While the old food pyramid days are gone, parents everywhere still stress a bit (re: all the time) about making sure their children get the right amount of nutrients. I’ve raised a couple of picky eaters now, and even when I’m being cool and have my they’re-growing-and-healthy-it’s-fine mindset on, I can still get a little panicky about how much nutrition they’re actually getting. Protein is one of the big ones, especially when it comes to kids who love to snack. Having a few protein-heavy snacks for kids can make all the difference between a hanger meltdown before dinner (that they may or may not eat anyway) and a kid who can actually speak in sentences instead of growls.
While nobody should be losing sleep over their kid’s eating habits, protein is a pretty important one, and the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that protein helps build new tissues and produces antibodies to fight infections. But protein is also easily found in a lot of the things your children already eat (that chicken nugget habit is paying off). If you have a kid who likes milk, cheese, eggs, yogurt, beans, nuts, or any kind of nut butter — don’t sweat so much. Chances are your child’s getting plenty of protein each day, even if it’s not the exact recommended amount — two to three servings per day. And those servings are generous, writes Amy Palanjian from Yummy Toddler Food. As in, one string cheese and one cup of milk totally counts as a serving of protein.
And don’t sleep on things like chocolate milk or drinkable yogurts if that’s what your kid likes. But if you want to slip in some variety or have them try a few new protein-packed options, this list of protein-heavy snacks for kids is perfect.
Pretzels & Apples With Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is such a great source of protein — there are 8 grams in just 2 tablespoons — and if your child likes to dip, this is a nice way to make a filling, protein-heavy snack. Just give them a few dollops of PB with either apple slices, pretzels, sliced banana, whatever they like with peanut butter.
Cookie Dough Energy Bites
I love these little snacks, and while they aren’t *loaded* with protein in a way that turns your preschooler into a weight lifter, they do have 2.5 grams of protein per bite, and they are delicious. This cookie dough energy bites from Pinch of Yum taste like the perfect little cookie bite, and are made with whole ingredients you can feel extra good about.
Greek Yogurt Parfait
Greek yogurt is an enormous source of protein — around 13 grams in one cup — and it’s a super easy snack for kids to enjoy. If your kids aren’t fond of the plain Greek yogurt taste, you can buy the flavored kind (the honey one is so delicious), or just add your own sweetner. Peanut butter mixed in is also a protein bonus and delicious, and of course you can top with your child’s favorite fruits, Nutella, granola, chocolate chips — whatever. Let them make their own!
Hummus & Dippers
Did you know that a 2/3 cup portion of hummus has 8 grams of protein? That may sound like a lot of hummus, but it can go fast when you have delicious things like carrots and mini naan to dip into it. Hummus can be a crowd pleaser even for picky kids, and my own girls love it with deli turkey, which gives an extra dose of protein.
Coconut Vanilla Chia Pudding
OK, I’ll be the first to say that chia pudding might not be a food a picky kid enjoys, but it’s worth a shot, especially with this recipe for coconut vanilla chia pudding from A Classic Twist. It’s so creamy and full of flavor, and I actually really appreciate the gelatinous texture of chia seeds. Give your kiddos some toppings and see if they enjoy, especially since chia seeds have a whopping 4.6 grams of protein in just two tablespoons.
Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups
Who says pumpkin is reserved for the fall? These adorable little pumpkin cheesecake cups from Cookie and Kate take a bit of work, but they are so worth it, and are a great source of protein thanks to the Greek yogurt, cream cheese, and even the pecan topping. (Canned pumpkin itself has a bit of protein, too, which is nice.) So creamy and spicy, these are perfect for the kids who like a treat that isn’t too sweet.
Eggs are obviously a great choice for protein — there are 6 grams in one egg — but who has time to whip up your kid’s favorite scrambled eggs after school? You can get ahead of the game by prepping a whole bunch of hardboiled eggs instead and having them ready to go whenever your little one needs a snack. Not every kid likes a hardboiled egg, but this is also a way to offer them some variety by letting them sprinkle on seasonings or even dipping their egg in soy sauce or ketchup.
Chocolate Protein Pudding
I mean, this snack from Jessica in the Kitchen is literally called protein pudding. How perfect is that? Made with protein powder and coconut yogurt, it is packed with all the goodness your little one needs, and it’ll taste so delicious. This is another great option for them to top themselves with fruit and other fun bites — even sprinkles would be great here.
Copycat Starbucks Protein Bistro Box
This is such an excellent protein-packed snack for kids, especially if you’re on the way to soccer practice or need something quick after school. From Damn Delicious, these are copycat Starbucks protein bistro boxes and they can be prepped in advance for a super easy grab-and-go option. Hardboiled eggs, peanut butter, and cheese make up the protein portion, and the rest is filler for dipping and crunching. So easy, and you can customize to your kid’s needs, like swapping in pepperoni or turkey sticks.
This recipe for easy oatmeal bars from Yummy Toddler Food is a major winner. Not only is the recipe itself actually easy and full of great flavors your kids will love (and the texture is divine), it also has lots of nice protein in there and can easily be saved for leftovers or you can make a double batch and freeze the extras. The best.
Mini Charcuterie Board
If your kids love meats like pepperoni, salami, or turkey sticks, just go ahead and make them an easy little charcuterie board. Add a few favorite meats, a couple of slices or handfuls of their favorite cheese (shredded colby jack is a favorite in our house), and some grapes and crackers. The perfect protein snack.
Whether your kid eats a big hearty dinner every night or would rather have a bowl of cereal three times a day, hopefully one of these protein-packed snack options will keep them full and satisfied.
This article was originally published on