Perhaps you’ve found that the LCHF (Low Carb High Fat) lifestyle has improved how you look and feel. Maybe even dramatically. Now the question: is the low carb diet for kids? Can you incorporate LCHF practices with your kids? Is keto safe for kids? So many questions…
The LOW CARB DIET for Kids: A Closer Look
Here’s the short answer to the question “is the low carb diet for kids?” which is YES… but there are some important differences for low carb kids. Clearly, there are a lot of variables, including how old your kids are, their overall health and what style of eating is right for their unique body.
Now I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so before undertaking any major changes in the diet of your children, it is recommended that you speak first with their doctor. Every child is different and has a unique body, so please take the appropriate steps before just adopting a new way of eating for your child.
After speaking with a nutritionist, I’ve learned the following: kids under 17 will do well with the recommendations below. If they’re older, a more traditional LCHF diet can be beneficial. There are many low-carb principles that are not only safe for your kids but will help them thrive.
10 ways to incorporate the Low Carb Diet for Kids:
- Fats are Brain Food
Children grow and develop at an incredible rate. To maintain this high level of development, they need lots of energy and resources. Not to mention, our brains are made up of mostly fat, which means a diet rich in healthy fats is ideal. In fact, kids nutritional requirements are different from adults in that they need more fats and protein relative to their overall intake. The best fats are (in no particular order): organic and grass-fed butter, ghee, olive oil, coconut oil and food containing fat such as free range eggs, avocado, nuts, and seeds.
Plenty of these fats with each meal is a great staple. Kids will naturally regulate their fat intake (particularly those under 2 years old) so you can let them choose what they’d like. In fact, avocado is one of the best first foods for babies. My son ate avocados at so many meals instead of traditional baby food… it was also funny to see his little green face when he was done.
- A Large Variety of Whole Foods
While a Standard America Diet is based on grain products, LCHF is best with a foundation of vegetables and whole foods. These foods are extremely nutrient dense and by choosing a variety of colors you acquire a wide range of nutrients.
Introducing many different foods at a young age helps kids develop a wider palate. If you consider your children picky, start with what they like and branch out from there. Coconut crust chicken fingers anyone? A low carb diet for kids doesn’t have to be boring… get a little creative with it. My kids love my Southwestern Pork Kabobs and my Oven Baked Chicken Fingers too.
- A Focus on Leafy Greens & Low Starch Veggies
While you don’t want to restrict carbohydrates with children (which may seem odd when reading an article about the low carb diet for kids), but oftentimes broccoli and Brussels sprouts are left under the dinner table. It’s true that kids are genetically wired to like some vegetables less since evolution favors high sugar and carbohydrate foods due to our hunter/gatherer beginnings.
Still, veggies are a crucial part for both adults and children. While you, as the adult, may be eating a higher volume of these veggies…your kids still greatly benefit from the nutrients. Try berry smoothies with spinach added, roasted kale, or meat sauce with zoodles.
- No Grains are No Problem
There is no nutritional benefit to grains that cannot be provided from a well-rounded diet of whole foods. This flies in the face of how I was raised and has been a hard adjustment for me to grasp (even having been completely gluten free for almost 5 years now). My kids were getting filled up constantly on rice, corn and quinoa. It’s cheap and easy to make. Cutting this out has been a lot easier than I thought it would be though.
While the stereotype is that kids love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, there’s no need for grains, especially wheat, in their diet. They can get plenty of nutrient-dense carbohydrates and vitamins from veggies, squash, yams, sweet potato, beets, and carrots. My kids love loading their plates up with vegetables… particularly my spicy Italian broccoli.
- The Food Guide is Not your Friend
Mandated in schools by the government, the food guide is a poor estimation of what we need to eat. Allow your children to choose from a variety of whole foods and healthy fats with each meal and they will get what they need. Correct me if I am wrong… but I believe schools can count PIZZA as a vegetable. That’s just crazy whether you are considering the low carb diet for kids or not.
Trust your judgment and trust theirs! Especially with younger children who have yet to be influenced by media and their peers… they will naturally regulate their diets (ex. a toddler may eat nothing but eggs for 2 days and then go on to eat plenty of veggies, protein and fats afterward). Unlike you and me (meaning adults) who have learned to tune out what their bodies are telling them a LONNNNGGGG time ago, kids are still listening to their bodies. They sleep when they need to sleep. Eat when they need to eat and know that kinds of foods they need to be taking in as well.
- Limit/Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods and junk foods like candy, soda, cookies, cakes and chocolates along with bread, pizza, chicken nuggets and ice cream have no part in a healthy diet. Yes, there is something to be said for balance and enjoyment, but kids can live a complete and happy life without these things. For my kids, they get their fill of dark chocolate and lots of berries. They love raspberries, strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Add on a little fresh whipped cream with vanilla and a touch of maple syrup… they are in heaven!
Obviously, there may be cake at a birthday party, but keeping processed foods to a minimum – and always enjoyed outside the home – is beneficial for everyone involved. In my opinion, Lunchables and other highly processed pre-packaged foods should really be avoided at all costs. Not only do you never know what is in them (packed with preservatives) but they are made with the absolute cheapest ingredients to maximize profits. That means a lot of fillers (starches) which doesn’t do anybody any good.
- Sugar, the Anti-Nutrient
Sugar is one of the few food products that we consume that does more harm to the body than good. It’s highly addictive and in no way necessary for health. Your children can follow your lead by avoiding any type of processed sugar. If you are considering the low carb diet for kids, just know that sugar is going to be completely off the menu.
Artificial sweeteners are also a harmful neurotoxin. If you need to use a sweetener, try natural stevia or xylitol. Children are fine to have small amounts of unpasteurized honey (after 1 year old) along with maple syrup and fruit. I have found that this is the ABSOLUTE hardest area to work with my kids. Low carb or not, sugar is just EVERYWHERE around them… just about at every turn when they are not in our home. We have found that educating them about what sugar does to the body, why they get “hangry” and providing delicious substitutes really helps.
- Start Slow
Transitioning to a low carb diet for kids is often easier taking it nice and slowly than going cold turkey. If they’re old enough, explain what you’re doing as a family to improve your health and why you’re making the choices you are.
I recommend this exact same approach when adults are moving into the low carb diet as well. I went cold turkey and it turned out to be 1000X more difficult for me. Changing your approach to eating gradually really will save a lot of headache (literally… with the low carb flu) in the long run.
- Kids can Reap the Same Benefits as Adults
No more afternoon slumps, mood swings, and a clearer mind can be enjoyed by everyone. Kids can experience all of this and more when we take them off the blood sugar roller coaster of carbs and sugars. It’s a win-win! But again… this win only comes by talking with your kids. Letting them know why they experience slumps, cravings and that terrible “hangry” feeling.
My kids talk to us all the time about it. They know that eating a ton of sugary stuff not only makes their stomachs not feel good, but that they will be super hungry again soon. They look first for proteins when it comes to snacks (nuts, avocados) and then go outside and burn off a ton of energy.
- Be Open and Positive about Your Story and your Goals
Leave weight goals out of the conversation and instead talk about what you want to do and feel by being healthier and more full of energy. Being proactive about your health is the BEST way to teach your kids healthy habits. After all the saying goes “Children will do what you do, not what you say.”
I know that for me, it has not only been talking to them about the low carb diet for kids… but showing them that there is a better way to live life. I take my kids with me when I’m walking in the park. They come to my crazy exercise classes (and sometimes take them with me!) and have experienced CrossFit and more. I want them to see that I’m working hard to prioritize my health. As soon as they see it, they want to take part in it too.
MODIFICATIONS for the Low Carb Diet for Kids:
- LCHF is Low-Carb, not No-Carb
The restriction of carbohydrates is not the focus of low-carb kids. Kids do not need to have their food tracked or have a net carb count. Allow your kids to eat what they want of sweet potato, yam and starchy veggies and low sugar fruit, within reason of course.
With children, the main intention is to switch from processed and nutrient void sources of carbs to healthy, whole food options.
- Just like any Diet, You can do Low-Carb in an Unhealthy Way
Have you ever met a vegetarian who doesn’t eat vegetables? In the Low Carb High Fat world, pork crackling and cheese are low-carb, but certainly not well a rounded diet. It takes more time and attention to add variety, but it’s absolutely worth it.
The Takeaway: Overall, partner up with your kids and go on the adventure of the low carb diet together. Listen to your kid’s feedback. See how they feel after a couple weeks of shifting their diet and continue to make adjustments as needed. Involve them in the family’s goal of being healthier.
Ask them questions: Do you all want to be able to go on bike rides together? Run around the water park? Go swimming as a family? Having an open, honest and positive conversation about how you want to feel paves the way to body confidence and food freedom for your entire family..
What are your thoughts about this?
Nutritional information for this article was provided by Cara Halber, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. Find out more about Cara by visiting her website.