Protein - Macronutrients and your children

When we eat high protein foods, the protein is then digested and broken down into amino acids. Amino acids help our bodies to produce hormones, transport nutrients, and to build and maintain all the tissues, muscles and organs within our body.

Because protein plays such an essential role in our health, it is especially important that children are receiving an adequate supply of amino acids in their diets each day, as they experience higher rates of growth and development compared to adults.

Animal foods are generally the best sources of protein as they include what are known as ‘complete proteins’ which contain all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot make on their own. Selected plant foods also contain all the essential amino acids including quinoa, buckwheat and hempseed. Children can still receive health benefits from eating incomplete proteins such as beans, nuts and wholegrains, however, a greater variety needs to be included in each meal to ensure they are still reaping all the benefits that come with consuming complete proteins.

According to the Australian Dietary Guidelines children should be receiving enough protein in their diets each day if they are consuming two servings of dairy such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, and two servings of lean protein such as chicken, fish or lean beef. There are specific circumstances, however, when a child may need more protein in their diets than usual such as;

  • Children who are underweight for their age/height
  • Picky eaters
  • Vegan and/or vegetarian children
  • Children who have a metabolic condition that causes protein waste

The Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council recommend children between the ages of 4-8 consume 20 grams of protein per day.

Healthy sources of protein in your diet

Good sources of Protein for your child's diet

Remember to try and include a wide variety of nutritious foods in your child’s diet each day from a variety of all 5 food groups. If you are at all concerned about your child’s health or nutrient requirements contact your health care professional for further advice.