Why Is it Important to Include High-Protein Foods in Your Family’s Diet?
No matter your age or nutrition goals, there are many reasons your body needs protein to be healthy and strong – from muscles to hair to healthy bones and teeth.
The latest research suggests that it’s not just about how much protein you need, but it’s also about when you get your protein. Protein foods for your kids, and for you, are important at every meal, especially breakfast.
Getting enough protein at breakfast can help you feel fuller longer, plus studies show eating breakfast helps kids concentrate and focus at school.
Read on to find out more about this important nutrient and learn why high-protein breakfasts for your kids, as well as for you, are great choices to start the day off right.
Along with carbohydrates and fats, protein is one of the three macronutrients, or nutrients that provide energy (or calories) in your diet. Protein long has been recognized as the foundation for the body. In fact, the word protein comes from the Greek word protos, which means first. Scientists now have discovered more than 30,000 proteins in our bodies. Each of these unique proteins is made up of a set of building blocks called amino acids, which food sources of protein provide. Nine amino acids are considered essential because your body can’t make the unique proteins it needs to survive without them. High-quality proteins – like those from milk, meat or fish – contain all nine of these essential amino acids.
Protein is the nutrient of the decade and its profile continues to rise. It’s a nutrient that more people want to get more of every day and often make sure to meet their daily protein requirements. That’s because protein is a valuable multitasker and does many important things in our bodies. In fact, protein is part of every cell in your body.
As a mom, you know that getting enough protein, especially as part of a healthy breakfast, can help with:
It’s important to keep in mind the type, amount and timing of your protein.
While all foods with protein can help contribute to meeting your daily protein needs, it’s important to look at the amount of protein in each serving. Not all foods with protein on their own are good sources of protein. Check out these popular protein foods for your kids as well as your morning meals, and how much protein they contribute (or don’t contribute) to a well-balanced diet. It’s also important to look at the quality of the protein you get. High-quality proteins – like those from milk, meat or fish – contain all nine of these essential amino acids. Keep reading to learn more.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27.
When it comes to meeting your family’s daily protein requirements, not all foods are created equal.
In addition to considering the amount of protein in your food, there are several other factors to consider when it comes choosing the right protein foods for your kids, for you and your family.
With nine essential nutrients in each glass, milk is a delicious, simple and wholesome way to give your kids a natural source of high-quality protein plus other nutrients they need.
When it comes to protein content, milk hits it out of the park. But milk is more than a good source of protein for your kids and for you. It also offers eight other essential nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D — nutrients that most Americans – including children – are missing in their diet.
How much protein is in milk? You’ll find two types of protein in milk: whey (20 percent) and casein (80 percent). Both are considered high-quality proteins because they contain all essential amino acids in sufficient amounts to qualify milk as a good source of protein.
Milk is also a complete protein, which means that every glass contains a full mix of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Most plant-based protein sources are not considered complete proteins and other foods like protein bars often try to compensate for their lack of natural protein by adding in soy protein isolate or other processed forms of protein alongside added ingredients, like sugar.
Plus, a recent study suggests a diet rich in milk protein is associated with better bone strength (higher bone mineral density) compared to some other patterns high in popular protein sources, like red meat.1
Milk is a simple, wholesome and affordable choice kids love that can be enjoyed in a glass, cup or bowl. You also can find it any many forms – from fat free to whole to organic. Where else can you get 8 grams of protein, along with 8 other essential nutrients, for only 80 calories — all for around a quarter a glass? Nowhere, except in fat free milk.
Milk is also a great post-workout beverage. In fact, lowfat chocolate milk has the right protein-to-carb ratio scientifically shown to help you recover after a tough workout.
When considering your daily protein intake and the best way to get protein, there’s good reason to add milk at meals. There are 8 grams of protein in a glass of milk — that’s a gram of high-quality protein in every ounce. Each serving of milk has more protein than the 6 grams found in a large egg. When compared to almond milk, which only has 1 gram — a glass of dairy milk has eight times as much protein. You may be surprised to learn there’s even new research underway that suggests milk could be the gold standard for protein, according to the World Health Organization.
In fact, when it comes to non-dairy, plant-based milks, like almond or soy milk, people may not know that they don’t have the same naturally-occurring nutrients as real, dairy milk. Most of the vitamins and minerals you see in almond milk’s nutrition facts panel like calcium and vitamin E are provided through fortification. While soy beverages provide natural protein and other nutrients, they are also typically fortified — in some cases it may have as many as five fortified nutrients — so its nutrient package more closely matches dairy milk.
It’s hard for kids to get enough of nutrients, like calcium, that they need to grow up strong without milk in their diets.1 Moms trust milk for calcium, vitamin D and more. Milk is a great way for kids to get their bone-building nutrients – even more so than supplements or alternatives like vegetables or milk alternatives, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.3
Take a look at how the protein in milk compares to other foods.
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 27.
*Nutrients will differ by brand, flavor and fat content as nutrient fortification varies.
†IRI Sales Data (milk, soymilk, almond milk), USDA Retail Prices (eggs), Average Online Grocery Prices (peanut butter). USDA Retail Prices based on available online data, may not be nationally representative.
††Nutrients signify food provides 10% or greater of the Daily Value of labeled nutrients.
It’s important for kids to get protein at every meal, especially breakfast. Protein at breakfast can help kids start their day off right. With its nine essential nutrients in each glass, milk is a delicious, simple and wholesome way to give your kids a natural source of high-quality protein, plus other nutrients they need.
The Dietary Guidelines recommend your kids get between two and three servings of dairy products, like milk, every day:
Growing adolescents may need as many as four servings of dairy products, like milk, for bone growth, too, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (see page e1238).
Simply pair a glass of milk with favorite breakfast foods – like eggs – or mix it into a smoothie or overnight oats combination for an easy protein breakfast for kids.
The quality of a protein is evaluated based on the mix of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and how easily it can be digested and absorbed. To be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine essential amino acids.
It’s also good to look at the company your protein keeps. What other important nutrients are you getting along with protein? Check your nutrition labels to know what you are getting. It’s hard for kids to get enough nutrients, like calcium, that they need to grow up strong without milk in their diets.1 Moms trust milk for calcium, vitamin D and more.
Cost can be a barrier with many protein foods. Look for affordable, high-quality protein sources, like milk, that give you the most protein (and other nutrients) for your dollar.
If you’re worried about your kids’ daily protein intake, or if you have a picky eater at home — milk is a great choice because kids love it. It’s a choice you can feel good about too, because, with its nine essential nutrients, it can help round out your kids’ meals and snacks, whether in a cup, a glass or a bowl.
Protein requirements can be determined in a variety of ways. The original recommendations were based on the minimum amount you would need to prevent deficiency. In other words, the lowest amount you can survive on.
Today, many experts suggest those recommendations may leave us missing out on potential health benefits that protein has to offer. Newer research suggests we should aim for more protein in our diets to get the most benefit. The Institute of Medicine recommends adults get a range of 10 to 35 percent of total daily calories from protein – which includes both the lowest level you need to survive (10%) and a more optimal level (20-35%). At the more optimal range, that number could be 100-175 grams of protein per day for a 2,000-calorie diet. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three servings of dairy each day. So, if you drink three 8-ounce glasses of milk each day, you add 24 grams of high-quality protein to your daily protein intake.
While most people may meet the minimum protein requirements, studies continue to show benefits of a high-protein diet – especially for active people and older adults.
Use this protein calculator to find out how much protein you and your kids need every day and keep reading for more information on when to get your protein.
grams of protein (or a range of 00g-00g)
Based on a recommendation of 0,000 calories per day.
Based on USDA calories needs per day and high-end of Institute of Medicine’s recommended protein range with 20-35% of calories from protein.
The most surprising protein fact is just how important timing your protein consumption is.
Many experts now recommend adults get 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal. This is especially important at breakfast, a meal that’s often heavier in carbs and lighter on protein. Most of us tend to stockpile protein in the evening, while averaging only about 13 grams of protein at breakfast.4 Many of us are getting enough total protein in our diets, but since our bodies can only use so much protein at a time, experts recommend spacing out your daily protein intake throughout the day to make the most of this important nutrient, optimizing how your body uses it.
It’s also important for kids to get protein at every meal, especially breakfast. Getting enough protein at breakfast can help children start their day off right.
Studies suggest that protein may have a meal-specific threshold of about 25 to 30 grams that you need to reach before it can really do its job.
Did you know most Americans only get about 13 grams of protein at breakfast2 – a far cry from the recommended 25 to 30 grams per meal adults should have.
Eating a protein-rich breakfast, or a combination of breakfast and a snack before noon, is one of the best ways to energize your mornings so that you can focus on the things you want to accomplish. Additionally, studies show that morning meals with protein (totaling around 30 grams) may help people eat fewer calories over the rest of the day.
Sending kids to school with a protein-filled breakfast is a great way to space their protein intake throughout the day to make the most of this important nutrient so they can stay focused in the classroom.
Protein Intake Throughout the Day
Recommended protein at each meal
“There is evidence that supports unique benefits with increased protein consumption at breakfast for improved satiety and reductions in unhealthy snacking in the evening.”
Heather Leidy, PhD, University of Missouri10
“To maintain healthy muscles and bones for adults, at least 30 grams of protein should be consumed at more than one meal each day.”
Don Layman, PhD, University of Illinois11
In search of super simple protein breakfasts for kids? It’s as easy as pairing your favorite protein foods with milk. Our recipe tool helps you build a better breakfast – whether you want to learn how to make a smoothie, create grab-and-go snacks or serve a delicious dish for a weekend brunch.