There are currently millions of Americans on a low-carb or no-carb diet. Some people have adopted this lifestyle out of need: because of an allergy to certain grains or a diabetes diagnosis. Others adopt a low-carb diet to give them a headstart on their weight loss goals. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during each of my pregnancies. And let me tell you, this lasagna-loving, garlic-bread-a-holic was not happy. Not one little bit. Not only did I have to find a way to get around my loathing of needles so I could check my sugar levels and give myself the needed doses of insulin, but both times I had to deprive myself of my very favorite foods. And that meant foregoing affordable pastas and grains for the much more expensive foods. So diabetes wasn’t exactly good for my finances either. For these reasons, the thought of gestational diabetes converting over to Type II diabetes was enough to scare me into a new way of eating. And it turns out, this is a pretty common fear for a lot of mothers. Despite their popularity and widespread use, people often ask is a low carb diet safe for kids? And the answer is: there is no clear-cut answer.
Some experts believe kids benefit from the lower wheat and sugar intake they would receive while on a low-carb diet. While others maintain the dietary needs of children vary too greatly to make any sort of blanket statement regarding the safety of a low-carb diet for kids.Despite their popularity and widespread use, people often ask is a low carb diet safe for kids?Click To Tweet
Low-Carb diets often result in faster weight loss with less physical effort. Because of this, it’s often a favorite for controlling weight in obese or nearly obese children. And because of their overall higher levels of proteins than a classic diet, children benefit from the added vitamins found in such foods. Additionally, research suggests that children who grow up on a low-carb diet are more likely to continue that diet into adulthood, decreasing their chances of developing Type II diabetes and other health issues. Finally, eating a low-carb diet helps children learn to avoid those empty calories found in so many processed foods and added sugars.
Of course, being good for weight loss doesn’t necessarily make a low-carb diet safe for kids. Children may look like small adults, but their bodies are very different. So it makes sense that their nutritional needs are also very different. Their bodies are more efficient at using carbohydrates for fuel than the adult body, so restricting carbohydrates from their diets doesn’t necessarily help them gain energy any differently. And cutting out all carbohydrates can deprive their young bodies of key nutrients, such as B Vitamins. And new research shows that strictly inhibiting a preteen from carbohydrates could lead to higher cholesterol due to the increased intake of meats and fats to make up for the calories. (And if you’re wondering why this doesn’t happen in adults, I repeat: children burn their calories differently than adults. They are more efficient at burning carbohydrates).
So, is a low-carb diet safe for kids?
All around, I think that a low-carb diet can be perfectly safe for kids. But I would not recommend simply waking up one day, throwing out the cereal, the fruits, the oatmeal, the pasta, and the milk. There are things you’ll want to take into consideration such as how active is your child? Athletes will require more carbohydrates than other children. And consider where their carbohydrates are coming from… cakes and cupcakes, or fruits and vegetables? Sometimes, cutting out the processed sugars and sweets such as cakes, cookies, candies, and sugary beverages is enough to promote healthy eating.
And I am a strong advocate for talking to your doctor or pediatrician before making any major changes to your diet or lifestyle. Striking out on a whim because a blogger said so isn’t usually the best advice.
If you do decide to start on a low-carb diet for your children, the good news is that you can get started pretty easily:
- Start with reviewing the vegetables your child already eats and loves. Like any change in diet, cutting out carbohydrates will make your child feel deprived at first, so making sure they always have access to their favorite low-carb or healthy-carb foods is essential to helping them stick to the change.
- Start slowly. If your child is a fussy eater, he or she won’t want to go low-carb right away no matter what your research suggests. Trying implementing the changes slowly over time rather than all at once.
- Talk to your child about the changes and why you’re making them, and ask for their input. Children who are allowed to give their opinions and input on the meals they eat are more likely to eat them with less complaining.
Last but not least, if you’re one of the millions of Americans getting onto a low-carb diet, either for a medical need or for weight loss, think before you force your children to hop onto the same bandwagon. Even if you and your pediatrician decide that the low-carb diet is safe for your kids, do they really need it?
Where do you fall on the low-carb scale for children?