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USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine

 
   

   


My 3-year-old daughter won't eat meat.
How much protein do children need?

The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for protein are based on body weight and include age-related adjustments for the extra protein needed for growth, said nutritionists at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Healthy 1-to-3-year-old children need 0.55 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day, which means the average 29-pound toddler needs 16 grams of protein each day. The RDAs for older children are 0.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight for 4-to-6-year-olds; 0.45 grams for 7-to-14-year olds; and 0.4 grams for 15-to-18-year-old boys. The RDA for girls over 15 and boys over 18 is 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight, the same as for adults.

Although your daughter shuns meat, she can still get all the protein she needs from dairy foods, grain products and vegetables. A one-ounce serving of cheese, a cup of milk, an extra-large egg, two tablespoons of peanut butter or one-half cup of beans provide six to eight grams of protein each, which is about the same amount in each ounce of lean meat, fish and poultry. There are also two to four grams of protein in each serving of breads and cereals and one to three grams in a serving of most vegetables.

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