Protein is in every cell in the body and plays an important role in the structure of your child’s cells. Your child needs protein from food to build and maintain bones, muscles and skin. They are also essential for the formation of DNA.
Muscles alone flex arms and legs, contract our hearts and create waves in the walls of our intestines to move food along. All this muscle activity accounts for most of the energy our bodies burn. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
Proteins also perform crucial activities within all the cells of your body. They move molecules from one place to another, build structures, break down toxins and do countless other maintenance jobs.
The important think about proteins is that they contain amino acids, which are a critical requirement for every child. Nine of these are called essential as they must be consumed through foods in your child’s diet, the non-essential amino acids are able to be made from other nutrients.
It is important to get enough dietary protein. Children need to eat protein every day, at every meal, because their body doesn’t store it the way it stores fats or carbohydrates.
The general rule is to serve a portion about the size of the palm of your child’s hand. This is dependent on age and other factors and I will let you know more about correct portion sizes soon.
We get proteins in our diet from many sources including:
- meat, chicken, fish
- dairy products i.e. cheese and yoghurt
- nuts, seeds
- grains, beans, lentils, chick peas
- soy products like tofu
Proteins from meat and other animal products are called complete proteins. This means they supply all of the amino acids the body can’t make on its own. Most plant proteins are incomplete.
The best rule is that all children should eat different types of proteins every day to get all of the amino acids their bodies need.
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