Updated: Apr 22, 2019
Living a low-carb lifestyle still works when you have kids. Don't let these common excuses get in the way of implementing the keto life family-wide.
A shift in our collective understanding of nutrition is underway. More Medical Professionals are recommending decreased carbohydrate consumption for their patients to combat obesity and other diseases. More people are seeking out reduced carbohydrate and ketogenic diet options. The evidence supporting the advantages of making these dietary changes is mounting, but the changes being made are mostly isolated to the adult population. Below are ways to address the most common excuses for not eating low-carb, and make the transformation family-wide. After all, why shouldn’t your kids reap the same nutritional benefits of a low-carb lifestyle that you do?
But They’re Kids…
It’s easy to make excuses for why your kids shouldn’t limit their carb intake. ‘They need the energy’, ‘they are growing’, ‘they need their fruits and vegetables’, ‘they don’t like low-carb options’, and the list goes on, but the excuses we make are exactly that…excuses.
Excuse #1: But They Need the Energy
A diet low in carbohydrates provides nature’s most efficient source of energy: fat. This is exactly the reason why our body stores energy in the form of fat. If ‘they need energy’ is really the problem, then a higher fat diet is literally nature’s solution. Furthermore, a diet filled with fats and proteins will provide a steadier regulation of blood sugar levels which will prevent the highs and lows in energy levels that are common throughout the day. Consistent energy and less of an ‘afternoon slump’ seem like reasons enough to consider a dietary shift away from carbohydrates.
Excuse #2: But They are Growing
Claiming that ‘they are growing’ as a valid reason to replace essential fats and proteins with processed carbohydrates is as ridiculous of an excuse as the one above. Cell reproduction requires fats and proteins, while carbohydrates merely provide a quick source of energy without a grander nutritional benefit. A diet rich in fat and protein provides the essential fatty acids and amino acids to facilitate healthy growth. By contrast, there is no such thing as an ‘essential carbohydrate’.
Excuse #3: But They Need Their Fruits and Vegetables
Though there are not ‘essential carbohydrates’, there are nutrient-dense carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. It seems extremely counter-intuitive and against everything you’ve ever learned about nutrition to omit fruits and vegetables from your diet or your child’s diet.
Instead of removing fruits and vegetables, just be more intentional about the fruits and vegetables that you purchase for your family. Raspberries and blackberries, for example, are great sources of antioxidants and low enough in net carbohydrates to eat in moderation as part of a ketogenic diet. The small containers in which they are sold can be a good reminder to mind your portions. Many other fruits could fit well into a low-carb (but not ketogenic diet) as long as starchy or very sweet fruits like bananas, apples, and pineapple along with dried fruits and fruit juices (which essentially concentrate the sugars from the fruit) are not consumed regularly.
Finding low-carb vegetables is much easier than finding low-carb fruits. Generally, almost anything green fits into a low-carb diet (within reason…this is where my son would suggest green Jello), along with the almost-becoming-overdone-but-still-beloved cauliflower. Check Pinterest for low-carb cauliflower ideas, but be ready to be overwhelmed.
Dark green vegetables and cauliflower don’t exactly sound like the most kid-friendly foods, and getting kids to eat foods about which they aren’t excited is never easy. Having heard the incessant preaching about the ills of carbohydrates, my kids will complain about any meal that they think is low-carb. This is especially true when cauliflower plays a substitute for plain rice or potatoes. But not all hope is lost.
Excuse #4: But They Don’t Like Low-Carb Options
There are a few go-to techniques for kids that ‘don’t like low-carb options’.
In our family, the protein always plays the central role in every meal. This was largely true before we became a low-carb family and may be an easy transition for your family to make as well. Instead of having spaghetti with meatballs, now the meatballs are the main entrée with a supporting side or two. Instead of chicken with rice casserole, now it’s chicken with green beans. Instead of pancakes and bacon, now eggs and bacon make a weekend breakfast or easy supper.
The sides can be more of a challenge, especially after having green beans for the fourth time in the same week. Enter here substitutions. Our culture is so used to having a bread or a starch with every meal that it feels like something is missing if supper consists of only a meat and a vegetable. Love it or hate it, cauliflower again comes to the rescue. With enough cream, cheese, and creativity, cauliflower can transform surprisingly well into bread, rice, or potatoes. With enough desperation, it could probably transform into donuts, cake, and ice cream too.
Mozzarella plays a similarly versatile role as a main ingredient in bread substitutes, and the number of almond and coconut flour recipes found online are ever-growing. Integrating low-carb substitutes takes more effort the first and maybe second time, but as the ingredients become staples on your shopping list and the recipes become regulars in your rotation, preparing low-carb meals will become just as easy as preparing any other meal. Check out our Pinterest page for all sorts of low-carb recipes that have been gathered.
There are few foods that are as universally appreciated as bacon and cheese (sorry to all of the vegan, vegetarian and lactose-intolerant readers). Add them both and everything becomes more palatable. If the kids still won’t eat it after adding bacon and cheese, add more bacon and cheese. Repeat this process until it works.
The Lingering Challenges
As a parent, you can only control so much. But no matter what we do, our kids are surrounded by nutritional decisions they will need to make when we are not around. Hopefully, through the choices we make as part of our food lifestyle, we can provide a strong base for our children that helps them navigate through their own nutritional journey. School lunches (a scary topic we’ll address later), birthday parties, holidays, and all of the other sources of carb temptation are not entirely avoidable. And though my wife might argue differently, one piece of birthday cake won’t forever scourge your child.