Moms nowadays are obsessed with their bodies. Modern diet trends are all about the extreme. Extreme butt-tightener. Extreme abs. Extreme consumptions of raw food. Extreme protein quantities. Extreme cutting of carbs. Extreme cutting of sugar.
But here’s the thing: Extreme rules lead to extreme breaking of rules. And generally, moderation leads to health.
And that’s why I won’t go on your diet.
But more importantly for this article, it’s why your kids shouldn’t be on your diet.
THE “GRAINS-ARE-EVIL” APPROACH
Many recent diet approaches cast grains as an outright bad guy.
But, truth be told, it’s just not healthy for children to not eat (or not eat many) grains. Almost every culture in the world, for thousands of years, has subsisted almost entirely on grains as the staple, and occasionally enjoyed meat and veggies as side items when seasons and herds allowed for it.
I think these modern “grains-are-the-worst” diets can be dangerous even for adults, but to a much greater degree, I do not think it is good for kids to exist on so little carbs and whole grains. Those are fine, maybe, for middle-aged women who are trying to maintain or lose weight… but for children, growing in bulk, weight, bone mass, height, and muscle mass, there is not remotely enough data to indicate that cutting grains entirely is a healthy choice for kids.
Consider that in China, and across Asia, it has been normal for thousands of years for kids to have a bowl of rice or rice noodles for every single meal, with quite-small add-ons of meat and veggies… it’s still somewhat normal for children there. (Many, perhaps most, Chinese still eat rice for breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner!) Now I’m not saying that the Chinese people represent the pinnacle of health in every way, but I am saying that there is a tried-and-tested observable culture that has pretty much eaten in a monolithic way for thousands of years that is centered on grains.
Almost all cultures have done this, until this modern one where we have on-demand access to meat and veggies (which almost no other culture has had, to this degree, on a reliable basis)… I don’t think it’s right or well-substantiated for us to utterly shake up the way we eat, based on fad books, but I especially don’t think we should do so for our children.
HUNGER & SLEEP ARE CONNECTED
Hunger is not an issue around here; nor is sleep. Our kids eat well. And our kids sleep well. I think the two are often connected.
Here are a few questions to consider if you feel like this could be an area you need to rethink–
- Are you seeing “grains and dairy” as not healthy?
- Are you sure your children “can’t” eat them?
- What if you tried different grains and varieties?
- Are your kids needing constant snacks?
- Do they wake up hungry rather than sleeping nice, normal, healthy chunks of time?
- What if you simplified meals (as in, make the same things more regularly) but served larger portions and did not let them get up from the table until they were finished?
- The other factor is- what do your children look like in person and in action? Are they thin? Heavy? Energetic in play? Lethargic/easily tired?
If your kids aren’t sleeping well, this very easy connection (satisfied bellies = easier to sleep) could be a big part of the “cause” of their lack of sleep. Are they getting enough food? Are they getting enough healthy variety IN their food?
REAL FOOD CARBS & GRAINS ARE GOOD FOR KIDS
- Rice, quinoa
If you think of these foods as inherently “unhealthy” you have been unduly influenced by the last 5-8 years of American thinking.
Go back in time. Put these thoughts in the context of millennia. Bread was a significant part of Moses’ diet. Jesus’ diet. Europeans’ diet. Central Asians’ diets. Rice has long been the primary staple in Asia. Pasta and bread have been longstanding “norms” across Europe.
Do you really think every other generation and every other society has gotten this wrong, and only the ultra-granola American culture of the last 5 years “really” understands how we’re supposed to eat?
Did Jesus get it wrong? Should He have called Himself the “meat of life” or “raw kale of life” rather than the “bread of life?”
DON’T “DIET” WITH YOUR KIDS
I would not do whole 30, THM, Paleo, raw food, no-grain type stuff with kids (unless you are absolutely certain there is a medically-diagnosed allergy and you have to follow a particular diet).
That doesn’t mean I think they can’t have a smoothie, or grab almonds rather than Ho-Hos for their afternoon snack. I’m not talking about teaching them to make healthy choices. Of course we should do that! We’re their parents, and what we do or don’t teach affects their appetites throughout life.
HOWEVER- having them join you while you do a month of this diet, three months of that style of eating, three weeks of workout intensives, etc., is not healthy during the developmental time of growth. Doing diet-type binges (I think) is teaching kids to binge eat.
In general, moderation in all things is better than occasional and extreme cuts of random bits.
COMMON-SENSE WISDOM FOR EATING
Before you ask, no, I don’t have a heap of studies to prove this.
I’m relying on wisdom gleaned from grandparent-type people who all live a long time. This common-sense eating plan comes from years of watching my grandparents, thinking about what they ate, watching my husband’s extended family aging relatives (all 70 and up now) and how they eat. They eat in moderation and aren’t afraid of dessert or carbs or sugar (unless they’re diabetic). If they gain a few pounds, they discipline themselves to eat less. They just eat normal foods, until they’re full, and stay active in reasonable, livable, real-life ways.
These basic “Common-Sense Principles” would include things like:
- Eat mostly boring, simple foods.
- Some grains, some potatoes, some carbs.
- Eat proteins in affordable quantities. [Think historically about how meat was a rare treat… this gives me a better idea of how much meat to include in a normal meal. Some of these “tons of protein all the time” things are things only our modern society would even think feasible (not to mention, affordable)!!]
- Normal eggs. (Skip the “egg white omelet.”)
- Whole milk.
- Full-fat yogurts and cheeses.
- Veggies of all kinds, consumed regularly, with salt and fat/butter on top for flavor (that may be a southern thing, but the people over 60 I know who did this all through their decades are slim, healthy, and have long lives).
- Mix your foods together (which is where I strongly differ with THM style eating), and eat them all in reasonable healthy portions until full.
- Eat foods made from ingredients you know the source of and can pronounce.
- The only times you should feel “stuffed” would be for rare occasions like Thanksgiving dinner and Easter lunch.
- Dessert a couple times a week, maybe, but much enjoyed when they eat it. With real hand-whipped cream and the rest.
- No fake/chemical ingredients. (again, a place where I differ from THM and the powdered smoothie approaches. If you have to source various chemical powders in order to supposedly “eat healthy”, that’s a bid absurd to me. So no other generation before now could eat this “right” way?! I don’t buy it.)
- No fake/substitute sugars.
- Use rendered bacon grease in other cooking.
- Go for fiber.
- Instead of low-fat, low-carb, low-cal… just lower your portion sizes.
- Almost never drink colas, but plenty of tea, coffee, and lots of water.
- Go for regular walks. Run if it suits you. Do yard work yourself. Mow your lawn. Go to work days at the church. Build the barn or chicken coop yourself if you can. Opt for real work, over fake work-outs led by women who’ve never had babies.
Part of the problem with this whole issue is summed up in those last 5 words.
OUR SOCIETY HAS A WRONG VIEW OF NORMAL
Our society has a lot of women who have never had babies telling us what “normal” women are supposed to look like.
Other generations and societies have known better. There were “maiden bodies” and “maternal” ones. It was a sign of honor to bear a child– to bring life into the world… and to have your body marked by that honor. And most women’s bodies were permanently altered by this. The midsection change came as no surprise to women, and statues and paintings from across the ages show that everyday people looked like everyday people, not runway models.
- Yes, there are tummy scars that prove that your body has stretched to include new life.
- Yes, you probably have a semi-permanent pooch you didn’t have before (psst– there’s no wrong or shame in that– Hollywood beauties like Jennifer Garner do too!).
- Yes, your breasts have stretched to make room for milk as they never needed to do before.
Anyway, all I really mean to say is this:
- If your body looks (and is!) different than it was before you had children, that’s normal.
- If you want to try to fight that, and jump through hoops, following diets with strange rules and chemical ingredients, I won’t stop you. (But I won’t join you either.)
- But if you want your children to do special fad diets or extreme workouts with you, I think that’s a scary-wrong approach to life, and I think you could be doing them and their bodies real, long-term damage.
Mama, whatever you do, PLEASE don’t make your children follow a diet other than eating normal portions of real food.
19 thoughts on “Why Your Kids Shouldn’t Follow Your Diet Plan”
Yes. I appreciate this sensible post. I’m not a diet-er, and I’m definitely not putting my kids on a diet. Haha – they would rebel!! I try to make good choices for them and teach them to make good food choices too. It’s hard though! Hard for me to model when that XXL bag of M&M’s catches my eye at Costco! 😉
I understand what you’re saying about how many generations have eaten moderately and lived well, but I also have concerns about the differences in the way their food was handled and ours is today. Even when I grew up, we had our own beef and hogs and knew how they were raised. We didn’t do pastured pork and exclusively grass-fed meat, but I know they were raised with the food we grew on the farm, etc. I don’t have the same confidence in the meats we can buy in the stores. Our store-bought food is so processed and the farms are more like factories now. I’ve struggled with the desire to get grass-fed beef and pastured pork and pastured chickens – and the budget issues that creates on the flip side. Right now we do raw dairy and farm eggs – awesome!! – and sometimes get grass-fed beef, etc. And I’m just having to be content with that.
I’ve also learned through this process of choosing foods, etc, that good health/long life is an idol in my heart. I’ve confessed it and repented of it, and I keep on having to do that. I know that good health and long life are blessings from the Lord, and they are good things! But I also know that when I’m consumed with them in my heart or worrying over them, they’ve become idols. I just have to keep repenting and turning to the Lord and trusting Him.
I agree with your concern about food sources. I’ve been glad for the last month to have our own home-grown eggs… I know what they’re eating, and how much free-ranging they’re doing. And I’m very thankful to be able to buy beef from a local dairyman whose cows I can drive by.
Certainly, there are more complex issues we face, than our grandparents had to be concerned about… with GMOs and pesticides and factory farms and hormones, etc. I do think we have to be shrewd in areas where we can be, while also recognizing and resting in God’s sovereignty… because there may be a good many areas we can’t “control” or “know” and in those situations, we are still called to trust and be at peace.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts! This can definitely be an all-consuming area for us as moms if we let it.
I usually agree whole-heartedly with your posts. On this one, I don’t. I have a question. Have you read the THM book or are you going by someone’s summary of the book? I’m not sure which ingredients you mean by “(again, a place where I differ from THM and the powdered smoothie approaches. If you have to source various chemical powders in order to supposedly “eat healthy”, that’s a bid absurd to me. So no other generation before now could eat this “right” way?! I don’t buy it.)” I would counter accurately with what the authors really say to some of your statements, but I’ll leave that to other people as I’m short on time. The one thing I will say is that no one in THM advocates not giving grains to growing children (or adults for that matter.) Our society as a whole eats way too much white flour and sugar because it is convenient, cheap and tasty. That in and of itself has caused so many health issues for people.
Plus there are so many women who don’t just have a “maternal” body, rather they have struggled with gluttony and obesity with major health problems.
I have many thoughts about this post as I am an older mother who has birthed 5 children. I have had issues with food and my body image since I was a young teenager. I have been the Lord’s work in progress in all of these issues. I have two grown daughters, a teenage son, and two pre-teen/ teenage daughters. I have taught each of them to eat well according to their needs from all food without making it more important than it should be. My son also had ulcerative colitis when he was 7 and God basically healed it with nutritious food and supplements. Just for the record, I am not a health food fanatic. I’m an everyday gal that likes to be trim and healthy. I follow THM about 60% of the time.
I will watch this post and respond as I have time.
Blessings to you.
By the way- these observations:
“Our society as a whole eats way too much white flour and sugar because it is convenient, cheap and tasty. That in and of itself has caused so many health issues for people.
Plus there are so many women who don’t just have a “maternal” body, rather they have struggled with gluttony and obesity with major health problems.”
are ones we share. I do think gluttony and obesity are major issues of our culture. Our collective obsession with cheap foods and white flour/sugar is definitely a concern. I just don’t think new powders and tricks are what we need to learn.
For me, disciplining myself to pursue moderation and self-control has been a battle, but a worthwhile one. I think it’s one we can fight for ourselves, but that we especially should pass to our children. That’s something they can take with us, no matter where they live in the world, no matter whether they are rich or poor, no matter whether they have a book available to them or not, no matter whether they can attend meetings, etc. (Again this is not an issue centered on one particular eating plan, but on any plan/approach that makes specialized rules and plans the focus, rather than individual self-discipline.)
Hi Jess. We actually probably agree more than we disagree. For me, THM has been a tool to help me do exactly what you’ve described. The glucomannan and sugar substitutes are such a small part of the THM plan. I agree that the struggle is worth it to figure out how to eat to nourish our bodies without making it an idol.
Like you said, we also agree with the obsession with white sugar and flour and also the obsession for women wanting to be unrealistically thin and muscular. If you just went by the extra ingredients that THM offers to make culturally similar foods, I can see how you would think that they were off the mark. But, for the most part it offers people away to break free from their bondage to junk food and feed their families well. It seemed to me like you were speaking with authority about what THM is when really it’s nothing like paleo or 30 days. If I knew that you indeed had read one of their plan books and had points of disagreement Kama that would be different. But looking at some of the products that people have asked for them to develop and basing your opinion on that doesn’t give you the full picture of the research that has gone into their plan.
Haha for not having very much time, I’m spending a lot of it on this. It’s an issue near and dear to my heart and I believe that many women struggle to find what’s right for them and their families. My husband loves this way of eating.
I find that if I fit into my clothes and have some energy, I am a much better wife and mother and not obsessed.
Have a great day!
I’m glad you’re doing well. I’ve not read the book; I briefly skimmed it and have read a number of reviews by people who use it.
A great number of friends and church members use it and so I see it and hear about it regularly. I’ve seen okra cookies, cauliflower pizza crusts, egg-based bread substitutes, etc. I’m glad it works for some people. To me it seems like yet another eating plan that works while you’re on it, and will make you gain once you get off it, and continually sets you up for failure because of things like cheeseburger with no bun, or pasta with no cheese, etc. It seems the same to me in that, if you eat that way, you lose weight, but once you stop or deviate some, you will gain. Which feels gimmicky and vey 1980s diet like to me. 🙂
That is specifically why I wouldn’t do it with children. But for women who want to do it for themselves, I’ve no problem with that.
Thanks for coming back for more dialogue about it.
I wanted to clarify that by “doing THM 60% of the time”, I mean separating my fats and carbs while eating real food. I don’t agree with the paleo diet because it is based on evolution which I do not believe in. I don’t know much about he 30 day whole foods thing except it seems unrealistic in a real family’so life.
I also wanted to add that many people, myself included, would love to eat the way that you spelled out, but addiction to sugar and white flower which made me instantly gain weight and desire to eat more are impossible for me to follow. A couple of my daughters experience the same thing.
I think that it’s a good thing to teach my daughters how to eat without getting overweight. We exercise the way you described – as fun and not obsessive. My daughters do not weigh themselves regularly. I do, because, like I said, I’ve had body image issues. I binge ate when I was a little girl because my parents’ marriage was so difficult. I was bulimic in high school. I know that I am not alone in having complicated issues. THM has made the most sense for me to be able to adequately nourish my body without being heavy. Or obsessed.And,contrary to what you said in your post, no special ingredients are required, nor large amounts of protein.
I understand that any mention of a specific program is going to pull in responses to it, but not every aspect of eating I mentioned is a weakness for every diet plan I mentioned.
The powders I am referencing for that are the glucomannan, stevia powders, and whey protein powders often recommended on that plan. Others recommended on their plan that I didn’t know about, that I just learned about by visiting the THM website (where they sell all of these), are: defatted peanut powder, xylitol, erythritol.
Not everything I mentioned will be true of all the various plans (Whole 30, etc.), so this is not intended to be a rebuke against one particular plan, but rather a general overview as to why I think children being on these plans is a dangerous thing.
I definitely recognize that our various upbringings and approaches to food give us different levels of “success” and attraction to various ways of eating, and like I said in the post, if a woman (for herself) wants to eat that way, I’m not going to blast that… but I won’t do it personally.
More importantly, though, for this site, is that I want to encourage moms to leave their kids out of it. When we consider how many of our generation eat the way they do out of bad habits picked up by parents, my goal is to encourage moms to teach their children a balanced, healthy approach to food as opposed to a binge/specialty way of eating.
Thanks for adding your thoughts, even when they differ from mine. 🙂
Thanks for this! I have had health issues and am on a strict diet to manage my symptoms. Several years ago my husband and I realized the necessity of doing our own research and not following fads or eating the standard American diet. If you’re interested in learning the wisdom of ancient cultures regarding food, check out “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and the Weston A. Price Foundation. Gnowfglins.com is another fantastic source for wisdom of traditional foods (not fad diets). They both teach moderation and not excluding food groups (except processed foods with added chemical).
It’s me again 😉
In case anyone is wondering by what I mean by “trim” I am little taller than 5’7″ and weigh between 140 and 145. Not excessively thin. I still have a huggable mama softness to my body.
Thank you Jess for all of your great articles, I do enjoy reading them and they encourage me greatly! I have a few thoughts on this in regards to THM. The THM authors actually probably agree with your point about not putting your kids on extreme diets, as they said throughout their book things related to making sure your kids are getting plenty of whole grains & milk if you’re cooking on the THM plan for everyone, such as adding brown rice or whole grain pasta for the kids. It is important for kids to get plenty of these items so they can grow & develop well, and THM authors recognized that repeatedly. I wanted to point that out so that any non-THM readers will not be scared off and think it’s dangerous for families. It just needs adjustments for children since they have different needs than adults, and it’s not hard things to do and still feel like you’re eating as a family. Plus there are different levels of THM, and once you are at your ideal weight you can enjoy carbs & fats together more.
We’ve only been eating on THM for 2 months, but I feel like we’re actually eating more veggies now than before, and we ate pretty healthy before. My husband & I have each lost 10 pounds and are pretty much at ideal weight now. I don’t do whey powder at all because I don’t find it necessary, and I only use glucomannan as a thickener for consistency purposes in a few recipes. Glucomannan is a root based powder, and yes it wouldn’t have been used traditionally throughout time, but it is a natural ingredient and we’re just taking advantage of our modern distribution system to have access to something like that. Stevia is also a plant based sweetener available at Walmart under other brand names like Truvia.
I also agree that bread was a staple food for thousands of years, but I do think they have changed our grains so much that the bread we eat today isn’t the same as the bread our ancestors ate, so there is a difference and we need to be cautious about the kind of bread we eat.
For me, reading THM has been less about dieting and more about changing your lifestyle. Yes, you probably would gain some weight back going off THM plan because of what you’re putting in your body. I don’t worry too much about eating non-plan foods at a party or an occasional treat of going out to eat, but overall I feel like we’re eating healthier using THM. I think the important thing is to have moderation and not make something too important to where you can’t enjoy the rest of your life.
For me, I like being more carb-conscious on THM because diabetes runs in my family. I was borderline with gestational diabetes for 2 of my 3 pregnancies so far (all in my twenties), and I only gained 35 or so pounds during each of those pregnancies and started around a healthy 125 pounds (I’m short) both of those times. I had no idea how my standard breakfast of milk and a whole wheat homemade banana muffin plus a banana (which seems like a healthy breakfast) was probably contributing to the trouble my body was having because of all the carbs in that meal. I thought I was eating good for my baby, and when my midwife commented on my breakfast “oh, that’s a lot of carbs,” I still didn’t get it. Not until now reading THM do I understand what she meant. I am hopeful that if I get pregnant again I won’t have the same issues again. I’m not saying THM is for everyone, but there are certain aspects of it that just make sense to me, and I can’t ignore those. I think that’s what this all comes down to, is personal convictions. Some are convicted to eat certain things and others are not. It doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, some just haven’t reached the same conclusions based on their past experiences or ideas. I think we can agree though that limiting food groups for growing children is not wise.
Thanks Jess! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with the diet plans for sure. Just as important, is not including your kids in your bad eating habits too! I do this, and it shows on all of us. They, the kids, don’t know any better either.
If most “dieting moms”, are anything like me, they have been overdoing it for years and are in denial about how they got their. It’s not usually an out of whack thyroid that did it for us, but eating more food than your body needs at one time. By the time you’re ready to try a “diet”, you’re pretty desperate and want a change. You’re looking for that magic bullet that will help you lose 30 – 100 lbs in 30 days…’cause that’s reasonable. And your kids see it!
You’re kids see you swinging back and forth anyway, and they will either pick up those exact habits and go off the deep end too, or they’ll see your habits and jump off the deep end. Either way, it’s highly unlikely they will develop reasonable eating habits, and will probably also deep end.
Making good food choices, in proper portions, consistently, is pretty tough, but it is a learned behavior. So make sure you teach your kids the best way … moderation.
I read, re-read, and greatly enjoyed your post here. I agree with a vast majority of it.
I especially like the part about women’s bodies changing naturally once they’ve had children. We’re not SUPPOSED to look like unmarried (i.e. childless) young girls anymore! Preach it! 🙂
I also like how you post against extremes, especially extreme workouts. The THM ladies have a whole section in their book specifically about this – i.e. against extreme workouts. It seems to me that these are often a rejection of femininity and yet another feminist attempt to emulate manliness.
You comment specifically about grain-free diets, so I thought I would chime in on that issue:
I have done grain-free diets for years, as you probably know from your partner-in-crime (i.e. K.L.), in an attempt to prevent extreme morning sickness. 🙂 It worked quite well. Going grain-free and low-carb also worked miracles in healing other health problems for me, such as seasonal allergies. Thus, I have seen the incredible healing power of going grain-free.
However, the catch is that it was not sustainable over the long-term for me. A year or two, yes. Longer, no. (At least for me.)
My conclusion has been simply that grains can cause problems in individuals battling chronic illness, and that grain-free diets can be incredibly beneficial, in the short-term, for healing and managing chronic illness. After a healing period, though, I believe that grains – in reasonable levels – are a part of a healthy diet, especially when they’re properly prepared (i.e. through soaking, etc., a la Nourishing Traditions or Weston A. Price).
There are a couple of caveats:
(1) Wheat can be a problem – not ancestral wheat, but modern wheat. If you haven’t checked out “Wheat Belly,” it describes the hybridization process that turned wheat into a problematic food in the 1980s. In our family, we discovered that wheat was responsible for my husband’s and our young son’s chronic headaches. Again, this is modern wheat, not ancestral. You can buy ancestral wheat (einkorn) through Azure Standard. A friend of mine is doing this now. It’s harder to cook with, but it’s possible!!
(2) Unfortunately, some grains can cause problems simply because they’re processed far differently now than they used to be, and the end-product is not as body-friendly. Case in point: I’m currently reading “Cure Tooth Decay,” and this book discusses the issue of oats. When Weston A. Price visited the Scotts of 100 years ago, who ate massive amounts of oats, they had perfect teeth – no cavities, and no dental care! But now, the way oats are currently processed, they are NOT good for teeth – in fact, the author said that anyone wishing to heal tooth decay must take good care to avoid modern-processed oats. This is a problem with many foods, not just grains – a food may have the same name as a food 100 years ago, but it’s not the same food.
I’m going to end here – hopefully this comment wasn’t too discombobulated!! Again, I loved your thoughts – thanks for writing!
P.S. I do love glucomannan – it really is just a ground-up root that’s been used in other cultures for a long time. It’s a life-saver when you need a gluten-free thickener!
I think this is a GREAT post. Growing up (and I love my mama, who was trying to follow the “healthy advice of the day”), low-fat/fat-free/low calorie food was a huge focus at our house. More than any specific health concerns that it caused, although there were probably a few, I think the focus itself was unhealthy. I felt guilty if I indulged in junk food at a friend’s house and obsessed over my weight from a young age. To this day, I battle body image issues, in spite of being very petite.
Yes, I try to feed my kids real food and avoid junk food as much as we can, BUT I hope that I can pass on that it’s also just food. God provided it for nourishment of our body and souls, and obsessing over it is just as unhealthy as eating junk all the time.
I appreciate your perspective! What just try to eat healthy, using whole grains, lots of fruit and veggie, and meats. One thing that really helps us to eat healthy is to have two vegetables with most dinners. I almost always serve bread with meals to stretch.
I wrestle with this so much! I know rationally that grains and fats are good for us. Yet, I feel guilty when I give them to my kids. I realized recently that I was leaning too heavily on fresh vegetables and fruits and not enough on the other food groups and my kids were just plain hungry all the time. I’ve added a second breakfast each day with grains, protein, and fats and it’s made such a difference. We’ve also noticed that bedtime is awful if the kids don’t eat dinner well.
Thanks for sharing that! The more we can observe these sorts of things, share them with one another, and all learn from it, the wiser we’ll all be!