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Protein is very important when it comes to repairing and maintaining the body and is essential during a child’s early years as that is when the most growth and development take place. Babies and toddlers need more protein in their diet than children who are older and even more than adults.
Protein Requirements for Infants and Toddlers
Let’s take a look at what proteins are required for infants and toddlers:
1. 0-6 Months
Breast milk provides all the protein at this stage. The baby’s systems are not yet ready to handle anything other than liquids.
2. 6 Months Old
At this age, you should start weaning your baby; protein-rich solid foods can be introduced at this point, alongside breast milk or formula.
3. 8 Months Old
Infants of this age can and should be given chopped meats and vegetables to eat. Mashed beans, egg yolks, paneer and curd, are also good for your eight-month-old.
4. 10 Months Old
Now your baby will be able to eat the same kind of food that the family eats. Be careful to make sure that the food is soft and cut into small, easy to eat pieces.
5. 1 – 3 Years Old (Toddlers)
The average toddler should get about 0.55 grams of proteins per pound of body weight on a daily basis in order to grow healthy and strong.
Importance of Protein
Proteins are made of amino acids. Our bodies need 22 amino acids in order to maintain and grow the hair, skin, bone and so much more. Our bodies can only naturally produce 13 of them, so we need to get 9 of them from the food we eat. Protein is also used to produce haemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying the oxygen in the blood.
1. For Babies
Infants in particular need protein because their body weight doubles in the first six months. If you do not give your child enough protein, it may lead to slowing down of growth and development and may impair the heart and lungs. They will also become more prone to illness, and the illness will also drain them of the energy they need to grow healthy and strong.
2. For Toddlers
Walking requires a lot of energy, and toddlers, in particular, are learning how to walk, meaning they need much more protein. The brain cells also need protein in order to develop speech and language skills.
Can Vegetarian Diet Cause Protein Deficiency
Most complete proteins (those containing all nine amino acids not found in our bodies) are found in meat sources, while incomplete proteins (those containing only some, but not all of the amino acids) are found mostly in plants. It is very rare for any plant to have a complete protein source.
By combining different vegetables, you can surely make up for all the necessary amino acids. However, a vegetarian diet will not lead to a protein deficiency.
Having said that, it is also important to consider that not all children like all veggies! Timely monitoring of deficiencies can go a long way in avoiding preventable deficiencies.
Can Protein Cause Food Allergies
Proteins in food are definitely responsible for causing food allergies. This can be seen in the example of milk. Milk has a protein known as casein, which may lead to allergic reactions in certain children with a sensitive system. Every protein has a different structure, however, and this is why most children will only be allergic to a certain type of protein found in a particular food.
When Will Your Child Require Extra Protein
Here are the reasons why your baby may need to consume extra protein:
- If your child is suffering from an infection or illness, his body will be using up more protein than normal. In a case such as this, it is most often recommended to give your child a bit of extra protein to help him.
- The main function that your small intestine performs is absorbing the required nutrients from the food you consume, into the bloodstream. If a child is suffering from malabsorption, it means that their small intestine has a problem and is unable to absorb the nutrients properly. In this case, more protein will be required by the child’s body.
- Consuming proteins can also help manage lung and heart problems so those children who are suffering from either of the two will need to have additional protein in their diet.
- Those who have undergone surgery should have more protein in their diet in order to heal better.
How to Encourage Your Child to Eat More Protein
Rather than forcing your child to eat food, try making eating their protein-packed meals a bit more fun and exciting by trying out these tips:
Who does not love a good milkshake? Milk is a great source of protein and tastes amazing with fruits. Avocado milkshakes are a good snack to give your child as avocados are rich in proteins. Banana shakes are also really good at delivering protein to your child.
2. Cool Shapes
Children are learning so much about the world around them, and they are often fascinated by very simple things. Try cutting their food into different shapes to make it pleasing and more fun for your child to eat. You can use a cookie cutter for this. Even arranging their food in an interesting way will make it all the more interesting for them to eat.
3. Dip Trip
Kids enjoy finger food as it is easier for them to pick up and eat. What makes finger food even more exciting is when there is something fun and delicious to dip it into. Try making chutney that is not spicy or perhaps something like hummus and salsa for your child to dip their finger foods into.
4. Pasta Masta
Pasta comes in many different shapes and is something that is quick and easy to make. Pasta can be put into soups and made fun for your children. Add your protein to pasta dishes and try to serve a different shape of pasta every time to keep the kids interested.
Sources of Protein for Infants and Toddlers
There are numerous protein-rich foods for babies that will be beneficial to their overall health. There are even protein v that can help in case they are not getting enough through their regular balanced meals, or if they have a need for it. Here are some sources of protein for your little ones:
It is common knowledge that dairy contains a lot of protein. Most children do not have a problem consuming dairy products like milk, cheese, etc. and you will often find their favourite foods contain these ingredients.
Eggs are easy to make and very versatile. They are rich in protein with six grams of it in each egg. You should avoid the egg whites until they are one year old.
Another versatile favourite that is not only rich in protein but also supplies your child with fibre. Puree some beans for your child. However, as canned beans have higher sodium content, try using fresh ones instead. Hummus is a favourite dish among many.
4. Nut Butters
To avoid choking, you can opt for nut butter instead of whole nuts. A fun snack for your child can be a peanut butter and jam sandwich. If your child has a nut allergy, you can opt for the soy or sunflower versions instead.
An excellent source of protein and iron, meat is the way to go. Not all children like meat, however, and tend to fuss when it comes to eating it. If your child is like this, try chicken or turkey breast. Meatballs and cutlets are forms in which children enjoy eating meat.
6. Baby Cereal
High protein baby cereal is available in the market that you can give your child for a quick fix of protein. Just add some breast milk or formula to soften it up and make it easier for your child to eat.
This grain has a nutty flavour and is well-liked amongst the kids; it is also one of the few grains that are rich in protein. You can give it to your toddler in many ways such as in pancakes, muffins, smoothies and casseroles.
8. Protein Powder
Though this was never done before, now experts say it is okay to give your child some protein powder for babies as a supplement for protein if you feel your child needs more. Make some protein shakes for toddlers using milk, their favourite fruit and the protein powder. There are protein supplements for babies that can help in case they are not getting enough.
Each child is unique, and the proper protein amount can sometimes depend on your child’s weight and health. It is best to stick to a healthy and balanced diet in order to ensure the ideal amount of protein for your child.
Also Read: Foods that Help Toddlers to Gain Weight