The importance of Protein in kiddies – made easy!

Hi everyone! For those of you who haven’t met me – I am Jess and I am founder of Cook n Create, a mobile cooking school for kids here in Adelaide! I have a First Class BSc degree in ‘Food science and Nutrition’ and am a qualified and vastly experienced High School Food and Nutrition teacher.

Cook n Create was born from my love of cooking with children, teaching and having fun with food! I run workshops and sessions all over Adelaide and these range from Bub n Bake sessions (Which are so much fun! We bake with the super little ones, sing, play, have fun) all the way through to After School Cooking Club for the older kiddos!

The Lovely Emma from Adelaide Postpartum care has asked me to write a blog about the importance of protein in our little ones – it’s a big topic! So from one mumma to another – go grab a cuppa, settle in and off we go! Please don’t be overwhelmed, just keep reading and trust me, it seems like a lot but it isn’t too tricky to navigate I promise! 😊

Where to start – I always find it easiest to break down some of the main information into bitesize chunks (see what I did there?! Dad jokes got nothing on these mamma ones haha) So here goes:

5 very important protein facts!

  • Protein is ESSENTIAL for the growth of your child – Your child’s muscles, bones, organs, skin, enzymes and hormones rely on it!
  • Protein is made up of Amino acids (think of these like LEGO blocks) and these amino acids form the building blocks of proteins – the more blocks – the better the protein which leads us into our next point…
  • There are 2 types of proteins – High Value Proteins (HVP) and Low Value Proteins (LVP). HVP contain all of the essential amino acids (building blocks) required by a child to grow and LVP contain SOME of the amino acids BUT you can combine LVP to make a great balanced meal – so you can add them together!! (I will explain more about these later on in the article). Your body can make some amino acids but the others HAVE to come from foods and this is what we refer to as dietary protein.
  • If you worry that your child may not receive enough protein – please don’t despair or panic, a few small, informed changes can make an enormous difference, keep reading and I will show you how!
  • You can also eat TOO much protein! Initially this can show through weight gain. Eventually it can put too much pressure on your organs causing lots of problems, but it would take a lot of excess protein to do this so don’t panic. But with a healthy balanced diet, this really shouldn’t be an issue.

Why is protein so important?

Well as I said they are ESSENTIAL for the growth of your child – Your child’s muscles, bones, organs, skin, enzymes and hormones rely on protein to fuel and support their growth. Protein is kind of a big deal in the nutrition world!

Seeing as we are specifically focusing on babies and children here – we also need to mention the impact of protein on sleep.. that thing we all strive for and fantasize about.. quality sleep and linking sleep cycles!

Low protein intake has been associated with poor quality sleep patterns and difficulty linking sleep cycles and high protein intake has been associated with a difficulty staying asleep.

There is lots of research out there that shows a protein rich snack before bed can help with the quality of your child’s sleep. Protein rich foods help to keep you fuller for longer too so your little ones have happy and content tummies throughout the night. HOWEVER.. I wouldn’t advise a bed time snack becoming a necessity or a crutch (that is a totally different blog for another day!). If we make them eat when they are not hungry.. we are back to the issue of weight gain and there are LOTS of health problems associated with obesity so.. IF you need to offer a bed time snack (and the need usually correlates with a growth spurt!) then make it protein rich! Some of my suggestions (from my own trial and error!) include:

  • Cheese and crackers
  • Nuts (especially pistachios) and nut butters
  • Oatmeal (naturally rich in melatonin too!)
  • Seeds
  • Eggs

I was always told “Banana will help the baby sleep (after weaning age of course!!) and my little ones ALWAYS slept better after some banana so.. it works!

Now, the next hurdle which SO MANY of us face (including me a couple of years ago!) is the terrible ‘Fussy eating’ stage (stage makes it sound casual and short lived but those of you in the thick of it? That is NOT how it feels I absolutely know!)! As if motherhood wasn’t anxiety riddled enough.. let’s just chuck in some food refusal into the mix and make us worry about our child starving and becoming malnourished (as well as the grumpiness!)!! This is an area I can help a LOT with!! If you shoot over to my fussy eating blog on the website – there are handy tips in ABUNDANCE from someone who has been there and lived it (and cried in the pantry, and in Coles, and in the pharmacy…and well.. you get the picture!)

So, now you understand what protein is and why it’s so important I guess we should highlight some of the alarm bells you should watch out for in terms of your bubba and their health.

If your child is protein deficient some of the main symptoms include swelling, skin degeneration, infections, fatty liver and stunted growth. These would be caused by SERIOUS protein deficiency which in the Western world we live in.. is very unlikely, if anything we consume far too much!

If you child is consuming TOO much protein then some of the symptoms include nausea, headaches, mood swings, weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, hunger, cravings, dodgy tummies.

If you are worried about ANY of these, contact you doctor who can run some tests and make sure you are all good!

Okay, so what are the best sources of protein (Make it simple Jess for goodness sake!!!)

I know.. your cuppa is almost gone and you are feeling overwhelmed.. I am almost done!! -p.s if you have met me.. I talk this much in real life too!!!

Those High value proteins we talked about - the ones with the most blocks, the ones that are fab?

The best sources of those in the diet are:

Fish and seafood, Poultry, Dairy products, Beans, nuts, seeds, Tofu and soy foods, eggs and quinoa. My general rule of thumb is that animal sourced foods are generally high in good protein (it makes it easier to remember!)

The low value proteins (these are still good but we need to add them together to make them awesome!).

The best sources of LVP are:

Plant based foods, legumes, grains, and veggies etc, like I say they are fab you just need a combination!

With a few tweaks here and there using these foods as a core structure – your child will be getting an awesome, varied and protein rich diet to help support their growth and development.

This is a rough guide for toddler portions. For an age specific guide please contact your health advisor

This is a rough guide for toddler portions. For an age specific guide please contact your health advisor

What is a portion and how many should my child have a day?

This varies throughout a child’s life. It’s fab to have a rough grasp on what your child should be consuming so you can make a judgement call on whether they are getting the right amount! Your health advisor will have guidelines correlated with age for you to use. (I could go through them all but I am pretty sure you are all ‘proteined’ out for one session!)

If you got this far.. thanks for sticking with it! I hope you feel a little more informed and supported and know that Emma or I are always here to offer tips and advice and support in any way we can!

I hope you enjoyed this and for some lighter and funnier reads you can shoot over to check out my other blogs, all associated with kiddies, foods and their quirky ways!

Thank you for reading and feel free to share away!

Ciao for now or as us Welshies would say .. Hwyl Fawr!

Jess xxx

P.S If you want a copy of our FREE protein in kids guide CLICK HERE

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