Preschoolers need plenty of protein to reach their full potential developmentally. In fact, not getting enough protein and calories can cause children to lose muscle mass and not grow as tall as they should, reports MedlinePlus. Luckily, protein is abundant in a variety of kid-friendly foods.
Preschool children who meet their protein recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, will likely get all the protein they need in a day. The RDA is 13 grams of protein daily for kids ages 1 to 3 and 19 grams per day for children ages 4 to 8, reports the Institute of Medicine. A few grams of protein here and there can add up quickly. For example, 1 cup of milk provides about 8 grams of protein.
Grams per Pound
A quick, easy way to estimate a preschooler’s individualized protein needs is by using his body weight. According to KidsHealth, children require 1/2 gram of protein for every pound of their body weight. For example, a 40-pound child needs about 20 grams of protein on a daily basis, and a 65-pound kid needs about 33 grams of protein each day.
Protein in Foods
Although picky eaters exist in the preschool community, most kids have several protein-rich foods they enjoy eating. Examples include hamburgers, chicken, fish, eggs, milk, yogurt, cheese, peanut butter, lentils, nuts and seeds. For example, 1 ounce of chicken provides 9 grams of protein, 1/2 cup of cottage cheese contains 14 grams, 1 cup of yogurt provides about 13 grams, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain 8 grams and one large egg provides preschoolers with 6 grams of dietary protein, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Fish is packed with protein and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids but also contains contaminants, such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Mercury is a neurotoxin, and can negatively impact a preschooler’s neurological development. For this reason, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration encourages young children to limit fish intake to 12 ounces of low-mercury selections, such as salmon, pollock and catfish, weekly. Preschoolers should avoid high-mercury fish, such as swordfish, king mackerel, tilefish and shark.
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.