Can Kids Drink Protein Shakes?

by Maggie McCormick
A healthy protein shake is a good addition to your child's diet.

A healthy protein shake is a good addition to your child's diet.

Protein shakes may seem like an easy nutritional solution, but you may worry about whether shakes made for adults are safe for children. Fortunately, your child can enjoy protein shakes, but you need to include them as part of a balanced diet. Find the kind that's right for your child.

Kids' Protein Needs

Children do not need as much protein as adults need. In general, the Centers for Disease Control suggests that children between 1 and 3 require 13 grams of protein a day, children between 4 and 8 need 19 g, and children between 9 and 13 need about 34 g of protein a day. As a teen, the requirements vary between boys and girls, with boys needing 52 g of protein a day and girls needing 46. A protein shake can have as many as 20 g of protein per serving, which may be a bit of an overkill in young children. Check the labels to find a shake with an amount of protein that matches the needs for your child's age group.

Types of Protein Shakes

Commercial protein shakes are generally a mixture of protein and water and come in flavors like vanilla, chocolate and fruit. You can also purchase the powder, which gives you the opportunity to create your own, adding it to smoothies made with juice or milk. The source of the protein varies, usually coming from whey or soy. Some children may have allergies to these ingredients and should not have a protein shake. Read nutrition labels carefully, as each version has different levels of nutrients. Some may have a great deal of sugar or low levels of protein.

Protein Supplementation

Most children who eat a well-balanced diet get enough protein. Certain cases may require protein supplementation, such as an athletic child. Additionally, the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford suggests that a high-protein, high-calorie diet is appropriate for children who are dealing with cancer. These children may have difficulties keeping solid foods down, so a protein shake is a nutritious solution.

Shakes as Meal Replacement

Except in extreme cases under the supervision of your doctor, it's not smart to use protein shakes as a meal replacement for children, especially in an attempt to lose weight. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that children should only lose weight slowly through diet modification, not relying on fad diets.

Too Much Protein

It's almost impossible for a child to eat too much protein, according to AskDrSears.com. The body simply gets rid of any excess protein. However, eating excessive amounts of protein over an extended period of time may cause harm to the kidneys. Talk to your doctor if you think your child is getting too much protein. In this case, a protein shake would not be good for your child.

About the Author

Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.

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