There are many factors that contribute to growth in children. Because children are growing all the time, they need the necessary nutrients in their diet to support this. 

When our bodies are growing, they need more of these nutrients than usual. However, it’s not always straightforward making sure your child gets the nutrients that they need.

One of these essential nutrients is protein. Let's take a look at this element that's vital to bodily function and why it's necessary for your child's growth.

What is Protein?

cup of milk, banana, almonds

So, what exactly is protein, then? Protein is a nutrient that is essential to the human body. It is one of the fundamental building blocks of muscle tissue.

Additionally, protein can also serve as a source of fuel for the body. In this regard, protein provides the body with as much fuel as carbohydrates.

From a purely nutritional standpoint, the most important aspect of protein is its composition of amino acids. Amino acids are necessary nutrients that are present in every cell, which means that they need to be continually replenished in order to do their job.

Amino acids are essential because they are precursors to many elements found in the human body. These include hormones, co-enzymes, and immune response. They are responsible for repairing damaged tissue and cells.

Protein is essentially a polymer chain that comprises amino acids. These amino acids are linked together by peptide bonds. Human digestion breaks down these protein molecules, allowing for the successful absorption of vital amino acids.

Different Types of Protein

Now that we’ve looked at what proteins are, let’s break this down further and discuss the three major different types of proteins:

  • Fibrous Proteins:the fibrous form of proteins allow for the formation and building of tendons, connective tissue, bone and muscle fiber. Without this type, our bodies wouldn’t be capable of all the growth they do. Fibrous proteins include keratin, collagen, and elastin.
  • Globular Proteins:globular proteins, as the name suggests, are more soluble in water than fibrous proteins. This type of protein has several different functions. These include regulating, catalyzing and transporting. Examples of this globular proteins include selectin, integrin, and fibrin.
  • Membrane Proteins:membrane proteins, like their two counterparts, play an essential and unique role in the maintenance of the body. This includes allowing cells to successfully interact, transporting molecules and relaying signals within the cells themselves.

As well as these three main protein groups, this essential nutrient can also be broken down into two umbrella categories. The first of these categories are complete proteins. Complete proteins provide the body with all nine of the essential amino acids.

Incomplete proteins lack either one or more of these nine essential amino acids. All this means is that you need to make up for this through other food sources.

Why is Protein Important in General

bowl of brown eggs

We’ve looked at how to define protein and the different types of protein that can be found in food groups. So, why is protein important in general? Why is it an essential part of every human being’s diet, not just children’s?

Protein is important because it’s a vital nutrient that is used by the body for both growth and maintenance. Apart from water, proteins are the most abundant molecules found in the human body.

Proteins can be found in all primary cells of the body, as well as being one of the main structural components of these cells. This is particularly relevant to muscle tissue.

As well as muscle, proteins are also crucial for hair, skin and the body's organs. Proteins are also used within membranes and are needed to form blood cells – both red and white.

Needless to say, protein is an integral part of anyone's diet. Luckily, it's found in an abundance of foods. The best combination of proteins for your diet depends on many different factors. These include which region of the world you're in, your access to protein, the cost, and acquired tastes.

Why is Protein Important for Children's Growth


Protein is an integral part of anyone's diet. So why is it especially important for children to have?

From the day a baby is born until it reaches its total growth capacity, its needs for protein are significantly higher than an adult. This is because the body is continuously developing and growing.

All this growing and developing requires a high level of nutrients to get the job done. Because proteins are unique and necessary components, they are also critical for children's growing immune system and brain.

The growth of the body's support structures needs protein on a daily basis to thrive. These support structures include collagen, muscle, and hair.

Protein for growth alone is significant in itself. A typical baby will weigh twice as much at five months as it did when it was born. By the time it’s two years old, its weight would have quadrupled. As for height, the typical child will double this every three or four years.

When considering how much protein a child should eat, the weight of the child needs to be considered. As the child gets older, the growth rate slows down, and the need for protein per pound is lower.

However, protein is still essential throughout all of your child’s growing years.

Best Sources of Protein for Children

protein and vegtables

So, what are some good sources of protein for children?

First, let’s consider how much protein your child needs on a daily basis. If your child is aged between one and three years, they require 13 grams of protein a day. If your child is between the ages of four and nine, they need 19 grams a day.

Lastly, if your child is nine to thirteen years old, they need 34 grams of protein daily.

There are many excellent sources of protein for children – who can often be picky eaters. Let's take a look at what your options are when it comes to protein for your child:

  • Milk: most children love a warm glass of milk, especially before bedtime. Luckily, milk has high levels of protein in it. In fact, your child will get 8 grams of protein from one glass of milk.
  • Greek Yogurt: yogurt is another source of protein that most children take a liking to. What’s interesting about yogurt is that Greek yogurt has more protein per ounce than regular yogurt. You’ll find 15 to 20 grams of protein in an 8-ounce container of Greek yogurt.
  • Eggs: eggs are a great, natural source of protein for kids as young as one and as old as thirteen. What’s more, there are many different ways to make their eggs, which increases the likelihood of them being eaten.
  • Chicken: chicken is another versatile food group that many children enjoy. Try dressing it up with some cheese for an additional serving of protein.

Protein Alternatives for Children

vegetables and tofu

Getting your child to eat enough protein each day is easier said than done. While there are many different sources of this essential nutrient, you may be struggling to get your child to eat a lot of them.

Let’s take a look at some protein alternatives you can try if your child isn’t partial to the staple sources of protein:

  • Nut Butters: while it’s important to be aware of nut allergies in children, they are also a great source of protein. If your child likes peanut or almond butter on their sandwich, try combining this spread with jam and making a nut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • Tofu: if your child doesn't like eating meat and you can't seem to get them to try eggs, perhaps tofu is the answer for their protein source. If your child likes fruit smoothies, try sneaking in a bit of silken tofu. It will blend well and is an excellent source of protein that they won't even know about.
  • Lentils and Beans: lentils and beans are the vegetarian's answer to protein alternatives to meat. Try adding beans or lentils to soups or blending them into some homemade hummus which your children can eat with crackers or pita chips.

Why Protein is Essential to Growth in Children

There are many different ways to make sure your children get their daily protein requirements.

Luckily, we have access to many different food groups which can supply this vital nutrient. However, it’s normal to come up against some resistance when introducing your child to new foods.

Whether it's eggs in the morning with pancakes, hummus on toast for lunch, or a warm glass of milk before bed, it's vital that your child gets the protein they need.

Protein is their best chance of growing into big, healthy adults. It's an essential part of everyone's daily diet.

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