By Jennifer Massey, clinical dietitian at CHOC
If your child is connected to one or more forms of social media, they have likely seen content about fad diets.
With so much information floating around the media, it can be difficult to determine what is best for your child’s nutrition. This article lists a few trending diets, and how they may be harmful to your growing child.
Lately, more and more gluten-free products are popping up on grocery and health food store shelves. So, what is gluten anyway?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, which is a type of grain. Grains are one of the five major food groups and contain a variety of key nutrients. Wheat-containing foods are a great source of:
- Fiber for digestive health.
- B-vitamins for optimal metabolism.
- Iron to help prevent anemia.
It is important to know that there are some cases where individuals should refrain from consuming gluten, such as if your child has Celiac disease. If your child’s doctor or registered dietitian has not indicated gluten should be avoided, there is no benefit from restricting gluten and/or wheat products.
Cutting out dairy from diets seems to be gaining more traction on social media. Many alternative milks, such as almond milk, differ from cow’s milk in their nutritional profile and may not provide equivalent nutrition.
Dairy is one of the five major food groups and our main source of calcium. Calcium is essential for building strong bones, especially as your child is growing. Dairy foods are also rich in other nutrients like potassium, phosphorus and vitamin D that help kids stay healthy.
Across social media, a ketogenic, or “keto” diet, is often touted for weight loss and burning fat.
There are many varieties of keto diets, however, all describe a way of eating that is low in carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (the other two being protein and fat). In its simplest form, carbohydrates are sugar.
Many foods naturally contain sugar such as fruits, vegetables and milk. Starches, like pasta, rice, bread, and beans, are many sugar molecules combined and are therefore also carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are our bodies’ preferred fuel source, providing us the energy we need from walking to running to keeping our hearts pumping! When we don’t consume enough carbohydrates, our brain begins to function differently. Because of this, ketogenic diets are effective in treating some neurological disorders such as epilepsy.
Unless your child’s medical team has indicated a need for following a ketogenic diet, it is not recommended and may lead to nutritional deficiencies.
Intermittent fasting involves only eating during certain windows of time, such as limiting eating to eight hours of the day, like between 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Different versions of this diet trend have gained popularity over the last few years, but restricting eating can often lead to overeating later in the day.
It is important to provide the body with energy and nourishment at breakfast in the morning to avoid feelings of physical and mental fatigue.
Healthy eating habits for kids
While new diets and trendy ways of eating will continue to come and go, focus on incorporating a variety of foods for your child from all five food groups: grains, protein, fruit, vegetables and dairy. They are all important to include each day as they offer different benefits to our bodies.
The more diversity of foods within each food group will encompass the widest variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Consider choosing a new recipe to try to expand the types of foods you eat together as a family.
Trust your parental instinct and be wary of any type of diet that restricts out entire types of food or food groups, as this is not recommended, unless medically necessary.
If you are concerned your child may have disordered eating, or there have been noticeable changes in your child’s eating or physical activity patterns, including any form of dieting, schedule a visit with a registered dietitian or pediatrician.
At CHOC, we specialize in providing a full continuum of pediatric nutrition services, including inpatient and outpatient services, depending on our patients’ needs.