Is Your Toddler Eating Enough Protein?
This is a sponsored post. Although the thoughts and sentiments contained in the post are my own, I received complementary product and financial compensation from the sponsor of the post, Healthy Height.
Protein is important for kids’ growth and development. But parents often wonder if their toddler is eating enough protein…and is that protein coming from the right places?
How Much Protein Do Toddlers Need?
Although protein is of supreme importance to the body, the relative amount of protein a young child needs is relatively small.
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) (a set of standards published by the US and Canadian governments) recommend the following intake levels for protein for children:
7-12 months: 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day or about 11 grams/day
1-3 years: 1.05 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day or about 13 grams/day
4-8 years: 0.95 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day or about 19 grams/day
9-13 years: 0.95 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day or about 34 grams/day
Calculating My Toddler’s Protein Needs
Using the information above, you can calculate your child’s individual protein needs. I’ll use one of my 2-year-olds who weighs 24 pounds as an example.
To calculate protein needs, first figure out your child’s weight in kilograms. One kilogram equals 2.2 pounds; so my 24 pound 2-year-old weighs 10.9 kg (let’s round to 11 kg).
From the above guidelines, if a 1-3 year old needs 1.05 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight and my toddlers weighs 11 kilograms, then my 2 year old should eat approximately 11 * 1.05 = 11.55 g protein (let’s round to 12 grams of protein).
So, my 2-year old should be eating about 12 grams of protein per day. That’s pretty easy to achieve if I offer a variety of plant and animal foods…even if my toddler doesn’t eat all of the food I serve.
Food Sources of Toddler Protein
Protein is found in both plant and animal foods, and a well-balanced diet that includes both will usually provide for sufficient protein intake.
Here are some examples of typical toddler portion sizes and how much protein they contain:
1/2 cup of whole milk = 4 grams protein
1 medium egg = 5 grams protein
1 ounce cheese (about the size of a domino) = 7 grams protein
1 ounce cooked ground beef (about 1/3 size of adult palm of hand) = 7 grams protein
1/2 cup cooked macaroni = 3.5 grams protein
By offering a variety of plant and animal foods - even in small portions - most toddlers should have no trouble achieving the recommended amount of protein in their diet.
Do Toddlers Eat Enough Protein?
Research suggests that in the United States among healthy populations, there is no widespread problem with protein intake. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found, “The majority of the US population exceeds minimum recommendations for protein intake.”
Most children eat enough protein, but there are instances where children may have higher protein intakes. For example, children who were born premature or who have had other health situations that resulted in sub-optimal growth may have higher protein needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics maintains that catch-up growth “requires a higher protein:energy [calorie] ratio”. So there are certain situations where parents should be concerned about protein needs and intake, and in that case it is always wise to consult your primary care provider or a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) who specializes in child nutrition.
What About Protein Supplements for Kids?
Most children can meet their protein needs from foods alone. And as a parent and dietitian, I always advise parents to pursue a “food first” approach when considering their kids’ protein intake.
But for kids who may need an extra boost of protein, I recommend seeking out a product that is formulated for children.
Adult protein powders contain levels of protein that in typical portions far exceed what a child can - or should- be ingesting. Furthermore, adult protein products contain high levels of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, both of which are inappropriate for kids.
One of the brands that I have recently begun working with and recommend for children is called Healthy Height. Healthy Height is a high quality protein powder for shakes that is packed with the growth boosting nutrients young children need.
I like that Healthy Height was developed and tested by pediatricians and that it contains nutrition clinically shown to help kids grow. Because it was specifically designed for children, I also feel confident recommending Healthy Height and I love that it has only 3 grams of added sugar.
Healthy Height Protein on the Go
To me, the 3 biggest advantages of a protein product like Healthy Height are:
Only contains 3 grams of added sugar (that’s less than 1 teaspoon!)
Developed and tested by pediatricians with research supporting its use for growth
Can be added to 1/2 cup real milk for a wholesome between-meal or bedtime snack.
Healthy Height is now available in convenient on-the-go pouches, which makes it easy for busy families concerned about protein to have a boost of good nutrition for growth on hand.