How Protein Fuels Child Development

How Protein Fuels Development

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Protein is critical for children's growth and development. Is your child getting enough of it?

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JUN. 04, 2020   3 MIN. READ

From infancy through adolescence, kids need protein to support rapid growth, development and immune health. Yet, research shows that many kids' protein needs go unmet. In fact, as many as one in seven school-aged children in the U.S. fall short of their recommended daily protein targets.1

Here's how to tell if your child is getting enough protein, how to easily add more to their diet, and why this nutrient is so essential for their physical growth and immune health. 

What Is the Role of Protein in Child Development?

Found in every cell of the body, protein plays a critical role in child development. On a basic level, protein is crucial because it serves as the raw material for building tissues, such as muscles, skin and bones. Protein is a key component of antibodies that protects the body against illness and helps keep your child's immune system strong.

What Happens When Kids Miss Out on Protein?

Though we all require protein to stay healthy and strong, it's especially important to ensure that children are getting a enough . That's because childhood is a period of exponential growth. To support this rapid growth and development, kids require more protein per pound of body weight than during any other time in their lives.

If you're not sure what your child’s protein needs are, this quick guide from  The National Academies of Sciences can help:

  •  1- to 3-year-olds should get at least 13 grams a day.
  • 4- to 8-year-olds should get at least 19 grams a day.
  •  9- to 13-year-olds should get at least 34 grams a day.

But, how can you tell if your child is getting the right amount of protein? When kids fall short of their protein recommendations, they may experience fatigue, poor concentration, delayed growth, bone and joint pain, or difficulty fighting infections. Several factors make it challenging for kids to consume enough protein, including a lack of appetite, feeding difficulties and even picky eating behaviors.

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So, what's the best way to ensure your child doesn't fall short in getting this all-important nutrient? First things first, you'll want to look at their diet.

How To Promote Protein in Your Child's Diet

Luckily, protein is found in many foods. However, the most complete sources of protein are those considered high quality, which means that they provide all essential amino acids to the body. Examples of foods containing high quality protein are red meat, poultry, fish, milk, yogurt, cheese, eggs, tofu and other soy products. These foods are rich in protein building blocks called amino acids, which support growth, a healthy immune system and many other critical body functions.

Offering protein-rich foods with every meal and snack can help ensure your child consumes a sufficient amount of protein. Ideally, your kids will get all the protein they need from a healthy, balanced diet. But, as any parent knows, children don't always eat what's in front of them.

How Supplements Can Help Kids Get Enough Protein

When children behind in growth aren’t getting enough nutrition, especially protein,  from their diet alone, talk with your pediatrician who may recommend an oral nutrition shake such as PediaSure® to help support your child’s growth and deliver other key nutrients to help support their immune system.

PediaSure is a tasty nutrition shake that can easily be paired with your child's breakfast, lunch or dinner. It comes in six kid-friendly flavors and can be added to fun recipes like muffins, smoothies and pudding to boost their protein content. With 7 grams of protein per serving and 27 essential vitamins and minerals, PediaSure Grow & Gain can help you fill nutrition gaps in your child's diet.

If you're concerned that your child is behind in growth and isn’t consuming enough protein for optimal growth, consider reaching out to their pediatrician who can suggest options to add protein to your kid's diet or refer you to a registered dietitian for further guidance.


1. Data on File, December 2018. Abbott Nutrition. NHANES data analysis. 1 in 7 school-aged kids defined as 6-13 years. National Academies of Science's RDA for protein ranges from 13-34g daily in children.

Nutrients for Your Childs Brain and Eye Development

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Every parent wants their child to be healthy and one of the most important factors as children grow is good nutrition. For example, certain nutrients can help support strong bones, a healthy immune system, and so on. Three nutrients are especially important to support the developing brain and eyes: Lutein, Vitamin E, and DHA.

"These key nutrients work together to support brain and eye health," explains Abbott registered dietitian and pediatric nutrition scientist, Beth Reverri, PhD, RD. Fortunately for parents and young children, these nutrients are easy to get from breastmilk, foods, and formulas. 

Preparing for Your Adolescents Teenage Growth Spurt

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Adolescence, or the teenage years, is usually a time of major growth and development. Your child may experience a drastic change in height, accompanied by puberty milestones. These adjustments can come on quick and sometimes be surprising — for both your child and you — but the best way to mitigate any confusion is to educate your child on the changes to come.

Parents can play a large role in helping children navigate the adolescent years and become young adults. Knowing the signs of a teenage growth spurt is the first step in helping your child feel safe and supported during this time of change. 




Complete, Balanced Nutrition® that helps kids grow—with protein, DHA omega-3, and vitamins & minerals. Complete, Balanced Nutrition® that helps kids grow—with protein, DHA omega-3, and vitamins & minerals.


Complete, Balanced Nutrition® that helps kids grow—with protein, DHA omega-3, and vitamins minerals.


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