Can kids have protein powder?

Written by Jack Schrupp and reviewed by Ella McGonagle, M.S. Nutrition

Can kids have protein powder? Kids can have protein powder, but not all protein powders are created equal. Learn more about which protein powders are safe for kids.


“It has ingredients you can actually pronounce and is freaking delicious.”


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Kids can have some protein powders. 

How much protein do kids need?

Can kids eat protein powder?

Why drink wholesome?

How much protein do kids need?

Kids need to eat lots of protein. Protein plays a vital role in growth and development, as it exists in every single cell of their body, acting as a fundamental building block for muscles, skin, and bones. Protein also serves as a crucial component of antibodies, which shield the body from illnesses. Suffice it to say, eating an adequate amount of protein is of the utmost importance, particularly during childhood when growth spurts occur.

According to the latest research, the Dietary Reference Intake for protein for kids aged 4-13 years is 0.95 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. A child weighing 100 pounds should therefore aim to consume at least 43 grams of protein daily. His or her primary sources of this protein should be foods such as eggs, meat, and fish. Getting enough protein this way can be hard for some kids, however, especially for picky eaters and children with dietary restrictions. This is where protein powders can come to the rescue.

Can kids take protein powder?

Adding protein powder to smoothies, oatmeal, and other recipes is an easy way to boost your kid’s protein intake. That said, not all protein powders are safe for kids. The reason why has nothing to do with protein, as any type of protein can nourish a growing child. The reason why many protein powders are not safe for kids, or anyone for that matter, is that they contain loads of food additives. 

The majority of protein powders are made with emulsifiers, stabilizers, thickeners, sweeteners, and flavors, which can lead to uncomfortable side effects and long-term gut damage. Research has also indicated that disruptions to the composition and function of the gut microbiome (the collection of microorganisms that help you digest food) can contribute to the development of various chronic diseases.

As a parent, it is therefore crucial to seek out protein powders with a short list of simple ingredients. If an ingredient cannot be found at a local grocery store, it is likely a food additive and should not be included in your kid’s diet. Continue reading to learn more about the dangers of food additives, and how to choose a safe protein powder.

Why drink wholesome

drink wholesome is additive-free.

One of the reasons why our protein powder is safe for kids is that we do not use food additives. While food additives can enhance attributes such as flavor, texture, and shelf life, they also bring about unfavorable side effects and pose long-term risks to the gut. Unlike real foods, additives are not easily broken during digestion. Consequently, they remain within the digestive tract for longer than food should, providing extra time for gut bacteria to eat. As they feast, bacteria produce gas, resulting in bloating and discomfort. Gas can also impede colonic transit, slowing down the natural movement of food through the colon and leading to constipation.

Over time, the cumulative impact of food additives, particularly if you consume a daily protein shake, can disrupt regulatory pathways within the gut. This, in turn, can contribute to the development of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and other systemic inflammatory disorders.

When considering protein powder options, it is absolutely vital to steer clear of those that contain artificial sweeteners. These additives can inflict harm on the gut over time and significantly disrupt the composition of the gut microbiota. As a result, individuals may experience severe and chronic gastrointestinal problems, along with widespread inflammation and lasting damage to the delicate equilibrium of the gut microbiome.

Certain sweeteners, such as sugar alcohols like xylitol, are particularly problematic as they are poorly absorbed by the digestive system. Consequently, they serve as a feast for your hungry gut bacteria and draw excess water into the intestines, leading to diarrhea. Now, you may finally have something to blame for those post-protein shake trips to the bathroom!

Here is a list of the most common food additives in protein powder:

acacia gum, acesulfame potassium, artificial flavors, aspartame, carrageenan, cellulose gum, dextrin, dextrose, erythritol, gellan gum, guar gum, gum arabic, inulin, locust bean gum, “natural” flavors, maltodextrin, rice syrup solids, soy lecithin, silica, sucralose, sunflower lecithin, xanthan gum, xylitol

the alternative:

Protein Matrix Comprised of (Whey Protein Concentrate,  Whey Protein Isolate, Calcium Caseinate, Micellar Casein, Milk Protein Isolate, Egg Albumen, Glutamine Peptides), Polydextrose, Sunflower Creamer (Sunflower Oil, Corn Syrup Solids,  Sodium Caseinate, Mono- and Diglycerides, Dipotassium Phosphate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Soy Lecithin, Tocopherols), Natural and Artificial Flavor, MCT Powder (Medium Chain Triglycerides, Nonfat Dry Milk, Disodium Phosphate, Silicon Dioxide), Lecithin, Cellulose Gum, Salt, Yellow 5, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, Papain, Bromelain.

*This is the actual ingredient list of one of the best-selling protein powders in the United States.

drink wholesome is made with real foods.

Another reason why our protein powder is safe for kids is that we use real food protein sources, not protein concentrates and isolates. Concentrates and isolates are basically stripped-down versions of whole foods, listed as “pea protein” or “whey protein,” for example, rather than “peas” or “whey.” They contain protein and virtually nothing else.

The process of creating protein concentrates and isolates involves extensive mechanical and chemical processing. In certain instances, manufacturers employ chemical solvents like hexane to extract and isolate the protein from the original food source. The end result hardly anything like real food.

Your digestive system has evolved to handle real, whole foods, not artificially engineered imitations. Introducing anything other than authentic food to your gut can therefore lead to undesirable consequences. Although the long-term effects of consuming processed foods such as protein isolates are not yet fully understood, emerging research suggests that they can disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microbiota and potentially cause irreversible harm to your gut microbiome.

Your gut plays a vital role beyond mere food digestion. It serves as a defensive barrier against pathogens, contributes to educating your immune system, and profoundly influences numerous physiological processes. Consequently, an imbalanced gut microbiome has been associated with the development of various chronic diseases. As a precautionary measure, it is thus wise to avoid protein powders that rely on protein concentrates and isolates.

Rather than relying on protein concentrates or isolates, we take great pride in formulating our kid-friendly protein powder using simple ingredients such as egg whites and almonds. The processing involved in their preparation is minimal: egg whites undergo pasteurization and drying, while almonds are roasted, pressed to reduce oil content, and finely ground. These real foods serve as easily digestible and gut-friendly substitutes for protein concentrates and isolates.

Real foods possess enzymes and other digestive aids that facilitate the breakdown of nutrients, allowing the body to absorb them more efficiently. In contrast, protein isolates and concentrates lack these natural digestive aids, making them more challenging for the body to digest and utilize. Moreover, minimally-processed plant-based foods like almonds offer the added benefit of being rich in fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.

For individuals without specific sensitivities or allergies to eggs, egg white protein emerges as an excellent choice for supporting gut health. Notably, egg whites are low in fiber, low in FODMAPs, naturally alkaline, and possess the highest protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score (PDCAAS) of all whole foods. Feedback from our esteemed customers indicates a reduction in digestive issues when consuming egg white protein powder compared to other types of protein.

For those unable to consume eggs, our vegan almond protein powder provides a compelling alternative. Almonds have been thoughtfully selected over other plant protein sources due to their remarkable gut-friendly properties. Research suggests that almonds exhibit prebiotic characteristics, enhancing the diversity and composition of the gut microbiome and contributing to improved overall gut health.


even my kids love it

“I have tried tons of powders and hate the taste. I ❤️ Drink Wholesome and now have gotten my kids to try it too.” – Stacey

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drink wholesome makes protein powder safe for kids.  

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This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. drink wholesome is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.