Getting your child to eat a balanced diet can feel like a daily battle – especially when they’re in their “I won’t eat it if it’s not macaroni & cheese from a box or a hot dog” phase. Ensuring growing minds and bodies have the fuel they need is critical, but finicky eaters can miss out on essential nutrients. The good news: introducing more high protein foods for kids doesn’t have to be a fight at all.

The Power of Protein

Protein is a macronutrient (along with fats and carbohydrates); the body needs a lot of these nutrients in order to function properly. About 20% of our diet should consist of high-quality protein, which helps build and repair tissues, creates enzymes, hormones, and chemicals in the body. This is the building block of healthy bones, muscles, cartilage, blood, and skin.

Protein consists of 20 amino acids, 11 of which our bodies make naturally. We have to get the others through food. When kids don’t get enough protein-rich foods, they may have the following symptoms:

  • General health issues
  • Slow growth
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration
  • Pain in the bones and/or joints
  • Weakened immune response
  • Slower wound healing

About how much protein should your child consume each day? The USDA recommends the following:

  • 1-3 years old: 13 grams
  • 4-8 years old: 19 grams
  • 9-13 years old: 34 grams
  • 14-18 years old (girls): 46 grams
  • 14-18 years old (boys): 52 grams

Packing That Protein In 

subscribeAnimal-based proteins are a “complete” protein; this means that they contain all the amino acids we need. The following are great natural foods high in protein:

  • Meat (including fish)
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt

Quinoa, soy, and buckwheat are also complete proteins (if you can get your child to eat them!). 

There are also plant-based, natural foods high in protein that are not complete, such as beans, lentils, peanuts, and almonds. They only contain some of the amino acids we need. Now, we can make them into complete proteins by pairing them with foods that provide the other amino acids. For example:

  • Lentils and brown rice (or any beans!)
  • Hummus with whole wheat pita chips or pretzels
  • Peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread 
  • Pasta with chicken or turkey 

On-the-Go, High Protein Foods for Kids

If your child will eat a piece of grilled chicken (or even a couple of chicken tenders), a few slices of turkey, a burger, or scrambled eggs, introducing more protein at meal time should be easy. A four-ounce piece of chicken, for example, contains 30 grams of protein. It is when we’re on the go that finding high protein foods for kids can be difficult. 

Whether you’re running late on the daily school drop-off to driving between games, practices, and recitals, pop a few healthy snacks into your bag or car. Our top child-pleasing protein picks:

Our meat sticks and jerky are great treats: you can eat them anywhere with no mess and no struggling to get your child to eat them! They’re also packed with protein. But typical store-bought, non-perishable meat products are high in calories, sugar, and sodium. They also have a laundry list of artificial ingredients. Sure, your kid is getting protein – and sulfites, nitrites, MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, and more.

Sweetwood creates all-natural meat snacks with minimal ingredients: grass-fed beef, antibiotic-free pork, and free-range turkey are the stars, and their flavor is brought to life with real, slow hickory smoking. There’s no gluten, no added MSG, nitrites, or nitrates, and no artificial junk sweeteners. Minimally processed with American-sourced ingredients, Sweetwood is both keto- and paleo-friendly. More importantly, Sweetwood’s meat sticks and jerky are kid-friendly!

Try our Original, Teriyaki, and Honey BBQ flavors for sweet and savory kid-friendly protein treats. (Our Jalapeno and Peppered options have a bit of kick – so save those for yourself!)

Shop Sweetwood now – and remember, it’s easy to ensure your child is getting enough protein with Sweetwood’s jerky and meat sticks. Now if it were only that easy to get them to eat their broccoli…