How Much Protein Should A Child Eat A Day?

How Much Protein Should A Child Eat A Day?


When it comes to your kid's growth and development, the importance of protein isn't up for debate.

Protein has long been considered an important nutrient in the human diet. So, what are proteins? Proteins are the building blocks of body tissues. They help repair and maintain vital tissues and, are crucial for the growth of all organ systems including bones and muscles. Proteins in the body also work as enzymes, immune molecules, hormones and cellular messengers. Therefore, proteins are vital for the growth and development of every child1.

How Much Protein Should A Child Eat A Day?

Protein Quality Matters

A less well-known fact about proteins in the human body is that they are made up of 20 amino acids. 9 of which are considered essential as they can only be derived from our diet. And only specific dietary sources of protein can deliver a full complement of these essential amino acids.

High quality proteins include milk and milk products such as yogurt and cheese, eggs, meat, poultry and fish. “Many sources of high quality protein also provide important nutrients like vitamin E, B vitamins, zinc, iron and magnesium,” says Jennifer Williams, Masters in Public Health, nutrition research scientist with Abbott.

Quantity Matters Too

Know the Protein Goal
Total protein needs of a child increase with age. The Recommended Dietary Allowances by the Health Promotion Board of Singapore details the protein goals per day for children2.

How much protein should my child consume?

3 to < 5 Years old should have 25 grams of protein
5 to ≤ 7 Years old should have 30 grams of protein

Calculate Protein Intake

Calculate how much protein should a child eat a day. Finding it hard to calculate the amount of protein found in your child’s diet? Here is a ready reckoner of protein content of common food items3.

1 tablespoon (25g) of peanut butter = 7g of protein

1 egg (50g) = 6g of protein

1 slice of salmon (120g) = 29g of protein

1 piece of tofu (152g) = 12g of protein

1 slice of cheese (22g) = 4g of protein

1 piece of chicken thigh (81g) = 16g of protein

1 cup of full cream milk (256g) = 8g of protein

1 cup of natural yoghurt (150g)= 7g of protein

1/2 cup of corn (82g) = 3g pf protein

Make it Simple

If these numbers seem hard to achieve each day, the Health Promotion Board’s Healthy Plate recommends, that as part of a well-balanced diet, a ¼ of the plate should be reserved for lean meat or other protein-rich foods. Children should also drink 2 – 3 glasses of milk (500 – 750 ml) each day as it is a good source of protein and calcium.

Picky Eaters Prone to Lower Protein Intake

1 in 2 parents in Singapore identify their children as picky eaters, and picky eating is first noticed as early as one year old4. A study conducted among healthy 3-7 year old children in China, found that over half the children displayed picky eating behaviours which was negatively associated with growth. These children were found to consume less protein intake compared with peers who were normal eaters5.

Williams added that children who do not get enough protein may experience health issues, including fatigue, poor concentration, slowed growth, bone and joint pain, delayed wound healing and decreased immune response.

Is your child a picky eater?

  • Refuses food, especially vegetable and/ or meat
  • Eats slowly or holds food in the mouth
  • Resists trying new foods
  • Eats only the same food for all meals

Practical Primer for Meeting Protein Goals

Include one protein-rich food choice at every meal:

  • Tuck in an egg at breakfast occasionally.
  • Accompany lunch and dinner choices with a portion of cooked chicken, fish or meat.

Power up protein in snacks

  • Add cheese or a spread of peanut butter to bread or bun
  • Offer a cup of yogurt or milk

For children who are picky eaters and growth compromised
Include 2 – 3 servings of a complete and balanced oral nutrition supplement along with a well-balanced diet to support catch-up growth

1 Abbott Nutrition News. (2018, 8 August). Abbott. Retrieved from
2 Health Hub. (2018, 29 January). Health Promotion Board. Retrieved from 
3 Energy and Nutrient Composition of Food. (2011, 14 March). Health Promotion Board. Retrieved from
4 Goh DY, Jacob A. Perception of picky eating among children in Singapore and its impact on caregivers: a questionnaire survey. Asia Pac Fam Med. 2012 Jul 20;11(1):5. doi: 10.1186/1447-056X-11-5. PMID: 22816553; PMCID: PMC3477031.
5 Xue, Y., et al. (2015, 13 April). Growth and Development in Chinese Pre-Schoolers with Picky Eating Behaviour: A Cross- Sectional Study. PLOS ONE. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123664

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