Is It Okay To Give Protein Powder To Babies or Toddlers?

Starting Solids Australia

We have recently seen a lot of advertisement on all social media platforms promoting the use of protein powders, shakes and supplements for kids. A lot of these companies’ prey on parental guilt. They use the fear that your little one isn’t getting the best start to life to sell the idea that their products will help boost their nutrition. 

The thing is, that a lot of these products are totally unnecessary. 


But what about protein, don’t they need it to grow? 

They sure do! But protein is actually not a nutrient we are concerned about very often in Australia. Most children at every age get enough, if not more than what they need when it comes to protein. 

This is also the reason why we recommend avoiding products with added protein in it for babies and toddlers. For example, the protein enriched yogurts, like a yo-pro. These can be an excellent product for adults, but a tub often exceeds a little one’s entire protein needs for the day. Excessive protein intake in infancy has been linked to increased weight later in life too.(1) 

If your little one doesn’t eat any protein foods (especially no meat or dairy foods) then yes, they are potentially at risk of not having enough protein in their diet. An off the shelf protein supplement or drink isn’t our first choice to support them with their nutrition though! We would suggest you book in for a 1:1 consult with one of our paediatric dietitians for individual support. Click here for more info on consultations.


But what if they only eat beige foods?

You would be surprised how much nutrition, including protein, beige foods actually contain. 

For example: 

  • Milk has calcium, B12 and protein
  • Cheese has protein, calcium, energy, fats, B vitamins, Vitamin A and Zinc
  • Cereals have fibre, often iron and calcium added to them, energy and B vitamins 
  • Yogurt has protein, calcium, energy, B vitamins and zinc
  • Your fish fingers and chicken nuggets have protein, iron, energy and fat 

Now, we aren’t saying that a beige diet is ideal.  We definitely promote food variety here (we all know we should eat the rainbow) but we can’t force our kids to eat. We can model and offer and work on this over time. 

The type of protein powders or shakes you are likely being marketed online don’t contain a lot of vitamins and minerals. Yes, they have some protein, but you’ll likely get a similar amount of nutrition from a banana smoothie or chocolate milk (which is much cheaper).


But what if your little one only eats fruit and no veggies?

Some of these shakes promote themselves as being complete nutritional products filled with all the vitamins and minerals your little one needs. This can sound great if you have a fussy eater that has gone off their veggies. 

Well fruit contains most of the nutrients you get in veggies. So, it is very unlikely that they are missing out on the vitamins and mineral from veggies if they are eating fruit. If they are deficient, the nutrients in these products are very unlikely to meet that gap anyway. This would again need 1:1 advice and likely a blood test to check and correct any deficiency. 


Let’s chat safety. 

It is regularly recommended that pregnant women avoid protein powders. Not because the protein itself poses any harm, but because of the potential contaminants in the protein powder. It can be hard to know what is in them. If you are offering your little one something with an added protein powder, ensure you know what is in it and that it is safe. Things like artificial sweetener can also upset their tummies. Sweeteners are often in these types of products so they can be marketed as “low sugar” or “no added sugar”.


Let’s chat cost.

If we haven’t convinced you to rethink the need for these types of products yet, this might do it. Many of these products work out to be more than $200 per kg! Compared to $4.50 per kg for Greek yogurt or a flavoured milk.  

At the end of the day, what you choose to feed your little one is your decision, but it should be an informed one. Many companies pay a lot of marketing dollars to make you feel like you need to offer these types of products to your little one when you really don’t need them! 

As always, if you are concerned about your little one’s nutrition reach out for a consult. Individual support will help to put your mind at ease and create plan that deals with the issue at hand and not a band aid in the form of an expensive protein shake for kids.