According to a leading child nutritionist, Kasey Edwards, there are some dangerous toddler food trends doing the rounds. For example:
Low-carb diets for kids
Made famous by Gwyneth Paltrow, the low-carb diet for kids has been fuelled by an almost hysterical fear that carbohydrates cause obesity. Accordingly, some parents have banned such staples as bread, pasta and rice. A mother in my peer group fed her two-year-old protein bars with an ingredients list that required a chemistry degree to decode because she was worried that her daughter’s carb intake would make her fat. “Our brains are solely reliant on glucose (a carbohydrate) for energy,” says dietitian Joel Feren.
The low-fat message is pushed at adults from every angle, so it’s not surprising that some parents assume it applies to children as well. Some parents dilute baby formula with water to reduce the fat content or substitute it with low-fat milk. The low-fat diet for adults is now being questioned within the medical profession but it has never been recommended for children.
Raw food vegan or garden diets
Proponents of uncooked and 100 per cent plant-based diets make the typical promises of weight loss and clearer skin, but they also claim it leads to increased energy. But dietitian Rachel Gerathy says young children have high energy needs and these diets may supply insufficient calories, potentially reducing children’s energy levels and stunting their growth. “100 per cent raw food vegan diets risk insufficient B12, which is required for cell division, and can lead to neurological damage and megaloblastic anaemia blood disorder,” she says.
Multiple exclusion diets
Some children suffer from food allergies and intolerances, but it’s important not to cut out too many foods at once. “If they cut out 20 things all at the same time and never challenge them individually, it’s extremely likely that they are avoiding 19 things that they can have,” says dietitian Megan McClintock.
Toddlers do not need special food or diet, despite what the media might say (it’s about fuelling someone’s business and your toddler’s health: so you make the hard choice). Every child needs good nutritious foods that consist of all major food groups, essential fats and minerals. Good nutrition therefore consists of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, some fats, minerals as well as lots of milk, fruits and so on. Toddlers should be fed on demand and as often as possible. This enables them to grow strong and healthy and to provide the body with the immunity needed to keep serious health conditions at bay. Do not be duped into following a dud diet plan for your toddler. If in doubt, consult a pediatrician or a nutritionist. They will guide you through this and provide you with suitable advice on how best to feed your toddler. Yes, make your tod smile for a reason, that they are full and healthy.
Some parents think they are teaching healthy eating behaviours when they ban ‘unhealthy’ or ‘bad’ foods. In fact, they may be doing the exact opposite.
“When parents strictly avoid all processed foods, sugar, refined flours and refer to those foods as ‘toxic’ or ‘poison’ children really struggle,” says children’s eating behaviours expert Dr Katja Rowell.
“Food and meal times are defined by fear and avoidance. Some children become anxious and more food averse, while others crave and seek out the forbidden foods.”
It is said that if you want something done, ask a child not to do it. Kids will often feel like you are being unfair. This is especially if those kids around them are having these foods. Some of us expect toddlers to understand healthy eating as an adult would, which is unreasonable to say the least. We should be very careful when limiting our kids from having these foods to ensure that we do not achieve the very opposite. Just because an “expert” says that your kids should have none of that doesn’t make it absolutely true. “Experts” are a dime a dozen in today’s and age and most of them operate on opinion rather than fact. You should take your time to weed out the real ones from the quacks and even then do not be in a rush to forbid your kids. Just like breast milk they should be weaned off these foods. This is better than forcing them to take up “healthy” alternatives.
Encouraging children to eat less
“What I see most often is parents trying to get children to eat less,” says Dr Rowell.
“Parents routinely tell me that they worry their infant will be fat, so they try to distract them from eating and leave them crying for more food. This can lead to food-preoccupied toddlers and in my opinion a pre-cursor to binge eating,” she says.
Dietician Rachel Gerathy says, “We should be encouraging children to listen to their body’s internal regulation cues for hunger and satiety, allowing them to consume a range of wholesome foods with varied tastes and textures within the realms of a balanced nutritional intake.”
While it is understandable for a parent to be concerned about their child’s weight, it is no excuse to starve them. Whether grown up or young the body has mechanisms in place to determine when you should eat. When you get hunger pangs it is a sign that your body needs to be nourished. It is not right to assume that your baby’s body doesn’t know what it is saying. Having kids eat less than they need to, is torture either way you look at it. A child should eat to their hearts content; no more and definitely no less. There is no humane reason why you should starve your child regardless of your concerns or intentions.
At the end of the day, we owe it to our children to be objective when deciding on their food consumptions. Following trends has never and will never be objective. This is basically allowing someone else deciding what your child will and will not eat.