Best Ways to Increase Protein for Growing Bodies

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[We’ve been writing and sharing a lot lately about raising our children into adulthood.  This post is part of that series. You can find all those posts here: Young Adults.]

Muscles need protein to grow and brains need protein and fat to function properly.  In an age of carbohydrate-riddled and overly processed foods, it takes savvy planning to make sure our kids are getting enough protein to keep them growing and going strong!

We think the best proteins come through whole foods.  Our bodies know what to do with food so leave the expensive and isolated protein powders behind and try these frugal, healthy ways to boost your kids protein.

Eggs

1.  Eggs – Chicken eggs have 6 grams of protein and Quail have 1.2 grams – Try to get your hands on free range eggs.  They’ll pack the biggest nutritional punch!

2.  Dairy (Cheese, milk, cream and etc.) – Grass-fed and raw dairy is the best if you can get your hands on it, otherwise make sure to stick with organic dairy sources.

3.  Nuts & Nut Butters – Add nuts to salads or package them for on the go snacks.  Nut butters can be added to kefir smoothies for a protein boost, or smeared on bread and crackers for a protein rich meal.

4.  Beans – Yummy in soups and salads or wrapped snugly in tortillas, beans are healthy and delicious.  When you have them with whole grains you actually get a complete protein with all 9 of the essential amino acids our bodies need.

Beans

5.  Yogurt & Kefir – Yogurt is one of our go-to snacks, just keep in mind all yogurt is not created equal.  Many of the most popular brands contain outrageous amounts of sugar.  Look for brands that are sweetened with fruit juice or better yet sweeten your own with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.  Kefir is a great protein boost for fruit smoothies and since it is fermented you get extra bang for your buck!

kefir smoothie

6.  Vegetables – Did you know that some vegetables contain protein?  Make sure to include plenty of  broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, potatoes and brussels sprouts.

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7.  Fruit -Dried fruits like apricots, currants, prunes, raisins, and figs have a surprising amount of protein.  Additionally, avocados, bananas, apples, and berries contain some protein.

8.  Grass-fed Gelatin – This is the only powder we can recommend.  Gelatin is an extremely beneficial protein and has been shown to improve hair, skin and nails.  It is also good for joints and supposedly helps with digestion.  We add it to smoothies, mix it with teas, and have been known to put it in hot chocolate.  We buy Great Lakes Gelatin.

9.  Seeds – We love chia seeds!  They are a great source of protein at nearly 5 grams per 1 ounce serving.  They provide great energy and will keep you feeling full for a long time!  Our favorite way to have them is mixed in with kombucha.  It’s better than coffee at keeping your energy levels topped off, seriously!

10. Whey – Whey is the liquid left over from the cheese making process (or found when I’ve left my kefir fermenting too long!)  We often use whey in our fermented vegetables.  Which means we get a double punch of protein from the whey and the vegetables.  We call that a win win!

11.  Organ Meats – I know.  I know.  I can hear the groans now.  But organ meats are high in protein, are easy on the budget, and if done right can really be tasty!  We’ve been known to hide them in chili and serve them as pate smeared on a piece of toast.  It’s like meat butter!

organ meats

12.  Meats – We don’t buy into the low-fat, lean-meat line that Americans are being sold.  Fat is good for you and so we use all different types of meats.  If you’re looking for frugal options then buy the tougher cuts of meat and slow cook them.  The toughness will disappear and they’ll be melt in your mouth delicious!

13.  Fish – Everyone knows the health benefits of eating fish, but I find a lot of people saying they don’t like it.  My advice is to keep trying different recipes until you find one you like.  My husband used to be a fish hater and I’ve finally won him over.  His favorite is smoked trout pate and there is nearly 18 grams of protein in a serving of our favorite, smoked trout. [Try our Salmon Burgers!  The best ever! The whole family will love them!]

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14.  Bone Broth – We can’t say enough about bone broth!  Just try it!  We’ve written a ton of articles on its benefits.  You can go read some of them here.

15.  Whole Grains – Including whole grains like oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, and spelt are great ways to add protein and stretch your budget.

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A special note on protein:  Protein is also vitally important to help prevent aging of our brains and muscles.  Generally speaking, we have a tendency to eat less protein as we age which causes decreased brain function and muscle deterioration.  Bottom line…  Keep eating protein to stay healthy!

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