Protein for Toddlers
Did you know that proteins are often referred to as the “bricks of life”? That’s because they are an essential nutrient that is present in every cell in the body, all muscles and organs are predominantly composed of them.
So, how important is protein for toddlers? Let’s break it down...
What is protein?
Protein is an essential component of our muscles, organs, brain, enzymes, hormones, blood, skin, hair and more – in fact, it’s nearly everywhere and happens to be one of the most abundant components of the body.
Protein plays an important role in supporting your child’s growth and development. Proteins are actually made up of smaller components called amino acids. Some amino acids can be made by your body (called non-essential amino acids), while others must come from our food (essential amino acids).
What are good sources of protein?
Protein can be found in both animal and plant foods; with animal products often providing a higher-quality protein over plant-based alternatives.
Here are some healthy sources, packed with plenty of protein:
- Red meats and chicken
- Fish and seafood
- Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes such as beans and lentils
How much protein does my toddler need per day?
Your child’s protein needs can be easily met by following the Australian Dietary Guidelines and consuming a wide variety of foods.
Toddlers from 1 year of age are recommended to have around 14g of protein per day. The following are examples of how you can help your child meet their protein requirements:
- 1 Tbs peanut butter on white toast and 4 cubes of gouda cheese
- 1 cup of full cream cow’s milk (250mL) and 1 boiled egg
- Baked beans on wholemeal toast and 1 Greek yoghurt pouch
Need some more inspiration? Get started with our range of healthy toddler recipes!
Finding the right balance: What happens if my child consumes too much protein?
Protein deficiency in Australia is very rare, with most Aussie kids consuming far more protein than they need.
Numerous studies over the last decade have shown that Australian toddlers are consuming too much protein in their diets, and some report intake up to 400% greater than existing recommendations. Milk and other dairy products largely contribute to excess intakes, which is one of the reasons why national bodies (NHMRC) recommend cow’s milk consumption be limited to no more than 500mL per day.
So whilst protein is an essential nutrient for your child's growth and development, getting the right amount is important – not too little, not too much. It’s important to continually choose a wide variety of foods from different food groups.
Growth and development are fastest during early childhood, which means that your toddler needs appropriate and adequate nutrients to fuel their daily needs, and build strong foundations. Protein is an essential nutrient which contributes to their growth and development. Parents shouldn’t be concerned about their toddler’s protein intake if they’re eating a variety of foods, but if you are, reach out to a Dietitian or healthcare professional who can give individual guidance.