More people are becoming aware of the benefits of eating low carb for weight loss and greater health. Which is why it only makes sense to ask if children could eat this way too.
Let me remind you that I am not a doctor, or nutritionist. I am strictly speaking from what I have learned personally. If you choose to place your child on a low carb plan make sure to do so with the blessing of their pediatrician.
You may not realize that children have actually been eating low carb for decades, specifically those diagnosed with epilepsy. A ketogenic diet has proven to prevent seizures successfully. It has also come to light that children that are autistic can benefit from this way of eating too. The idea of children eating a diet lower in carbs is not as foreign as you may think.
Let’s get the facts straight
A true low carb plan is not a diet limited to only protein. Too much protein can be harmful. A true ketogenic plan understands the importance of plenty of healthy vegetables, the right amount of fruits and a balanced amount of protein.
When we eat a low carb plan we get rid of a lot of junk, overly processed food from our diet. It is clean eating. I can’t imagine how a child could not benefit from less junk in their diet.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association 2014;311(8):806-814. Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
- The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
Without a doubt in the United States we have a crisis when it comes to childhood obesity. Although we can point to the fact that children today do not get enough daily exercise because of our sedentary lifestyle, the problem lies deeper. It’s hardly just a lack of physical activity. It’s an addiction to processed high-carb junk food.
Eating this way is what causes high levels of our fat-storing hormone insulin. Re-fined, overly processed carbs burn up quickly, producing a sharp spike in blood sugar level that encourages our bodies to produce insulin, the fat storage hormone, encouraging weight gain.
Unlike protein and fat, which give a longer, slower, steadier release of energy. We know that extra calories from any source, including added sugars, may contribute to overweight and obesity when not balanced by physical activity.
Carbohydrates are found in foods such as sugary beverages, candy and baked goods. According to Jill Castle, MS, RDN, limiting these kinds of carbs is fine. “You don’t need those foods to be healthy,” she says, “and kids eat too much of them anyway.”
How can we help our children?
This past summer my great-nephew Johnathan Valdez who is six years old wanted to join his local little league football team. Unfortunately, he was told he had to lose at least six pounds before he would be allowed on the field. Although, these rules seem harsh they are present to protect the children. Disappointed with this news, my sister-in-law, Bessie Solares Kent a member of our group Fittoserve, knew she had the solution.
Bessie, explained to Johnathan the need for him to get healthier before he would be allowed to play. She took the time to explain to him what foods he needed to eat and the ones that could only be eaten as occasional treats. Bessie converted some of his favorite foods so that he would not feel deprived. We were all surprised how quickly he embraced this way of eating and before long he had lost the weight he needed in order to play.
Today, Johnathan is a valuable player on his squad and has lost a total of nine pounds. I can’t tell you how happy he is playing football with his friends and having his family cheer for him on the sidelines.
Without a doubt children have different nutritional needs from that of adults. They need more fat and protein. Which is why filling their plates with empty calories from white pasta, bread and rice is not ideal nutrition.
The solution for Johnathan was to remove the junk and replace it with clean healthy foods. Traditional low carb plans avoid fruits that are high on the glycemic index. However, children can handle more carbs and they should come in the form of a greater range of fruit.
Understand that no one is advocating that children be placed on restrictive diets. However, teaching our children to make healthy choices at an early age is a great benefit. Considering the high incidence of diabetes in our family it makes perfect sense that Johnathan learn this lesson early on.
I find it interesting that although no good parent would allow their child to be addicted to alcohol or encourage them to smoke, we can all be more cautious when it comes to allowing them high carb, sugar-laden junk food. Perhaps, if we were more diligent in limiting their junk food intake we could reduce the levels of childhood obesity that plague our nation today.