person who weighs 100 pounds needs approximately 50g of protein. One can always look at the nutrition label to find out how many grams of protein the food has. You may now think I am crazy, wanting you to count how much protein your child is getting. Don’t worry, I don’t count my protein, and I am not asking you to do that either. If a person is eating a variety of healthy foods, they should be meeting their protein requirements.
Below is a sample of different foods, with the amount of protein per serving:
|Food||Serving Size||Amount of Protein per serving (in grams)|
|*Cottage cheese, low fat||½ cup||14|
|Soy milk||1 cup||8-11|
|*Chicken breast, boneless/skinless||1 oz||9|
|*Ground sirloin||1 oz||8|
|*Milk (all fats kinds)||1 cup||8|
|Peanut butter||2 tbsp||8|
|*Lunch meat||1 oz||3.5|
* Contains all essential amino acids
Don’t think I’d send you on your way without some tools to help you out! Below is a 3 day menu to help with some ideas that will provide a good source of protein for you and your children. Please keep in mind the amount of food you provide your children will vary with their age, weight, and appetite. This sample is for approximately a 70 pound child. Children less than 2 should receive whole milk. Also, feel free to modify these menus to fit your individual needs. Children may need multiple exposures of a food before they like it, so don’t give up the first time!
|Calories||Protein (in grams)|
|½ serving of Apple Pie Porridge, 4 oz low fat yogurt||228||9.5|
|Snack: 4 oz Skim Milk and ½ Banana||94||5|
|½ serving Bulgur Chickpea Salad, 4 oz Skim Milk||142||4|
|Hummus with 1/4 cup Carrots and Broccoli||125||3.5|
|½ serving Chicken and Carrots, 4 oz Skim Milk||150||17|
|½ serving Pumpkin Pecan Oatmeal with ¼ Grapefruit||198||6|
|½ Orange with 4 oz Skim Milk||75||5|
|½ serving Chicken and Rice||138||9|
|¼ cup raisins||125||1.3|
|½ serving Lentil Tostadas * with 4 oz Skim Milk||265||14|
|Day 3 (vegetarian option)|
|½ serving Tropical Breakfast Bowl||135||6|
|½ Handful of Baby Carrots with 4 oz Skim Milk||59||4.5|
|½ serving Vegetable Lentil Soup with ½ Poached Egg||88||7|
|2 oz Almonds with 4 oz Orange Juice||406||12|
|½ serving Quinoa Salad with 4 oz Skim Milk||157||8.5|
Some other great high protein recipes I would like to point out (from Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange) are:
How do you make sure your kids get their proper protein intake? Please share your ideas with us in the comments section below!
Kathryn & Kristen
Back copies of Healthy Kids Ideas Exchange are always available online.
Don’t forget to check out the recent posts on the Garden Tales and Simple Dinner Ideas Blogs!
Garden Tales: a seasonal adventure for you and your kids to enjoy all the wonderful bounty of edible and ornamental gardens. http://www.healthykidsideas.com/category/garden-blog/
Simple Dinners Ideas: on-going inspiration for easy meals your entire family will enjoy. http://www.healthykidsideas.com/category/simple-dinner-ideas/
This column is for information only, and no part of its contents should be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, recommendation or endorsement by the author. You should always ask your physician for his or her recommendation before starting any new health-related activity.