This is the third installment in the Ask the RD series that appears the last Friday of every month. They include questions asked by YOU the readers and answered by me with research-based responses. If you’d like to ask a question, just leave a comment below or email me at: chocolateslopes (at) gmail (dot) com and your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask the RD post.
If you’re interested in previous Ask the RD posts check out these topics: Ask the Registered Dietitian: Dietary Supplement Use and Ask the Registered Dietitian: What should I eat if I have high cholesterol.
Q. Is My Toddler Eating Enough Protein?
A. Personally, I believe the period between 12 months and approximately 24 months is one of the most challenging time periods for feeding your young child. I say one of the most because my oldest is only 4 ½ years old, so the most difficult could always be yet to come, although I doubt it. Toddlers are not only transitioning from pureed foods to solid foods at this time but their personalities also begin to shine through and they begin letting you know as a parent what they think of each and every food you offer to them.
With that said, there are ways to help your toddler eat the daily recommended amount of protein. Protein is found in:
- Beef, chicken, turkey, pork and fish
- Dry beans and peas
- nuts and seeds
- milk and milk products (cheese, yogurt)
- much smaller amounts are found in grains, and some fruits and vegetables
Basic toddler protein needs:
- Toddlers need between 1,000 and 1,400 calories daily (depending on activity level, growth spurts, and individual needs)
- About 5 to 20 percent of a toddler’s total calorie needs should come from protein.
- Toddlers need about 13 grams of protein daily (which is about 2-4 ounce of protein).
Examples of protein in foods:
- 1 cup of milk = 8 grams of protein
- 4 ounces of Greek yogurt = 9 grams (regular yogurt has about 5 grams of protein)
- 1/2 cup of dry beans = 8 grams of protein
- 3 ounce piece of meat (size of a deck of cards) = 21 grams of protein
As you can see, it’s not too difficult for a toddler to eat the proper amount of protein if they have a few glasses of milk a day, a small portion of beef/chicken/turkey; and Greek yogurt as a snack.
[bctt tweet=”Simple ways to meet your toddler’s protein needs. #protein #childhoodnutrition”]
A few important things to know:
- Milk is a good source of protein however it should be limited to 2-3 cups per day. This is because milk may fill up toddlers too much, preventing them from being hungry for iron-rich foods.
- Toddlers are at a greater risk of iron-deficiency since they are no longer eating iron-fortified baby cereal or drinking iron-fortified formula: protein food sources that contain iron include meat, poultry and fish and enriched grains.
- Although nuts are a good source of protein, they are a choking hazard for young children and should NOT be served to children under the age of 5.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; Institute of Medicine; choosemyplate.gov
Additional Eating Resources for Toddlers and Preschoolers:
This Ask the RD: Is My Toddler Eating Enough Protein? post first appeared on Chocolate Slopes.