Although many families with children and teens eat following the advice of the popular gluten-free and paleo diets, at least one food educator pointed out the risks of such diets for people who aren't adults.
According to a Citizens Voice report, food educator and author Casey Seidenberg discussed the risks that such diets pose for those who aren't yet fully developed. While low-carb, paleo, and gluten-free diets are super popular in online searches, they may not be the correct choice for children and teens. Barring a serious medical condition, a diet that is super low in carbs should not be aimed at those age groups.
The report discussed that health experts do not believe that people who are still growing up should eat low carb, dairy-free diets. Seidenberg agrees.
"I share their concerns, especially as I look around my community and see children and teens adopting a low-carb, no-carb or gluten-free diet when they don't have a medical reason, such as celiac disease or obesity. Even a leading paleo website offers the caveat that 'a low-carb or low-calorie approach to a paleo diet during adolescence should be avoided.'"
One of the reasons that carbs have become so demonized in food and popular diets is what Seidenberg calls the difference between fast carbs and slow carbs. The fast carbs are the ones that the body absorbs quickly that quickly raise blood sugar levels and insulin. Found in cereal, cakes, cookies, pretzels, and many other processed foods, when eaten regularly, these fast carbs can cause plenty of health issues by disrupting hormones and metabolism in growing children.
However, not all carbs are those fast acting carbohydrates. The higher fiber slow carbs contained in vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, nuts, and seeds actually provide the body with longer lasting energy as they slowly break down and absorb into the bloodstream. She said that "active kids need a balance to get the sustained energy and nutrition they need."Also, growing bodies and brains often need higher calories than those popular types of diets provide, which can cause problems for children and teens as they grow. Rapidly increasing bones need essential vitamins and minerals for proper formation and bone mass.
In addition to low carb diets, Seidenberg saw an increase in kids replacing whole grains with more highly processed gluten-free foods. That replacement does not do anything to help kids become healthier. She also pointed out studies that show that people who go gluten-free often become deficient in nutrients like calcium, fiber, iron, folic acid, niacin, phosphorus, thiamine, vitamin B12, and zinc.
She urged parents to help their children develop healthy thoughts and habits about food. While parents must make their own decisions for their families, it's important to consider the differences between adults and rapidly growing bodies of non-adults when choosing to follow a diet that isn't medically necessary. In addition, it's always wise to consult a child's doctor before committing to a dramatic change in diet.