Check out these 18 different sources of protein, learn how much your child should be eating every day, and try out a few protein-packed recipes for picky eaters.
As always, all content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only, and does not constitute medical advice. Read my full disclosure here.
Are you worried about your child getting enough protein? Picky eating can cause a lot of stress for new parents, myself included. Here’s the thing when it comes to protein – your child doesn’t actually need as much as you might think.
There are a few common misconceptions to dispel before we go over the various examples of protein sources for kids.
- Many people assume we need more protein than we actually do.
- It’s okay to eat a little more or a little less protein on any given day, as long as you generally stay around the recommended amount.
- Meat is not the only way to consume protein, it’s just a common one.
It’s actually quite common for toddlers and babies to refuse meat. From what I’ve read, it tends to be a texture thing. And, while my kids both have eaten meat even at a young age, we try to limit the amount we consume. The average American diet includes far too much meat in my opinion.
Far too often I see stressed out moms asking for advice on how to get their child to eat more meat because they’re worried about protein. Thankfully, there are a ton of different sources of protein for your kids!
Learn to Trust your Child’s Appetite
It’s important as parents to learn to trust our children when it comes to their appetite – just a little. No, we can’t let them pick their meals if all they want are cookies and mac and cheese.
But, we do our part, by putting nutrient-rich foods in front of them, and they’ll do their part of eating what their bodies need. It’s generally considered normal for children to seem a bit picky for a while, and then eat a big meal randomly.
Try to relax and understand that what’s out of your control is out of your control. Look through the list of protein-rich foods below, and rotate between them every day and your child will more than likely get everything they need.
I go over this topic more in my article: Why we shouldn’t tell our kids to finish their plate.
How Much Protein Does your Child Need?
Surprisingly less than you might think! Here is the recommendation:
- Children ages 1 to 3: 13 grams
- Children ages 4 to 8: 19 grams
- Children ages 9 to 13: 34 grams
- Girls ages 14 to 18: 46 grams
- Boys ages 14 to 18: 52 grams
Protein is found in a ton of foods, so it’s actually not that difficult to reach the daily recommended amount. Only 10%-20% of the calories we consume in a day need to come from protein. In fact, it can be dangerous to give your child too much protein in a short amount of time, according to ClevelandClinic.org.
The average toddler needs 2-3 servings of protein a day, which might look something like this:
- 1 egg and 1/2 cup of milk
- 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt and 1 tablespoon nut butter
- 1-2 ounces chicken and 1/4 cup peas or beans
- 1/2-1 string cheese and 1/2-1 cup milk
- 1/4-1/2 cup cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons-1/4 cup beans
- 1/4 cup beans and 1/4 cup quinoa
- 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 slice whole grain bread, 1/2 cup milk
These recommendations come to you from YummyToddlerFood.com.
Sources of Protein for Kids
4. Peanut Butter & Almond Butter
5. Nuts & Seeds
6. Lean Meats, Fish, & Poultry
7. Grains (like bread and pasta)
10. Soy Milk
11. Yogurt or Drinkable Yogurt
13. Cottage Cheese
16. Hemp Seeds
How Do Picky Eaters Get Protein?
If you’re struggling to get your child to eat any of the above protein sources, here are a few protein-packed snacks and meal ideas. Of course, you should seek the advice of a pediatrician or nutritionist as well if you’re worried.
Protein-Packed Food Ideas for Kids
- Protein Ice Cream (Vegan & Gluten-Free)
- Healthy Protein Waffles
- Cinnamon Roasted Chickpeas
- No Bake Energy Balls
- Cottage Cheese Pancakes
What’s your child’s favorite protein-packed food or meal? Let us know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.
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