High-carbohydrate foods are so ingrained in modern culture that they have become staples at every meal. For many adults, a ketogenic diet seems like something unnatural and impossible to attain. Thinking about children on a low-carb plan seems outright dangerous.
But just like adults, all children will reap the rewards from eating real, unprocessed food and cutting down on sugar, wheat and carbs in general.
Here are some myths about children eating low-carb debunked.
A Low-Carb Diet Is Dangerous for Growing Children
There are no vitamins, minerals and micronutrients in starchy carbohydrates and processed foods that we cannot get elsewhere. Processed and manufactured grains, starches, sugars and other foods are nutritionally empty, whereas real food (vegetables, meat, fish, butter, nuts, eggs, some fruit) is packed with what children’s bodies need to help them grow.
In fact, studies have shown that chronically elevated blood glucose caused by high-carbohydrate consumption can be more dangerous for children’s growth than a low-carb high fat diet.
Children’s Brains Need Carbs
The popular belief about the human brain running on sugar isn’t entirely true. Much has been written about the brain needing glucose to function – a particular concern when you know your children need to concentrate at school. The human brain can also use ketones on a low-carb high-fat diet. Though children might require more carbohydrates due to fast growth and schooling, they could easily meet their carb requirements from vegetables, fruit, and dairy.
Some recent studies also indicate that sugar may actually compromise learning and memory as well as the ability to cope with stress.
Children’s Nutrient Requirements Are Different
Children’s bodies are growing so of course they have different nutritional needs from adults. However, they still need real food to satisfy those requirements.
Children need fats for satiety and to assist with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K). They need protein to build their tissues.
Yes, children do need carbohydrates – but nowhere near as much as many assume. All the carbohydrates and fibre they need can be found in vegetables, fruit and dairy.
Feeding children grain-filled, processed, sugary foods do their bodies no good. The phytic acid in grains have shown to hinder the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium, and wheat can reduce blood levels of vitamin D.
Children Need Carbs to Meet Their High Energy Requirements
Fats and proteins are also energy sources, in addition to carbohydrates. The energy rush obtained from high-carbohydrate foods is followed shortly by a slump that causes cravings for more sugar. When eating low-carb foods, your child avoids dangerous blood sugar spikes throughout the day.
Picky eaters are particularly prone to this, as they often snack and graze on processed & highly refined foods that are nutritionally lacking. These foods include flavoured yoghurts, chips, granola bars and crackers. By grazing on processed foods, they often end up skipping meals made up of real food.
A Low-Carb Diet Won’t Satisfy Children
Though they’re filling, high-carb foods aren’t satisfying for long because they’re low in nutrition. They cause sugar crashes leading to a greater sense of hunger and more sugar cravings. The theory that children needs carbohydrates to keep them full and satisfied is one of the favourite arguments against cutting down on them.
Traditional carbohydrates that are staples in many households like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes are devoid of nutrients. This is one of the reasons we are the most overfed but undernourished generation in history.
While children can often tolerate more carbohydrates than adults, feeding them high-carbohydrate foods fails to sustain them throughout the day. The result is children are left feeling much hungrier than they would have done eating real food.
Grains Provide Essential Nutrients for Children
To grow, children need real food balanced in proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Whole foods can satisfy your children’s carbohydrate needs much better than non-nutritious high-carb foods, like refined pastas and bread.
Switching to a Low-Carb Diet Will Eliminate a Food Group
This article is about low carb, not “no carb”. No food group is being eliminated. The biggest sources of carbohydrates in a child’s diet should be vegetables that grow above the ground, nuts, dairy, and berries that are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre and antioxidants.
Children need vegetables as they are packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, antioxidants and phytochemicals. A common complaint is that children refuse to eat them, preferring fruit every time.
Although often grouped together, fruit and vegetables should not be seen as equal: fruit is incredibly high in carbohydrates, especially fructose, and is best limited to only one or two pieces per day (comprising only whole fruits, never fruit juice or dried fruits).
Children can receive all the nutrients required for their growing bodies without the sugars, grains and starches of the modern diet.
By removing processed food from their diet, and focusing on real, whole food (healthy fats, fresh vegetables and good quality proteins), children become low-carb eaters almost by default.
Fat Will Make Children Gain Weight
This is simply untrue.
Encouraging overweight children to eat a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet is often counterproductive especially as low-fat products are usually packed with added sugar.
When deprived of essential fats, children can’t be satisfied and reach for sugary snacks more often, thus overeating. Healthy fats are essential for hormone production, healthy brain function, tissue development, appetite control and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Children especially need Omega-3 fatty acids for eye and brain development.
Choose olive oil, butter, coconut oil, oily fish, nuts, seeds, eggs and meat, and encourage your children to eat their vegetables by putting butter, cheese, salad dressings, guacamole, and healthy oils on the table.
Low-Carb School Lunches Are Impossible
By discarding your notions about lunch and showing a little creativity, you can make your kids' lunches fun and bursting with vibrant colors and different textures of real foods.
Ditch the sandwich bread and focus instead on what you’d usually put inside it. Buy lunch boxes with little compartments, and fill them with real food: cheese cubes, cherry tomatoes, ham, carrots, hard-boiled eggs. Use cold meat, such as roast beef, as a “wrap” and put cheese and vegetables inside.
Guiding your children towards low-carb is guiding them towards eating real food that is natural, delicious and rich in nutrients for their growing bodies.