Protein For Kids
Strategies and tips to encourage protein intake for children
Feeding children isn’t always easy. It takes effort to plan and prepare meals that both satisfy everyone’s tastes and provide nourishment. Furthermore, if you have a ‘selective eater’ on your hands, it can be even more challenging to figure out how to feed them in a way that doesn’t end in tears and tantrums.
Protein foods can sometimes be tough for kids to enjoy. Sometimes it’s the texture, other times it’s the flavour. In my practice, I often hear parents say their child won’t eat protein sources such as meat, chicken and fish. This is common, and nothing to stress about too much if they are eating a variety of other different types of foods.
Read on to learn about ways to ensure your child is on the right track as well as protein ideas for kids!
What is Protein and What does it Do?
Proteins are made up of different building blocks, known as amino acids. Our bodies require proteins found in foods to supply amino acids to support the growth and maintenance of our cells and tissue; such as muscles, bone, skin and hair. For children, protein is essential for growth and development, so it’s important to include every day.
Other functions of protein in the body:
- Support digestion
- Help with the transportation of substances throughout the body
- Effect muscle contraction
- Protect from foreign pathogens
- Hormones to help coordinate the activity of different body systems
- Support regulation and expression of DNA and RNA
What Foods Contain Protein?
Examples of Food Sources of Protein:
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
- Tofu, Tempeh
- Milk/Soy Beverage
You can also find protein in things like chickpea, bean or whole grain pastas, quinoa, wheat berries, kamut, green peas and cooked spinach.
How Much Protein Does My Child Need?
Toddlers 1 to 3 years: At this stage, toddlers’ needs are 13 grams per day. This may sound like a lot, but 13 grams could look like a cup of milk and 1 egg.
Children 4 to 8 years: Children this age require 19 grams per day. A ¾ cup serving of Greek yogurt provides roughly this amount.
- Just like our appetite levels can shift, so do our children’s. Some days your child may not want to eat a lot; and other days you’ll wonder if they’re going to clean out the fridge due to being so famished. It’s important to trust your child to know what they want to eat, and how much they are hunger for, versus trying to control their intake.
For more information on how to support your children’s eating and keep mealtimes pleasant, click here.
To learn more about the dietary reference intakes for macronutrients, click here.
Kid-Friendly Ideas to Pump Up the Protein:
If you’re offering your child 3 meals each day, plus snacks, consider including protein foods on most of these occasions. By doing so, your child will have lots of opportunities to get close, meet, or exceed their daily needs. And if all your child eats some days is a jam sandwich and crackers, don’t fret! Trust in your child that they will fuel themselves and grow accordingly.
For more support and information on feeding your child, click here.
Mix It Up:
No meat? No problem! There are a ton of ways to serve protein for your child that don’t include meat. Try these out
- Chocolate lentil muffins
- Cottage cheese pancakes
- Sunflower seed butter oatmeal bars
- Greek yogurt smoothies
- French toast
- Baked mac n’ cheese
- Hummus and pita chips
- Peanut butter toast
Recipes to Try: Protein for Kids & Adults
Looking for more advice and ideas when it comes to family feeding and meal planning?
Book an appointment with one of our team members who specialize in family nutrition!
Let our meal planning dietitian support you with a customized plan that makes sense for your family situation, food preferences, and schedule.
You don’t need to plan complicated meal plans for weeks at a time or spend all day Sunday prepping for the week ahead.
If you are like many of our clients who are not great at planning and need super simple systems for shopping, cooking, and meal ideas, we’ve got you covered.
Learn more about Healthy Eating Tips, Food Recipes and more:
Christine Devaney Towsley B.A.Sc., RD
Registered Dietitian & Online Nutritionist
Specialty: weight concerns, intuitive eating, heart
health, family nutrition, IBS (irritable bowel disease)
A nurturer at heart, Christine will always greet you with a smile and
attentive ear. Kind hearted, empathetic and sensitive to others,
Christine takes the time to connect, build trust and truly understand
each client and tailors her sessions to each person's specific needs.