Popeye Meals: Getting Your Kids Enough Protein

strawberry and yogurt dessert

It’s the same story every time you visit the grocery store: There are endless miles of shelves stocked with canned spaghetti, gluten-heavy pastas and “helpers,” pre-made mac-n-cheese, and a whole aisle devoted to sliced white bread with about as much nutritional value as a dog biscuit. The doughy hamburger buns that cost-conscious fast-food chains use are just as bad, and even the meat that those places serve contains carb-heavy gluten byproducts. So how do you manage to stuff valuable nutrients down your kid’s hungry little gullets? Read on to learn how replace the carbs with the protein that growing kids need.

Moving Past Carbs

Your kids need some form of carbohydrates to function, but they don’t have to come from unhealthy bleached flours that deliver more gluten than nutrition and contribute to the rampant obesity epidemic among our kids. Even if your kids aren’t allergic to wheat, try substituting one or two of their regular weekly lunches with a reduced-gluten or gluten-free meal and see if they notice. Here are some easy ideas to get started.

  • Whole wheat wraps contain far less gluten, fewer carbs, and more natural protein than white-bread sandwiches.
  • Protein-rich chicken and tuna salad, preferably without much mayonnaise mixed in, do not contain the gluten additives found in most deli meats and cold cuts. You may have heard that choicer deli meats contain less gluten than pre-packaged products, but this is false. Some do, some don’t. Check the package carefully before you buy.
  • Egg salad is another great source of protein. Try it mixed with plain yogurt instead mayo and see if your kids notice. Chopped celery for texture and a little paprika for extra flavor works well, too.
  • Fruit-heavy green salads may trick your kids into thinking they’re getting a treat! Cut up some apples or pears and sprinkle in-season or frozen blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries into a salad of mixed greens for a vitamin-packed, low-carb delight. Add walnuts or almonds to pack in the protein.

The Benefits of a Protein-Rich Diet

We all need protein, but it’s essential for proper growth and development. In fact, your kids should be getting three to four servings of dairy until they are well into their teens. Nutritionists also recommend that kids get half a gram of high-protein foods like lean meats, beans and nuts per pound of body weight. Your children may not make these healthy diet choices easy on you, though, so use the following tips to nudge them in the right direction.

  • Yogurt is an excellent source of low-fat protein. If you’re concerned about the sugar content of “fruit-on-the-bottom” yogurts, buy plain or Greek yogurt and mix in fresh or thawed berries. For a complete breakfast or lunch, add some trail mix.
  • “Cracker stackers,” or whatever you want to call them, are a great way to deliver protein in a reduced-carb package. Stack pieces of lean meat, cheese, and fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and cucumbers between two whole-wheat crackers and voila! You have cracker stackers.
  • Chicken fingers may be a family favorite, but their fried breading makes them a nutritional nightmare. Make your own at home, replacing egg yolks and oil with low-fat yogurt for the batter, and you have a healthier, high-protein dinner option that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Getting your kids the protein they need without the harmful complex carbo-hydrates isn’t rocket science. With a few simple adjustments like substituting ground turkey for ground beef, whole wheat for white bread, and yogurt for mayonnaise, and your kids be growing like weeds in no time. Then, of course, you’ll need to feed them even more.

Renee Varney is mother of three and a freelance blogger who occasionally writes for delivery.com a site she loves using to find her personal favorite indulgence Delivery Pizza Online and Order Food Online

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to have healthy kids.

Image courtesy of dags1974 via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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