Easy proteins for toddlers to self-feed

This list of easy proteins for toddlers will ensure that even your pickiest tots will get what they need! All of those can be self-fed, so that if you have a jumpy kid like mine, they’ll still get the right nutrition.


If you're struggling with finding food for your tot, you must read this! These easy proteins for toddlers will make sure your child gets the right nutrition! Plus, your toddler will be able to self feed all of them!


Toddlers by nature are picky eaters. While they like to experiment with unique foods, if they sense it’s something you WANT them to eat, they seem to always refuse to try it.


The Institute of Medicine encourages children ages 1 to 3 to consume at least 13 grams of protein every day.


Ensuring that M gets proper nutrition is especially important to me, as he always seems to be “too skinny”. While I know he’s got the right genes for that, and he’s an active toddler too, I still want to make sure he’s getting the right balance.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


I see so many lists that encourage the eating of vegetables, which made me think I might be unique. M can live solely off veggies if I allowed it, but for us proteins seem to be the problem. I asked some fellow mamas, did some research on protein content, and put together this list of easy proteins for toddlers.


One of our issues happened on days that we made something that M couldn’t feed himself. He hasn’t quite mastered using utensils yet, so on days when I made a lentil soup, for example, I needed to find an alternative for him. All of these easy proteins for toddlers can be self-fed too!


10 Easy proteins for toddlers:


1. Cheese:  While it’s high in sodium (making it a less than ideal option) it is high in protein too. It’s a great way to sneak protein into your child’s snack instead of giving nutritionally-empty snacks.

  • 2 slices of American cheese: 5g of protein
  • String cheese or cheese stick: 6g of protein


2. Frozen Fish Sticks: It’s an easy finger food, and a way to “hide” a food that many children won’t touch.

  • Tip: opt for the kind that has real fish inside, not some “garbage” mixture.
  • 5 Sticks: 8 grams of protein


3. Meat balls: While this may not be “easy” it freezes very nicely. The next time you make some for dinner, double the recipe and freeze half in plastic bags divided by portion. That way, you have it available when you need a quick protein for your toddler.

  • Try this oven recipe to make the recipe easier
  • Protein content varies, depending on the other ingredients involved. Two medium meatballs have approximately 7 grams.
  • Tip: swap out ground meat for chicken for even more protein!


4. Hard boiled eggs: I always keep a half dozen or so cooked and handy!

  • Tip: learn how your child likes it! M is more likely to eat the yolk as well if I give it whole, and he knows how to bite into it and eat it properly. If I scramble it, he doesn’t always eat it. But if your child eats it scrambled it’s another great way to get the yolk down!
  • Give it for breakfast to start the day on the right foot.
  • Don’t worry if your child eats only the whites. That has plenty of protein too.
  • 1 large egg: 6g of protein
  • 1 egg white: 3.6 grams



5. Legumes: I hesitated to give this to M because of the shape and size, but some fellow moms convinced me to try squashing them between my fingers before giving it. Make sure it’s well-cooked and soft, or, even easier, pop open a can.

  • 1 T chickpeas: 2.4g of protein
  • 1 T black beans: 2.6g of protein
  • 1 T white beans: 2.9 g of protein


6.Chicken: Children are far less picky than you might think, and don’t need fancy recipes when it comes to chicken. You can simply dump a leg in the oven with some duck sauce, or barbecue sauce (or plain) and it will be delicious. You can also microwave chicken if you’re short on time, but be very careful that it is properly cooked through.

  • 1 drumstick with skin: 23 grams of protein (so calculate a little less when removing skin)
  • Pick off small, bite sized pieces and allow your toddler to self-feed.


7. Yogurt: It may come as a surprise, but yogurt is one of my toddler’s main sources of protein! He drinks it plain and unsweetened straight out of a straw cup. Make sure to use a cup with a wide straw (this is our favorite, but we also like these. This brand, for example, is too narrow to really use for yogurt).

  • Tip: if your child won’t eat it plain, mix in some unsweetened fruit purees, such as baby food fruit.
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt has 10 grams of protein!
  • Note: if you are focusing on iron, be aware that yogurt and other dairy-based proteins may not have the iron you need. You can focus on getting the iron from iron-rich vegetables instead.


8. Protein based chips: These chips use flowers made from legumes instead of grains. They are often high in sodium too, so limit them. Like the cheese, they are a great way to sneak some protein into snack time.


9. Protein-rich spreads: If you’re giving a sandwich, why not add a good dose of protein?

  • 2 T natural peanut butter (no sugar added): 8 grams of protein. If your child is allergic to peanuts but can have other nuts, try almond butter.
  • 1 T tahini: 2.6 grams of protein. Thin it a little to make it a little more of a spread.
  • When all else fails: cream cheese and hummus also have some protein.



10. Tofu: Children will surprise you! Many children will eat tofu, and it’s easy to bake. Cut into small cubes to serve.

  • 1/2 cup tofu: 10 grams of protein.



If all else, fails, aim for protein-rich vegetables instead over those without. You can get a gram or so of protein into a serving of broccoli or string beans, as opposed to cucumber, which has only trace amounts.

I also try to “sneak” a few extra grams into non-protein dishes. Think: an extra egg in a batter, cheese in mashed potatoes, and sesame seeds on sauteed veggies.


I hope you enjoyed this list and I hope it helps you provide better food options for your toddler!


What easy proteins for toddlers can you add to the list? Share your favorites in the comments below!


If you're struggling with finding food for your tot, you must read this! These easy proteins for toddlers will make sure your child gets the right nutrition! Plus, your toddler will be able to self feed all of them!



Disclaimer: I am not an expert, pediatrician, or nutritionist. The list above is based on some quick research and crowd-sourcing. Always go according to your doctor’s dietary recommendations first. The amounts listed above are all approximate, primarily based off the nutrition facts on foods I have in my home. This post contains affiliate links.


  1. Thanks for sharing this. Such an easy way to self feed our toddlers.

  2. Great list, but I’m not sure what you mean when you say American cheese or a string cheese? (I’m not American) Ae these processed cheese, surely just cheese grated or sliced from a normal block would be better?

  3. Great list but I believe it’s the white of the egg that carries the protein, not the yolk, which is the fatty, tasty bit – hence egg-white omelettes.

  4. I give my toddler avocado on a slice of bread or slice it.

  5. My daughters love when I slice an avocado in half, sprinkle some salt and lime juice and give them a spoon. She also loves lentil soup blended with some chicken broth, carrot, kale, any vegetable.

  6. My children love seaweed!

  7. I read this article for my 94 year old Granny!

  8. Barilla has a protein pasta made with legum flour. I use these in everything… Chicken soup, Mac n cheese, plain, Alfredo w/peas.

  9. My toddler is also really picky when it comes to protiens. But the other night i was making pork chops i breaded them baked them in the oven and sliced them up in little strips and served it with some dipping sauce. She loved it! Which is funny because if i would have cubed it she wouldnt have touched it but because i turned it into a fun finger food she ended up eating a whole porkchop:)

  10. I hear ya. My kiddo struggles with meat, and is allergic to chickpeas and lentils, so protein intake is tough. We like to make our own black bean hummus: you get the protein from the legumes and the tahini, and none of the processed junk from store-bought. You can make hummus from just about anything. Your toddler gets the veggies they want, too, when they dip!

  11. Kirsten (Nana) Van Loo

    High protein pancakes and turkey sausage are a “go-to” breakfast for my two active grandsons. Look for “high protein pancake” recipes on Pinterest – made with oats, cottage cheese, eggs, and milk. I add 1/4 cup bran cereal to keep things “moving”. Turkey sausage flattened “real thin” and cooked in an electric frying pan without extra oil can be sliced into finger food for the toddlers.

  12. Another tip I use- if your kid only eats the whites of hard boiled eggs, save the yolks and crumble into mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, or some other creamy food where they won’t notice it.

  13. Christina Aleman

    What are the other options for chickpeas that also has high in protein?

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