I talk all the time about how important nutrition is for our children’s development.
One of the first things I tell parents in my book: Unlock Your Child’s True Potential is that when you heal the gut, you heal the brain.
What you put in your mouth will decide how much energy, focus and concentration you will have throughout your day.
If you want better concentration, energy and focus then you need to increase your protein intake.
Have your children eat eggs, meat or fish. If your children are not allergic to nuts incorporate nuts into their diet. The brain actually releases a chemical L-Tyrosine, an amino acid that helps levels of concentration focus and alertness. Protein also helps the body heal itself. I recommend that you start each meal by consuming protein first. Read more about this in my article about nutrition and the brain.
Here’s my pick of the top Vegetarian Protein Sources:
- Quinoa. This one is a complete protein, meaning it has all the essential amino acids.
- Black Beans. Beans are loaded with protein. While they’re not “complete” proteins, meaning they have all the essential amino acids, at 7 grams of protein per 1/2 cup they pack a big protein punch. Couple that protein with the same amount of fiber for that 1/2 cup, along with plenty of antioxidants – add them to salads, eggs, and wraps.
- Pistachios. About 6 grams of protein per about 49 nuts (1 serving). Pistachios are a great source of healthy, monounsaturated fats, fiber and vitamins and minerals, they make a fantastic snack option (particularly because they’re portable). If you have very young children or kids with difficulty swallowing then I would not recommend them.
- Lentils. They are great as a vegetarian source of protein; at nearly 9 grams for just 1/2 cup, it’s hard to find this much protein in comparable servings of vegetarian based foods. Like black beans, lentils are not a complete protein. b The other Lentils that can be prepared quickly are also loaded with fiber (9 grams for that same 1/2 cup serving) and iron.
- Soy milk. The protein you get in a small serving of soy milk is 8 grams per one cup of soy milk, which does provide all the essential amino acids. It is a great option if your child is lactose intolerant.
- Whole eggs. Whole eggs are key – while the whites have some protein,, you get more in the yolk, along with a whole slew of other important nutrients.
- Hummus. Hummus is made from ground chickpeas, olive oil, salt, garlic and tahini (ground sesame seeds). One of the main ingredients is chickpeas and they are loaded with protein. Add hummus to wraps, use it on salad, or simply use it as a dip for veggies – 1/2 cup provides about 10 grams of quality protein.
- Peas. While peas certainly aren’t the most popular vegetable in the world with kids, these cute little green nuggets of goodness are a pretty decent source of protein. Did you know that many vegan based protein powders use pea protein as one of the sources? Eating whole peas by themselves gives you around 10 grams of protein per cup.
- Broccoli. Broccoli is offers a good amount of protein. For 1 cup of cooked broccoli, you get about 4 grams of protein yet just 55 calories. With 5 grams of fiber for that same 1 cup, this green veggie should certainly be high on your list of options. It’s also loaded with other nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Add it to eggs, on pizza, in wraps or as a way to scoop up plenty of the hummus listed above.
Whether if you’re a vegetarian or not, eating some vegetarian based foods on occasion is a wise idea.
From the list above it’s not just about protein but these foods are also loaded with plenty of other nutrients.
Mix it up, hide them in foods that your child loves to eat! Remember, the importance of protein can’t be overstated.
And remember, it’s important to combine both protein and fiber at every meal and at snack time for optimum nutrition.