Every so often, we are asked our opinions on protein powder and if it’s safe and/or recommended for kids. Parents sometimes make protein smoothies or give protein bars as meal replacements as they feel it will provide their kids with extra vitamins, and will be a “lighter” meal.
While some high quality protein powders can be beneficial for someone who is very active (meaning more than 1-2 hours each day at a high intensity), for most of us, they are completely unnecessary and in some cases, can be harmful, depending on the person and the ingredients of the protein supplement they use.
Our reasons for not recommending protein powders are:
- It is easy to get excellent protein in nutrient rich bundles from the 5 food groups (Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy plant and animal proteins, and dairy or dairy replacements). These food groups should be included in all meals and snacks to contribute to overall protein needs.
- It is not good for the body to eat too much protein, especially in a concentrated form such as protein powder, if the body does not need it. Too much protein can be harmful to the kidneys and liver.
- The average child’s body can only absorb their required amount of protein (between 40-70 grams per day) and above that, it will simply be excreted in the feces. So often times, the protein powder just ends up being an expensive bowel movement!
- It is extremely rare that kids are not having enough protein to meet their needs as kids tend to prefer protein rich foods.
- If the body needs protein, that person will be naturally inclined to choose more protein rich foods, so listening to the body’s cues is a good gage to decide how much to eat and is more than enough to meet needs.
- Some animal proteins can be high in cholesterol, fat, and salt, which will also cause harm in the body. Especially, red meats, sausage, bacon, shellfish, whole milk, and some cheeses. These should be eaten rarely, and a majority of protein should come from plant sources (beans, lentils, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and the small amounts contained in vegetables) and lean animal proteins (eggs, turkey, chicken, fish)
- Many protein powders have been very processed and can contain a large amount of sugar, or sugar replacers, which are also unhealthy for our bodies, making us crave more sugary foods.
- Balance is key!
Keep it simple with whole foods and your body will help you do the rest!
Protein powders and bars are most commonly given as a breakfast, our suggestion for a high protein, balanced breakfast is a healthy fruit smoothie.
1 cup of your favorite frozen fruits
1 medium banana
1 cup spinach
¾ cup unsweetened soy or 1% milk
2 tbsp hemp seeds (for protein)
2 teaspoons of natural peanut butter (optional- for more protein & flavor)
Cooking Utensils needed:
Place all ingredients in a blender
Written by: Jennifer Nelson, MS, RD, CDE & Dahlia Marin, RDN