8 ways to get more protein into a picky toddler’s diet

Joaco eatingMy 21 month old son is a picky eater. In terms of protein, he eats one particular brand of chicken tenders, cooked crispy but not too crispy. He refuses any other forms of meat, poultry, fish and eggs.

Of course, he would eat copious amounts of dairy if I’d let him, but I’ve discovered dairy causes eczema patches and runny poops. So what’s a mom to do?

Here are 8 ways to incorporate more dairy-free, soy-free protein into your child’s diet.

1.) Quinoa, Hemp or Almond milk are great substitutes for cow’s milk. They contain only about half the protein of cow’s milk, but it’s a good way to transition a kid off of milk or just change it up every now and then. And make sure you choose unsweetened to avoid added sugars. The vanilla flavors are usually well tolerated. So Delicious actually makes a protein-fortified almond milk that contains brown rice and pea protein for 5g of protein per cup.

2.) Hummus or white bean dips are great options for kids who like to dip. You can serve with bell peppers and baby carrots, or spread them onto sliced cucumbers.

3.) Nut butters (almond, peanut, cashew) contain a decent amount of protein – about as much as an egg per 2 tablespoons. Try spreading them onto whole grain or GF toast, or slicing apples for dipping.

4.) Sunflower seed butter is an ideal alternative for those with nut allergies. I personally find that these taste like ground up bird seed (cause it is!) and can be significantly improved by stirring in 1-2 tablespoons of honey into the whole jar. You can also add to smoothies for a protein boost.

5.) Pea protein or brown rice protein powders work well for liquid-loving kids (i.e. smoothies and milks). I prefer brands that use no artificial sweeteners or flavors. Haven’t tried this variety by Growing Naturals yet, but I like that the Original Flavor is just pea protein.

6.) Turkey Meatballs – Moms rave about Jessica Alba’s Turkey Meatballs, which hide veggies like carrots, zucchini and onions.

7.) Dinner Sausage (I like Aidells, which are nitrite free and nitrite free and come in mild, kid-friendly flavors like chicken & apple)

8.) Black Bean Brownies – What kid doesn’t like brownies? In my Black Bean and Avocado Brownies recipe, I use a whole can of black beans, an avocado, and both coconut and olive oil to keep them nice and moist and fudgy. Per brownie, these contain a decent 4g of protein, 3 g of fiber and only 9g of sugar. Plus, they’re gluten free!


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