It’s long been a question that many parents have asked pediatricians, nutritionists, and other food experts - exactly how much protein does my toddler need? Protein is considered imperative for a child’s growth and development, and is also responsible for repairing tissue, helping with immunity and creating essential enzymes and hormones.
However, according to former pediatric dietician Jenna Helwig, questions have shifted recently from parents about how much protein is good for their child to what the long-term risks are for too much protein in their child’s diet.
These questions are likely a result of recent studies showing that too much protein intake can potentially lead to increasing the risk for obesity later on in life.
Helwig mentions that several of these studies came to the same conclusion - that too much of a specific protein found in milk, cheese, and yogurt has been associated with “faster growth” or “risk of excess weight.”
While this type of research on dairy protein is still early in its discovery, it’s good for parents to be aware of. With obesity fast becoming one of the biggest issues our country is facing, we need to educate ourselves as much as possible.
And it still begs the question - how much protein should you serve your toddler?
The Institute of Medicine recommends a serving of 11 grams per day for children seven to 12 months old, and a serving of 13 grams for toddlers, a recommendation that the American Academy of Pediatrics also backs.
It’s easiest to remember one serving of dairy is 8 ounces of milk, 8 ounces of yogurt or 1.5 ounces of hard cheese, so two or two-and-a-half servings of dairy should easily cover the recommended intake. (Remember - milk is not recommended for children under 12 months, only breastmilk or formula)
However, it’s important to also remember that plenty of protein can be found in non-dairy foods, such as meats, vegetables, and grains. Serving your child a good array of these foods can help alleviate the risk of obesity later on, as opposed to focusing only on dairy-food proteins.
For reference, here’s a fantastic chart from Happy Healthy Kids on popular protein-source foods and the amount in each. Happy eating!As always, reach out to me at Crystal@hugabugg.com with questions, concerns or suggestions for my next post.