Updated: Jul 14, 2022
Animal, Seafood and Plant Protein
What do we Need?
Protein is a macronutrient often consumed more than needed. Protein should make up about 15% of our diet and fill 1⁄4 of our plate at meals.
PROTEIN REQUIREMENTS FOR CHILDREN
1-3 13 grams
4-8 19 grams
9-13 35 grams
14-18 45-55 grams
(Athletes may need more)
Protein comes from many different sources. Animal sources such as meats are the most obvious, but protein is derived from seafood, beans and legumes, and numerous plant sources.
Protein from animal sources are also sources of fat, including saturated fat. Protein from seafood and vegetables is more likely to have unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, or no fat.
Complete vs. Incomplete Protein
Protein can be complete or incomplete. A complete protein provides all 9 essential amino acids; an incomplete protein lacks one or more.
The only complete plant sources of protein are quinoa, amaranth, and whole soy products.
You can combine two incomplete, complementary proteins to make a complete protein. For example, legumes and grains, such as beans and rice, combine to make a complete protein, as does yogurt with nuts (dairy + nuts).
Complementary proteins include:
Legumes + whole grains
Legumes + nuts or seeds
Legumes + dairy
Dairy + nuts or seeds
Dairy + whole grains
Plant-Based Protein Sources
Vegan Protein Sources
Plant-based protein sources can be used in place of meat - legumes, all kinds of beans, mushrooms, and tofu.
Vegetables with protein include spinach, broccoli, corn, peas, kale, Brussels sprouts, artichokes, and avocado.
Nuts and seeds have protein too. Children under age 4 should not consume nuts and seeds due to the choking hazard, however nut butters are fine after 6 months of age as long as there are no allergies.
A wealth of vegetarian recipes are online for delicious meals to diversify your diet. Vegetarian meals a few times a week can save considerable fat in the diet from meats. Plant-based meals are often less expensive to make than meals with meat.
Eating seafood 1-2 times a week instead of meat can also decrease saturated fat intake and increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
We can consume an adequate amount of protein even without meat. Reducing meat consumption, especially red meat, decreases saturated fat intake, which is heart-healthy. Increasing plant and seafood-based protein improves fiber, vitamin, and mineral intake - both heart and gut healthy!