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The Cardiologist's Wife - Make Sure Your Child Gets Enough Protein
Aug 15, 2018

Last week I began a series on helping your children do better in school by feeding them the right foods. It’s a very simple concept when you think about it in terms of your car. If you don’t use the right fuel and oil in your car, it won’t run and you may even damage the engine. Your body is the same way; when you don’t put the right fuel (food) in it, it doesn’t perform as well and you may even get sick. This week I’m going to focus on the importance of protein in the diet.

Protein forms the basic building block for every cell in your body and is used for repair, proper growth and development. As children are growing rapidly, they especially need good sources of lean protein to grow up strong. Protein is good for us in many other ways. Protein keeps us full and satisfies our hunger better than carbs alone, keeping us from overeating. The process of eating and digesting protein actually burns more calories than the same amount of carbs, thus speeding up our metabolism and helping to control our weight. Our bodies digest protein slowly, keeping our blood sugar stable. We need proteins to make various enzymes, hormones and brain chemicals that keep us functioning. Since the body can’t store extra protein, we’d be lost without enough protein in our daily diet.

For optimal health, eat lean sources of protein. So instead of a bacon double cheese burger filled with fat and sitting on a white bread bun, serve your child baked chicken or even better, fish. Other good sources of protein are low fat dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese, beans and peas, eggs, nuts, seeds and 100% whole grain breads and pasta.

Children under 12 generally need about 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day. For example a 50 pound child needs 50 grams of protein. An adult or teen needs a bit less or about 1/2 gram per pound per day unless they are very actively involved in sports. It’s not that difficult to get enough protein each day if you are eating a well rounded diet. A 4 ounce serving of chicken has about 25 grams of protein and one cup of milk has 8 grams so it adds up quickly.

Send your child off to school with a brainy breakfast so they can pay attention in class. Some ideas for a good breakfast with plenty of protein and good carbs are peanut or almond butter on whole wheat toast with a banana, regular oatmeal with blueberries, nuts and yogurt, an egg with avocado toast. Make sure lunch includes more healthy carbs and protein by packing your child’s lunch so you know exactly what they are getting. Vegetable soup with beef or chicken, salad topped with sliced chicken breast or a peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat with yogurt and fruit are some good choices.

Last, what’s good for your child is just as good for you! You’ll have a better, more productive day at work if you eat a good breakfast and healthier foods most of the time.

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