Protein is an important nutrient for the body. The body's metabolism, growth, tissue-building, muscle function, hormones and nervous system all benefit from proper protein intake. Make sure your family gets enough healthy protein with meals that emphasize variety and low-fat options and balance carbohydrates and monounsaturated fats with kid-friendly protein sources like tuna and cottage cheese.
Protein from Tuna
Animal sources provide complete protein and fish is the healthy choice. Harvard University School of Public Health says fish and poultry are the best animal protein sources because they are lower in fat than red meat. Look for tuna that is water-packed so you avoid the extra fats of the oil-packed versions. Serve fish about twice a week to reduce the chances of consuming dietary mercury which can be present in many fish, including tuna. Experiment with a variety of tasty tuna dishes like salad nicoise with cottage cheese, tuna casseroles made with whole-grain noodles, tuna salad with chopped celery and carrot and grilled or broiled tuna with a squeeze of lemon or lime.
Protein from Cottage Cheese
Dairy foods are good protein sources but opt for low-fat options to get high nutrition and fewer calories. Cheese is particularly dense in protein. Fort Valley State University reports that 1/2 cup of cottage cheese has nearly twice the protein as a whole cup of milk. Cottage cheese is a kid-friendly staple that pairs well with carrot-raisin salad, tuna salad on greens, fresh sliced fruits or berries or ripe tomato slices and a sprinkle of black pepper.
Protein from Carbohydrates
Add veggies and grains to a cottage cheese or tuna dish for fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and extra protein. Carbohydrates provide a lot of protein but it is incomplete, meaning that not all the amino acids of a complete protein are present in grains, vegetables and fruit. Harvard School of Public Health recommends eating a wide range of healthy carbs to get enough protein in a daily diet. Two slices of whole-wheat bread have 5 g of protein and 1 cup of cooked broccoli has 4 grams. Lightly steamed cold broccoli flavored with a squeeze of lemon or lemon zest can top a mound of low fat cottage cheese. Tuna mixed with a small amount of light salad dressing and baby spinach leaves rolls up in a whole-grain wrap for a portable lunch.
Nuts, Sprouts and Soy
Edamame, tofu, tree nuts and sprouts contain high quality protein and contribute to a balanced meal. Sprouts grown from nutrition-packed seeds have important vitamins like C and K, iron and other minerals as well as protein. Lentil, mung bean and soybean sprouts are especially high in protein, according to Harvard Medical School. Edamame, boiled soybeans, are loaded with protein and delicious as a side dish with broiled tuna or in a salad. Crushed or sliced almonds, pecans or other tree nuts can be sprinkled over cottage cheese in a cold vegetable salad. Nuts also add healthy fats and fiber to your kids' diet.
- Harvard University School of Public Health: Protein: Moving Closer to Center Stage
- Go Ask Alice!; Non-Meat Proteins; March 2011
- Fort Valley State University: Buying and Storing Cottage Cheese
- Minnesota State University Hendrix Health Center: Vegetarian Diets
- Harvard Medical School Center for Health and the Global Environment: Sprouts
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