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How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Protein

Protein is an important nutrient that helps keep a child’s growing body working well. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Proteins are part of every cell and are needed to build and repair muscle, tissue, skin, nails and hair. They are also an important part of hormones and enzymes. Proteins are essential for building a healthy immune system too.

How much protein do children need?

Children’s protein needs depend on their weight, but in general, a recommended amount for children one to three years old is 13 grams per day, and for children aged four to eight is 19 grams per day. Healthy children can easily meet their protein needs by eating a variety of healthy foods.

What foods contain protein?

• Best sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu
• Good sources: Legumes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed butters, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, soy beverages, yogurt
• Contain some protein: Whole grain bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, barley

Tips to help you make healthy protein choices

• Offer milk to drink at lunch and at one snack per day.
• Include lean cuts or fat trimmed meat, lean or extra lean ground beef.
• Make a hearty lentil vegetable soup for lunch.
• Offer hummus and raw vegetables for snack.
• Cook bean chilli that’s loaded with vegetables.
• Try adding tofu to a stir-fry with a variety of vegetables.

Protein portions for kids

Eating too much protein can be harmful. It can lead to dehydration, loss of calcium from the body and kidney damage. Children who eat too much protein can experience nausea, diarrhea and the build-up of toxins in the blood. Beware of foods that have protein added (eg. snack or energy bars, breakfast cereals) as they may have more protein in a single serving than children need in a day.

For more information about protein, check out these resources:


Submitted by Ginette Blake
Registered Dietician, Middlesex-London Health Unit for the Middlesex-London Community Early Years Partnership

The Community Early Years Partnership disseminates information about and promotes optimal infant and early childhood development to healthcare providers, community partners, parents and caregivers.


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