Daughter needs protein, but probably gets enough


June 08, 1993|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe | Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe,Contributing Writers

Q: I'm concerned that my 12-year-old daughter is not getting enough protein in her diet. She'll eat fruits, vegetables, chicken and some fish but hardly any red meat. Won't a lack of protein interfere with her growth?

A: You're right to want to assure a healthy diet for your daughter, since at age 12 she is most likely in a period of rapid growth. And in order for her to grow properly, she will need adequate amounts of protein.

However, the average American teen-ager probably consumes more protein than she really needs. The excess (beyond that required for growth) is converted to fat; it doesn't

stimulate growth. Protein should supply about 12 percent to 14 percent of an adolescent's total daily energy intake.

The recommended daily allowance for the average 12-year-old is 1 gram per kilogram (2 pounds) of body weight, which usually means about 46 grams.

For comparison purposes, 4 ounces of chicken contains 25-28 grams of protein, as does a 4-ounce hamburger. A 6-inch wedge of pizza contains 7 grams, 8 ounces of yogurt contains 12 grams. The quality of protein from each of these sources is equally capable of supporting growth. As long as your daughter eats three well-balanced meals per day, she'll get all the nutrients she needs.

Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center; Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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