A lot of parents worry about protein. They’re concerned their kids aren’t getting enough, especially if their they don’t love meat (but really, REALLY love carbs!). And it’s no wonder parents worry, since there seems to be an obsession around protein in food marketing.
That’s especially true with the explosion of meatless burgers and plant-based protein products–everything from faux beef and chicken to plant-based tuna and even eggs! These plant-based products will deliver a lot of protein–and are likely easier on the environment too.
Keep in mind that unlike traditional veggie burgers, which are usually made from beans, some of these are made from highly processed ingredients. And some have nutritional stats similar to regular fast food burgers.
Bottom line: Just because something is plant-based doesn’t mean it’s automatically wholesome and healthy. So it’s always smart to read labels and ingredient lists, focus on mostly whole foods, and treat any highly-processed food like an occasional item, not an everyday thing.
And if you’re worried about protein, here’s some reassurance: Though protein is crucial for growing kids, most kids get plenty of it every day, even if they don’t eat meat.
These are the RDAs (Recommended Dietary Allowances), the levels that meet the needs for most healthy people of that age and the minimum amounts to meet basic needs:
- Ages 2-3: 13 grams
- Ages 4-8: 19 grams
- Ages 9-13: 34 grams
- Ages 14-18: 52 grams (boys), 46 grams (girls)
That gives you a rough guideline of how much your child needs, but there’s no need to count up grams or stress about the exact numbers. Protein actually adds up pretty fast in a child’s day because it’s found in so many different foods.
Want proof? Here’s a list of 20 protein-containing foods. If you’re stumped for protein ideas when packing lunches–especially if your kid doesn’t like sandwiches or attends a nut-free school–some of these ideas might work for you!
- Hummus, 2 tablespoons: 2 grams
- Broccoli, 3/4 cup: 2 grams
- Popcorn, 2 cups: 2 grams
- Avocado, 1/2: 2 grams
- Whole grain crackers, 15 crackers: 3 grams
- Tortilla, 8-inch: 3 grams
- Yogurt, half cup: 5 grams
- Roasted chickpeas, 1/4 cup: 5 grams
- String cheese: 6 grams
- Cheddar cheese, 1 ounce in cubes: 6 grams
- Whole grain bread, 1 slice: 6 grams
- Hard-boiled egg, 1 large: 6 grams
- California roll, 5 pieces: 6 grams
- Sunflower seed butter, 2 tablespoons: 7 grams
- Milk, dairy or soy, 1 cup: 8 grams
- Vegetarian burger or vegetarian “chicken” patty: 9 grams
- Edamame, 1 cup in pods: 9 grams
- Tofu, 3 ounces (about a quarter of a block): 9 grams
- Cheese tortellini, 3/4 cup: 10 grams
- Slice of leftover cheese pizza, from 14″ pizza: 12 grams