Protein and iron for fussy kids

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Some kids are just not that keen on meat.  Don't panic!  However you need to be careful that they get good quality protein.  Protein supplies your child with amino acids, essential chemicals which are the body’s building blocks. Whilst all animal proteins including egg and dairy products provide a high quality protein containing all the essential amino acids, cereals and vegetable proteins (e.g. peas, beans, lentils, and nuts and seeds) have a lower quality.

To provide a complete vegetarian protein you need to combine cereal and vegetable proteins like pasta, bread, rice and lentils with a small amount of dairy or eggs.  Or you can combine two vegetable protein food groups.  Soya and quinoa are the only plant-based food that contain all the amino acids.  Here are some examples of good combinations:

  • Peanut butter sandwiches

  • Baked potato with cheese and milk

  • Lentil and vegetables with cheese

  • Pasta with cheese sauce

  • Baked beans on toast

  • Rice and lentils.

Another issue faced by fussy non meat eaters are iron deficiency, which is the commonest nutritional deficiency in the Western world.  There are a few types of iron, the best source is found in meat and is easily absorbed by the body, plant food sources are more difficult to absorb, and lastly a third type added by manufacturers to foods such as breakfast cereals is absorbed less well.

When my children were little the issue was less about the taste of meat but the energy required to chew it!  I found mince meat the best solution - bolognese sauce with pasta and "non chilli" chilli con carne (see Taco Tuesdays).

Good source of iron for non meat eating kids: • Fortified breakfast cereals. • Egg yolk. • Wholemeal bread. • Dark green vegetables e.g. spinach and cabbage. • Beans and lentils. • Dried fruit e.g. apricot, prunes, peaches, raisins.

The best way for the body to absorb the iron is to serve it with a vitamin C rich food, like capsicum or a small glass of orange juice.

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