Getting more protien into a picky 4 yo's diet - Mothering Forums
The Childhood Years > Getting more protien into a picky 4 yo's diet
3xMama's Avatar 3xMama 12:00 AM 10-17-2010
My 4 yo DD has been becoming more and more cranky in the past six months. Its not just cranky, she's pouty and has mood swings to rival a preteen. I was thinking about it today and it struck me that a huge portion of her diet is carbs. I can't help but wonder if she's getting to many quick burning calories which is causing just surges of energy without a lot of substance, kwim?

Here's the problem: She hates meat. She won't eat beef at all. She won't eat chicken unless it's breaded and/or covered in ketchup. She won't eat fish. She won't eat eggs. She won't even eat lunch meat! She won't eat meat substitutes. That leaves (off the top of my head) sausages, bacon and pork-which I really don't know if she'll eat since we don't buy pork often.

I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to get sneak extra protien in there when she refuses to eat so much. Even things like chicken pot pie where its all one helping and coated in gravy she'll pull apart and eat around the chicken pieces. I don't want to add too much sausage and bacon into her diet. I know kids and fats are different than adults, but I'd like to get it in her in a healthier manner. I'm also not opposed to putting some ketchup on her plate if that gets her to eat, but I don't want to that to get out of hand.

Any ideas? Thanks for your help!

missnoodlesmom's Avatar missnoodlesmom 12:58 AM 10-17-2010
My daughter is not a big meat eater, either, and here is how we get protein into her:
peanut butter, peanuts, almonds, sunbutter (at preschool), almond milk
yogurt: the greek yogurt has more protein and calcium in it, but my DD prefers regular - we eat stonyfield and walloby normally
milk: we drink almond milk and cows milk in our house
beans: black beans in taco's or nachos, hummus with pita bread, vegetarian chilli or minestrone soup
avadaco - guacamole or we eat a lot of vegetarian sushi with the sliced avacado in it
seafood: surprisingly, she likes most seafoods so she eats shrimp on a regular basis, some crab, mussels, oysters, etc. when we go out to eat
cheese: I make a pasta dish with olive oil, garlic, and feta and parm. cheese - she will scarf it up. I also give her string cheese or cubed muenster cheese

I hope this helps! Also, I always have to remember that veggies do have protein in them. Even fruit does!
One_Girl's Avatar One_Girl 01:39 AM 10-17-2010
Have you had her tested for diabetes? They just have to pee in a cup for it so it isn't an invasive test. We got all kinds of mixed nuts, I used to have dd help me choose the foods she didn't like and prepare them in artistic ways, and we do a lot of beans. I have always provided a variety of foods and insisted that all of the food stay on dd's plate even if it wasn't something she thought she would eat and that has slowly worked. I don't push eating it but it always goes on the plate. My dd started eating some of the foods she now loves because she say her grandparents eating them and she always loves to eat what they eat. If you can set it up so your dd sees someone else eating one of those things and they reluctantly share some with her that may have a big effect on what she will eat. If all else fails then I think you should just let her use ketchup and not worry about it, but that is because I can't imagine eating meat without ketchup (there has to be something tasty with dinner).
bluebunny's Avatar bluebunny 10:22 AM 10-17-2010
I could have written your post except my DD is almost four and she sometimes will eat meat, but not often.

I have tried nuts (peanut butter, almonds, peanuts). No go.

I have tried beans. Usually she won't even try them.

Cheese and yogurt works sometimes.

I have considered the diabetic thing but frequent urination is not an issue and I have heard that that is a telltale sign.

I think I'm going to have to be more pro-active about feeding her on a consistent basis, even if it is veggies and fruit.

I would love to hear other suggestions.
pianojazzgirl's Avatar pianojazzgirl 11:31 AM 10-17-2010
Experiment with different nuts and nuts butters. My dd doesn't like most nuts, will tolerate cashews and adores Brazil nuts. My ds loves cashews and nothing else. Peanut butter goes over well with both of them, and almond butter is a huge treat for dd.

Lots of grains have a substantial amount of protein in them too. One idea is to get some chickpea flour and substitute a portion (maybe 20%) of normal flour with the chickpea flour in your baking. Do a little research to see the protein levels in different grains. I think quinoa is good too (?). There are also commercial cereals that are "high protein" (probably with added soy). Do some reading of labels at the supermarket to see what you can see.

See where you can slip a little extra protein in. Maybe silken tofu in a smoothy, or bake up some low-sugar peanut butter cookies (with added chickpea flour), eggs in the form of french toast, etc. Time to get creative!
Adaline'sMama's Avatar Adaline'sMama 11:51 AM 10-17-2010
When I was pregnant, I counted my protien. When I didnt get enough, I drank a super protien from odwalla. If she doesnt like protien rich food, maybe you could try it in a drink? Im not sure how well the body processes that compared to peanute butter and tofu.
4evermom's Avatar 4evermom 01:37 PM 10-17-2010
Ds will eat peanut butter cracker sandwiches if I put a little honey in the PB and use plain round crackers.

If you bake, you can add ground almonds to the cookies/muffins. I grind them in my coffee grinder.

But I wouldn't focus just on protein. Foods with fiber and fat get digested more slowly and don't have the high glycemic index of simple carbs (they don't cause high blood sugar levels followed by a crash). So adding some olive oil to pasta cooked al dente would be something that shouldn't cause a blood sugar spike. Potato chips would be better than pretzels because they are higher fat. Etc.

I'm not saying those are the best food choices, lol, but I had a seriously cranky hard to feed 4 yo and sometimes just getting him to eat anything that wouldn't feed the cycle was an accomplishment. I had to be very proactive in feeding him. If he got too hungry, he just wanted sugar. I would recognize that he had gotten too hungry and was beyond reason and I'd give him something sweet at that point. Then, I'd follow up with something better and try not to let him get to that point next time.
pianojazzgirl's Avatar pianojazzgirl 02:56 PM 10-17-2010
Originally Posted by Adaline'sMama View Post
When I was pregnant, I counted my protien. When I didnt get enough, I drank a super protien from odwalla. If she doesnt like protien rich food, maybe you could try it in a drink? Im not sure how well the body processes that compared to peanute butter and tofu.
Along those lines you can also get those meal-replacement kind of bars that are pretty full of protein. There are tons on the market. Sometimes I give dd a Clif bar to eat in the car on the way to school if we are running crazy late and there wasn't time for breakfast.
34me's Avatar 34me 03:05 PM 10-17-2010
My son is 14 and will only eat what we call "pre chewed meat". He will absolutely not eat any type of meat he needs to chew. What has really helped us (besides yogurt and peanut butter) is Quinoa and Black beans. Surprisingly enough he loves it.
Thyme Mama's Avatar Thyme Mama 07:28 PM 10-17-2010
i'm sorry you're having such a struggle mama! i haven't read each reply carefully yet, but i was hoping to maybe add to the pot.

our number one tool with our children that we feel contributes to their balanced and eclectic diet is that we discuss nutrition and how our bodies are feeling EVERY DAY.

for example: if a child or parent is feeling a bit constipated we talk about how we need to drink more water, eat a salad/some fruit/a vegetable, exercise, drink a cup of tea. then we do those things. immediately. this works even for very, very young children.

our children now have a sense of "hey, i'm feeling a bit crabby and irritated, i think i need some protein mama." or "i haven't eaten fruit/veggies/yogurt/etc yet today, can you get me xyz dad?".

we talk about how eating good, whole foods keeps us from getting sick, makes us smarter and stronger, makes us feel good and have energy to play and do the activities we enjoy. we also discuss foods that are NOT healthy, will NOT give us energy, or will make us sick. my young children know the difference between natural and organic foods. they know and choose not to eat foods that have artificial things in them. if you ask them "candy or fruit?" they will 95% of the time choose fruit.

also after we eat we talk about how delicious and healthy what we just ate was and how good we feel. if something doesn't taste so good we talk about the ways we might prepare it differently next time.

my long winded point is this: we feel that when children understand why certain foods help them, they will naturally gravitate towards those foods. and that talking about and modeling healthy eating habits every single day will do more to help your "cause", than tricky ways of getting a kid to eat xyz.

eta: one super easy and quick snack my family loves is guacamole and chips. i smash up 1-3 avocadoes with sea salt and pepper, put some organic corn chips (or crackers) on a plate and they go to town! one of my kids will eat an avocado cut into cubes and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper with a fork.

olives are another big hit. so is cheese and crackers. and yogurt. our family eats yogurt everyday. great snack. kind of a treat too! celery with nut butter is another staple. add some raisins to the top and it's a work of art.
Thyme Mama's Avatar Thyme Mama 07:43 PM 10-17-2010
i felt i should add that we do not cater to pickyness. i do my best to buy and prepare foods everyone enjoys. we eat simple whole foods. i also ask fairly often "does everyone want a or b for dinner?" everyone usually agrees and is excited about our meal.

if someone decides after the fact that they don't like what i've prepared for a meal our policy is: This is what we are eating. If you don't eat, you will be hungry later, and you will not be getting something else. You may have more of this. Period.

if i prepare something and it doesn't turn out great or i make something new and we're not sure if we like it or not, we are really flexible about that. i don't expect my family to eat overdone this, burnt that, extra spicy this or too salty that. we'll agree "hey this isn't so good! why don't i make something else real quick while you guys eat your salads/some veggies/chips and salsa/etc?"
3xMama's Avatar 3xMama 04:03 PM 10-18-2010
Thanks for the ideas, ladies! I will definately be adding more beans into our diet. I don't knwo why I forgot about 'em, DD actually really enjoys them-and so do the rest of us. I'm also going to look into the protien values of a lot of foods she does it that I don't generally think of as protien rich-like cheese and veggies. I know its in there, I've just never paid attention to the amounts before.
mizzoh's Avatar mizzoh 04:17 PM 10-18-2010
i know some of these have been mentioned, but here are some of the things my 4 yo will eat

lentil soup or curry
chickpea curry
legume pasta
beans and rice ( i cook the beans up with onion and spices, sometimes veggies too)
greek yogurt ( often has more protein than reg - sometimes twice as much)
EdnaMarie's Avatar EdnaMarie 04:24 PM 10-18-2010
My young children's favorites are also beans, especially things like marinated chickpeas added to a pasta or pasta salad, burritos, nuts in a pinwheel snack dish, yoghurt (I put it in a smoothie with bananas and berries and they love it) and cheese. I see that's what you're going for and I hope it will be a success.
Mere's Avatar Mere 07:59 PM 10-21-2010
We talk about nutrition a lot in our house, but it doesn't change the fact that ds1 (now 6.5) eats about 20 foods. Total. Getting enough protein is a huge issue for him, because protein-rich foods are not among the 20 foods he would like to eat. Because he eats such a limited diet, he's not interested in variety; once I figured out what protein foods he would eat at what times of the day, I pretty much had it made. E.g., He eats oatmeal for breakfast. Always. Lunch usually involves peanut butter and fruit. Snacks include fruit, yogurt smoothies, and trailmix (I learned early on that if I threw in a *few* chocolate chips he would eat large quantities of nuts as a snack). Dinner is cut-up raw veggies and either cubes of cheese or almonds. Every night. (I put the veggies and nuts out for general consumption but with him in mind). I don't cater to his pickiness, but I do always provide something that he will eat for meals (and it's not too hard to chop up carrot sticks and cheese cubes).

The caveat is that we can only have healthy foods in the house because ds1 is drawn to anything remotely unhealthy like a magnet and will obsess about it endlessly. We do go out for treats, but I can't keep anything treat-like in the house.

Anyhow, I occasionally stress over his diet, but the bottom line is that ds1 is extremely healthy (perhaps more so than anyone in the family, ironically enough) and growing just fine. FYI, he has been picky since birth, but this level of limited diet has been going on for YEARS.