By: Kelly Miterko Read Time: 2 minutes

Protein is a nutrient that plays an important role in the growth, development, and overall health of kids. While meat might be the first thing many people think of when they think about adding protein to their meals, there are many other great sources of protein as well. And eating a variety of protein foods helps to get more nutrients kids’ growing bodies need. 

How does protein support kids’ development?

Protein is part of every cell in our bodies, and it serves as a building block for our bones, muscles, and skin. Protein provides calories or “energy” for the body, and it is key for many processes such as blood clotting, fluid balance, immune response, vision, and production of antibodies. 

What foods are good sources of protein?

Protein can be found in food from both plant and animal sources, including meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, dairy, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds (including nut and seed butters), and soy products. Scroll down to see some specific examples!

How much protein do kids need?

The amount of protein kids need depends on their age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity, but below is a general guide to how much kids should consume. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses 1 ounce-equivalents (oz-equiv) for the recommendations because 1 ounce of different protein foods have different amounts of protein (more on this below!).

2-31½ to 3 oz-equiv1½ to 3 oz-equiv
4-82 to 3 oz-equiv2 to 3 oz-equiv
9-132½ to 3½ oz-equiv3 to 4½ oz-equiv
14-183 to 4 oz-equiv3 to 5 oz-equiv

Here are some examples of 1 oz-equiv of various protein foods, and check out more examples:

  • 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish 
  • ¼ cup cooked beans, peas, or lentils
  • 1 egg
  • ½ ounce of nuts (12 almonds, 24 pistachios, 7 walnut halves)
  • ½ ounce of seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut or almond butter 
  • 6 tablespoons of hummus

So if you have a 10 year old daughter, she should get 4-6 oz-equiv, which she could do by having:

  • 2 eggs (2 oz-equiv)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (1 oz-equiv)
  • ½ cup of cooked peas (2 oz-equiv)


How do you incorporate protein into your family’s meals and snacks? What else do you want to know about healthy ways to eat protein? DM us at @plezinutrition with all your questions. And you can learn more and check out other protein foods here!