About once a week I get a letter from someone asking if there is a good book on how to feed kids to keep them strong and healthy or to help them lose weight and get fit. There aren’t many and we even know of some good ones that couldn’t find a publishing home. With 1 in 3 kids overweight in this country, you’d think that a book about any program that addressed childhood obesity successfully would be a cinch to sell well. And yet, historically, they don’t sell strongly and thus the publishers’ lack of interest. Maybe it’s because the book’s buyer is the parent, but the actual target is the kid.
But just in time for the holidays and all those New Year’s Resolutions that follow them, there’s a good one to recommend that both encompasses modestly lower carb healthy eating habits for kids and an effective regimen of strength building:
Fred’s book is spot on about how to make kids stronger and fitter and though it’s not really a diet book, per se, it offers good information about how to feed kids right and offers a number of tasty, kid-friendly recipes. We highly recommend it. You can check it out here.
A caveat: We know from experience that weight loss in kids is tough. The job is made tougher still, because oftentimes, it’s not the kid who’s doing the eating who is concerned about weight, it’s the parent(s) who bring the child in demanding that he or she be ‘cured’. And I can tell you, without hesitation, that unless the child wants to make the change, it’s not going to happen. No matter the degree of sturm and drang the parents might bring to bear, a mandated ‘weight loss intervention’ will be an exercise in futility.
For that very reason, in our practice, we were always very careful in determining whether to accept teen, pre-teen, or adolescent patients for weight loss. We interviewed parent and child extensively and unless we could satisfy ourselves that it was actually the kid who wanted to make the change, we knew we would be wasting our time, their time, and somebody’s money to put an unwilling, uncommitted child on a dietary program. (The same is actually also true for adults.)
And kids have to be handled somewhat differently, to boot.
Just as rats aren’t merely furry little humans, kids aren’t merely cute little adults and nutritionally they can’t be treated as such. For instance, because they’re actively growing–building bones, muscles, hearts, and brains– kids need more grams of good quality protein per pound of lean body weight than adults do. Because they’re building brains, the need more essential fatty acids. Their fluid requirements may differ; they are more sensitive to intake of toxic contaminants in food. And while they obviously shouldn’t stuff themselves with empty calories, they should likewise not be put into a severe calorie, fat, or protein deficit. Ultra low fat diets, vegan regimens, or crash dieting, while not especially beneficial for adults can be particularly damaging to growing children.
For these reasons and a host of others, in our years in clinical practice we counseled the concerned parents of the overweight kids (who were honestly among both our most challenging and most rewarding patients) to make the issue more about what the child eats not how much. And to do it with a light and loving hand. We asked them to bear in mind that even if a child is overweight for a given height, that height is an increasing variable in childhood and our goal might be to simply keep their child from gaining any more weight and let the expected natural increase in height catch up.
For those of you who may be concerned about your child’s weight or fitness (and I know there are many of you judging by the letters) let me share with you the Cliff Notes version of the basic principles we taught the parents who brought their overweight kids to us. Following them can increase the likelihood of successfully helping an overweight child become leaner and fitter without making weight loss or diet the hot button issue it can sometimes become in the home.
Dr. Eades’ 7 Cardinal Rules for Parents for Feeding Kids Right
1. Clear out all the junk food. Make the chip or the sweet a treat, something rare and special, a dietary privilege not a daily right. If it’s not a whole ‘real’ food, not meat, fish, chicken, dairy, fruit or vegetable, then it’s probably junk. If it’s prepackaged, it’s probably junk. If its first ingredient is sugar, corn syrup, or white flour, it’s most assuredly junk. (Remember: Sweetened fruit juices and sweetened whole grain cereal products are no different from sodas…they’re junk, too.)
2. Stock the right kinds of foods in your home and make them what your whole family eats. Keep available meat, poultry, fish, eggs, protein powders for shakes; organic yogurt, milk and cheese; fresh whole fruits and low-starch vegetables; deli meats and nuts for snacking. The linear thinking of kids will demand that if good food is nutritious, then everybody in the household ought to be eating it. And if everybody isn’t, why should they? You can’t expect your overweight teen or child to eat differently than you or other family members do. Actions speak louder that words! Support them by example.
Tip: If you can’t get your child to eat low-starch vegetables, add baby food vegetables (green beans, squash, green peas, carrots, tomato puree) to hamburger meat for burgers, meat loaf, or chili. They’ll never notice. For other ideas, check out the kid friendly recipes in the Kid Stuff chapter in our Low Carb CookwoRx Cookook.)
3. Remember: a potato is NOT a vegetable. It’s a starchy tuber. Pasta, rice, and corn aren’t vegetables either! No matter what the school lunch program says. That’s not to say that a growing child, even an overweight one, can never have potato, bread, pasta, or grain products (although they’d get along just fine physiologically without them if they ate plenty of meat, fish, poultry, game, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, and fresh fruits and vegetables.) It just means that you ought to treat starches like sugars and let kids eat them sparingly.
4. Let your child eat all of the right kinds of foods he or she wants. Kids are growing; kids are hungry. If you feed the hunger with good, nutritious food, it’s not going to make them fat or fatter! One of the most important things you can do for your child is to create a healthy respect for and relationship with food. Humans ought to eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full.
5. Don’t make the family table a battleground. Serve quality, wholesome food, let your child eat it, eat it yourself, don’t criticize. Show how to eat by example and your child will follow that example. Granted not all the time. They will be exposed to every kind of awful, sugary, health-robbing kind of food stuff. They will sometimes eat it (just as you do) and so be it. But if you live by example at home, don’t preach, but rather quietly demonstrate by your choices, they’ll get the message.
6. Let your child indulge with vigor occasionally. Life without unbridled joy is not worth living. Show your child how to celebrate, how to feast, how to live. And let them understand that feasting isn’t day to day living; it’s infrequent; it’s a celebration. Remember pleasure is a nutrient, too.
7. Make clean, fresh water the go-to beverage in your household. While it’s fine in our opinion (though others may disagree) for kids to drink organic milk and the occasional glass or box of juice, water is a better choice to wash down the burger. It’s a sad truth in this country that soft drinks, filled with high fructose corn syrup, are the beverage of choice in adolescents, pre-teens, and teenagers and in amounts that are making them among the fattest kids on the planet.
Feed them right and help to make them strong. Show them the value of their strength and fitness. A strong healthy kid is likely to grow into a strong healthy adult. There’s simply no better way to do build strength than through a kid friendly Slow Burn work out. (Fortunately, it’s great for parents, too.)