Healthy Snacks With Protein for Kids

Hard-boiled brown eggs
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Since children get a good chunk of their calories and nutrition from between-meal noshing, be ready with a stash of healthy protein snacks for your kids. Protein is important for growth and it's also filling, so its calories are doing double duty (and it'll give you a few extra minutes before kids are asking for their next snack).


Protein is an essential building block of the body. All of our cells and most of our body fluids contain protein. The body uses protein to repair cells and to make new ones. So we need to replenish our protein supplies continually through food. This is especially important in childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy when the body is working extra hard to grow strong and healthy.

Proteins are made up of 22 different amino acids. Our bodies can only produce about half of them (13 amino acids). The rest, we have to get from food. These essential amino acids are found in animal proteins, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products (called complete proteins).

Vegetarians or vegans can get them by combining two or more incomplete proteins from plant sources: beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and grains. Soybeans are the exception—they are a plant-based complete protein.

Kids' Protein Snacks

Try some of these snack choices, but do be mindful of salt and fat content in some higher-protein foods. Both are okay (even necessary) in small amounts, but you don't want to overdo it.

  • Cheese (sticks, cubes, slices, rounds)
  • Milk
  • Sliced turkey, ham, or roast beef
  • Turkey sausage, meatballs, or hot dogs
  • Jerky, salami, or pepperoni (turkey versions may be lower in fat, but higher in salt)
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Nuts
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Peanut butter and other nut butters
  • Cream cheese
  • Hummus or other bean dips
  • Yogurt (Greek varieties have more protein)
  • Tofu
  • Edamame (whole soybeans)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Crackers or chips fortified with protein, or baked goods made with protein powder (homemade is almost always healthier)

What About Protein Bars?

You see protein bars on sale for athletes, women, and even especially for kids. Generally, these aren't necessary, because most Americans, young and old, get plenty of protein in their diets. If you're in a pinch and need to replace a meal, a protein bar might be okay because they often contain less sugar than, say, granola bars or cereal bars.

But protein bars still might have a lot of calories, especially if they are designed for adult athletes. Even kids and teens who exercise a lot would be better off getting their protein from other food sources, like the snacks above and, at meals, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy products.

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  1. Michelfelder AJ. Soy: a complete source of protein. Am Fam Physician. 2009;79(1):43-7. PMID:19145965