The Miracle Of Protein For Child
may have heard this many times before; protein
is an essential nutrient and is beneficial to
your child’s health. But do you know how it
helps in growth and development?
Proteins are a remarkably versatile nutrient.
They help your child’s muscles to contract, his
blood to clot and his eyes to see. They keep him
active by facilitating chemical reactions
through enzymes and defending against
infections. Without them, your child’s bones,
skin and hair would have no structure.
It is no wonder that the term “protein”,
which is derived from the Greek word “protos”,
means “of prime importance”.
Proteins are made up of long chains of amino
acids, the building blocks of protein. The human
body contains an estimated 100,000 different
kinds of protein.
The role of protein
Whenever your child’s body is growing,
repairing (healing) or replacing tissue,
proteins are at work. They play important roles
in his body to promote health and prevent
Apart from forming the building blocks of
muscles, blood and skin, proteins are also
1. Replace dead or damaged cells and
2. Regulate body processes (some, but
not all, hormones are proteins).
3. Maintain the volume and composition
of body fluids.
4. Transport substances like lipids,
vitamins, minerals and oxygen around the body.
5. Defend the body against diseases
through antibodies and strengthen the body’s
When children are deprived of protein,
energy, or both, the result is protein-energy
malnutrition (PEM). The most evident result of
protein deficiency is the wasting of muscle
tissue and weight loss.
A lowering of serum protein levels and
hormonal changes may result in oedema (an
excessive build-up of fluid in the body’s
tissues) and the reduced production of
antibodies makes the affected child susceptible
On the other hand, with an abundance of
protein-rich foods in certain country, there is
also the problem of over-consumption of protein.
Research has suggested that high-protein diets
offer no benefits and may pose health risks like
heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity and kidney
For example, excess protein will be converted
to body fat, and excessive protein may also
overwork the kidneys.
Excessive protein intake can also result in
high blood cholesterol as most protein-rich
foods are also high in saturated fat – fatty
cuts of beef, lamb, sausages, pork, salami, duck
and organ meats like kidney and liver.
Sources of protein
Proteins in our diet are derived from two
main sources, namely animal protein (such as
milk, egg, meat and fish) and plant proteins
(such as cereals, nuts, beans and soy products).
Animal proteins are more “biologically
complete” than plant proteins because animal
proteins contain all the essential amino acids
that is needed by the body.
Although plant proteins are incomplete
proteins, they are good substitutes for meats or
other animal proteins.
In addition, if two plant proteins such as
legumes and grains or legumes and nuts/ seeds
are mixed together, they will complement each
other and provide all the necessary essential
amino acids to an individual.
In view of the importance of proteins for
your child, as well as the problems that can
occur from deficient or excessive intake of
protein, we has recommended that you:
1. Feed your child fish more
frequently, daily if possible. To achieve this,
get your child to eat a serving of fish daily.
Shellfish should be consumed less frequently
2. Increase your child’s intake of
milk and dairy products. Milk is not only a
valuable source of protein but also a rich
source of calcium and vitamins.
A glass (250 ml) of fresh whole milk contains
about 8.5g of protein. Add milk that is low in
sugar to your child’s oatmeal and cereals.
Yogurt and cheese are also good sources of dairy
3. Feed your child meat, poultry and
eggs moderately. Choose a variety of meats and
use different methods to cook these dishes. Get
your child to consume eggs in moderate amounts,
up to an average of one a day (whole or in
dishes). Avoid giving egg white to your child
who is one year old or younger.
4. Adopt healthier cooking methods for
fish, meat, poultry and eggs. Recommended
cooking methods include steaming, stewing,
boiling, poaching, grilling and roasting. Use
herbs, spices, and lime or lemon to season and
flavor these dishes instead of salt or rich
5. Choose meat and poultry that are
low in fat and cholesterol. Minimize saturated
fat by choosing lean cuts of meat and poultry.
Remove chicken skin and trim visible meat fats
6. Feed your child legumes daily and
include nuts and seeds in his weekly diet.
Legumes like peas, lentils, beans, chickpeas,
soybeans and peanuts have large amounts of
proteins in their seeds. Choose a variety of
legumes and their products like tofu to prepare
meals. Add legumes to your child’s soups and
dishes. Serve nuts as snacks or in main dishes,
such as in stir-fry vegetables.
How much do they need?
According to the Recommended Nutrient Intake
(RNI) for Malaysia, the recommended level of
protein intake for children aged between one and
six years is 17g to 23g per day. Children
between the ages of seven and 12 years need
approximately 32g to 46g of protein a day.
Below are examples of how you can get your
children aged between one and six years old to
meet their recommended protein intake in their
1. For breakfast, serve one scrambled
egg on toasted bread.
2. For lunch, serve ½ a piece of
Spanish mackerel with rice and mix vegetables.
3. For tea or snack time, serve one
cup of milk with some crackers.
4. For dinner, serve ½ a chicken
drumstick with braised noodles and mix
You can mix and match or substitute the above
dishes with other protein food sources like
tofu, yogurt, cheese, beef, soya milk, chickpeas
or lentils (dhal).
Children aged seven years and older can have
twice the above amounts in a day; for example,
he or she can have one whole piece of fish and
one whole chicken drumstick. You can also give
your child one cup of milk in the morning and
another cup during tea time or at night.
Balance is key
Although proteins are very important in your
child’s diet, it must be remembered that a
balance of essential nutrients (carbohydrates,
fats, vitamins, minerals and proteins) are vital
for everyone, especially growing children.
To build strength, your child’s muscle cells
need physical activity and all the other
nutrients. By over-valuing proteins, you might
erroneously exclude all the other equally
important foods and nutrients.
Too much or too little of anything is bad.
Practice balance, moderation and variety in
preparing your child’s meals to ensure your
child’s proper development and to prevent
diseases now and throughout his adult years.