The near ecstatic feeling a mother experiences on holding her new born for the first time they say cannot be described. The culmination of all creation is the baby she holds. A lot is dreamt about and many plans made. Some into the future and some to be implemented right away. Among the latter is the baby’s diet. From the first few hours of its life, when the infant is breast fed, till the child becomes an independent eater, his / her diet attains primacy among parents. Though there is an established and ideal age wise dietary schedule available in an text book format, which most nutritionists agree upon, the implementation of the same may pose a challenge in some cases.
The challenge is not the availability of the items but the introduction in the child’s diet at the recommended stage of development and its willful acceptance at the time. Perhaps the first year to year and a half are the easiest, with mothers’ milk being the mainstay of the diet. It is when the child is weaned of mother’s milk and introduced to solid, semi-solid and of course lots of milk, that the resistance seems to emerge.
From a nutrition angle the macro and micro nutrients required remain essentially the same as in an adult diet namely carbohydrates, fats and proteins forming the former and vitamins and minerals the latter, it’s just the quantum of each component that changes as the child starts to grow. So, if for example the primary source of proteins for a child is going to be milk and if he/she develops a dislike for it (not exactly an uncommon phenomenon) will that lead to growth and metabolic deficiency? Would alternative and non-diet-based supplementation for proteins be recommended?
While supplementation is still anathema for a few child nutritionists’, many are beginning to now consider it. Popular child health drinks (consumed with milk) emphasize their protein content (who amongst us has not heard of Bournvita?). Lets just look at the ideal protein needs for a child as it is growing up. Of course, these could vary a bit based on gender, activity level and body weight.
|Stage of development||Required protein per day|
|Infancy – Up to 6 months||1.4 gms per kg of body weight|
|4 to 9 years||19 gms per day|
|9 to 13 years||34 gms per day|
|14 to 18 years||52 gms for boys and 46 gms per day for girls|
The sole objective of protein supplementation amongst children is proper growth and well-developed immunity as opposed to varied reasons amongst adults with a large segment focusing on muscle development. Also, hitherto most protein powders which adults used were whey based, in varying concentration depending upon whether made from concentrate, isolate or hydrolysate. While whey / casein-based products can be given to children, there are reasons alternatives should be preferred. To start with the protein concentration is much too high than required by children. Although there are powders called “gainers” which are low in the protein content, they are laden with sugar which may lead to weight gain among kids. Of course, Gainers as a product category have a place for themselves as a supplement for the underweight, and they do work, they may not be appropriate for children.
Also, while processing whey concentrate / isolate (though a byproduct of cheese manufacture, it’s a complex process) from milk, it depletes many micronutrients along the way as also stripping it of almost all lipids and carbohydrates which are essential during the growth years. One could use powders with higher protein concentration in lesser quantities but they have artificial sweeteners which again are a big no no for children.
So then what are the alternatives? Plant based, or rather non-whey-based protein powders are one. There are a whole bunch of plant sources with some fitting the requirement of a “complete” protein to choose from. Many adults have shifted and many are mulling a shift to plant-based protein for differing reasons. The big one being whey induced gastric difficulties. Some also because of a shift to veganism.
One can choose from soy, chia, hemp, rice and a host of other formulations based on the above for adults. However specifically for children, there isn’t much to choose from save a few brands in the west which are largely soy or rice 0062cg m ,jhased. When looking for plant sources the palate changes as one moves around the world. For instance, chickpea and lentils are a staple source of protein in south Asia but barely touched in the west.
This local taste preference can be leveraged to formulate market specific plant-based proteins for children. Any Indian mother of a growing child would give her proverbial right hand to feed her ward a drink equivalent to cups of their staple daal (a lentil preparation). Of course, there will always be the challenge of making it palatable for a finicky (almost always) consumer. At NRoute we have surmounted that challenge and have a scrumptious chickpea and lentil sourced formulation to offer. It delivers optimum protein amounts for a child in delicious flavours.
So, all you mothers, think of it, now that you have some facts before you. Yes, you can give your child that little extra protein and no it doesn’t always have to be milk, milk and more milk. In this age of freely available information get your protein facts handy before your child looks at his plate and asks Ma, where is my protein?