Keto for Kids
There is a lot of banter these days about whether a Ketogenic lifestyle for kids is a good idea or not. There seem to be two schools of thought on this, and they are polar opposites.
On one hand, you have the people who feel like "kids need to be kids" and stay in the mainstream of nutrition. This view holds that kids don't need to be concerned about adult things, like insulin, and that kids actually need carbohydrates for growth and development. Why should kids be deprived of all the fun "kid friendly" foods that are out there on the shelves for them?
On the other hand, you have the people who feel concerned about the increasingly poor dietary habits, coupled with the unprecedented levels of obesity and diabetes in the "kid population" in our country. It's very hard to deny, when you look at most any sampling of kids, that our kids are largely overweight, and at a younger and younger age. Look at the kids at the grade school, as they leave the building and head to the buses and cars for rides home. Look at the kids at a school performance. Check out all the kids at Sunday School. Any random sampling of kids in our country pretty much speaks the truth about the "mainstream diet."
What children really need for proper growth and development is still controversial. Newborn babies who are breast fed by healthy moms are ketogenic! They get the majority of their calories from the fat in their mother's milk. Contrary to what many think, children do NOT need to be started out on rice or oatmeal cereals and mashed fruits and sweet vegetables. There is a reason these foods are heavily fortified. They are lacking the essential nutrients.
Children, particularly infants and toddlers, require a significant amount of fat and iron in order to develop and grow properly and have healthy brain development. Actually, this requirement continues well into childhood. Fat is needed to build nerve tissue as well as to absorb and utilize fat soluble vitamins, and iron is necessary for the health and development of many bodily systems.
Regrettably, most of the "kid friendly" foods aren't naturally good sources of either fat or iron. Again, this is the reason that foods like cereals, crackers, and convenience foods are heavily fortified. What parents really need to do is feed their kids good quality proteins, which are the best sources of iron and are often a great source of dietary fat, particularly DHA and omega 3 fatty acids. In addition, fatty foods like mashed avocados are very vitamin rich.
The concerns about carbohydrates in kid's foods are real. According to the CDC, "obesity now affects one in six children and adolescents in the U.S." Insulin resistance in our children has skyrocketed in the past 50 years. Today, one third of all new childhood diabetes diagnoses are type 2 diabetes.
"If it rots, it is real food," according to Laura Korman, DC, DACBN. Keto is the concept of eating whole foods. The ketogenic diet is very high in fats with about 75% - 80% of the calories coming from fat which are essential for brain development. Protein is moderate, at 15% - 20% (but can be a bit higher for young, growing bodies), and a very small amount of carbohydrates 5% - 10% (non-starchy vegetables) are included in the diet. This high-fat, ultra low carb diet causes the body to make ketones. Ketones are made by the body from fat that is stored from body reserves or from the food eaten. Ketones are energy for the body when carbs are kept low.
There are so many articles, recipes and information online and at our website, www.cleanandketo.com, to help get you on a ketogenic path for kids and adults, but here are a few ideas:
- Gradually eliminate foods like pastas, mac and cheese, grains and bread products (waffles, pop tarts, cereals and granola bars.)
- Replace those with things like "keto cereal" made from mixed nuts, butter and cinnamon, baked together into a granola that can be eaten with a little unsweetened almond milk.
- Eat bacon and eggs.
- If you do use yogurt, only use full-fat, plain Greek yogurt with a little stevia mixed in and a dehydrated lime packet or some kind of extract, like vanilla or banana...there are so many choices.
- Snack on full fat cheese slices or sticks, sliced meats such as ham, chicken, and cooked bacon. Do try and avoid deli meats or other highly processed meats. Other snacks might include olives, salted nuts, celery and nut butter, or pork rinds with salsa.
- Eat ground beef (fatter is better). Check out our home-made grass-fed beef jerky on our website at www.cleanandketo.com.
- It's good to eat real butter (never margarine), heavy cream, cream cheese, and mayo (made with olive oil or avocado oil and never with soybean or canola oils.)
- Non-traditional fruits such as avocado and olives (rich in healthy fats) are healthy choices.
Try to avoid high carbohydrate foods like:
- Fruit, fruit juice and fruit roll-ups, etc. (the nutrients found in fruits can always be found, in greater concentration, in fresh, dark green and leafy vegetables. Fruit has some vitamins, but is high in glucose and fructose, which harms your blood sugar and insulin levels and increases triglycerides and small particle LDL cholesterol.)
- Breads and cereals
- Vegetables that are high carbohydrate content (corn, peas, and potatoes)
- Milk of all kinds (Heavy cream is the only liquid dairy to use)
- Soda (regular and diet)
- Snack foods, such as chips, snack cakes, crackers, and so called "healthy bars" like granola or protein bars.
- Sweets of all kinds, including deserts. If you need a snack, try cacao chocolate at 70% - 85%.
A Ketogenic lifestyle is not remotely unhealthy for kids. Ketogenic foods are rich in vitamins, minerals (like iron), and good quality fats. In addition, keeping carbohydrate consumption low is known to combat insulin resistance.
How can anyone argue about the merits of our kids having a diet that is low in sugars, free of additives, and high in essential amino acids and nutrients?