How Much Protein Kids Actually Need


Cute toddler boy eating cereal with hand over his eye

If you have a little one that you feel doesn’t eat much food, you may have wondered if they are getting enough protein in their diet. We have good news for you… it’s really hard to become protein deficient (especially if you live in the U.S.).


We recently recorded a podcast covering all the same information in this blog post. If you’d rather listen, find The Doctor and The Dietitian Podcast on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or Google Podcasts or right on our website.


Parents are often surprised to learn how much protein their child actually needs- it is a lot LESS than they assume. Here’s the breakdown:


PROTEIN NEEDS FOR CHILDREN


In order to learn how to exactly figure out the math on how much protein your child should be having, check out our last post about protein needs for kids. To keep things more simple, we will say that as a rough estimate, if you take half your child’s weight (in pounds) this will give you the estimated protein needs. It may technically be a little less, or perhaps a little more, but this quick shortcut will get you in the desired range.


 

To know your child's protein needs: Divide your child’s weight (in pounds) by 2

 

When we compare a toddler’s protein needs to an adults- there is a big difference. Which is why it is NOT recommended that you give your child protein shakes, protein mixes, or protein bars that are meant for adults. They usually contain MORE than a toddler needs in a day of protein.


Average American children typically eat about 2-3 times the recommended amount of protein needed. It’s easy to see how when they need so much less than we may realize and when we learn where protein can be found in foods.


Large cooked steak with salt, pepper, and rosemary on top

If Your Child Won't Eat Meat


There are so many types of food that contain protein. We are most familiar with any type of meat, as animal protein has often been touted as being the best for building muscle and containing protein. While meats can be part of a healthy diet, you and your child do not have to eat meat in order to reach their protein needs.


We list out some food groups below and the types of foods that you can find protein in. For more ideas on where to find protein rich foods (that aren’t meat) check out this blog post.



Five glass bottles filled with milk

Dairy

  • Milk

  • Cheeses

  • Yogurt

  • Eggs


Variety of grains in burlap bags

Grains

  • Breads

  • Bagels

  • Waffles

  • Cereals

  • Oats

  • Quinoa

  • Rice

  • Pasta


Pile of cashew nuts

Nuts and Seeds

  • Peanut Butter

  • Alternative nut butter

  • Cashews

  • Pecans

  • Walnuts

  • Chia Seeds

  • Hemp Seeds

  • Flax Seeds


Roasted garbonzo beans in a glass bowl

Beans and Legumes

  • Red kidney

  • Pinto beans

  • Black beans

  • Chickpeas (garbonzo beans)

  • Refried beans

  • White beans

  • Lentils


Toast with variety of fruit toppings

Fruits: Most all fruits contain some protein, just usually much less than other types of food. But for little children, 1 or 2 grams of protein can make a big difference!

  • Avocado

  • Guava

  • Apricots

  • Kiwi

  • Oranges

  • Blackberries

  • Bananas


Woman picking vegetables from the grocery store