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Protein Needs for Kids

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Although different kids have different protein needs, it is possible to estimate how much protein kids need, so here is a guide for concerned parents.



Protein is necessary to build muscle, repair tissue, and even provide energy. It’s critical to growth and many parents want to make sure their kids are getting enough.

By body weight, kids need 0.45-0.55 grams of protein per pound, per day. So, for example, a 30-pound child would need about 13.5-16.5 grams of protein. Another way to measure this is through serving sizes. Approximately two to four ounces of meats or beans per day and two cups of dairy per day will also meet these protein needs.

With the new USDA Choose My Plate icon, visualizing the right amount of protein for your kids is even easier. The food groups portion plate symbolizes the fact that 1/4 of your meal should come from protein.

Some tasty ways for kids to get enough protein are through:

  • Eggs: There are tons of things you can do with eggs – scrambled, fried, hard boiled, over easy, sunny-side up, omelets, and quiche. If kids don’t like eggs one way, try another. Chances are with enough experimenting they will come to decide how they like them.
  • Cottage Cheese: Cottage cheese has almost 15 grams of protein in just a half a cup! Combine cottage cheese with flavored yogurt or berries, or mixed with other cheeses over pasta.
  • Chicken: As far as meats go, chicken is the most widely accepted by kids. It’s easy to eat (unlike tough beef), the flavor is milky, and it can be dressed up a million ways. Chicken tacos, chicken with pasta, chicken casserole, or even chicken pot pie are some familiar kid pleasers.
  • Nuts: Nuts are a great source of protein and can be a filling snack. Mix nuts with dried fruit, add them to granola bars, or sprinkle them on frozen chocolate-covered bananas.
  • Seeds: Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or even flax seeds can be added to smoothies, salads, yogurts, or baked goods.

So sit down with your kids and talk about the reasons they should be eating protein-rich foods, and decide together what they can do to get some.

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