Posted tagged ‘protein’

Pleased to meat you

October 19, 2009

The Pediatric Insider © 2009 Roy Benaroch, MD

 Isabelle posted, “I know this is a complex question but ideally how many times a week do young children need red meat. (my child is 2). My parents are vegetarians so every time I am around then I get parental guilt that I am feeding my son too much red meat. He is honestly only getting 2 servings a week at home (a bit more at daycare) Any guidance?”

Meat is a good source of protein and iron, but isn’t in any way essential for good health– as long as your son is getting protein and iron from somewhere else.

A toddler needs about 10 mg a day of elemental iron. He can get this from any combination of these sources*:

  • Iron-fortified cereal, 1/2 cup: 3-9 mg 
  • Red meat, per 3 oz serving: 2-3 mg
  • Kidney Beans, 1/2 cup: 2.5 mg
  • Enriched rice, 1/2 cup: 1.5 mg
  • Whole wheat bread, 1 slice: 1 mg
  • Egg, one: 1 mg
  • Pretzels, 1 oz: 1 mg

Eating something that includes vitamin C at the same meal will help get ingested iron into the body, especially iron from plant sources. 

Meat is also a good source of complete and easily-digested protein, but there are plenty of other sources of protein in a typical American diet. A toddler needs about 16 mg of protein each day, which is readily available from many sources. Any single one of the following items will provide all of the protein a toddler needs in a day:

  • 1/3 cup chicken
  • 1/2 of a fast food taco
  • 1/2 cup of cottage cheese
  • 3 oz of salmon
  • 1 cup of beans
  • 4 tablespoons of peanut better
  • 2 oz nuts
  • 2 eggs
  • Milk, 2%, 2 cups

So: meat’s a handy way to get iron and protein, but it’s hardly the only way. You don’t need to feel guilty about not eating red meat much. Your vegetarian parents can certainly good nutrition for your son when he visits, though if they’re really strict vegans (no eggs, no dairy, no food derived from animals in any way) it may take some more work to ensure adequate iron, protein, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12. I wouldn’t even worry about that unless he spends most of his time at their place.

* I rounded off nutrition information based on the US Department of Agriculture’s searchable database of nutrition information. It’s reliable and very complete, and it’s free of the ads and odd misinformation that seems to pervade many “nutrition” sites.

Eating your curds and …

April 3, 2009

Poornima, an official blog regular, asked, “I have a question on whey proteins. I see it everywhere now- everyone talks about it. Do you think it is a good idea to give whey protein to kids?”

This is the second time it’s come up in one day, so I might as well tackle what seems to be an evolving food fad: whey. There’s even a website, www dot wheyprotein dot com, extolling whey’s many virtues. Apparently it’s been popular among body builders for years, and according to that site the manufacturers are working hard to popularize whey for the rest of us.

Whey is one of the major proteins in milk—it’s the watery stuff that holds cottage cheese together, the stuff between the curds that Little Miss Muffet enjoys. As such, it’s a perfectly good protein, and dairy products are a good part of a balanced diet. It’s certainly not essential, but it’s a reliable and tasty source of protein, calcium, and vitamins A&D (in fortified milk.)

There’s nothing I can find that looks especially unique or powerful about whey. It’s just the latest in a string of food fads—remember soy? green tea? How about dark chocolate, pomegranates, or red wine? All of these are good for you in their own ways, but none of them is a substitute or improvement on a good, balanced, healthy diet.

We’re all looking for simple solutions, magic pills, or the one food that’ll cure obesity and hair loss. But a healthy diet is one that relies on a mix of healthy items from many different sources. You want healthy? Avoid trans-fats and fats from animal sources, eat unprocessed whole grains, and (most importantly) don’t consume more calories than you need. That’s it.

There is no “superfood.”

Except maybe the dark chocolate. Mmmmm……..