Protein is a major componenet of all muscles and organs. Our bodies need protein for growth, tissue repair and a healthy immune system. Because kids and teens are constantly growing it is essential that they have enough protein in their diets.
When we participate in physical activity our muscles form small tears and as the tears are repaired the muscles grow and get stronger. Active people need to consume adequate amounts of protein to facilitate the repair and building of muscle.
It is best to consume some protein with each meal or snack. Besides being necessary for growth, protein helps us feel satisfied and keeps us from feeling hungry right away. When we consume too little protein it leads to fatigue, muscle wasting and amenorrhea in girls.
The Dietary Reference Intake for protein varies by age and decreases as children get older.
- 1 to 3 years old 0.50 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 4 to 13 years old 0.45 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day
- 14 to 18 years old 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day
Protein can be found in both animals and plants. Animal protein is a complete protein source, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids needed by the human body. Most vegetable protein sources are incomplete proteins because they only contain some of the essential amino acids needed by the human body.
By combining plant proteins that compensate for each other’s deficits all the essential amino acids can be consumed at once. This is a common practice among vegetarians. Combinations like beans and rice and nut butter on whole wheat bread provide all the essential amino acids.
Following is a list of protein containing foods and the approximate grams found in each:
- 3 ozs meat, poultry, fish (a serving the size of a deck of cards) 21 grams
- 1 egg 7 grams
- 1 egg white 3 grams
- 1 cup milk 8 grams
- 1 ounce cheese 7 grams
- ¼ cup nuts 6 grams
- 2 Tbs. nut butter 7 grams
- 1 cup Greek yogurt 20 grams
- 1/2 cup legumes 7 grams
- 1 cup steel cut oats 5 grams
- 1 slice whole wheat bread 3 grams