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A nutrient-rich diet is very important for young and growing children. One important nutrient which must be a part of your child’s meals is protein. Protein is essential in repairing and maintaining the body. Babies and toddlers need more protein in their diet than older children and 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, and 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, bones, and so much more. Our bodies can only naturally produce 13 of these acids, 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 more protein. The brain cells also need protein in order to develop speech and language skills.
Can a 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. 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 can be 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 keep up his energy.
- The main function that your small intestine performs is absorbing the required nutrients from the food you consume and sending them 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.
- Children 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 different foods, try making eating their protein-packed meals a bit more fun and exciting through 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 a visually fun way will make it all the more interesting for them to eat.
3. Dip Trip
Kids enjoy finger food, as it is easy 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 non-spicy chutney, or hummus and salsa for your child to dip his 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 proteins 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:
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 often contain these ingredients.
Eggs are easy to make, and are very versatile. They are rich in protein, with six grams of it in each egg. You should avoid serving the egg whites until the child is one year old.
This is 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 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 protein. Make some protein shakes for toddlers using milk, their favourite fruit, and the protein powder. You can also put in dry fruits. There are protein supplements for babies that can help in case they are not getting enough.
Each child is unique, and his required protein amount can sometimes depend on his weight and health. It is best to stick to a healthy and balanced diet in order to ensure that your child is getting an ideal amount of protein.
Also Read: Foods that Help Toddlers to Gain Weight