12 High Protein Foods For Kids

12 High Protein Foods For Kids

Whether it’s pasta, bread, or rice, my kids love their carbs as much as any other kid. Yet kids need protein so I do my best to make sure they’re eating high-protein foods at every meal and snack.

Protein-rich foods satisfy their hunger, balance their blood sugar, and keep them on an even keel.

The good news is that most kids get plenty of protein in their diets, but if your kids are picky eaters or refuse to eat, you may be concerned if they’re getting enough.

Read on to find out the importance of protein in a child’s diet, how much they need and a list of 12 high-protein foods to try.

WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF PROTEIN IN A CHILD’S DIET?

Protein is one of three essential macronutrients (the other two are fat and carbohydrates) found in the muscles, bones, skin, hair and in every cell in the body.

Protein is important for a host of different functions. It helps to:

  • Build and repair cells and body tissue
  • Carry nutrients throughout the body
  • Regulate hormones
  • Strengthen skin and bones
  • Fight infections

From a nutritional perspective, protein:

  • Provides calories and energy for the body
  • Is necessary for a child’s growth and development
  • Satisfies hunger
  • Balances blood sugar
  • Can help to prevent weight gain and childhood obesity
  • Is a rich source of other nutrients like B vitamins and iron. 

There are three categories of protein:

Complete proteins which supply all of the amino acids (the building blocks of protein) the body needs. These are found in meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, seafood, and soy.

Incomplete proteins are imbalanced proteins because they’re missing or do not have enough of one or more of the essential amino acids. Incomplete proteins include vegetables, beans, peas, grains, nuts and seeds.

Complementary proteins are those that have two or more incomplete proteins but when eaten in combination, form a complete protein.  Whole wheat bread and peanut butter is an example of complementary proteins.

PROTEIN FOR KIDS: HOW MUCH DO THEY NEED?

The body doesn’t store protein the same way it stores fat and carbohydrates, so it’s important that kids get enough every day.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend the following amount of protein based on age and gender:

  • Ages 1-3: 13 grams
  • Ages 4-8: 19 grams
  • Ages 9-13: 34 grams
  • Girls ages 14-18: 46 grams
  • Boys ages 14-18: 52 grams

The good news is that experts say most kids get plenty of protein in their diets. “In most Western countries, children already get two to three times the protein they need daily. It’s uncommon for a child to need extra,” sports nutrition specialist Diana Schnee, MS, RD, LD stated in this article.

HIGH PROTEIN FOODS FOR KIDS

While most kids get enough protein in their diets, the key is to serve a mix of quality, high-protein foods instead of fast food and processed foods.

1. SALMON

According to a 2019 report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), most kids aren’t eating enough fish, because parents have concerns about methylmercury pollution.

Yet not only is fish a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids and other key nutrients, exposure to mercury can be minimized or avoid, they say.

That’s why I love feeding my kids salmon. It’s high in protein—3 ounces has 18 grams—and it’s considered a safe type of fish for kids because it has the lowest levels of mercury.

Lately, I’ve been breading and baking salmon for my kids for a healthier—and more delicious—version of store-bought fish sticks. I also buy canned salmon, which is a good source of vitamin D, and pack sandwiches for school lunch.

Related: 5 Healthy Types of Fish for Kids (& How To Make Them Delicious)

2. EGGS

Eggs are one of my favorite foods to eat and feed my kids because they’re a good source of protein: one large egg has nearly 7 grams and 9 essential amino acids.

They’re a good source of vitamins A, B12, and D, selenium, omega-3 fatty acids and choline—a nutrient that supports memory.

Eggs are also rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids or plant pigments found in the eyes that can prevent macular degeneration, cataracts, and improve memory and processing speed, one study found.

Of course, the best thing about eggs is there are so many ways to serve them.

Scramble them for breakfast or a quick dinner, make a frittata, quiche or egg “fried” rice or make a batch of hard-boiled eggs for on-the-go snacks.

3. QUINOA

One of the best, plant-based, high-protein foods for kids is quinoa.

Quinoa is usually grouped with whole grains, but it’s actually a seed.

It’s a good source of protein: 1/2 cup has more than 4 grams—as well as fiber and B vitamins which support the nervous system.

If your kids like orzo or pastina, chances are they’ll take to quinoa too.

Serve it as a side dish, as a substitute for rice, or add some fresh fruit and cinnamon for a yummy breakfast.

4. GRASS-FED BEEF

When it comes to high-protein foods, beef tops the list. One ounce has more than 5 grams of protein.

Beef is also a good source of vitamins B12, D and E, iron, zinc and selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

According to Dr. Mark Hyman, saturated fat isn’t bad, but the jury is still out on how much saturated fat we should be getting in our diets.

That’s why I like his philosophy on not going overboard on beef and instead, serving it as a condi-meat: a small amount of meat on a plate that’s made up of mostly vegetables.

If your budget allows, organic, grass-fed beef is ideal because it has a better nutritional profile and is raised without antibiotics or hormones.

5. SARDINES

Your kids may refuse to eat them at first but if they see you eating sardines, they may grow to like them like mine did.

Sardines are an excellent source of protein: two small pieces have nearly 6 grams.

They’re also a good source of vitamins B12 and D, phosphorus and selenium.

I’ll make sardine sandwiches or sauté them and add them to pasta.

6. PUMPKIN SEEDS

Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, which means “little seeds of squash” in Spanish, are one of the best high protein foods for kids: one ounce has nearly 7 grams.

Pumpkin seeds are also a great source of fiber, magnesium, iron, vitamin E, zinc, and other antioxidants.

They’re also a good source of plant-based omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the heart-healthy, brain healthy fats kids need.

My daughters love eating cinnamon-sugar pumpkin seeds—Super Seedz are their favorite brand—but you can also make your own at home.

Add pumpkin seeds to breads, muffins, no-bake energy balls, and granola, make pumpkin seed butter (the Vitamix works wonders for nut and seed butters), or sprinkle them on top of oatmeal or yogurt for a sweet, satisfying crunch.

Other protein-rich seeds include:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Chia seeds

7. BEANS AND LENTILS

If you’re looking for plant-based protein sources, it doesn’t get better—or easier— than beans and lentils.

Related: 10 Ways To Get More Plant-Based Foods In Your Kid’s Diet

Both beans and lentils are high in protein and fiber and many have other key nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron and folate.

The best part about serving beans and lentils is that they’re so easy to make and can be served alone or added to almost any type of dish.

My kids love lentil chili and beans and rice, or I’ll add beans to soup or even serve them as an appetizer while I’m cooking dinner.

8. GREEK YOGURT

Greek yogurt is a protein all-star: a 1/2 cup has nearly 10 grams.

Plain, Greek yogurt has less sugar than the fruit-flavored and sweetened varieties, so be sure to read labels.

You can also add your child’s favorite fresh fruit or tasty add-ins like vanilla extract, cinnamon, or a hint of honey.

Related: How To Choose a Healthy Kids’ Yogurt

9. TEMPEH

Tempeh is a plant-based food made with fermented soybeans that’s high in protein: one ounce has 5 grams.

Another plus about tempeh is that it’s a good source of calcium, and it’s rich in probiotics, the healthy bacteria in the gut that strengthen your kid’s immune system

While tempeh has a mild, slightly nutty taste, the key to making it delicious is to find a recipe your kids will love. Here are a few to try:

10. BROCCOLI—AND OTHER GREEN LEAFY VEGETABLES

When you think about high protein foods, broccoli probably doesn’t come to mind. Yet it, and several other green leafy vegetables, can be a great source of protein and so many other key nutrients in your kids’ diet. Take a look at 1/2 cup for each:

 

11. SHRIMP

Another great seafood option that’s also high in protein is shrimp: a 3-ounce serving has a whopping 18 grams.

Shrimp is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids.

If your kids don’t immediately take to shrimp however, try cutting it into small pieces and make something that’s familiar to them like a shrimp risotto or garlic lemon shrimp pasta.

12. NUTS

Almonds, cashews, pistachios and other types of nuts are excellent sources of protein, vitamin E, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Many types of nuts are also high in fiber.

Serve a handful of nuts as a snack, make homemade granola or trail mix, add them to oatmeal, overnight oats, breads and muffins, or make a nut butter.

Related: How To Safely Introduce Nuts To Your Baby

6 Habits of Healthy Dads  Healthy dads put their health, themselves and their families first.

6 Habits of Healthy Dads

Healthy dads put their health, themselves and their families first.

Whether you’re a new dad or a seasoned pro, there’s no doubt you want to be the best dad ever.

But being a great father goes way beyond teaching your kid to ride a bike or throw a ball.

Happy, healthy dads make certain habits a priority in their lives so they can be great parents and spouses.

Here, learn 6 habits of healthy dads that can make you a better, stronger father.


1. Healthy dads see their doctors


According to a 2018 survey by the Cleveland Clinic, only 60 percent of men see their doctors for a yearly check-up.

Whether it’s because you don’t think your health is a huge concern or it’s something you don’t talk about—53 percent agree, the survey found—it’s important to re-think your old ways.

Studies show women live nearly 5 years longer than men, and avoiding their doctors is one of the reasons why.

An annual physical with your primary care doctor can prevent and identify early signs of conditions like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and prostate cancer and ensure you’re getting the screenings you need.

Regularly visits can also help your doctor identify symptoms that may actually be signs of serious medical conditions. For example, snoring and high blood pressure are symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and erectile dysfunction can be a sign of type-2 diabetes or blocked arteries.

So make that appointment—and put an end to your wife’s nagging once and for all.


2. They don’t smoke


The amount of smokers have declined over the years, but more than 15 percent of men in the U.S. still smoke.

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death, and accounts for about 1 in 5 deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

Although you know secondhand smoke is unhealthy, thirdhand smoke has garnered a lot of attention in recent years because of its dangers, especially to kids.

Thirdhand smoke is the residue from smoking on the smoker’s clothes, hair, and car, as well as the carpet, furniture and walls of the smoker’s home. 

A January 2019 study in the journal Tobacco Insights found not smoking around kids doesn’t prevent them from being exposed to nicotine.

Not only do kids inhale the dangerous chemicals, but since they’re always putting their hands in their mouths, they’re ingesting it too.

Higher levels of exposure to thirdhand smoke may also be linked to respiratory problems like wheezing and coughing, the same study found.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy but there is support available. Check out resources from the CDC, SmokeFree.gov and the American Lung Association.


3. They do their best to eat healthy

 

 

Although you might think you’re a “big guy” or your beer belly is endearing, carrying extra lbs anywhere in your body could kill you.

More than 73 percent of men are overweight or obese in the U.S., according to the CDC.

Obesity is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an epidemic and silent killer.

Research shows men who aren’t considered overweight are at risk too.

A December 2015 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found men who carry weight around their midsection, even if they’re slim in other areas of their body, have twice the mortality risk of men who are only overweight or obese.

Overhauling your diet isn’t going to happen overnight, especially if you’ve been eating that way for years.

But making changes and creating new, healthy habits can make a huge difference in your health.

Small changes might include bringing a healthy lunch to work instead of ordering in, put an end to snacking in front of the TV, or adding extra veggies to your meals.

Related: 8 Ways To Eat Healthy When Dad Doesn’t

 

4. They make exercise a priority

You might think the goal of your workout is only to get bigger and stronger, but exercise is vital to your physical, mental and emotional health too, something healthy dads already know.

Exercise can:

  • Prevent weight gain
  • Improve blood glucose levels
  • Lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Lower risk of heart disease
  • Improve your brain health
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Reduce the risk of certain types of cancer
  • Improve sleep
  • Boost mood and combat stress
  • Improve sexual function
  • Improve longevity

Of course, whether you have toddlers or big kids, staying in shape can also help you keep up with them.

Joining a gym is an obvious first start, but if it’s not your thing, there are so many ways to get in more physical activity.

Look for organized sports leagues, running or cycling groups, or sign up for a fitness app you can do in the privacy of your home.

 

5. Healthy dads find ways to cope with stress

The World Health Organization recently announced that burnout is a syndrome, linked to chronic work stress, and suffice to say, most men are at risk.

According to a survey by LinkedIn, 50 percent of men say work stress, workload and lack of work/life balance top the list of reasons.

High levels of chronic stress can also lead to anxiety and depression.

A September 2018 study in JAMA Pediatrics found more than 4 percent of fathers of young children screened positive for depression—almost as much as mothers (5 percent).

It’s important to address stress, because left unchecked, it will only get worse.

Make time for downtime, take up a new hobby, seek out a mentor or get a referral for a therapist.

If you also struggle with anxiety, depression, past trauma or addiction, there is help available.

Seek support through the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) or an organization like Celebration Recovery.

 

6. Healthy dads make time for their partners

 

 

Once the baby comes along, it’s easy for all romance, or any time for each other for that matter, to go out the window.

According to a 2011 study conducted by the American Psychological Association, 67 percent of couples say their marital satisfaction took a nosedive after having a baby.

Research shows this dissatisfaction can also increase the chances for children to have poor social skills, develop depression and behavioral problems.

Couples who make time for date nights, or carve out time for each other on a regular basis, have happier, healthier marriages.

The good news is that date nights don’t necessarily have to be dinner and movie.

A February 2019 study in the Journal Of Marriage and Family found painting or playing a board game may increase levels of oxytocin, “the love hormone,” even more.

My One-Year Blog Anniversary!

My One-Year Blog Anniversary!

Today is my blog’s one-year anniversary! And just like raising children goes by in the blink of an eye, it feels like yesterday that I clicked “publish” on my first blog post.

Although it’s true that I started this blog to change the way we feed our kids so they won’t grow up to face the same chronic health conditions and diseases that plague the U.S. today, I left a part of the story out.

In 2016, I attended a conference with other entrepreneurs, some of whom I knew from a mastermind group I was a member of.

I had been on the fence for quite awhile about starting this blog, not because I didn’t think it was important to educate and empower parents with the latest research and the strategies that helped me raise healthy eating kids, but because I wasn’t quite sure how I’d get it all done.

With a full-time job (as a journalist and content writer), two young children and everything else life was throwing at me, I honestly didn’t know how I’d get it all done.

After I expressed my concern to a fellow mastermind member, she said [paraphrased],

“This is important and you’re so passionate about it. You have to do this now!”

I rarely need anyone to motivate me but this person was a daredevil in her own right and someone I really respected. Although she wasn’t a parent, she supported me and she didn’t have any reason to. For her, I’m grateful.

So after the New Year, I got started on the blog. I spent weeks on WordPress, designed the site myself, had professional photos taken, created my editorial calendar and started to write.

Just as I was fairly clueless when I became a mom, I planned the blog as best as I could but I dove straight in without much information or guidance.

Ignorance was bliss.

What It Takes To Write The Blog

For a seasoned writer like myself, writing the blog posts aren’t difficult and are quite fun, but make no mistake: writing and managing a blog takes a lot of time and effort.

Most of the blog post ideas, writing, editing, proofreading, design, overall management of the blog and social media are done at night and on the weekends. It has been a labor of love and there’s been a lot of sacrifice.

On my one-year blog anniversary, my blog is nowhere near where I’d like it to be but I’m grateful that I have been able to use this platform to educate parents and give them the tools they need to nix picky eating and raise kids who are healthy eaters now and into the future—because their lives depend on it.

What Next For My Blog?

The first year writing my blog has been a wild ride. I’ve learned a lot, got my feet wet and I’m so excited to see what the next year will bring.

My goal is to eventually write a book but I’m not sure what shape and form it will take.

Over the next year, what I do know is that you’ll get:

  • More educational, empowering blog posts to help you raise healthy kids who crave healthy food.
  • More video content packed with tips, advice and personal stories.
  • More freebies!

Whether you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning or you just found me, thanks for reading and I hope you’ll stay with me!

What To Do When Your Child Refuses to Eat

What To Do When Your Child Refuses to Eat

When my friend’s son was 4-years-old, he was what you would call an extremely picky eater. He only ate a handful of foods and his favorites included carrots, cheese, and Pirate’s Booty.

My friend tried everything to get him to try new foods. She offered plenty of fruits and vegetables, served healthy dinners and ate healthy herself, but no matter how hard she tried, he refused to eat.

If your kid is like my friend’s son, you know how frustrating it is. And you’re not alone.

Between 13 and 22 percent of kids between ages 2 and 11 are considered picky eaters and 40 percent of their behaviors last for more than 2 years, a study in the journal Eating Behaviors found.

When kids don’t want to eat, say they don’t have an appetite, or are only willing to eat a handful of foods, it can make you worry about your their health, growth and overall development.

But picky eating isn’t something that’s likely to resolve itself without some work on your end. According to 2016 article in the New York Times, Dr. Nancy Zucker from the Duke Center for Eating Disorders said that of 2,600 adults who call themselves picky eaters, 75 percent say it started when they were kids.

Instead of pulling your hair out or giving up, there are some strategies that can help you get your picky eater to eat. Here are 5.

1. Nix the junk

Filling your kids up with empty calories found in a box, bag or container (crackers, bars, snacks, etc.) or juice or sports drinks will guarantee that your kid won’t have an appetite for real, healthy food.

When they eat foods that have a lot of sugar and salt, it also primes their taste buds for salty and sweet and so those are the types of foods they’ll crave.

2. Make sure they’re actually hungry
If your kids are snacking all day, it’s no surprise that they won’t be hungry for what you serve at meal times. Timing is important too. If your kid raids the refrigerator after school, then he’s definitely not going to want to eat his dinner at 5pm.

So make sure you have a consistent meal and snack time schedule and then use your best judgment when your kid asks can I have a snack now?

3. Start small
Studies show that it takes 15 to 20 times of offering a new food before a kid is willing to try it, so if you’ve tried a few times without success, keep at it. A misnomer about these studies however, is that you only have to offer a pea-sized amount of the food, not an entire portion.

4. Switch it up
Just as you probably get bored eating the same foods day after day, it’s possible that your kid simply isn’t interested in what you’re serving up.

I’m not saying you should become a short order cook, but buy a new vegetable your kid has never had, add different seasonings to your meals or let your kid pick out a new grain to try, for example.

5. Try a supplement
If you’re worried that your kid isn’t getting the key nutrients he needs to grow, you might want to try a supplement drink, albeit temporarily. Studies show that when kids are getting the nutrition they need, their appetites improve and they start to crave healthy food.