One of the biggest concerns that parents of toddlers have is whether the kids are getting enough protein. I’m here to share all of the info, from reputable sources, to hopefully reassure you about this topic.
Kids and Protein
Based on how many of us adults are preoccupied by our own protein intake, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. Here’s the good news: Your toddler probably gets plenty of protein without you even having to worry about it at all.
Is My Child Getting Enough Protein?
It’s of course important for toddlers to eat enough protein to ensure that they have the fuel that they need to grow properly, but the average toddler only needs 2 servings of protein per day. That’s about the equivalent of:
- 1 egg and 1/2-1 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 milIk
See? I am almost positive that the majority of our little ones are eating plenty by the time that they get to lunch. Which is to say that you really can cross this concern off of your list!
Downloadable Protein Chart for Kids
To help you vary the protein sources that you offer, and to remind you of all of the options when you forget, you can download this printable protein chart for free. Keep it on your phone or print it out and hang it on the fridge!
High Protein Foods for Picky Eaters
Now, all of that said, I do recommend including a protein-rich food in most meals and snacks to help your child have balanced energy—since a protein with a fruit or veggie will combine to create longer lasting energy that they won’t burn through so quickly. And I realize it can be hard for some toddlers to get any protein if the foods they love are not great sources.
But it can really be as simple as a bit of cheese, milk, meat, nut butter, beans, and the like and you absolutely don’t need to push more protein if you keep these base requirements in mind. If your family doesn’t eat dairy or your child is lactose intolerant, then you may need to seek out some good protein-rich alternatives.
Protein Sources for Toddlers Who Don’t Eat Meat
Meat and poultry are of course great sources of protein, but if your family is vegetarian or vegan, or your toddler simply doesn’t like meat, here are a few of our favorite non-meat sources of protein.
- Flax milk
- Hemp or chia seeds, sprinkled over yogurt, oatmeal, or in overnight oats
- Nut butter, spread thinly onto bread or crackers or stirred into oatmeal
- Tofu (like this baked version)
- Beans, either whole, in hummus, or in soups
- Some pastas (like quinoa pasta, or the black bean pasta from Trader Joes, or this lentil pasta)
It’s also worth noting that us parents probably don’t need to overdo it on protein either, except of course if you’re pregnant or nursing—then you may need a bit more protein to keep your energy levels stable. (For what it’s worth. while I know that many experts recommend that we eat 70-100 grams each day of protein during pregnancy or while nursing, I haven’t been able to find a primary source for the research on where those numbers actually came from—so they may or may not actually hold much scientific weight? Comment if you know the source for those figures!)
I hope this gives you one less thing to worry about when it comes to feeding your little one!