Is keto diet good and healthy for the whole family to follow? Are there any restrictions or different ways of doing it for kids? Can it be harmful in any way? I will try to shed some light on the myths that surround long term benefits for the whole family and its effect on kids.
As you all know, my child has Type 1 Diabetes and that is the reason I’ve developed interest and passion for low carb diet at first and a little bit later on for keto, as well. I started to experiment with meals, lowering amount of carbs gradually, changing white flour for nut flours and testing my baking abilities. And I have to be honest, we did not go cold turkey right away; it would have been very tough for a 4 years old kiddo. Step by step, I transformed his favorite meals into low carb ones and his taste buds slowly adjust to new textures and flavors. I did a complete pantry makeover and packed my fridge with good quality meats, eggs and veggies. My family has always eaten healthy and cooked meals so it took just some little effort to ban bread and pastries (and they are a big thing in our culture, believe me!), pasta, grains and potatoes from our everyday diet. Type 2 Diabetes runs in my family and high blood pressure in my husband’s so there was no doubt if ketogenic lifestyle is right for us. And what kind of role model parents would we be if we had continued munching on chocolate and chips?
That is our story but not everyone’s is the same. If you want to start keto diet for weight loss, some chronic conditions or body healing and wondering how it would affect your otherwise healthy kids, there are few things to keep in mind.
CARBS DO NOT HELP YOUR CHILD GROW, PROTEIN DOES. Toddlers need around 3.0 times their lean mass daily protein to grow, teens around 2.0 times their lean mass. My child, who is 55 lbs and very lean, has around 100 g of protein daily. You should not limit protein to kids and the focus should be on wholesome foods and quality animal protein. Also, don’t get stressed over fat requirements and don’t add fat just to add it since it is very low in nutrient density. Focus on real food and fat that comes with animal protein for yourself and for your kids as well.
ONE OF THE MYTHS IS THAT KETO DIET IS LOW IN MINERALS AND VITAMINS SINCE YOU ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH FRUIT AND VEGGIES. Take a look at this chart from the book “Keto” by keto guru Maria Emmerich.
And we all think that kale and blueberries are “superfoods”. The real super-hero here is beef liver; organ meats are the most nutrient dense food out there. And my son doesn’t like beef liver plain but my trick is to grind it and hide it in my Keto meatballs or meat burgers. With just one or two servings a week, you can provide your child with animal protein packed with minerals and vitamins more than kale and blueberry have.
INTERMITTENT FASTING OR ANY KIND OF FAST SHOULD NOT BE INCORPORATED IN WELL FORMULATED KETO DIET FOR KIDS. Kids need a lot of fuel for growth and they need a few meals throughout the day with a bedtime snack sometimes. A lot of snacking on the other hand is not recommended either so you have to make sure that they have three full meals packed with enough protein and healthy fats that go with it.
Kids can have a lot of benefits from a well formulated keto diet and I don’t mean just kids with ADHD, autism spectrum, Type 1, epilepsy, acid reflux in which case keto helps tremendously. Even if your child is healthy otherwise, adopting ketogenic lifestyle can help with moody behavior, sleep issues, memory, focus, skin problems, energy level. There is improvement in immune system too and they don’t get sick as often. My child got maybe two colds over winter in the last 3 years; not too much sugar to mess with gut flora and cause inflammation- one happy and healthy kid.
If you choose to start with keto diet for weight loss and health improvement and wondering about benefits for your kids, give it a try. It may involve more cooking and grocery shopping maybe a little bribing with toys but I promise you that the health of your family will improve and you will have support of your loved ones on your journey and who knows- ketogenic lifestyle may become your lifelong choice.
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