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How to add protein to a childs diet

How to add protein to a childs diet

In general, children don’t need protein supplements because they get plenty of protein from their diets. According to a study published in a 2008 edition of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” with the exception of teenage girls, most children consume more protein than they need. In some circumstances, children who have increased protein needs may benefit from a protein supplement if advised by their doctor.

Protein Needs

Protein requirements for children vary by gender and age. Recommended dietary allowances, or RDAs, for children are 13 grams for ages 1 to 3, 19 grams for ages 4 to 8 and 34 grams for ages 9 to 13. Females ages 14 to 18 need 46 grams daily and teen boys ages 14 to 18 need 52 grams. Very active children or those recovering from an injury or surgery may need additional protein.

Protein in Foods

Most children can meet their protein needs by consuming a variety of healthy foods. High-protein foods include eggs, lean meats, poultry, seafood, dairy products, soy products, legumes, seitan, peanut butter, nuts and seeds. For example, 2 ounces of chicken breast, one egg, 2 cups of milk and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter provide about 48 grams of protein, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Safety Concerns

Not only are protein supplements often unnecessary for children, some might be dangerous. According to the Food and Drug Administration, protein supplement companies usually don’t need FDA approval before selling their products. Supplements deemed unsafe by the FDA are often pulled from store shelves only after negative side effects are reported. According to TeensHealth, children who consume too much protein can experience dehydration, kidney problems or calcium losses.

Supplements Safe for Children

Always talk with your doctor before offering your child any type of supplement. Children recovering from an injury, illness or surgery and those who are underweight may benefit from consuming a medical nutrition shake specifically designed for children. Such shakes are often high in calories and rich in protein, vitamins and minerals; many contain about 7 grams of protein in each 8-ounce portion.

  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Strength Building and Muscle Mass
  • Food and Drug Administration: Dietary Supplements
  • TeensHealth: A Guide to Eating for Sports

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.

I've never been one to carve fruit into snowflakes or mold rice into animal shapes for my kids' lunchboxes. But I'm no slouch either. This morning's assemblage included edamame and fennel salami from a butcher at our farmers' market. The kids do eat well.

And as long as I'm on lunch duty, they'll have plenty of protein options—because don't we all need more protein? At least that's the message I get at the grocery store. Haven't you noticed? From savory snacks to ice cream to bottled water, it's all about the protein content these days. It makes me worry whether my girls are getting enough. But how much is enough?

18 High-Protein Nut-Free Snacks for Kids

For answers, I turned to Dr. Natalie Digate Muth, a pediatrician and nutrition expert in Carlsbad, California, author of The Picky Eater Project and a spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Protein is necessary

The first thing Muth tells me: "Overall, kids need way less protein than we think they do." This is good news. I feel better already.

Kids do need protein, though. As the Institute of Medicine puts it, it's "the major structural component of all cells in the body." It's crucial for building and repairing muscles and providing energy for growing kids, but really, every cell, tissue, and organ needs protein to work properly.

But there is such a thing as too much protein, and to my surprise, Muth says that's more the issue.

"Given its importance, of course we want our kids to eat enough, but be assured, most kids eat far more protein than they need," she says. "Protein isn’t really stored in the body so too much of it doesn’t make kids any stronger. Rather, it is broken down and then stored as fat in the body."

So how much protein do kids need?

It depends on age, gender, and weight. If you want to do the actual math, children ages 4 to 13 need about .45 grams of protein for every pound of body weight, says Muth.

Generally speaking, that's 3 to 5 ounces—or roughly 20 to 35 grams—of protein a day, says Muth.

Should Kids Drink Whole Milk or Low-Fat Milk?

Or think of it this way. A palm-sized portion of meat or fish is equivalent to about 3 ounces of protein—20 grams. An 8-ounce glass of milk is 8 grams of protein. Just 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is 5 grams of protein. Get all three and your kid is ahead of the game.

Teens' needs run a little higher: they should consume .4 grams of protein per pound of body weight, or about 46 grams of protein for girls and 52 grams for boys a day.

What kinds of protein should kids eat?

Meat, poultry, and fish are obvious go-tos. Often called "complete proteins," these foods have all the essential amino acids—the building blocks of protein—in the right amounts that the body needs. (Soybeans, quinoa, and hemp are vegetarian complete proteins.)

But nuts, legumes, seeds, dairy, and eggs are also great protein sources, especially when combined, the AAP says: a bowl of rice and beans, say, or nut butter spread on whole-grain bread, or even hummus and pita. That way, these so-called incomplete proteins balance out what they lack individually in certain amino acids.

The key is variety—and keeping it real. "I suggest getting as much protein and all nutrients as possible from 'real food,' as minimally processed and packaged as possible," says Muth. Most of our kids don't need a scoop of protein powder in their morning smoothie, and can snack on granola bars instead of protein bars.

These tips may help your child eat better. Eating as well as possible is important for children with cancer, but don’t make food a battleground. And always talk to the health care team if you’re worried that your child isn’t eating or drinking enough. They can help you with this before it becomes a serious problem.

  • Serve your child small meals and snacks throughout the day, rather than 3 large meals. Good snacks are peanut butter and crackers, cheese sticks, pudding, fruit roll-ups, and cereal and milk.
  • Let your child eat whenever she feels hungry, and be sure to include high-calorie, high-protein foods. Fat is a rich source of energy, so more fat can be helpful during times that your child is having trouble taking in enough calories. High-fat items such as hamburgers, fries, pizza, and ice cream give calories, protein, and other key nutrients.
  • Have your child eat their biggest meal when she feels hungriest. For example, if she is hungriest in the morning, make breakfast the biggest meal.
  • Use the Choose My Plate Food Guidance System as a guide for good nutrition. You can learn more about this at www.choosemyplate.gov.
  • Try to get your child to drink most of her fluids between meals instead of with meals. Drinking fluid with meals can make her feel too full.
  • Use colorful cups, mugs, and straws to encourage your child to drink fluids throughout the day.
  • Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from sandwiches, gelatin, meats, and cheeses.
  • Make faces out of fruits and vegetables. (Many children’s cookbooks have examples.)
  • Serve food in unusual containers or on cartoon character plates.
  • Have picnics. (You can use the backyard, the living room, or even the attic.)
  • Let your child help plan meals and prepare the food. Help with planning can be as simple as letting the child choose between 2 vegetables.
  • Invite your child’s friends to share meals.
  • Plan ahead for meals missed because of things like doctors’ appointments and treatment appointments. Take along juice packs, snacks, and non-perishable foods, such as fruit cups, puddings, and cheese and crackers.
  • Talk to your child’s teachers about letting them eat or drink in the classroom.
  • Encourage your child to be physically active. Activity may make them want to eat.
  • Encourage your child to eat more when she feels well.

Call the doctor or nurse if your child has treatment-related problems, such as constipation, diarrhea, or vomiting.

How to add protein to meals and snacks*

Milk products

Give your child cheese on toast or with crackers.

Add grated cheese to baked potatoes, vegetables, soups, noodles, meat, and fruit.

Use milk instead of water when cooking hot cereal and cream soups.

Include cream or cheese sauces on vegetables and pasta.

Add powdered or undiluted evaporated milk to cream soups, mashed potatoes, puddings, and casseroles.

Add yogurt or cottage cheese to favorite fruits or blended smoothies.

All eggs should be well cooked to avoid the risk of harmful bacteria.

Keep hard-cooked eggs in the refrigerator. Chop and add to salads, casseroles, soups, and vegetables. Make a quick egg salad.

Pasteurized egg substitute is a low-fat alternative to regular eggs.

Meats, poultry, and fish:

Add leftover cooked meats or fish to soups, casseroles, salads, and omelets.

Mix diced and flaked meat with sour cream and spices to make dip.

Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds:

Sprinkle seeds or nuts on desserts such as fruit, ice cream, pudding, and custard. Also serve on vegetables, salads, and pasta.

Spread peanut or almond butter on toast and fruit or blend in a milkshake.

High-calorie foods*

Butter, oil, and salad dressing:

Melt butter or spoon salad oil over potatoes, rice, pasta, and cooked vegetables.

Stir melted butter into soups and casseroles.

Spread melted butter or regular (not low-fat) mayonnaise on bread before adding other ingredients to sandwiches.

Use regular (not low-fat or diet) salad dressing on sandwiches and as dips with vegetables and fruit.

Milk products:

Add whipping cream to desserts, pancakes, waffles, fruit, and hot chocolate; fold it into soups and casseroles. Use it in its liquid form for baking, soups, or casseroles; or sweeten and whip it to make dessert topping.

Add sour cream to baked potatoes and vegetables.

Add jelly to bread and crackers. Honey can be given to older children.

Add jam to fruit.

Use ice cream as a topping on cake.

*Adapted from Eldridge B, and Hamilton KK, Editors, Management of Nutrition Impact Symptoms in Cancer and Educational Handouts. Chicago, IL: American Dietetic Association; 2004.

Don’t forget about physical activity

Physical activity has many benefits for healthy children. It helps maintain muscle mass, strength, stamina, and bone strength. In adults, it can help improve appetite and reduce depression, fatigue, nausea, and constipation even during cancer treatment.

Physical activity has been shown to benefit adults during cancer treatment, but it has not been well studied in children with cancer. Talk to your doctor about activities your child can safely do, or if there are clinical trials of physical activity your child can enroll in. If the doctor approves, start small (maybe 5 to 10 minutes each day) and as he is able, let your child work up to a goal of 60 minutes. It’s important to let your child do what he can when he feels up to it. Don’t push him, and encourage him to rest when needed.

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Proteins are an integral part of your child’s growth, development and overall wellbeing. Without this nutrient, bones, muscles, cartilage and even skin cannot develop properly. Moreover, the formation of many hormones and enzymes is also dependent on proteins. So, if your child’s diet lacks sufficient amounts of protein, he might lose muscle mass, become more prone to fractures, and face problems related to skin, nails and hair. The risk of protein deficiency is higher among kids who eat a vegetarian diet, since it cuts out the powerful animal sources of protein like egg, meat, fish and poultry. However, no matter which diet you follow, it is always possible to serve meals to children that are protein-rich. What is needed is a little bit of creativity, knowledge and planning.

What is the impact of insufficient protein on your child’s diet?

Children need the recommended amount of protein daily to build muscles and repair tissues. The protein requirement is more vital in those children who are involved in sports or other physical activities. Protein also helps in the transportation of vitamins and minerals in the body. The chances of infections increase when children do not consume a sufficient amount of protein.

How much protein does your child need?

According to the WHO, the recommended dietary allowance of protein (grams per kg per day), for Indian children is:

  • From birth to 3 months – 2.40 grams.
  • From 3 to 6 months – 1.85 grams. .
  • From 6 to 9 months – 1.62 grams. .
  • From 9 to 11 months – 1.44 grams. .
  • Children who are 1 to 3 years old – around 1.2 grams. .
  • Children who are 4 to 6 years old – around 1 gram. .
  • Children who are 7 to 9 years old – around 0.9 gram. .

In simpler terms, an egg contains around 7 grams of protein and a cup (244grams) of milk contains 8 grams of protein. So, you can meet the daily requirement of protein by spacing out 5 portions in a day. It is that simple. If your child is fussy about protein food sources, here are some tips that can help.

Tips to sneak in more protein into your child’s diet

1. Get Creative With Milk

All mothers understand the value of milk. It is a vital source of protein for children. However, some children don’t like it for various reasons. Instead of serving it as is, make a smoothie out of it and serve it for breakfast. Adding milk, nut butter, yoghurt, or chia seeds to a smoothie is a clever way to sneak in some extra protein into his diet. You can add some fresh fruits or maple syrup to entice him with the sweet taste. You can also make a French toast with whole wheat bread dipped in a beaten egg. If your child is lactose-intolerant, he can have soy milk.

2. Make a Wholesome Meal with Eggs

Eggs are rich in protein and also contain amino acids. They can be included in breakfasts or in meals. If he is bored with the regular boiled eggs, you can try masala fried or poached eggs. These are tasty and can be served with toasted bread or roti.

3. Add Lean Meats like Chicken

Chicken is an ideal source of lean meat and is common in the Indian diet. You can make a variety of items with chicken, like soups, stews and curries.

4. Add yoghurt which is rich in gut-friendly bacteria

Yoghurt is a probiotic food that has millions of gut-friendly bacteria and can help with the digestion process. It is also a good source of protein. You can try making a variety of foods with yoghurt. Add some fruits to a cup of yoghurt for instance and top it off with some tasty cereal. Your kid will also not miss his carbohydrates this way, while getting the recommended amount of protein from the yoghurt.

5. Make shapes with protein sources

Kids get easily attracted to fun shapes and colours. They get bored with bland and routine items. Now, meat and cheese are good sources of protein. So, make skewers with meat slices, cheese cubes, and fruits, and you will be amazed at how fast they get eaten. You can try out various shapes by using cookie cutters as well.

6. Include fish in the diet

Let him eat his fish Fish is an ideal source of protein. Choose a fish variety that does not have many bones, to avoid choking. Rawas, ahi, and bangada are some good sources of omega-3 fatty acids along with protein. You can make fish fingers or chops and serve them as a snack.

7. Include peanut butter in children’s diet

Add a bit of peanut butter to his diet Peanut butter is an all-time favourite with children and is a good source of protein. You can spread it on whole-grain breads or crackers and serve them for breakfast. You can also try other kinds of nut butters like sunflower seed, almond and cashew butter, to add some variety. Just make sure your child is not allergic to peanuts.

8. Amp up the carbs

If your child prefers eating carbohydrates most of the time, don’t worry. You can add variety to his regular carbs and sneak in some high protein in your child’s diet. Here are some interesting options.

  • Green moong sprouts dhokla: It is a favourite Gujarati breakfast dish that is liked in other parts of India as well. It is made with sprouted moong dal, palak saag (spinach) and besan.
  • Porridge: You can make porridge with Indian cereals (example jowar) along with some vegetables, to improve the taste and nutritional value.
  • Poha: It can be made with flattened rice or poha, onions, and veggies.
  • Paneer paratha: You can stuff paratha with paneer, which is a rich source of protein and serve it for breakfast.
  • Idli with sambar: It is made with rice and curd butter. It can be commonly had with sambar made with lentils.
  • Soy upma: It is made of sooji (semolina) or soy granules. You can also add urad dal, carrots, onions and French beans, based on your child’s preferences.
  • Roti made with spinach: This can help provide additional nutrition to those children who avoid greens or spinach in particular. Add spinach to his daily roti and serve him for breakfast or meals.

9. Let him snack on proteins

If your child has missed his protein during mealtimes you can always try to sneak in some during snack time. You can try this with a slice of baked chicken, yoghurt, string cheese or fresh veggies. Fish fingers are also a good option.

10. Go nuts with nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are another rich source of protein and some are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids. You can include them as a quick snack or something that can be consumed on the go. Getting your child to consume the recommended amount of protein every day is quite simple. Many children do like common food sources of protein like eggs, milk, cheese, etc. However, if your child is a fussy eater, use the above tips to add in the regular dose of protein without much hassle.

How to add protein to a childs diet

I’m always looking for more meat-free ways to get a little more protein into my children’s diet. But sneak or disguise — whichever word you use, it can be controversial among parents to put (or sneak or disguise) one high-nutrient food or healthy ingredient into another food where you usually don’t see it.

So…hide protein? Disguise protein? Sneak protein? Is it okay?

I tend to be okay with the idea sneaking (there, I said “sneaking”) more nutrients into kids’ meals. When my own girls were really young, I used to sneak greens like spinach and healthy grains into their favorite meals. Because color and texture were points of contention — not necessarily flavor — I got creative with how I incorporated them into dinner and no one has been the worse for it.

As my kids grew a little older though, I informed them them kale was in their favorite smoothie so they could get used to the idea — no hiding. Generally this has been fine for us, but honestly, it can be a crapshoot so do what works for you.

Here’s the other thing that’s important: Kids generally don’t know every single ingredient that’s in their dinner, and don’t need to.

I kinda remember back when I was a kid and a meal was just…served to me and I was supposed to eat it. Ah, the good old days!

So if you have a kid who really needs to up their protein intake and isn’t big on meat, I say, do what you gotta do.

Protein doesn’t have to mean meat

In addition to the vitamins from vegetables and the fiber from whole grains, protein is another nutrient we worry our kids aren’t getting enough of. While there is debate about just how much protein kids really need, we do know it’s a critical nutrient in our body’s function and in keeping little bellies feeling satiated.

Fortunately, there’s more ways for kids to get protein in their diets than with meat (including fish and chicken), which is great if you have kids who aren’t too keen on them, if you’re eating vegetarian, or if you’re not about to sneak chicken into muffins.

(Is anyone doing that? Probably. Somewhere.)

Consider getting more protein into your kids’ diets with clever uses of eggs, dairy, legumes, nuts and nut butters, seeds and seed butters, beans, tofu and edamame, spelt and certain grains like quinoa and even oats.

So many options for getting more protein into your kid’s diet! (And who knows, maybe even yours.) With that, here are a few of my own favorites.

How to add protein to a childs diet

If your little one loves carbs, but turns up her nose when it comes to meat, you may worry that she’s not getting enough body-building protein.

Need a fast fix for your worrying woes? Serve up some of these fun and easy-to-make foods to make sure your toddler gets all the protein she needs.

How much protein do toddlers and kids need?

You can relax a bit about your child’s protein requirements. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), children need the following amounts of protein:

  • 1- to 3-year-olds: 13 grams (g) of protein daily
  • 4- to 5-year-olds: 19 g of protein daily

To put things in perspective:

  • One egg has about 7 g of protein
  • One cup of milk has about 8 g
  • Half a cup of yogurt has about 5 g
  • One tablespoon of peanut butter has about 4 g

A typical serving of protein for a toddler is half an egg, half a cup of milk, one-third cup of yogurt or one tablespoon of peanut butter; so if you space out four or five little protein servings over the course of a day, you’ll meet that protein quota easily.

Best high-protein foods for toddlers and kids

Some of the best protein-packed foods for young eaters include:

  • Eggs
  • Yogurt
  • Nut butters
  • Cheese
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Lentils
  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Tofu
  • Hummus
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole grains
  • Cow’s milk
  • Soy milk

Make sure to always offer these protein-filled foods in tot-safe preparations, such as by cutting protein or cheese into bite-sized pieces, avoiding thick chunks of peanut butter (which can be a choking hazard) and carefully removing any bones from fish like salmon.

Protein is an important part of a child's diet, but not all sources of protein are created equal. Learn the healthiest protein-rich foods for kids.

Proteins are essential nutrients that work as the building blocks of our bodies. Protein helps make blood, bone, enzymes and supports our bodies as we constantly make new cells. It also provides the fuel and energy our bodies need to move and be active every day.

“Protein is really important for a child’s growing body, and parents should realize that not all sources of protein are created equal,” explains Mikie Rangel, clinical dietitian at Children’s Health℠. “Choose high-quality, healthy sources to help your child be healthy and strong.”

Rangel shares her insight on how parents can make sure their children are getting the right amount of healthy protein.

How much protein do kids need?

Kids usually need about 3-5 ounces of protein (20-35 grams) in a day, depending on their age, gender and weight. For reference, a palm-sized portion of meat is 3 ounces or about 20 grams protein; an 8-ounce cup of milk is 8 grams protein; and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter is 5 grams protein. Your child’s pediatrician or a dietitian can discuss your child’s specific needs.

Fortunately, protein intake isn’t something most parents need to worry about. “Most kids get enough protein in a day without putting too much pressure on them,” reassures Rangel. “Parents should really shift from worrying about how much protein their child is getting and focus more on where they are getting if from.”

What are the healthiest sources of protein for kids?

The healthiest sources of protein aren’t always the first things parents and kids reach for. Instead, kids – particularly those picky eaters at your table – often pile plates with processed or fried foods like lunch meat and chicken nuggets. Rangel encourages parents to stick to the basics when it comes to the best sources of protein.

“The more we can get back to basics and eat the foods that have been around for a really long time on this planet, the healthier we all will be,” she says. “Meats, beans, fruits and vegetables were available 1,000 years ago. Deli meat and chicken nuggets weren’t.”

Parents who want to load their child up with healthy protein-rich foods should stick with plant-based proteins, seafood and lean meats.

Plant-based or vegetarian protein

Protein sources from plants are among the healthiest options for kids.

“It can be confusing for parents to navigate all the latest news and marketing claims, but plant-based food – food that grows from the ground – is always a healthy bet,” explains Rangel.

Start introducing these plant-based protein sources into your child’s diet:

  • Beans: Mix beans into meals or offer up hummus to dip veggies
  • Nut butters: Reach for peanut butters and other nut butters that don’t have added sugar
  • Nuts: Peanuts, almonds, pistachios and walnuts are great sources of protein
  • Whole grain bread: Swap white bread for whole grain slices

Seafood protein

Some children may turn up their noses at seafood, but it’s a great source of protein. Rangel encourages parents to keep offering kid-friendly seafood, such as:

  • Pollock
  • Sole
  • Tilapia
  • Tuna

These fish have a softer texture that may be more pleasing to your child’s taste buds. Parents can aim to serve up to two 2-ounce servings of fish per week for children ages 2 and older.

Lean protein

Lean protein, like turkey and chicken, are among the most popular sources of protein for kids. Rangel reminds parents to choose lean sources of meat that are lower in saturated fat, and to limit the amount of red meats such as beef or pork. She suggests the following tips to keep lean meats healthy:

  • Bake or sauté meat instead of frying
  • Remove skin from chicken
  • Use herbs and spices for seasoning instead of salt and butter

What are healthy protein options for picky eaters?

Picky eaters can derail even the most dedicated parents’ attempts for healthy eating. Some ideas to encourage children who are picky eaters eat enough protein include:

  • Involve your child in meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation
  • Limit snacks one to two hours before meal times
  • Offer healthy foods without any other option so they learn the importance of a healthy diet

Learn more picky eater tips to help your child develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.

Does my child need protein powder?

Children generally get enough protein from the foods that they eat. Protein powder, shakes or supplements are not recommended unless your child has a specific need.

“Protein powder isn’t regulated so parents won’t always know the ingredients in the product,” cautions Rangel. “It’s a much better and healthier approach to teach your child the importance of a healthy, well-balanced diet that doesn’t rely on shortcuts.”

Learn more

The dietitians at Children’s Health are here to help develop a nutrition plan that is best for your child. Our team offers expert knowledge and can coordinate diets for common conditions, complex medical conditions and help you create healthy eating habits for your family that last a lifetime. Learn more tips to encourage a healthy, balanced diet.

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There are lots of wholesome ways to increase your protein intake without resorting to meat.

These days, protein seems to be the superstar nutrient – and for good reason. Gram for gram, it’s more satisfying than carbohydrates or fat – meaning it keeps you fuller, longer. Protein is also essential for repairing and building muscle and keeps your metabolism humming along.

The daily recommended dietary allowance is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. For most adult men and women, that translates to 46 to 56 grams of protein each day. For reference, a 3-ounce, fist-sized hamburger delivers 24 grams of protein.

How to add protein to a childs diet

Struggling to cook healthy? We'll help you prep.

Some say Americans get adequate or even too much protein; others argue we could safely eat more than what’s recommended (and perhaps should).

If you’re looking to up your protein intake, that doesn't necessarily translate to “eat more meat.” Plus, you’re likely aware of ways to add meat-based protein to your diet – with beef, chicken, turkey, seafood, etc. Though animal-based protein delivers all of the essential amino acids we need, you can absolutely get sufficient protein from plant-based sources.

I have an autistic child who cannot have any dairy. Even lactose free stuff makes him sick as a dog.

He's also absurdly picky and doesn't eat any meat.

He's always been quite thin but I really think it would do him a world of good to put on some weight. He's barely gained in the last year and is already small for his age.

He's a carbaholic- loves bread and popcorn. He also adores fruit and pbj. Too much peanut butter gives him the runs, though.

I wanted to look into something that is like PediaSure, if they made a soy version but a lot of those options are expensive and/or mail order only.

So I'd love to hear any and all suggestions. He drinks soy/almond milk and would be happy to eat Cheerios the rest of his life. But something's gotta give.

You can also add mushrooms and quinoa and almonds. Nuts can be expensive, but they are loaded with protein and healthy fats to help balance out the carbs he enjoys so much.

Relying heavily upon a single food or just a few foods in your diet is never a good idea. Luckily there are a lot of vegan protein sources that are easily available. A few of them are:

Whole grain bread

As a Mexican vegan, I approve and condone this foodstuff.

Beans! Beans! The magical fruit!

Sounds like a greentext

YES I agree. Beans all day everyday, high in protein and fibre

Mixing in brown rice with beans will provide all the necessary amino acids for complete protein.

Not just beans, there are different amino acids in every protein, and you have to have diversity, or meat, to get all of them. Here's some more information.

Beans & tofu. You can add soft tofu to all sorts of stuff (pie, smoothies/shakes, in lasagna instead of cheese, etc.). It's pretty tasteless so you can make it taste like whatever you're cooking, but it adds a lot of protein. Firm tofu is also great as a meat alternative. I usually press it, chop it into small pieces, marinade it overnight, then either pan-fry or bake it until it gets a bit crispy around the edges. It's especially good in stir fry.

Alton Brown's moo-less chocolate pie is delicious and has no dairy. It gets all it's creamy goodness from silken tofu; so you can even sneak some protein into dessert that way.

There are little soy puddings my local supermarket sells. My son seems to like them but I use them for smoothies.

Do not feed tofu to male children

Grains plus legumes equals complete protein (all of the essential amino acids).

That's rice and beans.

Tortillas and beans.

Bread and beans.

There are dozens and dozens of types of beans and ways to prepare them. Some can be quite a treat for those with a sweet tooth.

Peanut butter is a great source and even better with bread.

Pediasure is expensive and contains a lot of carbs. I'd talk to a nutritionalist or your doctor before investing. You could end up feeding more calories than your little one needs.

There are protein powders too. Some are made from whey so I don't know if those would cause problems in the dairy area, there are also soy proteins and egg protein (the most bioavailability and easiest to digest) to consider. Again I'd talk to the doctor first. The Protein Factory is a great online resource. Good products at great prices. Some of these powders can be mixed with water, juice, soy milk, pudding, etc.

I spent the last six years of my career working with California's Regional Centers for the Developmentally Delayed so I'm somewhat familiar with your challenges. I talked to parents day in and day out about what their kids would and wouldnt eat. Formulas like Pediasure have their ups and downs. The upside is easy nutrition, the downside is that kids get dependent on it and their weight gets out of control. It depends on the kid and how they take to it of course.

How to add protein to a childs diet

Teenage is the time when the body goes through a variety of changes. An adolescent needs additional nutrition to grow. The need of protein for teenagers is different from that of adults. Teens need protein to build muscles, as well as to keep their hair, skin and immune system healthy.

Unfortunately, most teens are always on the go and end up missing meals. For many teenagers, eating is all about junk food. Is that the case with your teen? We can understand your frustration. If you are looking for the best protein foods for your teens, you have come to the right place. Here are your best bets when it comes to protein for teens.

High Protein Foods For Teens:

1. Yogurt:

Yogurt doesn’t sound like a good idea? Well, it is an excellent source of protein. A pack of yogurt contains about 11 grams of protein.

Looking to grab your teen’s attention and tempt her to eat yogurt? Tell her that snacking on Greek yogurt reduces hunger and can help lose weight! (1)

How To Serve:

To make yogurt more tempting, serve it with fresh fruits.

2. Cheese:

You won’t have much trouble getting your teen to try it. Cheese is popular with children and is a good source of protein. An ounce of cheese contains 7 grams of protein.

How To Serve:

Garnish your teen’s favorite dish with shredded cheese or make a cheese sandwich.

3. Beans:

How do you get your teen to try beans? For one, tell her that one cup of dry beans contains about 16 grams of protein. Use your creativity and make beans a staple in her diet.

Bonus:

Regular intake of beans reduces the risk of breast cancer by 24% (2).

How To Serve:

Does your teen have a favorite soup or stew recipe? Just add some beans into the dish. You can also make a healthy, yummy salad using beans.

4. Lentils:

Lentils are among the healthiest foods available in the world. ½ a cup of lentils contains about 9 grams of protein.

Bonus:

If you are a vegetarian family, lentils are the perfect choice for your teen. Lentils are as good a source of protein as meat (3).

How To Serve:

Pair lentils with vegetable soup or pasta salad.

5. Peanut Butter:

It’s hard to find a teenager who does not love peanut butter. A serving of peanut butter contains 8 grams of protein.

Bonus:

Peanut butter, apart from tasting heavenly, can also prevent diabetes (4).

How To Serve:

Nothing can beat the taste and goodness of peanut butter sandwich. You can also serve peanut butter with an apple as a snack option.

6. Lean Meat:

Here is another popular source of protein. Three ounces of lean meat provides 21 grams of protein.

Bonus:

Lean meat is a great way to keep your teen’s heart healthy (5).

How To Serve:

Grill the beef and serve with steamed vegetables. You can also serve lean meat with baked potato or whole grain pasta.

7. Fish:

Fish like tuna and salmon is another nutritious source of protein. Fish contains 15 gram to 30 grams of protein.

If your teen is trying to lose weight, fish will help (6).

How To Serve:

Use low-fat mayonnaise with fish of your choice and add chopped onions and fresh dill. Use this as a healthy sandwich spread.

8. Chicken:

Chicken is an all time favorite among teens. So, you shouldn’t have much difficulty serving your teen healthy chicken dishes. Chicken contains about 27 grams of protein.

Bonus:

Is your teen complaining of fatigue, try giving her the essence of chicken to beat it (7).

How To Serve:

Use shredded chicken as fillings for tacos, burritos or enchiladas.

9. Eggs:

Eggs are tasty and nutritious. An egg contains about 6 grams of protein. The best part about eggs is that they are easy to cook and eat! They are the best protein for teenager.

Bonus:

Eggs contain DHA that can help increase your teen’s cognitive abilities (8).

How To Serve:

Does your teen like salads? Add a hard boiled egg and make the salad extra nutritious. You can also serve scrambled eggs for breakfast.

10. Milk:

Most teens dislike milk with a vengeance. But try and get her to drink a glass of milk every day. A glass of milk contains about 9 grams of protein.

Bonus:

Regular and moderate intake of milk can help improve bone health and prevent the risk of developing high blood pressure (9).

How To Serve:

If milk is a no-go for your teen, try smoothies. It is the best way to ensure your teen enjoys the goodness of milk and fruits.

Feeding a teenager healthy food is a battle. In fact, at times, it is harder than feeding a fussy toddler. But this is one battle you need to win. Your teen’s health is at stake, after all!

How do you ensure ample high protein in your teen’s diet? Share your tips with us.