What’s So Great About Protein?

What’s So Great About Protein?

If you workout, see a trainer or read fitness and health magazines you’re probably well aware of how important protein is in your diet. Certainly, if you have children, you have a vested interest in making sure their diet is balanced between the main macro ingredients of carbohydrates, fat and protein. And if you have a particularly fussy eater in your household, you agonize over protein choices since by now you’ve come to the realization that carbs and fat tend to be the easier sell what with their delicious carby fatness (too technical?) while protein gets a general “meh”, unless you’re willing to provide a hotdog and chicken finger buffet every day. Since you read SPC, we’re guessing you’d prefer not to go the way of the buffet. So here’s the funny little secret that your trainer (I mean not me of course!), and all the health mags are keeping from you. The Centre for Disease Control says that most of us eat more protein than we need. Say what?

The North American diet consists of ample protein in the form of dairy, meat and fish, eggs, beans, nuts and fortified foods like cereal and breads. In fact, the CDC says that “With some planning, (even) a vegetarian diet can easily meet the recommended protein needs of adults and children.” So, why all the hype about eating more protein? Well, the truth is, protein is a critical part of a healthy diet. Protein provides the building blocks for every cell in your body. According to www.eatbalanced.com, “Literally every function of your cells, organs and whole body is controlled by proteins. They are all made within the body from smaller molecules which ultimately have to come from foods”. Basically, the protein that we take in through food contains amino acids which in turn are processed in the body to be used for building bone and muscle, repairing tissue, delivering oxygen and ensuring the integrity of the nervous system. The stuff is no joke! But the advent of low carb/high protein diets and the general “if some is good, more must be better” mentality we often take towards nutrition has made us all feel the pressure. And while recommendations can vary depending on the source, the generally accepted amounts we need for overall health are surprisingly reasonable.

The Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston offers these guidelines based on age and weight (which is correlated with demands based on growth):

  • Healthy 1-to-3-year-old children need 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, which means the average 29-pound toddler needs 16 grams of protein each day
  • 4-6–year-olds need 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight
  • 7-to-14-year olds need 0.45 grams

Once kids hit the teen years, boys need slightly more than girls:

  • 15-to-18-year-old boys need 0.4 grams per pound of body weight and,
  • Girls over 15 need 0.36 grams, which is then the RDA for all adults.

Ok, great but what does that mean at the dinner table and in the Brady Bunch lunch box (what?). Here’s what 16 grams of protein might look like in the average toddlers day:

Combo 1: A one-ounce serving of cheese and a cup of 1% milk (even chocolate!)

Combo 2: one tablespoon of nut butter, 1 egg, 2 slices of most breads, and a 1-ounce piece of lean meat

Plus, “there are also one to three grams of protein in a serving of most vegetables” (Source).

Factor in yogurt, beans and yes, even chicken fingers and maybe, just maybe we can all take a breath on the protein question.

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