Hi, I’m Dorothy, Belinda’s sister and mother of two teenagers aged 14 and 12.
Just recently my 12 year old daughter was coming home from her after school activities complaining that her arms and muscles were really sore. It got so bad that she was crying all the time. Who wants to see their child upset and in pain, right?
This was a pretty big problem or so I thought. My dilemma was ‘is she doing too much’ or ‘is something else to fault here’.
Today I’m going to share with you what worked for me and it’s a very simple solution called ‘Protein for breakfast’.
Was she doing too much?
We all know that part of a healthy diet is also exercise. My daughter currently does two 2 hour acrobatic gymnastic sessions and a 3 hour dance lesson each week. At one point she was also doing an hour Taekidokai lesson too. Now this was just her paid activities, she would also go out on the trampoline or go practise her backflips etc in the yard too.
So, over the last two weeks I noticed a pattern that she was coming home upset which usually ended up with tears. It got to a point where she was in so much pain that she left her dance class an hour early. Her arms were achingly sore and her body was really tired. She was extremely upset that things she had been able to do before, she was having trouble completing now.
Initially, I thought it may be growing pains. She’s small for her age, almost a teenager so logically I thought she may be going through a growth spurt.
Was there something else to blame?
So the next question I asked myself was ‘could something else to be blame for her sore, aching muscles’?
I decided to take a look at her diet. Basically, it consisted of two pieces of toast and a glass of milk for breakfast, her healthy lunchbox and dinner.
I asked her if she was willing to participate in a little experiment with breakfast because this is where I saw a weakness. After a week I told her she could tell me if she was feeling any different.
I’m sure most of us remember our parents telling us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but can we remember why?
Breakfast is important because our bodies need to refuel after 8-12 hours sleep. Eating breakfast helps improve our children’s concentration, attention span, memory and gives them the energy for physical activities. Children who eat a nutritious breakfast tend to perform better at school and have less chance of becoming overweight.
Importance of Protein for Breakfast
Protein is needed by our body to help build and repair tissue growth. It is also essential in building our muscles, bones, cartilage, hair, nails and skin. Protein is also used by our body to make enzymes, hormones and other chemicals.
The teenage years are when children are going through their biggest growth stage. By the time they finish their teenage years they will have reached most of their full adult height and weight. They are also going through many hormonal and emotional changes as they go through puberty.
As our children are constantly growing during these teen years, you can see just why it is important for them to have the correct amount of protein in their diet. Teenage boys, aged 14-18, should be getting up to 65 grams of protein per day. Teenage girls, aged 14-18, should be getting up to 45 grams of protein per day. These are the Australian recommended daily intakes and some teens may require more if they partake in alot of sports.
Eating a breakfast high in protein also helps improve your child’s behaviour and their alertness. The neurotransmitters in their brain tell them how to behave and these are influenced by the types of food they eat. There are two types of proteins in breakfast foods. Tyrosine which helps trigger alertness and tryptophan which relaxes the brain. Some good protein rich breakfast foods that include both of these proteins are eggs, yoghurt, milk and whole grains.
Proteins also aid in slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates. This helps supply a steady flow of sugars to the brain and therefore helps children’s behaviours. So the best breakfast for children would be one that contains proteins and complex carbohydrates.
This was the deal that was struck with my daughter. For one week she would have a cheese omelette, a piece of toast and a glass of milk for breakfast. After that time, she would give me an update on how she was feeling and if she was still in any pain. If there was no improvement then we would look at going to the doctor. She agreed.
After only four days on this new routine I already noticed that she hadn’t come home from acro in tears and complaining about her arms being sore.
I asked her how she was feeling and if she had noticed any difference since starting her new breakfast routine. Amazingly, she said she had already noticed an improvement. She had noticed a difference in her concentration in her morning classes at school and wasn’t feeling tired. Wow!
She actually came home happy from acro as she was able to complete her 2 minute handstand, which she needed to be able to do to advance to her next level, all without her arms feeling sore. Why, because her muscles were getting the extra protein they needed to support her during this rigorous exercise.
The final outcome of our little experiment was that after a week, my daughter noticed a massive change in her concentration at school, her muscles were no longer sore and her tiredness had dwindled to almost nothing. She is now back to her happy old self (well as much as they can be at this age). I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that she remembers how much of a difference that such a small change to her diet has made to her well being and happiness. So far so good, in the fact that she is mixing up the style of eggs she now starts the day with so as not to get bored!
To me this just proves that protein is essential for breakfast for growing children. It still amazes me that such a simple dietary change could make such a huge change.
Protein Breakfast Ideas
- whole-grain cereal with milk and fruit
- omelette or scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and a glass of milk
- greek natural yoghurt, whole-grain cereal and fruit
- whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter and a glass of milk
- Porridge made on milk. Try adding some apple pieces, walnuts and a touch of honey