Ask the nutritionist.

My daughter dances a lot during the school year. She dances Monday through Friday at school and stays after one day a week and dances on a team. She is a good eater but I was wondering if I should add protein powder to her diet. If so, is there a certain protein powder you recommend? What ages would this be appropriate for?

Most children get plenty of protein from the foods they eat throughout the day to meet their protein needs, even when they have been highly active. And, these protein needs may not be as high as you might think.

Here is a quick breakdown of protein needs by age and foods that meet the requirement:

• 2-3 year olds: 13 grams of protein (1 egg, ½ cup milk, ½ cup peas)

• 4-8 year olds: 19 grams of protein (1 ounce of cheese, ½ cup black beans, ½ cup brown rice, ¾ cup whole grain cereal)

• 9-13 year olds: 34 grams of protein (1 cup broccoli, 1 cup yogurt, 1.5 ounces of canned tuna, 1 cup of cooked oatmeal made with milk, ½ peanut butter sandwich)

• 14-18 year olds: 52 grams (boys), 46 grams (girls) (1/2 turkey sandwich, 6 whole grain crackers, 1 cup whole wheat pasta with sauce and cheese, 1 cup milk)

Most foods in our diet, except fruit and candy, provide a source of protein. This includes dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt, meat, fish, beans/legumes, whole grain breads, starchy and non-starchy vegetables. For children who are fairly active, make sure to offer multiple sources of protein throughout the day at their meals and snack times. Most children need about 3 meals and 2 or 3 snacks a day. Make sure they pack a balanced snack with a source of carbohydrate and protein to eat after school to provide their body sustainable fuel for practice. Some examples include a piece of fruit with nuts, cheese and crackers, half a sandwich, or a glass of milk and banana. Then offer a balanced meal for dinner when they get home to replenish their body. A balanced meal is one that provides a source of carbohydrate, protein, fat and fiber from fruit or vegetables.

Protein powders do offer convenience, but aren’t necessary to meet an active child’s protein needs. Often my recommendation is to go to whole foods that contain a source of protein first and most often. Whole foods provide your child the protein they need plus additional macronutrients, vitamins and minerals their body needs to grow and develop.

Lauren Sharifi is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and food blogger at biteofhealthnutrition.com. Lauren works in private practice in Brighton at ASF-Peak Health (asfpeakhealth.com) and is passionate about helping individuals and families become competent eaters that find joy out of eating. Have a question for Lauren? Email editor@baystateparent.com.