Getting Your Toddler to Eat Protein

Dec. 5, 2016

Please always discuss any health and feeding concerns directly with your pediatrician.

 

Toddlers from ages 2 years can be famously challenging when it comes to picky eating. It can also be a phase where some days your tot simply prefers to shun protein containing foods in favor of other options (like that bowl of pasta with tomato sauce!) Yet protein is essential for proper growth and development, tissue repair, a strong immune system and more. Toddlers need about 13 grams of protein each day, according to the FDA’s Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). 

Here is a list of easy-to-eat foods that can add a boost of protein for your budding eater at meals and snacks, helping them get the recommended protein they need to thrive. Check with your pediatrician about the best time to introduce possible food allergens, and make sure these options are age and stage appropriate.

 

 

Easy to Eat, Toddler Friendly Foods with Protein1

Meat, Poultry and Fish:

  • 1 oz. fully cooked poultry, bison or hamburger (7 grams)
  • 1 large fully cooked egg (6 grams)
  • 1 oz. cooked fish such as trout, chunk light tuna or barramundi (7 grams)

Dairy Products:
Opt for full fat versions until age 2, then talk with your pediatrician to decide whether a reduced fat option is best for your child. American Academy of Pediatrics advises toddlers over the age of two years to consume low and reduced fat dairy products. 

  • 1 8 fl oz. cup full fat yogurt or cow’s milk (8 grams)
  • 1 8 oz. cup cottage cheese or Greek yogurt (23 grams) 

Soy Foods:

  • 4 oz. Tofu (11 grams)  
  • ½ cup edamame (14 grams)  
  • 8 fl oz. cup fortified soymilk (8 grams) 


Plant Powered Protein Options:

Not all proteins are created equal. Plant proteins (with the exception of soy) don’t contain all of the essential amino acids that animal proteins do which is why they are sometimes referred to as “incomplete proteins”. However, when different plant foods such as grain and legumes are combined throughout the day, or included alongside any of the items above (which are sometimes called “complete proteins”), they contribute to your toddler’s overall daily protein needs. Therefore it is important to look at the absolute quantity of protein in a food as well as the percent of Daily Value (DV) which is mandatory to disclose on package labels for food intended for children under the age of 4 years. 

  • ½ cup cooked beans and lentils (7-9 grams)
  • 1 oz. nuts and seeds (between 3-8 grams)
  • 2 Tbsp all natural nut and seed butters (between 6-8 grams)
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa or amaranth (9 grams)
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal (6 grams) 
  • 1 cup whole wheat pasta (7 grams)
  • Cooked vegetables: can add between 1-3 grams of protein per serving


Pleasing Tiny Tastebuds and Finicky Toddlers: 3 Simple Tips

1. Nourish your little foodie’s sense of adventure by adding a variety of herbs or spices to your meals and snacks. Season ground beef, poultry or tofu, for instance, with a touch of chili powder, coriander and garlic. Or puree beans with lemon juice and cumin for a tasty hummus to dip their favorite veggies.

2. Remember tiny tummies feel less overwhelmed with small snacks or meals: try Earth’s Best® Frozen Mini Meatballs, or serve a mini portion of a fun whole wheat noodle shape with bison Bolognese, or a chopped hard boiled egg on a slice of whole wheat toast cut into triangles. 

3. Snacks can help bump up your tot’s total protein intake, too: Roll up 1 oz sliced all natural turkey spread with a teaspoon of mustard or mayo for a satisfying snack that delivers about 7 grams of protein. 

1 All nutritional values are from USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov

Toddlers from ages 2 years can be famously challenging when it comes to picky eating. It can also be a phase where some days your tot simply prefers to shun protein containing foods in favor of other options (like that bowl of pasta with tomato sauce!) Yet protein is essential for proper growth and development, tissue repair, a strong immune system and more. Toddlers need about 13 grams of protein each day, according to the FDA’s Recommended Daily Intake (RDI). 

Here is a list of easy-to-eat foods that can add a boost of protein for your budding eater at meals and snacks, helping them get the recommended protein they need to thrive. Check with your pediatrician about the best time to introduce possible food allergens, and make sure these options are age and stage appropriate.