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Is Whey Protein Powder Bad for Toddlers?

author image Erica Jacques
Erica Jacques is an occupational therapist and freelance writer with more than 15 years of combined experience. Jacques has been published on and various other websites, and in "Hope Digest." She earned an occupational therapy degree from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland, giving her a truly global view of health and wellness.
Is Whey Protein Powder Bad for Toddlers?
Whey protein comes from milk. Photo Credit: deymos/iStock/Getty Images

Whey protein is a popular supplement which can increase your daily protein intake without packing on too many calories. Adults often use whey for a protein boost, though children can use it as well. Provided your toddler is not allergic to milk or milk-based products, he can tolerate whey protein powder. However, for most toddlers protein supplementation is not necessary. You should consult your doctor before giving your toddler supplements.

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What is Whey?

Whey protein powder is a milk-based protein supplement. The National Dairy Council refers to whey protein as a “complete protein,” meaning it contains all of the essential building blocks of protein. These building blocks are called amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that the body cannot make on its own and must come from our diets. In addition to being a rich source of protein, whey protein powder is also easy to digest, making it an appealing addition to many foods.

Whey Safety

Whey protein is safe for most people. However, not all toddlers can tolerate whey protein. Those who are lactose intolerant, for example, many have digestive issues after ingesting whey protein powder. These reactions range from serious to simply uncomfortable. According to Dr. Ari Brown, pediatrician and co-author of the popular reference “Toddler 411,” lactose intolerance is among the six most common food allergies in children. If your toddler is allergic to whey protein powder, he will likely experience similar digestive upsets as someone who is lactose intolerant, including diarrhea. However, a more serious allergy could cause hives or swelling of the lips.

How to Use Whey

Whey protein powder is highly versatile. Because it is a powder, you can add it to many foods without significantly altering their taste. For instance, you can add a scoop of whey protein powder to a fruit smoothie, which may appeal to your child more than a protein-packed glass of milk. You can also sprinkle protein powder over soft foods like applesauce or yogurt, or add some to your child’s pancake or waffle mix. The National Dairy Council also suggests adding whey protein to soups or mashed potatoes.

Is Whey Necessary?

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters; however, many get enough nutrition even from the small amounts of food they eat. In general, provided your child is gaining weight on a healthy curve and does not have any major health problems, the odds of him needing any supplement are slim. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, toddlers between ages 1 and 3 only need around 13 grams of protein daily. Still, some parents may wish to offer supplements just to be on the safe side. Brown reports that protein shakes and other protein supplements are OK for most toddlers in moderation, though they should not be a replacement for a healthy diet.

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