In this week’s kids’ nutrition Ask Amanda column, pediatric dietitian Amanda Gordon answers the question: Hi Amanda, what are the best protein alternatives for kids that are not meat and dairy?
This is a great question. Protein is important for all children. It plays an essential role in the body by ensuring that muscles, organs, hair and nails grow and work properly. Protein, along with carbohydrates and fat are the macronutrients that children need to get from their food for growth and development. Carbohydrates are the preferred energy source for kids. Protein and fat are also important because they help children stay and feel full.
Nut butters can be a great source of protein for kids. Peanut butter is often a crowd-pleaser, however almond butter is another good protein source. Nut butters also contain fat and help with satiety. Almond butter can have a thinner consistency than peanut butter and some children prefer this. Almond butter spreads on whole grain waffles well for meals or snacks, it also blends into oatmeal well for a meal or snack.
Edamame is another good protein source for healthy kids. Shelled edamame (either steamed or roasted) can be a great snack or side dish at meal times. Edamame can also be blended into a spread and made into a dip or hummus.
Vegetable and non-animal protein foods are great additions to healthy diet, but many are not complete protein sources, meaning they don’t have all of the needed amino acids. Vegetarian and vegan diets are suitable for growing children, however careful attention should be paid to ensure that children get all the amino acids they need. Our Feed to Succeed dietitians are always available to help families figure this pediatric nutrition and diet out!
Ask the Dietitian, a weekly column from Feed to Succeed dietitian Amanda Gordon (2016-2022)