Toddlers: How much protein for toddlers?

My toddler is 14 months old and eats lots of fruits and breads and cereal. I am concerned she is not getting enough protein. I am still breastfeeding three times a day. Does she need more protein?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

A toddler needs about 16 grams of protein a day. Two cups of milk plus an ounce of meat or equivalent will provide her with adequate protein.

It is hard to know how much of your milk she is getting when nursing. There are a few ways you can help boost the protein content of her diet. Make her bread or muffins with added dry powdered milk and/or an extra egg. Serve foods that contain high protein ingredients, such as egg custard, rice pudding, pancakes made with milk and eggs, macaroni and cheese, fruit smoothies made with yogurt, etc. Have you tried serving her fish or tofu? Both are great kid foods and are high in protein. Well-cooked legumes are also appropriate. You can mash them and mix them with a little seasoning and spread them on bread for a sandwich. You can try hummus (mashed chickpeas and tahini) on soft whole wheat bread.

You can make some vegetable fritters out of some of her favorite vegetables, such as potatoes, zucchini and carrots by grating them, mixing them with eggs and grated cheese and a little seasoning and forming them into small round, flat cakes (the right size for little hands to pick up), and then cooking them in hot vegetable oil or melted butter, turning often until they are browned on both sides. Let them cool to a safe temperature before serving.

The following is a list of foods containing significant amounts of protein:

Amount/Food Grams Protein
8 oz milk 8
1/2 cup yogurt 4
1 large egg 6
1/4 cup tuna 11
1 T. peanut butter 4
1 oz cheddar cheese 7
1 oz chicken 7
3 oz tofu 7

Some food combinations that provide complete protein are:

  • Legumes such as chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, and soybeans with rice, wheat, corn, oats or barley
  • Cereal with milk
  • Macaroni and cheese.

Use your imagination to find ways to incorporate the high protein foods into her diet.

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