« Spooky foods | Main | October's most popular posts »

November 2, 2011

Helping children get enough protein


Each week a nutritionist from the University of Maryland Medical Center provides a guest post on healthy eating. Sometimes they will take questions from readers. This week, Faith Hicks, answers a mom's protein question.

Note: Comments made here are for informational purposes only and do not represent or substitute as medical advice. Patients are advised to consult their own physician or pharmacist for advice, diagnosis and treatment.

One of our readers recently asked for advice regarding her 4-year-old who eats very little meat or poultry, but does like eggs, yogurt and cheese.  She is concerned about the adequacy of his diet, particularly his protein intake.

When a parent feels as if it is difficult to get a child to eat certain foods, I always start the discussion about mealtimes in general. I encourage that the family eat as many meals together as possible. Children mimic their parents' eating habits, so having healthy, balanced meals together models good eating habits. Being overly persuasive about eating a particular food or foods can backfire, so avoid pressuring a child to eat any one. Rather, serve the food in a pleasant manner and ask that the child try just a bit of each item on his plate. It often takes repeated samples of a food before a child accepts it. Avoid snacking before meals so that the child is hungry when he sits down to eat. When the child is hungry, the food sure tastes great!

Parents often are concerned that their child's protein intake may be inadequate with a diet low in meat-containing foods. But children can consume more than adequate amounts of protein from milk, cheese, yogurt and eggs, plus smaller amounts of protein in many vegetables and grains. Diets low in meats may be a bit low in iron and zinc, but legumes, nuts and beans contain both zinc and iron. Some cereals are fortified with a fair amount of iron. Iron absorption can be enhanced by having a high vitamin C juice or food along with a high iron food.

The Dietary Reference Intake for a healthy, average size 4-year-old boy is about 15 grams of protein per day.  Here is how a balanced diet could meet his needs.

1/2 cup Cheerios: 1 g
1/2 cup low-fat milk: 4 g
4 oz orange juice

Peanut butter and jelly sandwich: 9 g
8 oz low fat milk: 8 g

1 cup macaroni and cheese: 8 g
1/2 cup peas: 2 g
Apple cobbler: 1 g
8 oz low fat milk: 8 g

6 oz yogurt: 6 g
4 baby carrots

Total: 47 g protein

As you can see, this totals over 40 grams of protein, more than double what a typical 4 year old needs.

Posted by Kim Walker at 6:30 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Nutrition


My son only eats vegetables. I'm happy that he likes the stuff and is not only addicted to burgers and french fries from fast food joints but I have to slip in some protein like peanut butter or a slice of cheese or ham or something as he rarely asks for it!

Post a comment

All comments must be approved by the blog author. Please do not resubmit comments if they do not immediately appear. You are not required to use your full name when posting, but you should use a real e-mail address. Comments may be republished in print, but we will not publish your e-mail address. Our full Terms of Service are available here.

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About Exercists
Andrea Siegel, a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, covers mostly crime and courts in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, as well as legal issues. She wishes she was more physically fit, and, as she's more fond of chocolate than exercise, fitness is a challenge. Her partner on a one-mile-plus daily walk is the family dog, a mixed breed named Moxie, and she exercises at the gym where the D.C. snipers once worked out.
Jerry Jackson has been a photo editor at The Baltimore Sun for 14 years and an avid cyclist for more than 30 years. Inspired by the movie "Breaking Away," he started racing as a teenager in Mississippi when leather "brain baskets" were still the norm. He regularly commutes to work by bike and still enters several mountain bike races a year for fun.
View Twitter feed
Patrick Maynard, who will be writing about running and walking, has been a producer for since 2008. In 2009, he tweeted on-course for the Sun from the Baltimore Marathon, finishing in just under 4 hours and almost managing to run the whole time. He sometimes walks to the Sun offices on Calvert Street.
View Twitter feed
Leeann Adams, a multimedia editor at The Baltimore Sun, also dabbles in content for the mobile website and iPhone app and covers the Ravens via video. She did a triathlon to celebrate her 40th birthday and continues to swim, bike and run -- none of them quickly, though. Her biggest fitness challenge is to balance working, working out, spending time with her husband and being a mom to a 6-year-old boy.
View Twitter feed
Anica Butler, the Sun's crime editor, is a former high school runner and recovering vegetarian who spent more of her early-adult years on a bar stool than working out. She is currently training (though poorly) for a half marathon and is trying to live a generally healthier lifestyle. She also hates the gym.
View Twitter feed

Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Reader photos

Share your race photos
Upload your photos from races. Post times, if you like.
Stay connected