Balance your diet, balance your health Balance your diet, balance your health

Helping Picky Eaters Meet Their Protein Needs

When it comes to food and drink choices, parents and kids aren’t always on the same page. They may want to fill up on sweets and treats, while we’re trying to get them to eat nutritious food. We try to be creative and plan tasty meals and snacks that even the pickiest of eaters will enjoy. We strive to provide a balance of food groups with important vitamins and minerals so our kids can grow and thrive.


It can often feel like we’re on the losing end of the eating battle, but hitting the right nutrient balance for kids is important – especially when it comes to meeting their protein needs. That’s because this nutrient plays a lot of critical roles in the body, like building and maintaining muscle mass, developing bone mass, and helping support the immune system. Is your picky eater getting enough?


How Much Protein for Kids?


The amount of protein kids should aim for each day depends on their age, gender and body weight. Generally speaking, boys need more than girls of the same age, and older kids need more than younger ones. Your child’s weight also factors into their daily needs. Here are some basic guidelines for kids:


  • Males and females ages 4-8 need at least 19 grams of protein per day

  • Males and females ages 9-13 need a minimum of 34 grams per day. Note that this is nearly double what they needed before!

  • Females ages 14-18 needs increase up to at least 46 grams per day

  • Males ages 14-18 should aim for at least 52 grams per day. Again, this is a big increase from when boys were in their tween years! 


Distribute Protein Throughout the Day


Because the body doesn’t store extra protein, you need to make sure your kids are getting quality sources every day, especially in the morning. A smart way to make sure your kids are hitting their goals is to strive for a good source of protein at every meal and snack. If you look at a food’s Nutrition Facts label, a good source of protein is one that has at least 10% of the Daily Value, or DV.


Which Foods Are Good Protein Sources?


Whether your child is an omnivore (eats everything), vegetarian (avoids meat or all animal products) or just a picky eater, there are plenty of protein sources to fuel their diets. Most foods that come from animals are higher-protein choices. These foods have all of the amino acids, or building blocks of protein. Good sources include beef, chicken and fish, but also eggs and milk products.


Plant-based sources may not have all of the amino acids, but eating a variety of these protein foods can help kids meet their needs. Great options include beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, tofu and some grains like quinoa.


Consider keeping these foods in your fridge and pantry for a quick protein fix:


  • Hard boiled eggs 

  • Deli turkey or ham 

  • Yogurt 

  • Mixed nuts 

  • String cheese 

  • Hummus 


Protein in the Palm of Your Hand


For convenient high-quality protein – plus nutrient-rich calories and essential vitamins and minerals – there’s Carnation Breakfast Essentials®. All Carnation Breakfast Essentials® beverages are packed with protein, and 21 vitamins and minerals that kids need to help start the day right.



Carnation Breakfast Essentials® Original products are nutritionally appropriate for ages 4 years and older, including teens and adults. All Carnation Breakfast Essentials® High Protein products are nutritionally appropriate for ages 9 years and older, including teens and adults. Both the Original and High Protein ready-to-drink and powder products are available in delicious, kid-approved tastes like Rich Milk Chocolate and Classic French Vanilla Flavors.


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