Is Whey Protein Good For Children?
Protein is extremely important for childhood growth and throughout life. Considered a macronutrient, a substance required in relatively large amounts by living organisms in order to function properly, protein serves as a significant source of energy. It contains four calories
(the unit of measure of the energy in food) per gram. In addition, it is essential for children to consume protein for many other important functions.
Protein Needs of Children
The amount of protein your child needs to consume depends on their age and weight. For example, a toddler that is 1-3 years old will need minimum of 0.55 grams of protein per pound of weight. As children get older they will need less protein per pound. Children ages 4-6 need minimum of 0.5 grams of protein per pound while children 7-14 only need minimum of 0.45 grams of protein per pound. In a well balanced diet, children ages 1-3, protein can make up 5-20% of total calories, and for children 4-18 years old, protein can account for 10-30% of total calories.
Types of Protein
Organic compounds known as amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and essential to the effectiveness of proteins in the body. The three types of amino acids are known as essential, nonessential and conditional. Essential amino acids are the nine amino acids your body cannot produce on its own and so they must be consumed in food. The nonessential group are those amino acids which your body has the ability to produce on its own. Finally, conditional amino acids are typically only required by the body if you are sick or overly stressed.
You can further divide proteins into two subtypes: complete and incomplete. These distinctions are made based on the amino acid sequence of the protein. A complete protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids discussed above. Complete proteins may also have some of the nonessential amino acids. An incomplete protein, on the other hand, lacks the presence of at least one essential amino acid, if not more.
Given that there are 22 amino acids which the body needs in order to function, it may seem difficult to track which amino acids you have consumed versus those you still need to consume. However, if your child is eating a balanced and well-rounded diet he is likely receiving all the protein and amino acids the body needs. No extra effort needed!
The easiest and most effective way to ensure your child is consuming a diet which provides all nine essential amino acids, is to let him eat animal proteins such as meat, eggs, and dairy. These animal proteins all fall into the complete protein category previously discussed. However, certain plant foods are also considered complete proteins, though they are not many in number and include hemp seeds, soy and quinoa.
A majority of plant proteins are considered incomplete proteins. Foods such as nuts, beans, rice and whole grains fall into this category. However, you can achieve the effect of a complete protein by eating two incomplete proteins together or within the same day in order to have all nine essential amino acids present. This is known as protein combining. Some example meals of protein combining include a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread or beans and rice.
What About Whey?
Now that you have some background on protein in general and its importance in the body, we can consider whey protein specifically.
You may consider giving your child a protein supplement like a whey protein powder for any number of reasons:
- Picky Eaters - Children can be very particular about what they eat, and they don’t handle certain foods well. If you find that your child is hard to feed, adding protein powder to what little they do eat can help them to get balanced nutrition. Whey protein for kids in this instance can help to make up for any lacks in your child’s diet.
- Extremely Active - Child or adolescent athletes, especially those competing at a high level, may need to follow special diets in order to receive an appropriate amount of nutrients required by their extremely active bodies. Adding a bit of whey protein to their diet can help them get enough amino acids to keep their very active muscles in good condition.
Benefits of Protein Supplements
Clearly there is a need for some children to ingest their protein in a different way than just whole meats. Plus, there are other benefits to your child utilizing protein supplements, if they are not getting enough protein from their diet.
- Promote Growth - Protein powders, particularly whey protein, contain all of the amino acids your child’s body needs to grow healthy and strong.
- Aid Hormone Production - As children enter into puberty, their bodies begin to produce certain hormones. Protein is essential for the production and distribution of those hormones throughout the body.
- Boost Immune System - In addition to building strong muscles, protein can boost your child’s natural defenses against infections including more serious or life-threatening conditions.
Is Whey Protein Safe for Children?
The short answer to that question is yes. Whey protein is derived from cow’s milk, a protein source which most children already consume. The breakdown of cow milk proteins is about 80% casein protein and the other 20% is whey. In fact, whey protein is a common ingredient found in many baby formulas and is used in these formulas because of its beneficial ingredients and safety.
However, if your child is allergic to milk or lactose intolerant, they may not be able to consume whey protein. When supplementing with whey protein, daily protein intake recommendations should be taken into consideration.
What to Look For in Whey Protein Powders
If you have decided to give your child whey protein powder as a nutritional supplement, be aware that not all powders are created equal. There are certain things you will want to look for when choosing a powder to ensure the nutritional value of the powder is adequate and that it is safe for your child to ingest. Focus on finding a powder that meets the following criteria:
- Non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism)
- Low in added Sugar
- Natural Ingredients
- Clinically Tested and/or Doctor Recommended
Once you think you have found the ideal powder for you child, take it to your pediatrician to review. They will be able to determine its value and safety to add to your child’s diet.
In short, whey protein in the appropriate amount is safe to give children and, in fact, can be beneficial to their health. Healthy Height™TM is a new solution that is doctor developed and tested for short, lean, and healthy children ages 3-9. Healthy Height™ nutrition is clinically shown to help children grow. Our shake mix is a great source of whey protein, and contains vitamins and minerals that are important for a child’s diet. Healthy Height™ comes in two kid-approved Vanilla and Chocolate flavors. Try Healthy Height™ today!