Getting enough protein helps ensure your child grows and develops normally. Most kids don’t have a difficult timing meeting their daily protein needs from the food they eat, however. While there are protein powders that work for children, you should talk to your doctor before adding the supplement to your child’s diet.
While protein is important for growth, children need less protein than adults. *Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010* says children age 1 to 3 years should get 5 percent to 20 percent of their calories from protein, and children age 4 years and up should get 10 percent to 30 percent of calories from protein. In comparison, adults are advised to consume 10 percent to 35 of calories from protein.
Individual protein needs vary depending on age, health and activity, but in general, children need 0.5 gram of protein per pound of body weight, according to KidsHealth. For example, a 5-year-old boy or girl weighing 50 pounds needs 25 grams of protein a day.
Protein powders are designed for adults, which is why it’s important to talk to your doctor about protein powders before adding them to your child’s diet. The amount of protein in a powder may vary depending on brand and serving size. For reference, a medically based protein powder contains 6 grams of protein and 25 calories in one 7-gram scoop, while a commercial protein powder contains 13 grams of protein and 75 calories in one 20-gram scoop, along with carbs, fat, vitamins and minerals.
Too Much Protein
The Institute of Medicine notes that there are no known adverse effects in children from consuming too much protein. If your child is already meeting his daily protein needs, however, getting more doesn't offer any benefits. In fact, eating too many calories from overconsuming protein causes weight gain. Track your child’s calorie and protein intake to help you keep calorie protein intake in balance and help with weight management.
Protein in Food
Chances are, your child's well-balanced diet already provides all the protein she needs. Protein is found in a number of different types of foods, not just meat and poultry but also milk, vegetables and grains. One cup of milk has 8 grams of protein; 1/2 cup of cooked pasta, 3 grams; 1/2 cup of cooked carrots, 2 grams; and 2 ounces of cooked chicken or hamburger, 14 grams.
A dinner meal consisting of 1 cup of cooked pasta topped with a 2-ounce meatball and served with 1 cup of milk has 28 grams of protein, which would meet more than 100 percent of the protein needs for a 50-pound child.