So you've heard about low-carb kids? Is it dangerous? Why would you raise your kids low-carb?
The importance of whole food nutrition in children’s health and development cannot be stressed enough. All children will benefit from lowering their sugar and carbohydrate intake, especially from processed and junk foods.
And here's how you do it.
- What Do Low-Carb Kids Eat?
- 1: Low-Carb Kids - why they benefit
- 2: Low-Carb Kids - busting the myths
- 3: Low-Carb Kids - The Sugary Truth
- 4: Parent Resources
- 5: Low-Carb Kids - start their healthy future today
- 6: Low-Carb Kids - what do they need?
- 7: Low-Carb Kids - how to encourage veggies?
- 8: Low-Carb for Kids - tips for eating out
- 💬 Comments
What Do Low-Carb Kids Eat?
If you are raising low-carb kids, the emphasis should be on feeding them tasty nutrient-dense meals and reducing sugar from your child's diet.
Children shouldn’t be relying on sugars, refined grains, and high-carb snacks.
Kids should be basing their meals on whole foods, unprocessed foods, and nutrient-dense foods ... and no one can argue with that.
Low carb is all about going back to basics – meat, vegetables, low sugar fruit, seeds, nuts, and healthy fats. Real food is simple food.
1: Low-Carb Kids - why they benefit
Children eat as much sugar by the time they are 8 than adults only 100 years ago, consumed in their entire lifetime.
All children will benefit from ditching junk food and lowering their sugar, ultra-processed carbs, and wheat intake.
My children are low-carb kids, not NO-carb kids. I emphasise their meals to be from whole food sources that are naturally lower in carbs from nutrient-dense sources. When you base your children's meals on whole real food, they almost become low-carb by default.
You don't need to be so strict with children's dietary carb intake, if they are in a healthy weight range, as they are generally more insulin sensitive than adults are, so their body can deal with sugars and nutrient-dense carbs more efficiently.
Overweight children may need to be controlled quite tightly. Studies have shown that children eating a ''low carb high fat' diet, lose more weight and keep it off far better than those on a 'calorie-restricted low-fat diet'.
2: Low-Carb Kids - busting the myths
If you are new here, every parent needs to read the Top 10 Low-Carb Kids Myths.
Surely children who live low-carb will be missing out on something essential? Surely kids need carbs for energy? And why should kids be restricted?
Here, we take a closer look at the top ten myths and uncover the truth behind kids and low carb.
3: Low-Carb Kids - The Sugary Truth
This is a quick video that helps explain how carbs affect blood sugars, fat storage, and some quick tips to reduce sugar.
4: Parent Resources
Infographics and printables for you to help planning lunch boxes easier.
- Low Carb Kids 1 - tips and tricks
- Low Carb Kids 2 – a printable guide to get your kids involved. How to plan you lunchbox each day.
- Low Carb Kids 3 - 2 weeks of school lunches and how to plan them.
- Low Carb Kids 4 - how to make a low carb lunchbox, and more Low Carb lunchbox ideas
- Low Carb Kids 5 - healthy sugar-free snacks for after school
- FREE printable PDF Healthy Sugar-Free after school snacks
- Low Carb Kids 6 - an entire MONTH of low carb lunch boxes
- Low Carb Kids 7 – My guest post on Diet Dr, “How To Raise Children On Real Low Carb Food”.
- Low Carb Kids 8 - How to help your child eat real food - with an action plan.
- Top 10 Myths Of Low-Carb Kids
All children will benefit from drinking fewer soft drinks (and energy drinks are an absolute no-no), fewer cakes, fewer sweets, less ice cream, fewer chips and stopping drowning their food in tomato sauce (which is just as high in sugar as some chocolate sauces).
5: Low-Carb Kids - start their healthy future today
Children's bodies are growing at a rapid rate, and if we don't feed them the essential nutrients they need for all the complex mechanisms that are going on inside their body, we are setting them up for a very unhealthy future.
Remember, chronic diseases don't occur overnight, they take decades to develop. So a healthy future begins in childhood.
Many diseases of adulthood are now seen in children at an alarming rate. Type 2 diabetes was once termed Adult Onset Diabetes, but it can no longer be called this.
It is so sad when some children exist on litres of soft drinks, hot chips, pies, McDonald's, KFC, Subway - DAILY. Next time you see a bunch of teenagers hanging out at the mall, what are they eating? Usually, some kind of takeaway washed down with an energy drink. Zero nutrition.
Their growing bodies have begun their an addiction to high energy foods, they neglect whole foods, and are probably have some nutritional deficiency.
Try and really think about what your children have eaten in the last week. How many times did they eat vegetables? How many days did they drink fizzy drinks? How many times did they enjoy a home-cooked meal with you?
If you wish to begin reducing the carbs for your children, you can use the same stepwise approach that adults do.
Cut out the most obvious places that sugar and ultra-processed carbs lurk. And slowly introduce real whole food in their place.
6: Low-Carb Kids - what do they need?
I want to teach my children about having a healthy lifestyle -
- for their bodies to be well-nourished (which is different from well-fed)
- to be able to concentrate at school
- not eating to excess
- enjoying treats
- eating real whole food
- making good choices
- enjoy trying new foods (our family rule is "you don't have to like them, but you do have to try them")
- being active is fun
- health and nutrition are a priority
Children need healthy FATS - they keep you full for longer, contain essential fatty acids, and supply the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
Children need protein - building blocks of their growing muscles.
Children need quality nutrient-dense carbohydrates - but nowhere near what people think. Nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as full-fat dairy, nuts, seeds, berries and of course vegetables are the staple source of carbs in our household.
Children need vegetables - fibre, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, antioxidants, phytochemicals and all the other hundreds of compounds that haven't even been discovered yet.
Fruits and vegetables should not be seen as equal. Fruit is incredibly high in carbs, especially fructose.
Eat whole fruits (and never fruit juice or dried fruits), as the whole fruit contains fibre and nutrients, but don't consider they are equal as vegetables. Be aware of the fructose content of fruit, and limit to 1 or 2 pieces a day.
Go for low-sugar fruit such as berries. Cut back on high sugar tropical fruits such as pineapple, melons, grapes, etc.
7: Low-Carb Kids - how to encourage veggies?
How many parents do you know where they just laugh and say their children just WON'T eat their vegetables? It is your responsibility as a parent to ensure they are properly nourished.
It's the convenience of not having a battle at the dinner table that allows them to refuse vegetables.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it is easy, I have been through this struggle myself, but establish a few family rules, one at a time, which let them know it is not negotiable. Go slowly as it may be a big change for some families. Be proud of what you have achieved. Little by little.
- Our first family rule is they have to try everything. They don't have to like it, but they have to try it
- Keep introducing that food (maybe weekly) until they enjoy it, this may take what seems like forever, but you do get there
- Get them to smother the food in something they do like to hide the taste (remember, they HAVE to eat some of it)
- Flavour your vegetables. My children would turn up their noses at most greens until I made them zoodles, mashed cauliflower, and broccoli/cauliflower bake. I almost cried at the beginning when my youngest asked for more, a proud mamma moment.
- Put butter and cream cheese on the table instead of tomato sauce (way too processed and full of sugar). Let them flavour their own food. They have control and won't battle so much.
- Put twice as much of something on the plate as you know they will eat and then you can negotiate they only have to eat half (sneaky psychology, but man this one works).
- Get them to choose what to go in their lunch boxes. I know what each of my children's tastes is so I make their lunch box accordingly. I'm not saying I make totally different lunch boxes, but where one has tomatoes and feta, my youngest will have capsicum and carrots. I still add one thing a day to push them. At the moment, it's a cherry tomato each day for the boys. They know I will check each day to see if it has been eaten if not, they have to eat it before they eat their afternoon tea.
- Try the low-carb chocolate zucchini cake, it's an easy introduction.
I would say I am pretty good at what I feed them at home (all the pictures you see, are our actual meals), but I don't restrict them in any way when they are at friends or at parties.
No one likes a diet bore or a food restrictor. It would be great if other parents made good choices, but really, it's not making up a huge part of their diet.
This would be different of course if your child has a true food allergy or intolerance, but my children never have.
My focus at home is always restricting carbs and restricting poor food choices.
Eating out is a tough one but with practice, you can instinctively choose menu items which are lower in carbs than most OR adapt what is on offer to become low-carb (swap fries for salad).
Most cafes sell wheat and sugar-laden cakes, muffins, doughnuts, sandwiches, juice, .... and sometimes there is no other choice. That's ok, just make sure they have the best of what is there and NO juice. Save your $$$ and ask for a jug of water. Try and adapt what is on offer.
8: Low-Carb for Kids - tips for eating out
Subway? Easy. Just order a Sub of the day as a salad for $2 more, or order the thinnest wrap they offer.
Mexican? Yum. Order a naked burrito or a salad packed with colourful vibrant healthy ingredients, and add extra salsa, avocado and cheese.
If you visit McDonald's, a quick healthier option would be to choose a small burger meal, choose water over a fizzy drink and replace the fries with a side salad. To serve, simply open the burger and put the meat patties, sauces and cheese on top of the salad. Voila, the regular meal would have been 870 kCal, 133g carbs, this instant bunless burger salad meal is only 204kCal and 4g carbs!!!!! It just takes a bit of thinking outside the menu.
My children rarely drink soft drinks, I prefer they drink water (or on occasional circumstances, diet drinks). I know there is a lot of controversy about artificial sweeteners, but I personally choose them if the only other choice available to them are sugar-sweetened beverages such as fizzy drinks, flavoured milk or juice.
For some children who are reliant on regular soda, this can be a stepping stone to coming off sugar-sweetened beverages completely. I believe there is a short term place for diet soda, but not in the long term.