kids protein ideas

Toddler-Friendly Protein Ideas Ask Amanda: Your Questions Answered by Expert RD

Ask Amanda is a weekly column from Feed to Succeed dietitian Amanda Gordon. Have a question? Email Amanda and let her know or submit an “Ask Amanda” question for a future column.

Do you have recommendations for healthy protein sources that toddlers actually eat?

Protein recommendations vary by age, but on average, children need 1 gram of protein per kilogram of weight (to get your childs weight in kilograms, divide their weight by 2.2). We have found that most parents overestimate their childs protein needs. To give you an example, an 80 pound (~36 kilograms) child would about 36 grams of protein per day! Thats it! Bottom line is that most toddlers get plenty of protein in their daily diets, even if they don’t eat much meat. However, for parents that want to include more protein, below are some ideas that are often toddler friendly.

Lean protein sources such as chicken and fish are great, but many toddlers are not always interested in eating them. Lean meats can have textures that are sometimes difficult for young children to handle, so they don’t naturally gravitate towards these foods.

Eggs are a great source of protein.  Many toddlers will eat them scrambled with a little bit of milk and cheese. Remember just one egg is a serving of protein for a toddler. When my kids get tired of eating scrambled eggs, I often mix things up and make egg in toast (cut a hole in the center of a piece of bread and cook an egg in the center of toast in a pan with butter), or sometimes I make homemade French toast with egg, milk, vanilla extract and cinnamon.  Yogurt and cheese are also good options for protein.

Beans are also a good source of protein for toddlers. My go to method of “bean inclusion” in our house is homemade nachos. I used corn tortilla chips (made with no additives or coloring), cheese, black beans and sometimes cooked chicken and bake it (then let my kids add avocado or guacamole and salsa).

I always encourage parents not to resort to “kid friendly” meats, like frozen chicken nuggets (which can be highly processed) in order to get kids to eat protein. If you are worried that your toddler won’t eat meat at mealtime, you can supplement with eggs, cheese, yogurt, beans or other protein sources until they are ready to eat lean meats and seafood.

Bottom line is that most toddlers get plenty of protein in their daily diets, even if they don’t eat much meat. However, for parents that want to include more protein, below are some ideas that are often toddler friendly.