Protein provides amino acid benefits for infants, kids, and adults. Fun Fact: Infants need more protein/pound of body weight compared to adults. It’s one of the three macro-nutrients so it’s critical for infants, toddlers, and kids to get enough of it for good health. Newborns first get protein from breast milk, and then through baby food with a mushy texture. However, toddlers should then get protein from real food including fish/chicken, eggs, and beans. Real milk and food are always better sources than processed ones like milk formula and store-bought baby purees that often include lots of additives like salt and sugar.
Protein/aminos are critical for infants and toddlers for their growth/development. The nutrients help to make new cells and promote the growth of the infant or toddler. All humans need protein for these functions but they’re especially important for infants/toddlers since their bodies and brains are still developing. People usually keep growing until their late teens. However, much of the development happens when they’re infants/toddlers. This is why protein and amino acids are so important for a baby’s development. It starts with the mother’s milk, which is recommended for at least the first year of the baby’s life. Afterward, real food should be the main protein source.
Amino Acid Benefits: Infants
The first 6 months of a baby’s life are critical for their growth/development. During this time their weight increases 3x. Nutrients are needed during this time and it’s the most critical time during a person’s life.
Health experts often recommend breast milk during the first 6 months of the newborn’s life. Others even recommend it for the first year. Milk formula can be a good alternative but the mother’s milk is a better option since it’s a natural source of nutrients like protein and aminos.
There are various important nutrients for newborns including:
Protein is another important nutrient young babies need. That’s to promote growth and provide energy. These are both important. Body functions for babies. Vitamins are also important for infants. They can get many of them from their mother’s milk or milk formula.
Some of the most important vitamins include A, Bs, C, D, E, and K. Each of these have different functions/benefits your little one can get from them.
The first option in terms of milk should be breast milk. In fact, the nutrients change as the baby develops. For example, the first breast milk is known as “colostrum.” It has a dark-yellow color and provides nutrients that are critical for the newborn.
There are some situations when it’s more practical to feed your infant milk formula. Cow’s milk is often used to make them. They’re even fortified so they have many of the same nutrients as mother’s milk. This provides all the nutrients the infant needs for growth. This includes protein/aminos as well as vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
The main difference is breast milk naturally includes all the nutrients an infant needs. So it’s the best source of those nutrients, while milk formula is also a good source. Make sure to go with products made from cow’s milk.
Amino Acid Benefits: Toddlers
The nutrition needs for toddlers are similar to infants’ but are different as kids start eating baby food, and then solid food. It’s generally recommended that babies consume mother’s milk for at least the first year of their lives. Afterward, they can start eating baby puree like Gerber.
It’s recommended that you provide homemade baby food for your toddler. That’s because you’ll have more control over the ingredients that go into the food. For example, it’s a lot easier to make natural/organic baby food when you’re adding every single ingredient.
When your toddler is ready to start consuming solid food you can start feeding pea-size protein including:
Organic meat/veggies are generally the best options. There’s some debate about how much more nutritious they are than non-organic foods. However, not adding artificial ingredients to fertilizers and pesticides will generally boost the nutritional value of food for babies, teens, and adults.
Just like infants and kids it’s critical for your toddlers to get enough protein. It works out to about 0.5g of protein/pound of body weight. Fun Fact: A toddler gains up to 11 ounces/month from 12 to 18 months. Then that figure spikes to 8 ounces from 18 to 24 months.
This makes protein a super-important nutrient for toddlers. This isn’t to say you should ditch good carbs and healthy fats. However, protein’s importance for growth makes it a critical macro for your little one.
It’s a good idea to provide a wide range of animal/plant-based protein sources for your kids. That includes:
- Pasta (beans)
Feeding toddlers can sometimes be challenging. This is true in general and especially if your little one is a picky eater. It’s important for you to set structure/limits about what your toddler does and doesn’t eat. This will boost their nutrition/health
Top Tips for Toddler Nutrition
1. Introduce new foods gradually
Toddlers often are reluctant to try new foods mostly because they think it might be yucky. That’s OK! Make sure to give it time. Try offering the food again in days or even weeks. Within time they’ll likely be more willing to try new foods. The key is not to rush the process. Consider the fact that adults are also sometimes hesitant to try out new foods and recipes.
2. Provide your child with regular meals/snacks
This might seem like a case of stating the obvious. However, one of the most common issues in terms of toddler nutrition is kids might eat unhealthy snacks all day. Not only can that cause health issues it can also make them too full when it’s mealtime.
When providing meals/snacks make sure they’re healthy options including protein. There are a lot of options like plain yogurt with fresh fruit, cheese and wheat crackers, peanut butter & celery sticks, deviled eggs, and so on.
3. Go with tot-size portions
This generally works out to 25% the size of adult portions. Keeping this in mind can help to reduce leftovers and food waste. It can also make it more likely your little one will try new foods. They’ll be more likely to try a little bit of a new food instead of a whole plateful of the stuff.
4. Avoid battles about meals/food
There are various ways to implement this approach. For example, sometimes you can “hide” healthy food in dishes so your son/daughter won’t even realize they’re eating it. This can even include some of the most-hated options like Brussels sprouts.
The key is to make food as delicious as it is nutritious. Many adults aren’t a fan of veggies because they weren’t prepared in tasty ways when they grew up. It’s all about changing people’s perceptions about veggies and amino acid benefits.