Every cell in your body needs protein
Protein is a nutrient with a big to-do list.
- Repair tissue. Check.
- Make hormones. Check.
- Fight infection. Check.
- Create enzymes for digestion, clotting and energy production. Check-checkity-check.
And that’s just the short list.
The many functions of protein is uber-important in all humans and is especially critical in growing kids.
Why you need B12
The protein contains Vitamin B12. B12 also called cobalamin, is needed to make DNA as well as nerve and red blood cells. It’s got a strong role in methylation and is KEY in those who have MTHFR. B12 and folate are needed in order to make the two primary methyl donors–methionine and S-adenosyl methionine which are used to address everything up on the aforementioned checklist above.1
Animal vs. Plant Protein
Your protein sources matter. While plant-based proteins exist in the form of nuts, seeds, and legumes, these don’t contain B12. At all.
Supplementation for Vegans and Vegetarians
Supplementing B12 is necessary if you choose not to eat meat. Pregnant and breastfeeding moms with little or no consumption of animal products may have babies with low B12 levels.2
If you experience bloating, nausea or have other uncomfortable symptoms after eating meat, then find out why by working with a functional medicine practitioner.
Ten Protein Hacks for Kids
- Start the Day with Protein: The Incredible Egg
Protein comes from the Greek word proteus, meaning “first place.” Give protein the priority it deserves by serving some delicious eggs for breakfast. The best way to serve ‘em is your child’s favorite way to eat ‘em.
Egg Options: You can scramble ‘em, fry ‘em, mix ‘em with sauteed veggies like bell peppers, greens or broccoli. You can even prepare a bunch in advance to pull out in a jiffy.
Egg Muffins: Decide how many egg muffins you want to make. That determines the number of eggs you need. A dozen eggs will make enough mixture to fill 12 silicone muffin cups or 12 compartments of a muffin pan (greased or filled with paper liners).
Directions: In a bowl, combine eggs and chopped veggies of your choice with ¼-½ tsp of salt. Bake at 350 F for 20-25 minutes.
Add two diced avocados and ham or bacon in your egg mixture for an extra good morning.
Eggs provide both B12 and choline--two nutrients you don’t want to miss out on and that help those with MTHFR or PEMT polymorphisms.
The nutrient choline plays a role in methylation as well as having other roles in neurotransmission and metabolism. 3 Choline is neuroprotective. The more eaten during pregnancy and early life, the better off the cognition as the brain ages. 4 Which means that plate of scrambled eggs might help little Joey earn a gold star on his preschool report card and could also protect against neurodegenerative disease and age-related cognitive decline as he grows older. (That’s so much better than any free toy they used to put in cereal boxes.)
Sadly, recent studies have shown that many people are deficient in this brain-building nutrition. While it’s true that in this study, kids were more likely to be the age group that actually met their choline rda, as they age and daily needs increase, it could be advantageous to already have them used to eat a variety of choline rich-foods like meat and eggs. Just one egg contains 147 mg of choline. If your child is under 3, that one egg nearly takes care of the 200 mg/day recommendation. 5 Of course, as children age, recommended choline consumption increases.
- Offer Protein-Rich Snacks to Fuel the Body and the Imagination
Need to send in a lunch or snack to your kid’s school? Why not purchase grass-fed beef or turkey sticks, Epic brand bars come in a variety of flavors including bison, turkey, chicken, and salmon. (Some varieties contain nuts.)You can also nab some organic beef sticks at Costco if you’re lucky!
If homemade snacks are more your jam, make a turkey roll-up. Put a dab of guacamole in the center of a slice of turkey with a long, thin slice of cucumber of bell peppers inside.
Easy Meat Kabobs
These are easily made in less than 60 seconds. Grab your meat of choice; think ham squares, salami, sliced Boars Head or Applegate deli meat, bologna etc. Cut it up or fold it and poke a toothpick through it. BAM. It’s fun, finger food and easy for those rush-out-the-door mornings!
Create Dino Eggs
Combine craft and snack time by making dino eggs. Basically, you’re just making hard boiled eggs and then cracking the shells without peeling the eggs. Put cracked hard-boiled eggs in a bowl with water colored from an herbal tea. Let them sit for a few hours in the bowl in the fridge. Begin peeling the eggs to see if the desired color darkness has been achieved, and BAM you have a dino egg.
- Opt for Approachable Textures
Textures can be an issue for some kids. Some prefer the softness of slow-cooked meats over dryer varieties. Maybe drag out the Crock-Pot or the Instant Pot and see if they’d prefer a moist shredded chicken over a crispy skillet-seared variety.
Overcome mental blocks one step at a time
To get over these hurdles, you may need to start with making meat look nothing like meat. Here’s an option for the “I-won’t-eat-anything-that-looks-like-meat” kids.
Grain-Free Chicken or Turkey Pancakes
This is a lovely whole food based, low inflammatory recipe. The real beauty is that it contains no nuts. Read: it’s lunchbox-friendly! Boom!
Get a hold of a roasted chicken or turkey. Make it yourself or find a clean source with no icky oils or sugar at a local health or grocery store.
You can quickly roast a sweet potato in the oven or if microwaves are how you roll, plop it on a plate for 4 minutes (Cut an X slit in the middle of it first so there will be no explosions. Return for additional time until soft)
Directions: In a food processor or blender add:
- 2 ounces (about ½ cup) prepared chicken or turkey
- ⅓ c sweet potato or baked squash
- 2 eggs
- Salt and other spices, oil
- For greasing the skillet: ghee, coconut or avocado oil
Puree until a thick but light consistency form. Drop spoonfuls of the batter on a greased skillet on medium-high heat. Serve up right away or freeze for later meals.
- Be strategic with servings
Some kids go straight for their favorite sides. If you let ‘em keep filling up on that fruit salad, their tank will be on full and have no room for the protein. Balance the number of sides and protein on the plate in an appropriate ratio for their age. If they have the same heaping pile of sweet potatoes as grandpa, they might never make it to the B12-containing fare.
Also, be sure to offer protein at every meal. They may not eat it all but at least you’re setting them up for successful protein-intake by having it available.
- Beef up Breakfast
We know that a sugar-laden cereal doesn’t make happy brains and bodies, but if your kiddo doesn’t do eggs–either because of taste or an intolerance, here are some other options.
Offer turkey or pork sausage links with leftover roasted sweet potatoes. Fill a cassava, coconut or almond flour tortilla with ground breakfast sausage and diced apples.
Pancake and Waffles Sandwiches
Try making a grain-free waffle made from tiger nut and plantain flour topped with ghee or fresh strawberries or a grain-free pancake made with canned pumpkin and cassava or tapioca flour. Put a slice of b12-containing protein between halves and let ‘em chow down. Could you use last night’s leftover turkey burgers or a slice of ham?
- Make meatballs
Combine your child’s favorite ground meat with veggies for more nutritional support. Make a bunch ahead and freeze for later. Turkey and diced apples with carrots is a winner.
Perfect for dipping
Lil’ hands love to put meatballs in low-sugar ketchup or tomato sauce. Be creative and make your own. A dob of ghee with sprinkles of ground garlic and salt, coconut aminos and mashed avocado, whatever you think might be tasty and provide a fun, new experience to adventure-seeking little ones looking for variety.
- Offer less fishy-looking (and smelly) fish
Fish is a powerhouse of nutrition, but how do we get all that yummy omega 3, B12 goodness in the meal rotation?
Try homemade fish nuggets! (No, not like those frozen ones your school cafeteria used to serve…they day everyone brought their lunch boxes instead. Gross.) Covered in an almond flour-egg batter, it’s very approachable and not fishy looking.
Use cod. A mild white fish, cod can pass the nose test.
You can then progress on to salmon, tuna and even shrimp if you so desire.
- Take the stress out of prep
Keep ready-to-eat options on hand: deli meats, pepperoni, pre-cooked grilled chicken tenders to throw together a meal or to just throw in your mouth.
Look for low prep options, too, including pre-formed burgers, precooked sausages. Sausages that are low in added sugar can be but in a skillet with frozen stir-fry veggies or broccoli for a weeknight meal.
Make ahead options abound with tools like the Instant Pot and slow cooker. There’s a reason Momma made roasts on Sundays in the slow cooker.
- Find Replacements for Problematic Inflammatory Proteins
Does your kid find hot dogs heavenly? It’s possible to buy a grass-fed beef variety without added hormones or weird ingredients.
Addicted to KFC? Make drumsticks at home. Forget the batter and just spray with avocado oil, your favorite spices and put ‘em in the oven at 400 for an hour, flipping half-way through.
If a crunch is a must, find a better batter. Options could include coconut flour, crushed plantain chips, organic folic-acid-free rice cakes (if grains are tolerated). You can make a lovely chicken tender with an anti-inflammatory batter; no problemo.
- Switch it Up
If variety is the spice of life, it might be time to get shakin’.
Swap ground chicken for your usual turkey burgers. Buy bison for meatballs. Baffle your kids with the strangest sentence ever: Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo. (Bonus points for diagramming the sentence during dinner.)
Trying something new can be fun. Have a flair for the creative? Make your own unique meal combos and give ‘em crazy names that relate to your kid’s world based upon storybook characters or their heroes from their favorite show.
Bake Ridiculously Simple Baked Avocado Boats: A Leftovers Miracle
Because eating a boat is fun. Take whatever precooked protein you have (roasted poultry, ground meat or steak, canned tuna, deli meat, whatever.). Take 4 avocados and slice ‘em in half, discarding the seed (or planting it! #bucketlist) Scoop out the green goodness from each slice and put it in a mixing bowl while being sure to keep the avocado skins. Add your leftover meat and spices. If you throw in Pico de Guillo, too, it qualifies as a fiesta! Olé!
Place “boats” on a cookie sheet (or in a large muffin pan in they seem unsteady). Bake at 400 F for 10 minutes.
Believe in B12
To B12 or not to B12…well, that isn’t really a question, is it?
- Rate it: On a scale of 1-5, how is your family’s protein intake?
- Try it: Choose 1 change to implement this week. Tell your spouse/child/friend about your intention (“We’re going to attempt fish for the first time. We’re going to swap out Suzy’s oatmeal for eggs on Tuesday.”) Maybe try another change next week.
- Evaluate it: After a few weeks, rate your family again. What has changed?
- *Effects of vitamin B12 and deficiencies on DNA… – NCBI.*
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12964806. Accessed 29 Oct. 2018.
- “Vitamin B12 — Consumer – Office of Dietary Supplements – NIH.” 24 Jun. 2011,
https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/. Accessed 29 Oct. 2018.
- “Choline | Linus Pauling Institute | Oregon State University.”
https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/choline. Accessed 29 Oct. 2018.
- “Neuroprotective Actions of Dietary Choline – NCBI – NIH.” 28 Jul. 2017,
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579609/. Accessed 29 Oct. 2018.
- “Choline – Dietary Reference Intakes for Thiamin … – NCBI – NIH.”
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK114308/. Accessed 29 Oct. 2018.