“I think my son needs to eat more protein, he is always sore after a hard workout, but he does not like milk that much” I overheard two moms talking at the coffee bar. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I hear this. Advertising of milk has us believing milk is the main source of protein, but this is not entirely true. There are many other sources of protein that young athletes can choose from.
Eating protein is important not only for adults, but most importantly for young athletes. Whether playing soccer, swimming, running sprints, your young athlete uses more energy than the average kid needing more protein for repairing muscles. Proteins provide the building blocks for growing organs and muscles, renewing skin and hair. Protein also helps to slow digestion, making young athletes feel full and satisfied.
Young Athletes are unlikely to overeat high-protein foods the way they do high-sugar products helping their weight management. Unlike sugars and fats, excess protein is not stored as fat. The body excretes protein it doesn’t need.
How much protein does your young athlete need? The minimum daily requirement that young athletes from 6 to 12 yrs of age need is around .5g per pound of body weight. Young athletes that are going through growth spurts or doing strenuous exercise should eat about 1g per pound per day of body weight.
Remember, if young athletes eat too litttle protein, they will tend to eat more fat and sugars. Make a habit to tell your young athlete the reason behind the healthy foods you give to them. Explain to them protein is good for their growing muscles and sustained energy.
Choose a protein that is low in fat and non-packaged, any form of protein is good for your young athlete. Timing of protein intake is also important. Eating protein earlier in the day helps their body to maximize its benefits such as feeling satisfied and with more energy.
4 Ways to Sneak in More protein for Your children
1. Add a protein to each meal, there are plenty protein to choose from.
2. Mix and match complementary protein to create complete proteins
Example of complete proteins combination:
Grains and nuts/seeds: Whole-grain bread with almond butter
legumes with nuts/seeds: Hummus (chickpeas and sesame tahini)
Grains and legumes: Brown rice and black bean burrito
3. Add protein to smoothies
Smoothies are no longer simply fruit and milk. Smoothies can now elevate to a complete meal by adding some protein. Protein powders are not the only way to boost protein content to your family’s smoothies, there are superfoods that you can add to pump it up.
Chia – 2tbsp about 4.5g protein
Hemp Seeds – 2tbsp about 9g protein
Almonds – 1 oz about 6g protein
Almond butter – 2tbsp about 7g protein
Tahini – 2tbsp about 5g protein
Pumpkin seeds – 2tbsp about 5g protein Oats – 1/2 cup about 3 g protein
Kale – 1 cup about 3g protein
Avocado – 1/2 cup about 2g protein
4. Have healthy protein handy, easy to grab and in the car
Instead of heading to the drive-thru to feed your hungry athlete between games and errands, have healthy and nutritious snacks ready to satisfy them and you!
Nut butters – almond, walnut, cashews, cacao butters
Uncured, no nitrates/nitrites deli turkey roll up with 1 slice of organic cheese
Greek yogurt with granola Organic string cheese, goat cheese preferable
Piece of whole-grain bread with peanut butter
Organic chocolate milk
Tuna and crackers
Grilled cheese sandwich – use organic cheese or goat cheese, 100% whole-grain bread, add some organic sliced chicken or organic deli meat
Organic popcorn with nutritional yeast