Dr Suzie Edge on 21st century nutrition and health

Navigating Keto and lchf with sugar-filled kids

Navigating Keto and lchf with sugar-filled kids

Navigating the food pyramid with the next generation is really hard, especially when you are trying to turn it upside down. The next generation, and by that, I mean my kids, are going to need a lot of help. My children are already being taught the wrong ideas about healthy eating at their school. The education is certainly well meaning, but it is just wrong. When my youngest presented me with the “healthy food plate” template recently, I started to wonder how I can navigate the bad dietary advice that the kids still get, versus what I believe. I have two children (10 and 9 years old) and over the last decade we have eaten breakfast cereals (often choosing those with less sugar but certainly not zero sugar), we have drunk fruit juice (often choosing this as a better drink than fizzy ‘junk’), we have eaten hundreds of low-fat yogurts (ignoring the sugar content), and we have eaten many pasta meals and sandwiches. In essence, we have been looking after ourselves by following the low-fat diet that we have been advised to follow. What’s wrong with that?

Absolutely everything.

Putting starchy carbohydrates as the basis for the diet and being afraid of fat is the wrong way around and upside down, for us and for our children.

My daughter and I looked at her breakfast this morning. She asked for a bacon sandwich and I made her one. Then, looking at the labels on the bread packet she asked me if the bread was OK to eat (as she knows I don’t eat it). I didn’t want to contradict myself (I do think it is a bad choice, yet I am giving it to her – ouch).

I needed to show her that it was about the choices we make, and I poured a bowl of her favourite breakfast cereal onto the scales to show her. Ignoring sugar for a moment (never ignore sugar folks) – the bread ‘thin’ had 18g carbs in it. Her usual portion of breakfast cereal contained 50g (with half of that being sugar). My daughter was genuinely surprised. “I’ll take the bacon sandwich” she said, “and one day I will not have the bread”.

So, one day she will choose not to have the bread. But which day? When she has reached a point where she feels sick and overweight or when she wants to lose a belly? When she is told she has diabetes? That’s what we’re dealing with if we continue with this idea that kids need the sugar for energy, we are leading them down this path and telling them it is healthy.

There is no requirement for sugar in the diet, for adults or children. How on earth do our teachers control and teach a class of thirty kids who had a standard breakfast full of sugar and who will crash and be craving more sugar by mid-morning? I really don’t envy them their job.

A massive problem in tackling this is a potential backlash in talking about healthy eating with children. It is a concern that they will all start counting calories and become anorexic. So, don’t mention fat to girls or they might become anorexic. I am not belittling this very difficult and sometimes devastating illness, but do you know how many teens with anorexia there are, compared to those who are obese or heading for obesity and the complications that come with obesity? I would suggest giving them the right advice in the first place rather than sweeping this important issue under the carpet. Handy hint: stop telling them to count calories.

For me, it was a big step to change my diet overnight, but that was after years of believing that only the opposite of my dietary-guideline diet would help me and yet doing nothing about it. For the kids, it is a bit harder to get them onside. What I say at home contradicts the dietary advice that the children are getting in school. That’s a tricky situation and how I can deal with it is for another blog post.

I wrote about this briefly on an Instagram post and had some interesting and useful suggestions. These included using full-fat yogurts with home made granola of nuts, seeds and raspberries for days when bacon and eggs aren’t on the menu. I plan to pull together a collection of useful ideas and thoughts about how we prevent the next generation from heading towards the medical issues of obesity, diabetes, hypertension and the burden of these chronic diseases that are affecting their parents and grandparents. We can’t lead them off the cliff when we know how to prevent it. Please help and contribute, if you can.


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