As a Pediatric Feeding Specialist, I get a lot of questions from parents on how they can get more protein into their toddler’s diet. Since it’s recommended to have a protein at each meal and snack, here are a few tips to help with your picky protein eater.
Variety: Offer a variety of animal and plant based proteins to identify your child’s favorites. Animal proteins, like meat, poultry, seafood and eggs, can be offered as well as plant proteins, like nuts, beans, peas, seeds and soy products. Try to grill, broil, roast or bake meats rather than frying to 1) avoid extra fat 2) keep meat tender and 3) make it easier for toddlers to chew.
Manageable Cut + Portions: Kids can gag and vomit on proteins because they are harder to chew and the child can become fatigued easily. To decrease gagging, make sure the protein portion sizes are small and cut into manageable pieces. Also, in terms of portion sizes, I use the general guideline from Dr. Sears who recommends one gram of protein per pound, per day for infants and children. So, depending on weight, preschoolers may only need 2-3 ounces of protein a day! If you serve protein with the correct portion size in mind AND make it easier to chew, you kids can become successful protein eaters.
Veggies: There are a lot of veggies that are a wonderful source of protein. A few of my favorite green vegetables to introduce to children are spinach, kale, broccoli and green peppers. Other favorites are mushrooms, tomatoes and cauliflower, which is 40% protein! To get your picky protein eater to take a bite of this yummy veggie, try my rainbow cauliflower popcorn recipe – it’s always a hit on movie night!
Violator: Some children like foods separated, especially proteins. If your toddler has this preference, use a plate with three compartments like the Happy Mat. With the Happy Mat, the violating protein won’t touch the other foods, and the eater can dip it in their favorite sauce. It is very important to ensure that your child has a dipping sauce when introducing new proteins. Try ranch dressing, barbeque sauce, soy sauce or peanut sauce. Added bonus; some of these sauces have a few grams of protein too!
View: Get your child to view protein as a fun and delicious topping. At breakfast, try sprinkling chia seeds or almond slivers over cereal and yogurts for an extra protein boost. Give ice cream and other desserts a colorful garnish of chocolate covered sunflower seeds. Add a sprinkle of grated cheese on top of soups, quesadillas, sandwiches and veggies. Even snack time can have some protein fun with my ezpz Trail Mix recipe. Encouraging your child to view protein as an added treat can make mealtime more enjoyable for both of you!
Valuable Information: Gather useful tips and information on how to make, serve and introduce a new protein. Check out our book, Making Mealtime ezpz: Fun Ways to Fill the Happy Mat, which highlights protein food art, a protein grocery list and a guide of ezpz protein sources. This book will help you and your toddler(s) explore more protein sources for ezpz mealtime!
What are your tips to help a picky protein eater try new foods? What are some of your family’s favorite protein enriched veggies? How do you help your children make healthier, well-rounded protein choices? #ezpzfun #ezpzbook #protein #toddler
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz