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Protein for Kids

Protein is an important nutrient that provides essential amino acids that helps children grow and develop properly. Protein is a part of every cell in the body and helps to build and repair muscle, tissue, skin, nails and hair. Protein also helps to build hormones, enzymes and a healthy immune system.1

How much protein does my child need?2

The amount of protein a child needs depends on their weight; however, the chart below can be used to find generally recommended amounts.

Age/Gender
Protein Needs (grams/day)

Infants (0-6 months)

9.1

Infants (7-12 months)

11

Children (1-3 years)

13

Children (4-8 years)

19

Children (9-13 years)

34

Females (14-18 years)

46

Males (14-18 years)

52

Almost 100% of Canadian children aged 1-8 years had protein intake within recommended ranges.3 Healthy kids can meet their protein needs by eating a variety of healthy foods.

 

Can my Child Eat too Much Protein?

Eating too much protein can be harmful. A diet with excess amounts of protein can cause:4

  • Dehydration
  • Loss of calcium from the body
  • Kidney damage
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Build-up of toxins in the blood

What Foods contain Protein?

  • Best sources: Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu
  • Good sources: Legumes, nuts, nut butters, seeds, seed butters, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, soy beverages, yogurt
  • Contain some protein: Whole grain breads, rice, pasta, quinoa, barley
 

Telehealth Ontario

Do you have questions about food and healthy eating? Call Telehealth Ontario and speak to a Registered Dietitian. It's free!

  • 1-866-797-0000
  • Monday to Friday 9am-5pm
  • Translation services are available
 

How to Include Protein in your Child’s Diet

  • Offer milk to drink at most meals and snacks.
  • Include lean cuts or fat trimmed meat and lean or extra lean ground meats.
  • Serve fish at least two times per week.
  • Offer whole-grain ceral or oatmeal with nut or seed butters. If age appropriate, add slivered almonds, pumpkin seeds or other nuts/seeds.
  • Make a hearty lentil vegetable soup for lunch.
  • Offer hummus and raw vegetables for snack.
  • Cook a bean chili that’s loaded with vegetables.
  • Try adding tofu to a stir-fry with a variety of vegetables.
  • Offer yogurt, cottage cheese or nut butter on whole-grain toast for a snack.

 If you are concerned about the amount of protein your child eats, talk to a Registered Dietitian or your doctor.

 
Date of creation: November 12, 2018
Last modified on: February 21, 2019
 

References

1Dietitians of Canada – Unlock Food. (2017, May 1). Introduction to Protein and High Protein Foods. Retrieved from
http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Protein/Introduction-To-Protein-And-High-Protein-Foods.aspx
2Health Canada. (2006, August 03). Dietary Reference Intake Tables. Retrieved from
https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/dietary-reference-intakes/tables.html
4Sheehan, K. (2017, October 3). What if my Child is Getting Too Much Protein? Retrieved from
https://www.livestrong.com/article/489778-what-if-my-child-is-getting-too-much-protein/