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Diets for Kids — an article on the Smart Living Network
September 27, 2010 at 12:00 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Diets for Kids

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Diets for kids are a controversial subject, with the health of the nation's youth at stake. Although the issue has been made medical and even political, the main issue is still what children should eat and why. The numbers of children who are statistically obese have driven some parents to be overly cautious and obsessive about the eating habits of their kids. On the other hand, some people feel uncomfortable with even discussing the word "diet" when referring to children. So what should you know about the pros and cons of diets for kids?

The Extent of the Problem

In previous generations, childhood obesity was rarely addressed since most kids got plenty of exercise. Children naturally have large amounts of energy, and they enjoy expending that energy each and every day. Whether it is playing sports, running around a playground, or riding a bicycle, it should be fairly easy for a child to remain active. Yet many kids are not participating in such activities today. This could be attributed to a number of things, including the popularity of the internet and video games. The typical eating habits of children include candy, fast food, and processed items more and more.Genetics also play a role in the problem as some children gain weight easily. At a young age, dealing with a weight problem can be very stressful, which only complicates the situation.

The Benefits of a Diet

Watching your child's diet can have many benefits. Lowering their salt or sugar intake is particularly helpful. In addition, it is essential to make sure that they are getting enough carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. The basic ideas of a diet for children are similar to the diets that adults should follow as well. A younger person can process food more quickly, and generally burn more calories, than an adult. Therefore, the foods might be adjusted based on the child's age, weight, and activities. Specifically, the amount of nutrients will vary depending on these variables. In order to know exactly what foods to give your children, check with their pediatrician and design a plan that works for their individual needs.

The Drawbacks of a Diet

Just as parents are concerned with the dangers of overweight children, many feel that placing the child on a diet would be even more damaging psychologically. Typically, kids lack the maturity to handle the emotional problems that can be associated with a parent informing them of their need for a diet. The fears of some parents are that the child will develop a low self-esteem because their parent's opinion of them physically is very important. One of the clarifications that should be made in the debate is the meaning of the word, "diet."

A diet can be something that refers to whatever a person eats on a daily basis. It does not have to be defined as an intentional attempt to lose weight. In general, a parent should provide a well balanced diet for the entire family, and it does not have to be a specific regimen, targeted at one member. However, when kids think of the word "diet," they understandably picture foods they cannot have and a self-conscious view of their weight. This can cause other eating disorders in the future, and is the reason why adults are very careful when approaching the subject.

Balance

To solve the problem of child dieting, it helps to realize that you are not going to control every single thing your child eats. Kids enjoy snacks like ice cream, candy bars, and chips, and most of them can eat occasional treats without worry because of their high metabolism. The balance is achieved when they eat healthy foods at home along with the rest of the family, and are allowed treats now and then, which is part of being a kid and learning about balance and moderation. Saying no to all treats could create a desire for things that are off limits. Moderation is the key, and the main part of a child's should still be foods that provide optimal nutritional value.

Try limiting the amount of junk food in your house and switching to snacks that have whole grains, such as pretzels and cereals. You can also include carrots, celery, and other vegetables as snacks, as well as apples, bananas, and yogurt. In an effort to encourage healthier choices, the government is attempting to restrict the types of foods available at schools and impose higher taxes on kids' meals at fast food restaurants. But these methods are designed to force people into making certain decisions, and perhaps don't address the real issue.

Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the parents to ensure a healthy lifestyle for their children, in both the foods they eat and the physical activity they have.

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/nutrition-for-kids/NU00606 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/MY00383 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/childrens-health/HQ00419

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