The need to include protein in a child’s meal has always been embedded in our culture. A close look at our own childhood will reemphasis this to us. How many of us can remember our mothers giving us a big glass of milk and eggs or a big glass of egg-flip first thing in the morning. We even pioneered the midday meal in primary school which mandated two eggs. But why this mandate? Why is it so important? And why has this insistence for protein in a child’s meal diminished of late? Let’s try to understand proteins a little better to answer all these questions.

Proteins are nothing but molecules of amino acids which are the building blocks of life. There are two types of amino acid which are non-essential amino acids that are body produces on its own and essential amino acids that our body can’t produce and needs to be provided through food.

One of the main activities being performed by a child’s body is growth and the macronutrient that aides in the growth and development of child’s body is protein. Most of us are aware of this but is that the only role that protein plays in our body? The answer is no!  Apart from helping replace worn out cells and aiding in the growth and repair of tissues, proteins also help to produce enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and antibodies. Hence without the adequate supply of protein our bodies can’t function well and most importantly cannot develop.

So what is this adequate amount? Research says that to avoid protein deficiency for every kilogram of body weight the recommended daily intake is 0.8 to 1 gram of protein.  The table below is a good reference for the recommended protein intake per day. (Refer RDI)





1-3 yr

12 g/day (0.92 g/kg)

14 g/day (1.08 g/kg)

4-8 yr

16 g/day (0.73 g/kg)

20 g/day (0.91 g/kg)


9-13 yr

31 g/day (0.78 g/kg)

40 g/day (0.94 g/kg)

14-18 yr

49 g/day (0.76 g/kg)

65 g/day (0.99 g/kg)


9-13 yr

24 g/day (0.61 g/kg)

35 g/day (0.87 g/kg)

14-18 yr

35 g/day (0.62 g/kg)

45 g/day (0.77 g/kg)

EAR – Estimated average ratio RDI :Recommended dietary intake

Now that we have arrived at our quantities let’s identify some good sources of protein. For vegetarians ideal sources of proteins would be dairy, lentils and protein rich vegetables. For non-vegetarians eggs and all types of meat are sources of protein.

So, let’s consider an example of a kid who weighs 40 kg. The total intake of protein required would be roughly 40 grams. The following food items (mentioned with the protein content in them) spread across the day in requisite quantity will help fulfil this requirement.

  1. 1 Cup of milk: 8 g

  2. 1 Cup of curd: 8 g

  3. 1 cup of lentils: 12-18 grams

  4. 1 Whole egg: 6 g

  5. 100g of paneer: 15-20 g

  6. 100g of cooked chicken: 30 g

  7. 100g of cooked fish: 25 g

(Note – 1 CUP = 240 ml)

All said and done there is still one question that lingers in people’s minds “Is too much protein bad?”.  It’s a fair question but what we need to first ask is how much would constitute too much. Research shows that protein intake even as high as 2.8 grams per kilogram of bodyweight for someone who is generally healthy does not have any adverse effects on health.

So, as long as we plan our children’s meals well, we should be able to nourish them with sufficient protein which will help them thrive as they grow.


https://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/protein – Protein intake reference

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/70/2  – Protein content in milk

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/104/2 – Protein content in curd

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/dairy-and-egg-products/117/2 – Protein content in egg

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/recipe/1770692/2 – Protein content in paneer

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/693/2 – Protein content in chicken

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/finfish-and-shellfish-products/4223/2 – Protein content in fish

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4338/2 – Protein content in lentils

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10722779 – (Poortmans JR & Dellalieux O 2000) Do regular high protein diets have potential health risks on kidney function in athletes?