Not too much.
A pediatric dietitian writing for parents.com has said
“There seems to be a link between high dietary protein in the first 24 months of life and a higher risk of being overweight or obese later in life.”
The studies in question had one critical detail, being that the only type of protein that was linked to faster growth and risk for excess weight was protein from dairy, namely found in milk, cheese and yoghurt.
But how much protein should my toddler (or baby) eat? Well, expert suggestions lead to a maximum amount of 15% of all energy consumption, for kids between 6 and 24 months. Usually around 30 to 45 grams a day. When they get older, this scale from WebMD can help as a guide.
- Teenage boys need up to 52 grams a day.
- Teenage girls need 46 grams a day.
- Adult men need about 56 grams a day.
- Adult women need about 46 grams a day (71 grams, if pregnant or breastfeeding)
“You should get at least 10% of your daily calories, but not more than 35%, from protein, according to the Institute of Medicine.”
“Recommended intakes of protein established by the Institute of Medicine and followed by the American Academy of Pediatrics are well below this limit: only 11 grams per day for babies from 7 to 12 months and 13 grams per day for toddlers. As you can see, your little one probably doesn’t need as much protein as you thought.” – parents.com
Some idea of protein content for some common foods…
- Milk and yogurt – 8 grams per cup
- Cooked chicken – 8 grams per oz.
- Egg – 7 grams
- Cooked beans – 3 grams per 1/4 cup
- Pasta – 7 grams (!) per cup.
“Naturally, children need protein to grow, but they do not need high-protein, animal-based foods,” states the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) site. Many people are unaware that a varied menu of grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits supplies plenty of protein. The ‘protein deficiencies’ that our parents worried about in impoverished countries were the result of starvation or diets restricted to very few food items. Protein deficiency is extremely unlikely on a diet drawn from a variety of plant foods.”