You are the lifegiver. You hear their cries from across the house: “Do we have anything to eat? DAAAD?”
We can hear them all the way out here in the Jerky Universe, actually.
And you’re five minutes from hitting the road and fresh out of the healthy stuff. You don’t exactly have time to grill a lean, mean steak.
If you have a youngin and need stellar protein ideas for kids, we’ve got you covered.
Traveling, heading to school or just hitting the grocery store, these 37 high-protein snacks for kids sate the beasties. We’ve aimed for on-the-go snacks with kid-friendly flavors, so you should find a favorite no matter how your kiddo rolls.
Why Do Kids Need Protein?
Just like a full-grown human, kids need protein to live and thrive. Protein maintains your body’s building blocks with key amino acids and enzymes — you can’t function without it.
Kids need protein for the same reasons:
- To build muscle
- To form and maintain healthy organs, including the brain
- To absorb nutrients
- To have long-lasting energy after the body uses carbohydrates and fats
- To strengthen bones
- To speed healing
- To boost immunity
- To not overeat
In short, high-protein snacks for kids are vital for them to grow, learn and play as they should. Still, it’s not healthy for kids to eat too much protein — in fact, it’s dangerous.
We’re not trying to pull out scare tactics here. But we’ve seen fads involving parents feeding their kids protein powder or supplements. Please, please don’t do that unless your child’s pediatrician recommends it.
So, how much protein do kids need? It depends mostly on their age.
How Much Protein Do Kids Need?
When you’re nabbing high-protein snacks for kids, this is the general recommended daily amount (RDA) to aim for per age bracket. The exact amount of protein your child needs can differ, so speak with their pediatrician if you’re concerned about something — anything.
1 to 3 years (toddlers)
4 to 8 years (children)
9 to 13 years (children)
14 to 18 years (teens, born male)
14 to 18 years (teens, born female)
Note. We graciously borrowed these numbers from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County. The folks there know what they’re talking about.
37 Ideas for High-Protein Snacks for Kids
So, you’re almost ready to split. You’ll be late for work — and they’ll be tardy at school — if you don’t leave ASAP. Then comes the aforementioned call.
Ah dang it. They just grabbed a cold flapjack for breakfast. It’s fine: Recall our protein ideas for kids, grab one of these snacks and hop in the car.
Note: Before you go full-on shopping, remember that the best protein for kids comes from real foods (aka no protein powders) with little saturated fat. We’ve also tried to include snacks with complete proteins — superfoods containing all nine essential amino acids.
1. Jerky of Choice
Of course, beef jerky is your easiest find. And that’s wonderful with its average 7 grams of protein per ounce! With age-appropriate servings, jerkies are also great salty snacks for kids because of how folks make it.
Good protein for kids really doesn’t get any better than jerky: versatile, portable and flavorful. Just make sure they don’t accidentally eat the silica packet.
Note: If you’re giving jerky to young children, tear it into bite-sized pieces or shred it for safer eating. You can also soften it at home for on-the-move peace of mind.
2. Guava Fruit
Just rinse, peel and slice it for high-protein, low-sugar snacks for kids. You technically don’t have to peel or slice guava — the skin and seeds are edible. Still, it’s wise to consider choking hazards with toddlers and young children.
3. Hard-Boiled Eggs
Honestly, we chose hard-boiled eggs among all your eggy options because they’re easy to eat on the go. If you have time, scrambled eggs, omelets and quiches are delectable egg prep alternatives.
Tip: With a light sprinkle of sea salt, hard-boiled eggs become smart salty snacks for kids, too.
4. Mozzarella String Cheese
Now, what kid doesn’t love unpeeling the plastic from a string cheese stick and viciously tearing the stick into shreds?
But mozzarella string cheese offers more than just a fun afternoon moment of destruction! It packs nearly 7 grams of protein, alongside a dollop of bone-healthy calcium. You can also file it under low-sugar snacks for kids that they’ll request again and again.
5. Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Something so simple, so standard and so easy as high-protein snacks for kids? Absolutely. Peanut butter has nearly 8 grams of protein per 2-tablespoon serving!
Smear it on whole-grain bread (the real kind) for especially filling snacks for kids. And yes, please add low-sugar jam if the PB’s too plain solo. With a cup of cow’s milk or milk alternative, you’ve got a powerful trio: protein, whole grains and calcium.
6. Almond Butter With Raisins
You really can’t go wrong with nut butters, so we’ll keep trekking the trail PB forged.
Almond butter is uniquely creamy and the teensiest bit sweet, so kids usually take to it like ducks to water. With its 3.6 grams of protein per tablespoon, it rivals PB in the protein department. Add raisins for fiber, vitamins and glorious texture — ta-da, you’ve got good protein for kids!
Note: You’ll notice a trend in many of these protein ideas for kids. It’s a high-protein food alongside something that makes kids enjoy it even more. And snacks go well in pairs, don’t you think?
7. Cottage Cheese With Pears
Heck, if your kid’s willing to give it a try, you can skip the pears!
Per roughly half-cup, 2% cottage cheese carries 11 grams of protein alongside tons of calcium and vitamins. But don’t think we’d stick your kid with a run-of-the-mill side — pears are full of folate and vitamin C. Use low-fat cottage cheese with fresh pears for lightly sweet, slightly salty snacks for kids.
8. Honey-Vanilla Greek Yogurt
Hey, Greek yogurt hit the big time for a reason — it packs about 20 grams of protein per cup!
Now, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt may not be your kid’s bag, and that’s fine. You can still make it into high-protein, low-sugar snacks for kids with a drizzle of raw honey and real vanilla. To hit the jackpot, top that with whole-grain granola and blueberries.
They’ll never look at squeezable yogurt-in-a-tube the same way again.
9. Lean Chicken Nuggets or Strips
It’s easy to fall into the chicken-nugget trap. Your kid’s hungry (practically starving to death, according to them), and nuggets are right there in the freezer. You think, “Hey, chicken’s got protein.”
You’re not wrong -– a 4-ounce chicken breast has 26 grams of protein. Still, mass-produced chicken nuggets can be … well … chicken leftovers full of salt and saturated fat.
We know you’re busy, but lean homemade chicken nuggets/strips are awesome high-protein snacks for kids. Freeze leftovers, then air-fry or bake later for more nutrients (and time) and less waste.
10. Tuna Salad With Whole-Grain Crackers
Our go-to for busy lifegivers (ahem, parents) is a basic tuna salad with whole-grain crackers. You can jazz up tuna salad with hard-boiled eggs, pickle relish, peas and more — whatever your kid likes with it.
You know the drill: Mix the tuna salad, seal it in an airtight container, refrigerate and retrieve. There you go: long-lasting protein snacks for kids, from dips to sandwiches to salads.
Tip: Some homemade tuna salad recipes swap mayo for Greek yogurt! Check it out and see whether your protein-powered child adores the change.
11. Chicken-and-Cheddar Wraps
You know those refrigerated, precooked grilled chicken strips you nab for salads and fajitas? They can be lifesavers when brainstorming protein ideas for kids. They pack 28 grams of protein per 4 ounces — and you can use them in practically anything.
For a quick pick-me-up, grab a tortilla (ideally whole-grain), shredded cheddar and those lovely little strips. Stack the chicken and cheese, roll it up and hand the wrap to your kiddo.
Tip: If you have time, microwave wraps under damp paper towels for 10 seconds to make gooey, yummy and filling snacks for kids.
12. Pumpkin Seed Granola
Pumpkin seeds are nutrient powerhouses, including nearly 9 grams of protein per ounce. Naturally, not all kids are down with noshing on pumpkin seeds alone.
Whether your kid eats it alone, as cereal with milk/milk alternatives or atop Greek yogurt, they’ll get all the other nutrient goodies in the mix. And you bake the base for all sorts of high-protein snacks for kids … because you’re a savvy parent.
13. Hummus With Pita
With a smidge over 1 gram of protein per tablespoon, hummus isn’t as potent as some other high-protein snacks for kids. And you might not imagine hummus and your kiddo seeing eye to eye. But with a serving of pillowy pita bread, those tablespoons disappear (and add up) fast!
Plus, alone or with veggies for dipping (think celery, broccoli, baby carrots), it sets the stage for fantastic low-sugar snacks for kids. And they get the folate-plus-fiber punch that keeps their brains sharp and bellies full.
It’s not just for health nuts — it’s for your little monsters too.
14. Roasted Edamame
We’re admittedly jerky fanatics in the Jerky Universe. But we’re also suckers for edamame. It’s crunchy, it’s healthy and it’s flat-out addictive.
Unconvinced? Try offering your kid a bag of Buffalo-flavored roasted edamame and watch the bag evaporate. And with at least 11 grams of protein per half-cup, this delectable bean definitely scores as high-protein snacks for kids.
Tip: If you need low-carb snacks for kids, roasted edamame varieties certainly fit the bill.
15. Quinoa Bars
We can actually hear your thoughts: “Quinoa? And my kids? Really?”
That’s fair. But with a little prep, quick quinoa bars have some of the best protein for kids. Cooked quinoa gives your youngin 8 grams of protein per cup. Add it to a few simple ingredients (or buy prepackaged bars), and you’ve got drool-worthy and filling snacks for kids.
16. Sunflower Seed Butter on Banana Slices
We told you — you can’t go wrong with nut butters.
These high-protein snacks for kids are as simple as they come. Get yourself some earthy sunflower seed butter and sweet bananas, slice the bananas and spread the butter. Then, watch your kiddo expand their palate (and their muscles).
17. Ham-and-Cheese Pinwheels
These are easy-breezy as high-protein snacks for kids (pretty much sandwiches, but cuter).
First, get some low-sodium ham — deli ham offers 11 grams of protein in three to four slices. Then, grab your kiddo’s cheese of choice to up the protein level, mayo and/or cream cheese and some flour tortillas. And finally layer, roll, slice and display.
They’ll vanish in minutes.
Tip: If you need salty snacks for kids, opt for cured spiral-cut ham. It’s thicker and certainly saltier.
18. Mini Edam Cheese Wheels
What’s edam cheese, you ask?
It’s cow or goat’s milk cheese, and you’ll find a particularly popular brand in small, red wax-wrapped wheels. With 7 grams of protein per ounce, edam cheese has all sorts of options for fun-to-eat high-protein snacks for kids.
19. Chicken Salad With Green Peas
You already know chicken’s full of protein, so lean into it with simple chicken salad’s 16 grams per half-cup. It’s delicious alone or with whole-grain crackers as low-sugar snacks for kids! And yes, you can save time with canned chicken.
Tip: Chicken salad recipes are plentiful, so you can get crafty. For more filling snacks for kids, make macaroni chicken salad. It takes a little extra time, but refrigerated leftovers give you on-hand food when the questions come in!
20. Protein-Packed Toast With Real Butter
Bread can certainly boast protein! At minimum, good whole-wheat or whole-grain breads should have 4 grams per slice.
But how do you find the right brand? Look for one touting seeds, nuts and sprouted grains — and check the label to make sure it delivers on the promise. You may have an easier time with keto-centric breads, which pack in protein to match the diet.
High-protein snacks for kids aren’t any easier than this, friends. Pop a slice in the toaster, smear it with a little grass-fed butter and hand it over.
21. Yogurt Dip With Apple Slices
You’ve got peanut butter and raw honey in the cupboard, Greek yogurt in the fridge and apples on the counter.
Welcome to super-fast good protein for kids.
Just mix 1 cup of Greek yogurt (20 grams of protein) with a half-cup of peanut butter (28 grams of protein). Drizzle in a tablespoon of honey. Slice the apple and dish out the snacks — you’re welcome.
22. Fresh Spring Rolls
A 3-ounce serving of shrimp packs 22 grams of protein! And what do you know — spring rolls can carry a bevy of shrimp.
Now, you might have commercial spring rolls in the deep freezer, but hear us out. These quick spring roll recipes give you tasty, vegetable-laden protein snacks for kids. When you have a little more time, this recipe creates high-protein spring rolls.
If you have to go for the frozen ones, swap deep-frying for baking or air-frying. Either way, these light (and kinda fancy) rolls are ready for little grabbers anytime.
Tip: If your kiddo’s iffy about shredded veggies, bribe them with peanut dipping sauce.
23. Salmon Pouches, Solo or With (Snack) Friends
With its 7 grams of protein per ounce and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon is some of the best protein for kids.
But frankly, your sophisticated preteens might have an easier time with salmon pouches alone (just hand them a fork). For younger kids, offer salmon with whole-grain crackers and spin it as “shark bait.” We’re pros.
24. Bean-and-Cheese Burritos
Grab a tortilla (fajita wraps work great for younger kids). Mix your kiddo’s perfect bean-to-cheese ratio — an art and a science. Spread on the wrap, roll, microwave under a damp paper towel for a couple seconds and present with a side of salsa.
Tip: Squeeze in good stuff like lean chicken and veggies, especially with your hungrier youngins.
25. Baked Tofu Nuggets With Sauce
Again, we can hear you thinking: “Tofu? Seriously?”
But it’s a wonderful base for high-protein snacks for kids with its 10 grams per half-cup! Plus, some kids struggle with meat textures (or are losing their baby teeth). Present baked tofu nuggets with a dipping sauce.
We like this sweet-and-sour recipe from NYT Cooking. And you can definitely skip the ingredients your kid doesn’t like … except for the tofu.
26. Chickpea Snack Mix
Despite their health food-staple rep, chickpeas are totally delicious — and have 14.5 grams of protein per cup.
While they’re lovely all on their lonesome, use roasted chickpeas as a base for a colorful snack mix. With other awesome-for-you stuff like pumpkin seeds, coconut shreds and almonds, opportunities for sweet-and-salty snacks for kids are everywhere. Play mad scientist and craft your own, or follow a tried-and-true recipe.
Tip: You can absolutely save time by buying preroasted chickpeas (just pay attention to what flavor you pick).
27. Homemade Protein Bars
“This is a busy parents’ guide,” you say. That’s true, and we’re not fudging! Most homemade protein bars aren’t time-intensive or sweat-inducing.
Like most homemade snacks, you’ll find a zillion recipes online. We like this one because it’s sweet, fast and full of protein (9 grams per bar). Plus, like the best high-protein snacks for kids, it keeps for a while in the fridge or freezer.
28. Chia Pudding With Blueberries
Just 1 ounce of chia seeds has nearly 5 grams of protein, so they’re a no-brainer for protein ideas for kids.
But how do you get your kids to nosh on chia seeds? Make sweet chia pudding, friends. It’s a bit like tapioca pudding, but the beads are smaller and easier for kids to chew.
With a recipe like this, you need only a few ingredients, a blender and a fridge for overnight soaking/chilling. Oh, and your youngin gets 9 grams of protein per serving and a dazzling indigo-colored pudding!
Tip: If your kid struggles with celiac disease, chia pudding is usually a simple gluten-free snack. Just always double-check the ingredients!
29. Turkey Sticks
We don’t discriminate when it comes to jerky. And turkey sticks are basically turkey jerky — except they’re thicker and softer, kinda like small sausages.
They’re also a great swap for your higher-fat, higher-sodium options (eh, rhymes with “skim trims”). With turkey’s 24 grams of protein per 3 ounces, turkey sticks definitely deliver on the “high-protein” part of this list.
Next to the laptop, in the packed back seat or stuffed in a lunchbox, turkey sticks are also ultra-easy low-carb snacks for kids.
30. Roast Beef Sandwich With Swiss Cheese
In our opinion, sandwiches count as snacks instead of meals unless you pair them with a side or two. (We can skirt the rules a bit.)
And hey, what makes simpler filling snacks for kids than sandwiches? You know how to make sandwiches, so we won’t give you the play-by-play. But here’s info that proves our high-protein point.
31. Kale or Spinach Chips
Kids may have a difficult time scarfing down raw or cooked spinach and kale. Seriously, some adults do, too. Still, both are some of the most protein-rich veggies, with almost 3 grams per 100 grams (about a third-cup).
We admit it sounds bonkers to plop green leaves in front of your hungry kid … that’s where the “chips” part comes in. Get creative with flavors, like steak seasoning, vinegar or lime — whatever your kid likes with potato chips. Give them a taste, and watch the tables (hopefully) turn.
32. Avocado Cubes With Bacon
It’s not one of the highest-protein veggies (and it’s technically a fruit, we know). But avocado has way more protein than most of its peers at 3-4 grams per cup. Plus, it’s flat-out delicious — an undisputed fact.
Your kiddo shouldn’t struggle to love it cubed with a couple slices of thick-cut bacon (4 grams per slice). Together, they’re quick low-sugar snacks for kids that still give yours a savory shot of protein.
33. Peanut Butter-Stuffed Apples
Regular old apple slices with PB? Nope, and that’s a winning combo already. These high-protein snacks for kids don’t just have tons of nutrients — they have pizzazz.
Core an apple, but not all the way through. Scoop out about 2 tablespoons’ worth of flesh. Stuff the inside with roughly 2 tablespoons of PB and their 8 grams of protein.
Retrieve the core, and cut off everything but the top inch and stem. Plug the apple so it looks like an ordinary, non-PB-packed apple. It’s simple, but it’s a surprising burst of awesome in the school cafeteria.
Tip: You can get even more crafty by mixing in Greek yogurt, raw honey or oats. You’re good at this parenting thing.
34. Pan-Roasted Almond Slivers
It might be difficult for kids to love almonds alone (and that’s truly shocking to adults). Plus, crunching on them can be challenging when they’re young and gap-toothed. How do you introduce them to the nutritious, delicious glory that is the almond while getting them protein?
Pan-roast perfectly crunchy almond slivers. A half-cup of almonds has 15 grams of protein — no meager number — along with a boatload of other good stuff. Plus, almonds can be excellent salty snacks for kids, depending on how you season them — and that can be with practically any herb or spice.
Tip: You have a go-to protein booster with a bunch of toasted almond slivers. Need to top off your kid’s Greek yogurt, PB apple or chia pudding? Voila!
35. Sliced Chicken Breast With Dip
Chicken? It’s high in protein, and pretty much everyone loves it. Your kid? They may be a bit difficult to satisfy (or maybe not). .
Like with healthy chicken nuggets, chicken wraps and chicken salad, it fits the bill with 28 grams of protein per lean chicken breast. These high-protein snacks for kids take only a little baking and slicing — cook lean chicken breasts, slice into strips and decide which dip hits the spot.
Check out this Buffalo chicken dip recipe for a surefire crowd-pleaser — you’ll spot some other list entries in the mix.
36. Real Mac and Cheese
Yep — good old mac-and-cheese bowls can be great high-protein snacks for kids. One cup of cheddar cheese packs 55 grams of protein! To ramp it up, opt for protein-rich pasta with add-ins like cottage cheese, feta, eggs and Greek yogurt.
Admittedly, it takes a little time to make, but a good dish keeps well in the fridge. Then, you can just dig out a half-cup serving and microwave it as a fast snack. Life hacks!
37. Oatmeal-Peanut Butter Cookies
Oh, we can’t forget your youngin’s sweet tooth! You can work good protein for kids into cookies, cakes and all sorts of yummy stuff. (But please don’t use protein powder unless your kid’s pediatrician gives it the go-ahead.)
This oatmeal and PB recipe adds chia seeds for extra punch. But it ups the ante further with flaxseed, boasting 15 grams of protein per half-cup! With bananas, cinnamon and maple syrup, get ready to break out ice-cold cups of milk (or a milk alternative).
Explore the Jerky Universe
Do you hear your dear child calling for grub as we speak (well, as you read)?
Skim the list and see which high-protein snacks for kids hit the spot. We’ve listed some real winners, if we say so ourselves. And send us your tips, tales and ideas anytime!