A growing number of children and teens are consuming protein supplements, drinks and shakes.  What’s behind this trend?  Is it healthy?  Read on to learn more.

Protein is an essential nutrient that should be part of a healthy diet.  Protein is found in animal sources such as lean meats, eggs and dairy, and also in some plant sources such as beans and legumes, nuts, seeds, soybeans, and whole grains like quinoa.

Protein serves many critical functions, one being muscle development and growth. Some manufacturers of protein supplements call attention to this feature in their advertising.  What they don’t tell you is that consuming a high amount of protein, more than is needed, will not lead to more muscle development. Instead, it can cause unhealthy weight gain and increase a child’s risk for obesity. In addition, protein drinks can lead to dehydration and potential kidney damage if water intake isn’t sufficient.  Lastly, many protein drinks and shakes have added sugar.

Children in the U.S typically consume 2-3 times the recommended amount of protein. Therefore, the need for protein supplements, drinks or shakes is rare.  If you are concerned about your child’s protein needs, it is important to discuss this with your pediatrician before giving them a protein supplement, drink or shake.

To learn more about protein foods and how much protein your child needs each day, visit MyPlate.

This issue was written by Justine Habibian, Ph.D., R.D.N. If you have a suggestion for a topic for the Insider, write to rethinkyourdrinknevada@unr.edu and receive a free, healthy drink recipe book.

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