5 High-Protein Meals Kids Love (And Can Cook With You!)
When you make high-protein meals that kids actually love, you’re able to ensure they get enough of the nutrient they need most. Why is protein so important? It’s a major building block in the body. It not only aids in muscle, organ and skin growth, but it also helps maintain fluid and acid-base balance and repairs cells during development. You can learn more about why children need plenty of protein in our blog post, How Much Protein Do Kids Need?
While there are many high-protein meals you can make at home, few of them are likely created with kids in mind or are hard to make with the help of your kids. When you’re able to cook as a family, you get a chance to role model an important healthy habit: cooking your own meals with healthy ingredients.
If you’re ready for some high-protein meal ideas you know your kids will love, it’s time to dive in.
Chickpea Noodle Mac and Cheese
Chickpea noodles are the perfect alternative to whole wheat noodles for many reasons. Not only are they gluten free, but they taste delicious and are packed with protein. Kara Beutel, mom and nutritionist, compared Banza’s Chickpea Noodles nutrition label to that of Barilla’s high protein and regular noodles. What she found: in just one 2-ounce serving of Banza, you get 14 grams of protein, compared to protein plus, at 10 grams, and regular pasta, which has just 7 grams.
What’s more, mac and cheese is a one of the few universal meals kids love. If your little one can’t have dairy, turn to creamy goat cheese. It comes in a wide variety of flavors and is the perfect substitute for this kid-approved meal. You get the water boiling, and they do the rest: pouring in the noodles and then stirring in the cheese until creamy and delicious.
Recipes to try:
Every kid loves waffles, especially when they’re topped with maple syrup and a little butter. When you make them from scratch, you can turn them into protein waffles for a high-protein breakfast your kids will love. Waffles are also a kid-friendly meal to cook: measure, mix and pour onto the waffle iron—kids can do all the measuring and mixing before indulging.
So what’s the secret to making them more nutritious? Just add protein powder.
Mary Ellen, of Milk and Honey Nutrition just created her own recipe with Healthy Height’s protein powder. There are only 8 simple ingredients and she loves the benefits of Healthy Height’s Shake Mix:
”As a dietitian, I'm trained to evaluate research articles and value scientific evidence when making recommendations. If your child is considered lean or short stature to the point of needing a growth hormone therapy or your pediatrician has recommended a protein or calorie supplement for your child, Healthy Height is worth investigating and talking to your pediatrician or dietitian about.”
Check out Mary’s Homemade Toaster Waffles or test a few from below.
Recipes to try:
Turkey or Chicken Chili
Chili is the perfect meal to cook as a family because it’s all about the prep. Chopping everything (adult job!), putting it all into the pot, stirring, adding seasoning, and of course, taste testing. It’s also bursting with protein, from both the meat and the beans.
When shopping for the week you plan to make chili, keep this time-saving tip in mind from Mariah Lichty, owner of the family blog Two Peas and Their Pod: “The secret? Store-bought rotisserie chicken. I am going to pick up a rotisserie chicken from Smith’s and shred it for this white chicken chili. Easy peasy! This is also a great recipe to make when you have leftover chicken to use up.”
Recipes to try:
- 30-Minute Kid-Friendly Chicken Chili Recipe (Momtastic)
- Every Kids’ Favorite Chili (Together As Family)
Salad in a Jar
If you send your kids lunch to school, this is a fun way to change things up from the usual offering. Not only are mason jar salads fun to look at, but kids will love pouring everything out into a bowl and mixing it all together. They can even make their own salad. Put the ingredient options out in bowls and have them layer—wet ingredients on the bottom, dry ones on the top.
Remember that you can make any kind of salad or combination your kids love, like chicken taco salad, rice and bean salad, or sweet potato salad. Get some fun and clever ideas from One Crazy House or dive in with the recipes below.
Recipes to try:
- Cooking With Kids: Mason Jar Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette (Kitchen Frau)
- Make Ahead Mason Jar Salads (Make and Takes)
Pro tip: If you don’t want to, or can’t, send your kid to school with a glass mason jar, invest in a plastic one like the Aladdin Classic Mason Salad Jar.
Protein Shakes and Smoothies
Protein shakes and smoothies are perfect for busy parents. They’re easy to make quickly, without any mess, and can be enjoyed on the go. Whether you’re bouncing between soccer tournaments on Saturday or running late for school in the morning, your kids will get plenty of protein. Kids can also make their own protein shakes, with a little help from mom or dad—just toss everything in and blend.
Before making your kid’s first protein shake, remember all the right ingredients:
Protein + fruit + veggies + fat + liquid + natural sweetener (optional)
The most common form of protein for shakes and smoothies is protein powder. Not only is it safe for kids, but most come in different flavors (Healthy Height comes in chocolate and vanilla), which kids are sure to love. If you want to learn more about this ingredient for your little ones, check out, Protein Powder for Kids: A Complete Guide.
Recipes to try:
High-Protein Meals—Kid Approved
Make sure your kids are getting plenty of protein with these simple, but delicious, high-protein meal ideas. Your kids will get plenty of the nutrients they need, and you can role model the important life habit of cooking healthy meals. Test these recipes to see which meals your kids love most and then put their favorites on regular rotation.
Nutrition to Help Kids Grow - and Sleep!
Every year our team of Pediatricians at Schneider Children's Medical Center have 20,000 visits from children with issues relating to growth. Our doctors wanted to find a non-invasive way to help children grow and the nutrition in our shake mix is the result of their efforts. The nutrition in our shake mix was shown in a clinical study to promote growth in 6 months, as well as improve sleep patterns in kids who take at least 1 serving per day.