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Picky Eating Tips: Non-Meat Protein Options

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

I recently received a request to discuss non-meat protein sources for our picky eaters.

How many times have you sat down at the dinner table and your child eats only the side dishes, but not the main course?

Many families have the fear that their child may not be getting enough protein. Believe it or not, they are probably getting plenty and meeting their daily requirement!

Let’s start by discussing how much protein your little one needs:

✔️1-3 years: 13 grams/day

✔️4-8 years: 19 grams/day

✔️9-13 years: 34 grams/day

✔️14-18 years (GIRLS): 46 grams/day

✔️14-18 years (BOYS): 52 grams/day


Protein is essential for growth and helps build muscle, produce hormones, and maintain bone and organ health.

Below are some simple, not-so-creative, non-meat protein sources for you to try at home:

▪️Greek yogurt

▪️Eggs (with cheese for some extra protein)

▪️Toast with peanut butter or other nut butter (add hemp seeds for extra protein and crunch factor)

▪️Fruit/veggie smoothie with hemp seeds

▪️Tofu scramble

▪️Grilled cheese

▪️Black bean and cheese quesadilla

▪️Veggies and hummus

▪️Veggies and peanut butter or other nut butter

▪️Quinoa and veggies

▪️Pasta (bean or lentil noodles) with sauce

▪️Tofu stir-fry

▪️Edamame, chickpea, pea salad (all of which are great protein sources)

▪️Cottage cheese


🛑Protein powders or supplements: Supplementing can cause more harm than good in children. Too much protein can overload the kidneys, leading to damage. I also want your child exposed to REAL foods. There is so much evidence that repeated exposure to food leads to children accepting and enjoying those foods long-term.

Other tidbits:

🔅Put peanut butter or nut butter on EVERYTHING (if not allergic). Use it on top of waffles, pancakes, in smoothies, on veggies, with fruit, etc.

🔅You can easily add hemp seeds and/or flax seeds/ground flax to most recipes without them noticing!

🔅Play with your food! Create silly faces or animals made out of some of the above-listed protein sources

🔅Have your kids help make their snack or meal and offer a “taste testing” while you prepare

Remember, it’s OK if every meal does not include a meat source! There are plenty of other ways to get in the appropriate amount of protein in your child’s daily diet!

**If you are concerned about your child’s protein intake or picky eating habits, follow up with your child’s healthcare provider!

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