Easy Ways to Get Kids Protein with a Balanced Diet
What Makes a Healthy Meal for Kids?
Serving healthy meals for kids, especially picky eaters, is a top priority for parents. Helping your child start and maintain healthy mealtime habits at a young age can lead to lifelong benefits — and working to create healthy meals kids enjoy is one way to teach kids about good nutrition. And since kids love milk, parents already have one delicious food on the table that can start the conversation on how to get your kids to eat healthy.
Creating healthy meals for kids can be simple and stress-free when you have a strategy. Start by incorporating options from a variety of food groups. When planning meals and your kid’s snacks, focus on offering a variety of fruits and vegetables, adding whole grains, different lean protein choices as well as milk and milk products to deliver vitamins and minerals growing bodies need. Having a wide range of recipes for kids that include protein foods helps kids get nutrition they need, while building healthy eating habits.
Why Is It Important to Serve Protein for Kids
Interested in protein for kids? Protein is an integral part of every nutritious meal, including breakfast. A protein-rich breakfast, including milk, helps to start your kid’s day off right. In fact, studies show eating breakfast helps kids concentrate and focus at school.
From muscles to hair, bones to teeth, the body needs protein to be healthy and strong.
Kids’ growing bodies need protein foods — because protein impacts many different functions, including:
- Building lean muscle – Protein supplies your body with the amino acids it needs to build strong muscles. Getting enough protein in your diet, along with exercise, helps build and repair muscle.
- Keeping you fuller, longer – Getting enough protein, more than carbohydrates or fats, can help you feel full, and satisfied with your meal which means you may not feel hungry again mid-morning.
- Maintaining bone health – Along with key bone-building nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, protein also helps build healthy bones.
Why Milk Is a Great Protein Food for Kids
Looking for a natural, high-quality protein food for kids? With 9 essential nutrients, including protein, in each 8-ounce glass, milk is a delicious, simple and wholesome option. And, consuming milk and milk products is especially important during childhood and adolescence, when bone mass is being built, according to ChooseMyPlate.gov.
But it’s important to know, not all protein foods are created equal. You’ll find two types of protein in milk: whey (20 percent) and casein (80 percent). Both are considered high-quality proteins because they contain all essential amino acids in sufficient amounts to qualify milk as a good source of protein. Milk is a complete protein, which means that every glass contains a full mix of the essential amino acids your body needs. While plant-based proteins like beans and peas can be great economical choices, most plant proteins are not considered complete.
Read more: Milk-Drinking Kids Reap Physical Benefits
Why Pairing Meals with Milk Can Help Kids to Eat Healthy
In addition to delivering high-quality protein, milk and milk products provides eight other essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D and potassium. These nutrients, along with fiber, are the four nutrients most Americans — including children — don’t get enough of in their diets as outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. These four are identified as “nutrients of public health concern” because not only are many Americans not consuming enough, not getting enough of these nutrients is linked to health concerns.
Milk helps to balance the nutrition in your kids’ meals. When you pair your kids’ meals with an 8-ounce glass of milk, you can help them reach their daily recommended value for protein, calcium and vitamin D. Recommended servings for milk and milk products vary by age for children. From ages 2 to 3, children need 2 servings daily, children ages 4-8 need 2 1/2 servings daily and children 9 and older need 3 servings daily. Chocolate, or other flavored milk, is also a tasty protein food for kids. Flavored milk counts as a serving of dairy and provides the same 9 essential nutrients in each serving, including:
- B vitamins (Riboflavin, B-12 and niacin) for energy
- Potassium to help regulate the balance of fluids in your body
- Bone-building nutrients, including calcium [Link to April calcium article], vitamin D and phosphorus
- Vitamin A for a healthy immune system
Learn More: 5 Tops to Creat a Better Breakfast This Morning
5 Delicious Breakfast Recipes for Kids
Moms know that a winning recipe for kids’ taste buds involves tasty ingredients and their favorite flavors. Here are five different takes on kid-friendly foods designed to serve up a twist in the morning. Pair with a glass of milk so your kids can eat a protein-packed breakfast.
Our breakfast sushi recipe brings a popular dinner to the breakfast table with a kid-approved twist: peanut butter!
Kids love pizza — and here’s a way to serve a savory weekend meal as a sweet and fruity fan favorite in the morning.
Who can argue with the homemade version of a popular breakfast? This homemade pop pastry adds real strawberries to top off this delicious morning meal.
Serve peanut butter and jelly in a muffin, and this recipe for kids is sure to be a repeat request.
When kids want pancakes, here’s how to make that favorite recipe for kids that you can send with them on rushed school mornings.
3 Easy Snack Ideas for Kids’ Afterschool Treats
When kids need a snack, time is of the essence to serve a delicious and nutritious treat kids will love. Here are three easy protein snacks for kids that can add a tasty twist to your kids’ existing favorites.
Why not create a twist on a smoothie with milk, and mix those traditional flavors to craft popsicles for a different snack idea for kids?
Don’t let the name fool you — this homemade breakfast bar is a quick and easy snack recipe for after school. This version combines oats and fruit with peanut butter for a kid-friendly flavor profile that pairs perfectly with an 8-ounce glass of milk.
Try chocolate milk to change up the flavors for a smoothie perfect for a kid-friendly snack idea.
Read more: For other snack ideas and other breakfast recipes with milk, check out MilkLife.com or What's Cooking, the USDA’s site to help home chefs prepare tasty meals with natural, wholesome ingredients like milk.