Are Trending Diets Safe for Kids?

If you’ve chosen a “special” or restrictive diet for yourself, it may be tempting to convert your whole family just for the sake of convenience. But are these types of diets healthy for kids?

Vegetarian and vegan

In some cases, diets that eliminate some or all animal products can for religious or cultural reasons, as well as a health choice. Vegetarian diets that allow eggs and dairy are pretty easy to follow without causing any nutritional deficiencies. But the more restrictive vegan plans can make it much more difficult to be sure that your child eats a balanced diet. If you choose to go this route, you have to make sure your child gets plenty of these nutrients:

  • Protein (which should come from more than one source at each meal)
  • Iron
  • Calcium 
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B-12

You must also make sure that your child consumes enough calories, as plant-based diets are naturally lower in calories. Otherwise, your child may have problems with growth and development in both body and brain.

Low-carb and no-carb

Diets that restrict (or even eliminate) carbohydrates have become popular, mostly among those who wish to lose weight and/or build muscle. Some of the most common low-carb and no-carb eating plans include:

  • Ketogenic (Keto)
  • Atkins
  • Paleo
  • Mediterranean
  • South Beach

Carbohydrates are the best fuel for growing bodies and developing brains, so restricting carbs in your child’s diet isn’t recommended. It’s a good idea to save sugary drinks and foods with added sugars for the occasional treat, but make sure your child’s diet is rich in complex carbohydrates from foods like:

  • Whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals
  • Starchy veggies like potatoes
  • Fruits and non-starchy veggies 
  • Beans, peas, seeds and nuts
  • Dairy products like milk and (unsweetened) yogurt

What if my child is overweight?

As a general rule, “dieting” isn’t good for kids. If your pediatrician has told you that your child is dangerously overweight and needs a restrictive diet, then you should follow their recommendation. Otherwise, focus on helping your child make better food choices, which includes eating lots of different types of healthy foods, and provide opportunities for fun activity and exercise every day.