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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | January 26, 2016

Is My Kid Getting Enough Protein?

Thanks H.S. from Texas for your topic suggestion of foods rich in protein.

Eating a balanced diet is important for your child’s nutrition and growth. Protein is an important part of your child’s nutrition. If your child is failing to thrive or needs to gain weight, your pediatrician may suggest “power packing” your child’s diet with lots of protein. Generally speaking, protein should make up 10-20% of the calories in your child’s diet. The exact number of grams depends on your child’s age.

Example: Preschool age to 6 years: 22 grams of protein/day 7-10 years: 28 grams of protein/day.

Here are some foods rich in protein (keep in mind that some are also higher in fat, so you may need to be careful, especially in how you prepare them).

Animal proteins:

  1. Chicken (think grilled or baked rather than breaded and fried)
  2. Turkey
  3. Beef (not fast food burger style, but a lean option)
  4. Pork (opt for tenderloin instead of bacon)
  5. Fish
  6. Eggs
  7. Milk (low fat or skim, not whole)
  8. Yogurt
  9. Cheese

Plant proteins:

  1. Nuts
  2. Legumes (alfalfa, peas, beans, lentils, soy, lupins, peanuts)
  3. Grains (especially whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal, brown rice, whole cornmeal, quinoa)
  4. Nuts
  5. Seeds
  6. Avocadoes (high in protein, but also high in fats; great for a child who needs to gain a few extra pounds)

Protein-fortified foods:

This is where reading labels will serve you well. For example, I have found healthier options in the foods our family regularly eats, just by reading the label. Specific examples include frozen waffles (the toaster type). If you opt for the Kashi brand you can triple the grams of protein over the store brand. It’s a similar situation for English muffins. By opting for certain whole grain brands, you can get 2-3 more grams of protein (and lots more fiber). These are just 2 examples. The first few times you start reading labels as you choose the brands you buy, it will take some time. After you figure out what is the healthiest option, shopping will go much quicker since you already know what to buy.


As you make foods, think outside the box and always consider the nutritional content. This recipe is a regular side dish at our house, because it’s healthy, tasty, and my kid will eat it. (I can’t recall where I got this recipe to give due credit, but it was online somewhere last year)

Quinoa and Black Beans:

  • 1 tsp of olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic peeled and chopped
  • ¾ cup uncooked quinoa (quinoa is a whole grain)
  • 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth (lots of times, I’ll just use a can of chicken broth)
  • 1 tsp. of ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I usually think a dash is about enough)
  • 1 cup corn (I often just dump the whole can in, as not to waste)
  • 2 cans (15 oz. size) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro
  1. Heat the oil and sauté the onion and garlic until lightly browned (I usually use a medium pot so I don’t have to dirty a second pan/pot)
  2. Add the quinoa and broth. Season with cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and cumin. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes
  3. Add corn and black beans and simmer 5 more mins 4. Mix in cilantro at the end before serving.

Nutritional info: Quinoa-6 g protein and 3 g fiber (per ¼ cup), Black beans-6 g protein and 6 g fiber (per ½ cup), corn-2 g protein and 3 g fiber (per ½ cup).