Protein for Picky Eaters

PSA: PROTEIN COMES FROM A VARIETY OF SOURCES NOT👏JUST👏MEAT👏- and protein needs are incredibly easy to meet for little ones, even picky eaters typically get enough protein.

Many people tend to automatically think meat or animal products like milk, yogurt and cheese when I mention “protein” but not all protein has to come from meat!! In order to be considered “complete,” a protein must contain all nine of the essential amino acids in roughly equal amounts.


Yes, meat, dairy, and eggs are complete proteins, and beans and nuts aren’t. But they can be when combined with each other!

There are a few plant-based protein sources that offer all 9 amino acids such as quinoa, tofu, and hemp seeds! 


These DON’T necessarily have to be eaten together/at the same time, but serving a variety throughout the day will help your little one get all the amino acids they need to build strong muscles! 

It is very normal for kids to go through phases where they prefer certain foods. Some children have phases where they just don’t eat as much meat as their parents think they need. But that doesn’t at all mean they aren’t getting enough protein. 


If you are concerned about your child not eating enough “meat” try offering one meal (or more) per day with a plant-based protein! They are much softer and often preferred by teething little ones. Meat requires much more chewing and grinding so teething REALLY affects food preferences. 

Toddlers & small children generally need 16 grams of protein a day! Which is alottttttt easier to achieve than you might think.

For example:

Drinking two 8oz glasses of milk = 16 grams of protein

Peanut butter sandwich with wheat bread (2 slices of bread & 2 tablespoons peanut butter) = 16 grams of protein

3/4 cups of Greek yogurt = 16 grams of protein

1 cup of edamame = 16 grams of protein

1 piece of whole-wheat toast and 2 eggs = 16 grams of protein

And those 16 grams are enough for the WHOLE DAY!

So the next time you start to stress (or someone makes an unnecessary comment) about your child’s protein intake, remember that chances are they are getting more than you think!


Published by snackswithjax

Sarah is the creator and mom behind "Snacks with Jax", a social media community of over 85,000 parents/caregivers, where she shares her son's meals, nutrition information, and evidence-based tips for feeding children. She is a Certified Health Education Specialist with a Bachelor's degree in Nutrition emphasizing in Wellness from Texas Woman's University and years of experience as a culinary instructor working with ages 2+. She has coached hundreds of parents & caregivers through the journey introducing solids to babies and also navigating picky eating with toddlers and older children. Her focus is on establishing a life-long healthy relationship with food for children while also empowering, encouraging, and educating their adult caregivers.

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