The Best Meat and Non-meat Sources of Protein for Your Child

Posted August 1, 2022 by in Health + Fitness

A well-balanced diet is vital for your child’s overall growth and development. As such, parents must ensure that they are providing their children with all the nutrients, the most important one being protein.

Protein plays a crucial role in your child’s development, providing them with a lot of energy and strengthening their immune system. And a lack of sufficient protein can lead to your children being vulnerable to various illnesses. So let’s look at the best protein-rich food for your kids, but before that, let’s find out why kids need protein and the recommended daily protein intake.

Young boy eating at the table

Why Do Kids Need Proteins?

Proteins are a vital part of a kid’s diet as they play various bodily functions. For instance, they are responsible for the development and good health of the muscles in the body. And amino acids, the building blocks of protein, are found in almost every cell in the body, meaning they help transport molecules throughout the body. 

Thus, proteins are the nutrients that help repair muscles, build bone structure, and also form an integral part of the skin, blood, and other body organs.

Is it Okay to Feed Protein Powder to Kids?

Protein powder helps boost your protein intake and can be used in the form of smoothies or baked goodies. You must note that most protein supplements contain a wide range of ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners, which are not at all kid friendly.

However, if your child is a picky eater, then protein powder might be the best way to ensure they get enough proteins in their body. In that case, consult with your pediatrician for the best protein shake for kids.

How Many Grams of Proteins Does Your Child Need?

The amount of protein a child needs depends on their age and weight. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and Health and Human Services (HHS) have established dietary guidelines for parents to follow when feeding their children proteins.

Kids below 14 years, irrespective of whether they are male or female, should be fed the same amount of proteins. But as they grow older, the recommended protein intake for girls and boys differs because boys tend to weigh more and have more muscle mass than girls. As a consequence, boys need more proteins.

  • Kids between 2 to 3 years should be fed up to 13 grams (2 ounces) of proteins.
  • Kids between 4 to 8 years should be fed up to 19 grams (4 ounces) of proteins.
  • Kids between 9 to 13 years should be fed up to 34 grams (5 ounces) of proteins.
  • Girls aged 14 -18 should be fed 46 grams (5 ounces) of proteins.
  • Boys aged 14-18 should be fed up to 52 grams (6.5 ounces) of proteins.

What Are the Benefits of Proteins to Kids?

If you have kids, ensure that proteins are included in their daily meals as they help:

  • Building Muscles

Proteins are essential nutrients in the body as they help in building muscles. They are also vital in maintaining and replacing tissues in your child’s body. They help in the overall growth and development of your child.

  • Promotes Cell Growth

Proteins help in cell generation and regeneration in kids. They also aid in blood replenishment and healing wounds. Proteins regulate the growth of hair and nails in your child.

  • Boosts Metabolism

They form part of the essential enzymes and hormones that aid in metabolism, ensuring your child’s body stays healthy.

  • Enhances the Immune System

They help strengthen your child’s immune system, thus helping them fight diseases and viruses. They also work as antibodies, thus boosting your immune system.

  • Production of Hemoglobin

They assist in the production of hemoglobin, an essential component of blood, which helps transport oxygen to all body parts.

  • Great Energy Source

We see fitness enthusiasts recommending people to eat protein as an energy source. The same applies to kids, especially if they don’t consume enough carbs; their body burns proteins to produce the much-needed energy.

Best Non-Meat Protein Foods for Kids

If your child doesn’t love meat, don’t panic. There are still plenty of non-meat protein sources that can help them meet their daily recommended protein intake. These include:

  1. Nuts

These are a great source of proteins for your child. Plus, they contain healthy fats. The nuts also have a good amount of fiber, vitamins, and minerals essential for their growth and development. There are various types of nuts you can feed your child. They include:

  • Peanuts.
  • Almonds.
  • Cashews.
  • Walnuts.
  • Pistachios.

A creative way of feeding your child nuts is by buying different jars of nut butter and spreading them on a piece of bread or apples.

  1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are also a great source of proteins. They may contain much less protein than meat, but it is enough to meet the protein intake of children between the ages of 1 and 2. They are also an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. 

A cup of sliced mushroom is enough as it contains approximately 2.2 grams of protein. Moreover, mushrooms contain double the amount of protein in vegetables. 

Some of the creative ways you can feed your child mushroom are by using it as a pizza topping, making a creamy mushroom soup, mushroom popcorn with a yogurt dip, mushroom sandwich, or portabella mushroom caps.

  1. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are high in protein and low in fats, making them an ideal protein source for kids. Besides, they are inexpensive compared to meat sources and also readily available. 

You can use chickpeas to make humus for salads. The best part is the humus is made using olive oil and sesame seeds, which are also quite healthy.

  1. Broccoli

Broccoli contains high levels of proteins, as a cup of chopped broccoli has about 2.57 grams of proteins. Besides, it’s also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Since kids don’t love vegetables, you must be creative with your meals. You can make broccoli soup, broccoli cheese nuggets, or broccoli biscuits.

  1. Quinoa

Instead of feeding your child rice, supplement it with quinoa. It contains higher levels of proteins than other grains and is an excellent fiber source. 

One cup of quinoa contains about 8 grams of proteins. It’s a wonderful meal for the whole family; you can add some vegetables and soup to make it thick.

  1. Yogurt

Kids love yogurt! Therefore, it is one of the best sources of protein for your kids. One cup of plain yogurt contains about 8.5 grams of protein. So you can take a quarter cup of yogurt and add some fruits such as strawberries and grapes to make it more filling.

Other non-meat sources of protein include dairy, edamame, lentils, tofu, whole wheat bread, eggs, seeds, and cheese.

Best Meat Protein-Rich Foods for Kids

You can use fish or meat to meet their daily protein intake if your child loves meat. The best sources include:

  1. Beef

Beef is an excellent source of protein for your child. And since your child cannot chew a whole piece of meat, it would be best to start with minced beef. Be creative and make a vegetable puree using cauliflower, broccoli, or sweet potatoes.

Beef, especially grass-fed beef, is highly nutritious and contains a lot of minerals essential for your child’s growth and development. It is believed that beef aids brain health and development and doesn’t cause excess weight gain.

And since it contains zinc and iron, which significantly contribute to healthy bacteria growth, it can significantly boost your child’s immune system.

  1. Poultry

Poultry is an excellent source of lean protein for your child and has lower levels of saturated fats. And if you want to limit the red meat you feed your child, poultry is the best alternative.

Poultry contains high levels of potassium and calcium, which are essential for the normal functioning of the heart, kidney, bone structure, muscles, and heart.

When cooking chicken for your child, remove the skin. And instead of frying, you can bake or sauté the chicken and season with herbs and spices instead of salt and butter. 

Some of the best meals you can make using chicken include:

  • Chicken nuggets.
  • Bisquick chicken tenders.
  • Chicken Alfredo.
  • Fried chicken.
  • Use it in a pizza topping.
  • Shredded chicken and potato soup.
  • Chicken mac and cheese casserole.
  • Chicken nachos.
  1. Fish

Fish is probably the best source of protein for your kids. This is because it contains omega-3 fatty acids essential for your child’s brain development.

Fish is essential during your child’s growth phase, that is, from childhood to adolescence. Pediatricians recommend including fish in your child’s diet from the time they are six months old. And that’s why you find most parents feeding their children fish oil.

When choosing fish for your child, avoid the ones with high mercury content. The best fish for your kid include salmon, tuna, sea bass, cod, and trout.

Include fish in your child’s meals creatively by making fish fingers, fish cakes, tuna stuffed capsicums, fish tacos, and fish & rice.

Mom sitting at dining table feeding baby food and looking at a laptop

Feeding your child a well-balanced diet is vital for their growth and development. One of the nutrients that you need to give them in proper amounts is protein. 

You need to ensure that you give your kids protein-rich foods as it provides them with energy, boosts their immune system, and helps with bone structure and cell & tissue repair. Hope this guide has made you more knowledgeable in terms of being able to do those things. Best of luck!