Protein creates quite a buzz among parents these days, especially when it comes to knowing exactly how much growing children require on a daily basis.
For one, protein is the building block for all new tissue, so it is an important nutrient in the years of growth and development (all 18 years!). Secondly, because infants and toddlers are so small, their total protein needs aren’t very high, but the per pound body weight protein needs are greater than at any other time of life.
|Age||Protein per pound||Total protein per day|
|0-6 months||1.1 gm||9.1 gm|
|7-12 months||0.9 gm||11 gm|
|1-3 years||.5 gm||13 gm|
|4-8 years||0.5 gm||19 gm|
Baby’s first food, either breast milk or iron-fortified infant formula, has adequate protein to support normal growth and development. When baby transitions to complementary foods at around six months of age, fortified grains are recommended, such as iron-fortified whole grain cereal, mostly to meet the increased need for iron and to help baby increase the texture of food.
Another good source of protein (and first food) is strained meat, as advocated by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Because anemia is still a reality for infants, strained meat provides iron, zinc, and well offers a quality protein source.
Protein is a satisfying nutrient — when eaten with a meal or snack, it helps keep hunger at bay. As baby grows into a toddler, it’s important to routinely offer sources of protein with meals and even snacks, as this will help meet nutrient needs, as well as help with appetite regulation.
|Common protein-containing foods and their protein content|
|Breast milk||4 ounces (1/2 cup)||1.3 gm|
|Milk||4 ounces (1/2 cup)||4 gm|
|Yogurt||1/2 cup||4 gm|
|Egg||1 medium||7 gm|
|Beef||1 ounce||7 gm|
|Chicken||1 ounce||7 gm|
|Beans||1/3 cup||6 gm|
|Nut butter||1 tablespoon||4 gm|
Because babies and toddlers eat small portions and a wide variety, it’s easy to meet their protein requirements with everyday food. In fact, studies show that when children are offered a variety of foods, they meet their dietary protein requirements.