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.