Why kids and teens need carbs and (some) animal protein in their diet!

Being someone who had for a long time limited my carb (or sugar) intakes, and was on a vegan diet for a while, this post is strongly contradicting to my previous sets of beliefs. But I’ve had an epiphany about the carbs and proteins in my diet (much like my previous health epiphany here http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/about/ , or for a whole loads of other things for that matter! Whether it’s vegan, high-protein, low-phytic; new scientific research are always emerging!). Who knows, I could be completely wrong about this, but from the information I’ve gathered, this theory seems most accurate and sensible right now.

(All the carbs and proteins in a typical diet)

I know lots of parents these days are more aware of the foods their kids consume; veering them towards whole-grains, plant-based, etc. And then there are vegan families out there who stuff their kids’ lunch boxes with veggies, beans, nuts, or a large number of teens (especially girls) who control their carbs intakes.

But really, two of the main essential nutrients for growing people is undoubtedly carbohydrates and proteins.

Firstly, I will rant about the properties of carbohydrates:

Let’s start with the obvious.

Carbohydrates are an important fuel for both the brain and the body. It supplies energy required to think and be active.

Why kids need a moderate-high amount of carbohydrates in their diets

Carbohydrates, especially simple carbohydrates are most easily absorbed into the blood stream by our body. So is the most readily form of nutrients for kids and teens who are both active and do a lot of thinking in class (I hope), as a result they will be needing a substantial amount of energy all the time.

What happens when kids/teens don’t eat enough carbohydrates?

Without that ready source of energy, the body may begin to break down other cell tissues such as muscles or fats, and this leads to a very thin, frail physique (ideal for dieting teenage girls!) but also stunted growth. Young adults can continue to grow , generate new cells in their bodies into their early twenties, and so a balanced nutritional plan is important for both kids, teens and adults in their twenties (as a proper blueprint for their later life). Some consequences of a low/no-carb diet in young people include loss of bone mass leading to osteoporosis and improperly developed brain and body.

That’s why young people aren’t necessarily suited for the low-carb, gluten-free diet advertised by Miley Cyrus, or kids fed on a fully whole-grain diet like Gwyneth Paltrow who would rather die than have her kids eat cup noodles.

Carbohydrates is the best brain food so not eating enough can also interfere with kids/teens’ classroom performance. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice or whole wheat bread are ideal, while extremely  high-fibre carbohydrates like whole grains may have negative effects on kids’ nutrients absorption.

What type of carbohydrates is suitable for kids and teens?

This doesn’t mean teens and kids should be having their sugar fix from lollies to think better. The best carbs for growing teens and kids are those whose energy can be easily absorbed, and also providing other nutrients like vitamins, minerals, etc.

Here in my opinion, are the best carbohydrates for growing people:

1. Medium GI carbs such as long-grain rice, brown rice, rye bread, muesli – ready source of energy while doesn’t raise the blood sugar too quickly, contains adequate amount of fibre.

2. Some low GI carbs such as whole grains like quinoa (okay, not a grain but similar!), amaranth, barley, rolled oats, all beans, lentils – These carbohydrates are incredibly nutritious and delicious, but because they’re so high in fibre, can quickly fill you up, they can may end up not supplying young people with enough energy they need. Imagine little kids trying to digest all the fibre-rich beans in their lunch box. On the other hand, low GI carbs are great for older people controlling their weight.

*Low GI foods are often very hard to digest (Cows need a second stomach for digesting grass for pete’s sake) and sometimes doesn’t give growing people the quick energy they need. On the other hand, older people are generally not as active, so food that lasts longer in the stomach is most ideal to prevent overeating*

3. A generous amount of fruits! These are a natural, vitamins-rich source of high energy and should be eaten in place of sugar or refined flour products. The fructose absorption is slowed down through the amount of fiber they contain, so 2-3 cups should be ideal for active kids.

And lastly, a variety of veggies from carrots, lettuce, peas to spinach. Contrary to popular beliefs, veggies shouldn’t completely dominate young kids’ plates since they can fill them up with fiber and water (especially raw) while offering little calories or energy. That’s why vegan kids need to watch their meal plans out!

(Perfect for kids, but the bottom level should go on top of the protein shelf for adults)

The good old food pyramid seems to be right after all (In some areas of course).

Speaking of a vegan, plant-based diet, onto my next point about proteins, more specifically, animal proteins:

Proteins are obviously essential for your body; it’s the building block of your entire being, and essential for growth and repair (something young people are doing at a rapid rate) And because proteins from animals such as in eggs, fish, meat, are not only much higher in quantity per serve, they contain readily available essential nutrients such as vitamin B’s, iron, zinc. Unlike plants, they’ve got all the nutrients packed into a small-calorie dense package, which is perfect for young people who needs those essential amino acids at a more pressing rate. Therefore, it’s a good idea for young people to not completely banish animal protein from their diets.

Animal sources of protein contains much more protein per net weight than plant sources

One of the most protein rich plant source is lentils. A cup serving of lentils contains 230 calories and 18 grams of protein (not bad for a plant!)

Meanwhile, a half cup serving (all you really need) of roasted chicken breast contains 138 calories and 21 grams of protein.

As you can see, lentils contain roughly twice as much calories than found in chicken breast, while offering a little less protein but not only that…

Animal sources of protein contains readily available essential nutrients important for growth

Animal protein whether from eggs or red meat contain the bio-available versions vitamins such as vitamin B, and most importantly, do not contain nutrients absorption inhibiting compounds such as phytic acids (abundant in nuts, seeds, grains), tannin, etc. which can interfere with the body’s absorption of iron, vitamin B, calcium, etc. More on my post on phytic acid here: http://obsessivenutritioncompulsive.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/too-much-nuts-legumes-or-soy-products-causing-nutrient-deficiency-in-vegetarianvegans/

Being environmentally and cruelty conscious, what’s my take on animal protein in diets?

1. Moderate addition of animal protein into kids/teens’ diets should be enough to suffice for the amount of protein needed each day, and making sure that you are getting vitamins such as B, minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium that’s harder to obtain from plants. That way, you won’t ever be overly buying animal products.

The source of animal protein: should idealistically from a cruelty-free source such as organic eggs, free-range farmed animals, game meat e.g. deer, rabbit.

Amount: Just enough to reach the daily recommendations per age group should be the best option for both the animals and your environment.

E.g. 45-50 grams for most teens (higher or lower according to weight and level of physical activity). So they would only need at least two 1/2 cups, modest serving of meat each day along with protein from healthy plant sources i.e. grains, nuts, etc.

The proteins currently take are from:

– Organic or free-range eggs (twice a day) = around 12 g protein

– Small amounts of organic chicken meat = around 10+ g protein

– Plant sources i.e. whole grains, wheat flour, nuts, tofu, beans = around 18 g protein

(I need to watch the amount of plant proteins I eat, as they contain phytic/nutrients-inhibiting compounds)

Also, nutritional yeast flakes/spreads for vitamin B’s. And some vitamin, essential oil supplements.

2. Realistically, older adults don’t really need animal protein in their diets, they aren’t growing at a fast rate like kids are. Taking vitamin B or other mineral supplements, or plant alternatives such as yeast extract should be enough for the amount of nutrients vegan/vegetarian adults need. The only growing older people will be doing now is through their waistlines so a plant-based diet is the way to go!

Please feel free to make comments about my take and opinions on this matter.


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