The Safety of a Low Carb Diet for Children


What is a low carb diet and are they safe for children? Can Lowering Your Carbohydrate Intake Help Overweight Teens?

altrendo images / Getty Images

History of low carb diets

Low carb (low carb) diets remain very popular, with adults in love with the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, and the many packaged foods available as "low carb" alternatives.

However, when it comes to nutrition, we know that children are not just little adults. Nutrient requirements differ between adults and children, so the question arises: Are these diets safe for children to eat regularly? Can we turn what we know about adults into recommendations for children? And given the epidemic of adolescent obesity in our era, could a low-carb diet make a difference?

Low carb diets

To discuss low-carb diets, it is helpful to describe the nutrient ratios in the "regular" American diet . In the classic diet:

  • Protein represents 10 to 12% of calories.
  • 50 to 60% of calories come from carbohydrates.
  • 30% of calories come from fat (and monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are preferred over saturated fats found in animal products).

On the contrary, with a low carbohydrate diet:

  • Only 10-20% of calories come from carbohydrates.
  • The remaining 80-90% of calories are protein and fat.

Most low-carb diets also recommend avoiding sugar or simple carbohydrates with a high glycemic index , which can raise blood sugar faster than high-fiber complex carbohydrates. Next we will talk about the specific foods that the low carbohydrate diet contains, but first, let's talk about the use of this diet in children .

Safety comes first when using low-carb diets for children

Above all, it is important to note that the research involves rigorous A low-carbohydrate diet can have negative effects on the health of children and adolescents in the short and long term.

A study of adolescent eating patterns found that those who ate more low-carbohydrate foods ate a diet with fewer fruits and vegetables than those who ate a high-carbohydrate diet. These children also ate more meat and added fat, which led to higher cholesterol levels . Also, people on a low-carbohydrate diet consumed less fiber and vitamin C than those on a high-carbohydrate diet.

Long-term effects were not evaluated in this study, but we know from many other studies that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber is important in preventing disease.

Another problem is that it can be difficult for children to follow a low-carb diet and they may simply gain the weight they lost on the diet when they return to their previous dietary practices. Some experts are also concerned that a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet could have long-term negative effects on a child's heart and kidneys.

Benefits and Controversies of a Low-Carb Diet for Overweight Teens

We know that childhood obesity is increasing in the United States. The consequences of this go far beyond "looks" and even the emotional consequences of "looking fat." The impact of obesity in children, as in adults, on health, from diabetes to sleep apnea .

Researchers have tried to identify the reasons for the rapid rise in childhood obesity. It may seem ironic that as teenagers gain weight , the number of calories consumed in children's diets has not changed significantly over the past 30 years .

Researchers suggest that while a lack of exercise may play a role, the amount and type of carbohydrates consumed are responsible. Foods with a high glycemic index are believed to cause excessive insulin secretion after a meal, which in turn leads to weight gain.

Although there has been very little research on low-carb diets for children, one study found that overweight teens were better on a low-carb diet compared to a low-fat diet. The researchers concluded that a low-carbohydrate diet is an effective short-term weight loss method for overweight teens.

The teens in this study ate no more than 20 grams of carbohydrates per day for two weeks and then increased their carbohydrates to 40 grams during weeks 3-12, allowing them to eat more fruits, nuts, and whole grains. They were allowed to eat as many protein, fat, and calories as they wanted. By comparison, the low-fat group of teens was limited to less than 40 grams of fat per day, 5 servings of starch, and as many low-fat dairy products, fruits, and vegetables as they wanted for 12 weeks.

Interestingly, a year later, of the 36 children in the study, only one teenager on a low-fat diet and 8 on a low-carbohydrate diet returned for follow-up. The researchers concluded that this could mean that adolescents found it easier to follow a low-carbohydrate diet.

Since some overweight teens have "tried everything" and continue to gain weight, and some have even had weight-loss surgery, you have to wonder whether following a low-carb diet should be safer than the alternatives. Due to the risks and complex nutritional needs of children, a low-carb diet should probably only be tried under the direction and supervision of your pediatrician or registered dietitian who is experienced in leading teens on low-carb diets.

Let's talk about what foods are considered low carb and what a modified low carb diet would look like.

Low carb foods

Many carbohydrate-rich foods seem to be preferred by children, such as bread, pasta, corn, potatoes, cereals, and fruit juices.

On the other hand, low carb foods, in addition to prepackaged low carb meals and snacks, include:

  • Lean meat, chicken, and fish
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Peanut butter
  • Greens like lettuce, spinach, and kale
  • Broccoli
  • green beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrot
  • Strawberry
  • Watermelon
  • Apples
  • Blueberry
  • Peaches
  • Cantaloupe
  • Unsweetened apple sauce
  • Walnuts
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sugar free gelatin
  • Unsweetened yogurt
  • Unsweetened soy milk
  • Low Carb Milk (Calorie Countdown Dairy Drink with Artificial Sweeteners)
  • Low carb bread
  • Low carb pasta (Dreamfields pasta)

Modified low-carb diet or "moderation in everything"

Since many experts blame the rise in childhood obesity on the fact that children eat more carbohydrates these days, especially simple sugars, even if your child doesn't switch to a low-carb diet, it's a good idea to take a closer look. Carbohydrates.

In addition to exercising more and eating more high-fiber foods, avoiding high-calorie foods, high-fat foods, and foods with trans fat or more than 10% saturated fat can help encourage more low-fat foods. carbohydrates and avoiding food. high in carbohydrates, consisting of simple sugars such as:

  • White bread (opt for whole grain breads instead)
  • Soft drinks and fruit drinks
  • Sweet breakfast cereals
  • Chips
  • Cakes, pies and cakes
  • Sweets and other unhealthy foods.

This modified low-carb diet, along with skim milk and age-appropriate portions, can be a good diet for children, as it is not too strict and easy to follow.

Change your child's diet

Knowing something and putting it into practice are two different things, and most parents understand this very well. Some kids are picky eaters, so what can you do to increase your chances of success?

  • Go Slow – Make changes to your child's diet slowly, not right away.
  • Model healthy eating habits: The best thing you can do to improve your child's eating habits is to eat well yourself.
  • Make it fun.
  • Make It Interesting – There are tons of creative ideas on the internet to make even ordinary food more interesting.
  • Be aware of diversity – Many studies have come to the surprising conclusion that diversity in different foods can sometimes be just as important as getting specific nutrients. Try to give your child the colors of the rainbow.
  • Again, remember to be moderate: some changes, even if they are very beneficial in moderation, can be unhealthy if taken to the extreme.
  • You can also check out these weight loss tips for kids who just can't lose weight .
Related Articles
Foods to Avoid If You Have Dry Mouth From Radiation

Dry mouth (xerostomia) is a common side effect of radiation therapy for people undergoing treatment for head and neck cancer. Read more

Thyroid adenoma: Causes, Treatment, and Diagnosis

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland in the front of your throat that produces hormones affecting a number of Read more

NSAIDs and You Thyroid Function

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the most frequently taken over-the-counter medications. Due to their systemic or whole body effects, it's Read more

How Doctors Are Failing Thyroid Disease Patients

The thyroid disease community has continually mentioned the lack of support they experience and the difficulty they have navigating the Read more