Whey Protein for Kids – Benefits and Food Ideas
Protein shakes are all the rage these days for fitness buffs and health enthusiasts alike. You can’t walk into a gym without seeing dozens of people gulping down chocolate, vanilla, and fruit-flavored protein drinks. Supermarket health aisles are seemingly stocked with enough protein powders to feed a small nation.
Stores like GNC and Whole Foods cater to adults looking for the best protein powders for their health. And of course you can always find protein powders online along with other popular dietary supplements. They’ve never been more accessible to us, and our culture is seemingly obsessed with protein powders.
But while adults can consume protein powder by the truckload, what about children? Can kids have whey protein? Should supplementing with protein powder be something to consider for kids? Are whey protein shakes for kids a good idea and if so, what benefits would it provide? Is supplementing with protein powder safe for kids? Are there harmful aspects of introducing a protein powder to a child’s routine or does it offer awesome benefits?
Read on to find out the truth about protein powder for kids, including the benefits of using whey protein powder, how to use it in everyday meals and snacks, and whether there are safety considerations when it comes to using protein powders with your kids.
Benefits of Whey Protein for Kids
To answer the immediate question in your mind, if kids can have whey protein powder, the answer is yes! And in fact, whey protein can offer a number of benefits to kids.
Here are some great reasons why whey protein can benefit kids:
- Promote growth — Protein powders (whey protein in particular) contain essential amino acids which are essential for the growth and development of children.
- Conducive to hormone production — As your children pass into puberty, their bodies will begin to produce hormones. Protein is needed for the production and distribution of those hormones.
- Helps achieve or maintain a healthy weight — Regardless of where a child may land on their growth curve in relation to their weight and height, protein can be used to help achieve a healthy weight. According to data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every five children in the US are obese. The likely reason for this alarming statistic is related to the ease of access to foods that provide no health benefit other than empty calories. Finding healthy and tasty snack options that both pack a wide variety of nutrients while not including excess calories is key. A tasty protein packed shake or smoothie that doesn’t contain excess amounts of added sugar is a great way to nourish a child without packing on the unnecessary calories. Keep in mind that too much protein can lead to an excess of calories, therefore it is important to balance their intake of protein with the other calories they are eating.
- Boost immune system — Not only will whey protein help kids with their growth and development, it can also help optimize their natural defenses against infections and support a healthy immune system.
- Can be helpful for sensitive stomachs – Vital Whey protein is minimally processed to maintain its maximum biological activity and immune-modulating components found in milk, and it’s intended to be gentle on little tummies that need more tolerable foods.
Just like it can be useful for adults, protein powder for kids can offer a wide range of benefits. But do they need it? Should every kid have a protein supplement in their diet?
Can Kids Have Protein Supplements?
If you are considering whey protein or protein shakes for kids, it’s important to remember the reason why you are giving them extra protein in the first place. A child’s health should be the primary reason behind any changes you make to their diet.
Protein is one of the key nutrients that promotes a child’s growth and development. It is important to know how much protein a child needs. Most parents will overestimate the amount of protein needed. The amount of protein children need per day is no more than half a gram of protein per pound of body weight. (Example: a 70-pound child needs about 35 grams of protein per day—and that’s only for very active children.) 
If you want to get more specific about your child’s protein needs, the recommended protein needs according to the United States Dietary Guidelines are as follows: 
- Children between the ages of 1 to 3 need up to 13 grams of protein per day
- Children between the ages of 4 to 9 need up to 19 grams of protein per day
- Children between 9 and 13 need up to 34 grams of protein per day
- Teenage boys can take up to 52 grams and teenage girls up to 46 grams
Note that the numbers above are for total protein in their daily diet, which may or may not include some form of supplementation.
The truth is that protein shakes for kids, though delicious, aren’t always necessary. Most children don’t need to add a protein supplement to their routines. If you are providing a balanced diet based predominantly on whole and minimally processed foods, supplementing with a protein drink or powder may not be necessary. Whey protein only comes into play if you feel your child is not meeting their nutritional needs.
For children who are very picky and refuse protein-rich foods like meat, tofu, legumes, eggs, or dairy products, whey protein can be a convenient way to meet those daily protein needs.
Keep in mind that phases of selective eating are normal for children of all ages and don’t indicate a need to rely on protein powders or other meal supplements long-term.
Children can normally get enough protein from the foods that they are eating. In fact, most kids in developed countries like the United States eat more protein than they actually need.  For instance, natural, whole-food sources of protein include:
- Tofu/Soy Products
- Seitan/Vital Wheat Gluten
So again, to answer the question, is it okay for kids to have protein supplements like whey protein powder? Yes, they can have protein powder, and you can use them to supplement your child’s overall healthy diet to help make sure they meet their protein and calorie needs.
When Is Protein Powder Good for Kids?
Below are some examples of kids who might need protein powder in their diets:
- Children with nutritional deficiencies – If your child is suffering from a protein deficiency, it may be a good idea to consider giving them protein Supplement. Short term supplementation using protein powder can help them to get the proper nutrition without adding too many calories (leading to obesity). However, true protein deficiency is very rare in Western countries, so if you’re concerned that your child isn’t eating enough protein, be sure to speak with a pediatrician or dietitian before supplementing their diet. 
- Children who don’t eat well – Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Many children are very particular about what they eat, and they don’t handle certain foods well. If you find that your child is hard to feed and refuses most protein rich foods, adding protein powder to what little they do eat can help make sure they’re getting enough nutrients. Whey protein for kids in this instance can be an easy way to help make up for anything lacking in the child’s diet and help support healthy weight gain, but should only be used for a temporary period.
- Children who live in a vegetarian household — Although a well-planned plant-based diet can be nutritionally adequate for children, it’s important to make sure they are meeting their nutrient needs by offering a wide variety of healthy foods.  Adding whey protein powder or a plant-based alternative (soy, pea, or brown rice) to the child’s diet can ensure they get all the amino acids needed to grow healthy and strong while still staying true to the plant-based lifestyle and diet.
- Children who are very active — Is your child an athlete that competes at a junior level? Child athletes may need to follow special diets recommended by coaches or nutritionists. An athletic child may have increased protein needs to support growth and physical activity. Adding a bit of whey protein can be a quick and easy way to help them get more nutrients without adding a ton of extra food.
If your child falls under any of the above categories, it may be a good idea to consider supplementing with whey protein. Protein shakes are a great way to do that. Whatever you choose to do, it’s all about giving them the right balance of nutrients!
Always be sure to speak with your pediatrician first to make sure any underlying issues related to eating, nutrition, or expected weight gain trends for your child are identified and property addressed.
Is Whey Protein Powder Safe for Kids? How Much?
Now we come down to the million dollar question: is whey protein for kids safe?
As long as it is plain protein powder without any crazy additives like caffeine or muscle building ingredients, protein powder is safe for kids.
It’s also important to remember that when it comes to protein, more is not always better. Too much protein can be problematic. Excessive protein intake can lead to unnecessary weight gain and other unnecessary health complications.
Studies have shown that adults who consume too much protein can be at an increased risk for problems with their heart, liver, kidneys, and bones.  If your child is already a good eater, there is no reason why you need to significantly boost their protein intake with protein powders.
Another problem with whey protein for kids (and other protein powders) is that they don’t usually taste all that great. However, they can definitely be flavored to taste better, and it’s actually a lot easier than you’d think. Here are some ideas that your kids may already eat and enjoy!
- Make hot chocolate with protein powder
- Bake cookies or brownies with protein powder
- Add fruit-flavored protein powder to juices
- Add flavorless protein powder to soups and stews
- Mix protein powder with yogurt, oatmeal, applesauce, or pudding
- Make muffins, breads, and doughs with protein powder
The truth is that it’s VERY easy to hide protein powder in the right recipes. Your kids don’t have to know that they are eating it, and they won’t mind the taste, as it often blends right in.
The bottom line is that you can easily make sure that your child gets plenty of protein without using protein powders, simply by offering them a variety of healthy, protein-rich foods. But if you choose to use protein powder, it can be a great alternative for kids, especially those that are picky eaters.
Which is the Best Protein for Kids?
If you are going to give your kids a protein supplement, whey protein is one of the best options. It is one of the two proteins found in dairy milk, so it is a protein that their body is likely already used to. It is easy to digest compared to other protein powders and can help their immune system along with give them all the nutrients they need.
Casein protein is a bit harder to digest and the amino acids work more slowly, but it’s another good option.  Egg and non-GMO soy protein powders do taste a little different than the milk-derived protein powders, but they offer many of the same health benefits. Pea or brown rice protein may be best for children who have food intolerances or allergies.
Note: If your child is sensitive or allergic to gluten, eggs, nuts, and/or dairy products, make sure to discuss with your physician before making any dietary changes to their routine.
Always make sure to seek immediate care if you notice signs of any severe reaction.
When choosing a whey protein powder, look for ones that are low in added sugar, non-GMO, made with recognizable, whole ingredients, and have been clinically tested or doctor-recommended.
If you are looking for a high quality protein powder for kids, consider Well Wisdom’s Vital Whey. Not only is it 100% natural, it’s also a safe and healthy protein powder for kids and adults alike. Our products are made with only the finest, year-round grass-fed whey, and contains the least amount of ingredients possible. Vital Whey protein has no preservatives or artificial additives, just the finest whey protein and naturally sourced flavors.
You can feel confident that your child can safely use our whey protein powder as part of their regular diet, without worrying about artificial or harmful ingredients. Plus, they will get all the protein they need to stay healthy.
 Garlick PJ. Protein requirements of infants and children. Nestle Nutr Workshop Ser Pediatr Program. 2006;58:39-47; discussion 47- 50. doi: 10.1159/000095009. PMID: 16902324. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16902324/
 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. Health.gov. Updated 29 Dec 2020. Available from: https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/previous-dietary-guidelines/2015
 “Why Extra Protein for Your Child Is Unnecessary – and Possibly Dangerous.” Cleveland Clinic. Published 26 June 2017. Available from: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/why-extra-protein-for-your-child-is-unnecessary-and-possibly-dangerous/
 Benjamin O, Lappin SL. Kwashiorkor. [Updated 2020 Jul 19]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2021 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507876/
 Melina V, Craig W, Levin S. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2016 Dec;116(12):1970-1980. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27886704/
 Delimaris I. Adverse Effects Associated with Protein Intake above the Recommended Dietary Allowance for Adults. ISRN Nutr. 2013;2013:126929. doi:10.5402/2013/126929
 Kanda A, Nakayama K, Sanbongi C, Nagata M, Ikegami S, Itoh H. Effects of Whey, Caseinate, or Milk Protein Ingestion on Muscle Protein Synthesis after Exercise. Nutrients. 2016;8(6):339. doi:10.3390/nu8060339