By Stephanie Lauri, registered dietitian
Protein is the body’s main building block. It is an essential nutrient bodies need to help form muscle, produce hormones, strengthen skin and bones and transport nutrients. One of the most critical functions of protein is supporting immune systems. Including a protein-containing food at each meal may help aid in blood sugar regulation, growth and muscle building, and give a child a longer lasting sense of fullness.
How do I know if my child is getting enough protein?
Most children do not have a tough time fitting in enough protein to meet their daily requirements. In fact, in most Western countries, children are eating two to three times their actual protein needs, so it’s uncommon for children to need extra protein supplementation. However, there may be certain circumstances where additional protein is needed and there may also be medical situations where you may need to limit your child’s protein intake. If you have questions about your child’s specific needs, consult with your pediatrician or pediatric registered dietitian.
This chart provides general recommendations for protein needs by age (based on the Dietary Reference Intakes guidelines):
|Age||Grams of protein per day|
|Toddlers||1 to 3 years||13g (or 0.5g per pound of body weight)|
|Children||4 to 8 years||19g|
|Children||9 to13 years||34g|
|Teens||14 to 18 years |
*Infant protein needs are generally met through breastmilk or formula
What foods have protein in them and how much?
Here is a list of common animal- and plant-based protein sources, and how much protein is provided in a serving.
- ½ C milk = 4g
- ¼ C beans (black, chickpeas, pinto) or lentils = 4 to 5g protein
- ½ egg = 4g
- 1Tbsp nut butter = 3g
- ¼ C plain Greek yogurt = 5g
- 1-ounce canned wild salmon or tuna = 6g
- Whole grain pasta ½ C cooked = 4g
- 1oz meat= 8g
- ½ C dry oats= 5g
For more on CHOC’s clinical nutrition program