Your child's protein needs

Your child's protein needs

Author: Canadian Living


Your child's protein needs

In your child's diet, there are three "macronutrients" essential for optimal growth and development. These macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and protein. Carbs are found in fruits, vegetables, grains and beans. They are the body's main source of fuel and are critical to maintaining proper blood sugar control and energy. Fats have an anti-inflammatory effect and are necessary for overall brain function -- in fact, 60 per cent of a child's brain is composed of fat. Proteins are also critical as they are necessary for proper growth and repair of cells and for muscle repair as well as to make red blood cells and boost the immune system.

Of all three macronutrients, parents tend to be concerned about insufficient protein intake. The good news is, most children (even vegetarian ones) well exceed their recommended protein requirements as long as they are eating a balanced diet. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein and kids is as follows:

Protein RDA for children:
• Up to 12 months: 13-14 g

• 1-3 years: 16 g
• 4-6 years: 24 g
• 9-10 years: 28 g

Male preteens/teens
• 11-14 years: 45 g
• 15-18 years: 59 g

Female preteens/teens
• 11-14 years: 46 g
• 15-18 years: 44 g

Page 1 of 1 – On page 2, learn how to "eyeball" appropriate amounts of food for your child, plus easy ways to increase your child's protein intake.

In order to effectively "eyeball" the amount of protein your child is eating, consider the following measurements. One easy tip: the palm of your hand (without thumb or fingers) or a deck of cards equals about 3 ounces (85 g) of food. Teens require a higher caloric intake due to their growing energy and developmental needs. Protein, iron and calcium intakes all increase during adolescence. Find more great protein-rich foods for your child in the table below.

 Food  Amount of protein (grams)
 4 oz (115 g) chicken or fish              28
 3 oz (85 g) sirloin steak  25
 1 scoop protein powder  25
 1 cup (250 mL) lima beans  15
 1/2 cup (125 mL) egg whites  13
 4 oz (115 g) firm tofu  10
 1 oz (28 g) low-fat cheese  7

7 ways to serve up more protein
1. Stuff a pita with tomatoes, lettuce, turkey slices and mustard for the perfect school or at-home lunch. Turkey has 5 grams of protein per ounce (28 g).

2. Serve your child a yogurt with fruit for snack. Plain yogurt contains between 10 and 14 grams of protein per eight ounces (240 mL).

3. Fill your child's cereal bowl with organic cow's milk or soy milk. Cow's milk has eight grams of protein per cup (250 mL) while soy milk has approximately six grams of protein per cup.

4. Try tofu in a stir-fry with a flavourful sauce or silken tofu in a morning chocolate banana smoothie. Half a cup (125 mL) of tofu = eight grams of protein

5. Make your children natural peanut butter and jam sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Two teaspoons (10 mL) of natural peanut butter offers eight grams of protein.

6. Roll tilapia or sole in bread crumbs or mix canned salmon with sweet potatoes and bread crumbs and make salmon cakes. One ounce (28 g) of fish offers eight grams of protein.

7. Make your child a delicious egg wrap. One egg contains seven grams of protein.

Dr. Joey Shulman is the author of Winning the Food Fight (Wiley, 2003) and national bestseller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2005). For more information, visit

Page 2 of 2 – On page 1, find out what three essential macronutrients your child needs for development and growth.


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Your child's protein needs