Carbohydrates and our Children

Carbs are ubiquitously available and people are becoming fat. The most vulnerable population are our children. If you think about who is vulnerable to addiction, it is our children. Parenting styles and how you raise a child definitively crosses generations. How you raise your child will likely be how your child raises their own. Obesity is not entirely genetic, but transferred across generations.

Learning requires effort and pleasure is the reward

When we are helping our children complete tasks of homework, learning to ride a bicycle, or whatever, there is an incredible endorphin high the child learns; and generally they want more. Learning requires effort and pleasure is the reward. And when you give these rewards in the form of endorphins, you begin to feel more confident. You start liking yourself and becoming more confident; then you have the capacity to take on more endorphin releasing capacity. Just like with any drug, the more you use it, the more tolerant of it you become. And when you stimulate these endorphins more times than necessary, such as in smoking or eating, this is when addiction starts. And with addiction comes abusive behavior, towards yourself and to others.

A good example is kids eating their greens, such as broccoli. The parents will often tell the child to eat their broccoli. The kid replies, “yes mom, I will eat the broccoli” and never does. The kid then points out that there’s a pizza in the refrigerator and replies, “if you let me eat the pizza, I will eat the broccoli tomorrow.” And we all know that tomorrow never comes. This is how we start feeding addiction to a child. And an even worse case of this is when the child is left to eat unsupervised.

Next, take the authoritarian parents who sit the child down and demand that they eat the broccoli. Often they have the child sit at the table until the broccoli is eaten. This is a hard idea to justify as well because there is no return on the investment for the child and now there is going to be a negative emotion with the broccoli. Even worse, the moment that the parent is not around, that child is going straight for the pizza and ice cream. Even worse, this is the type of child that often hides candy under his / her bed and eats when no one is around, and these children feel good when they eat that candy bar.

Perhaps another way to achieve a good balance is to say to the child, “you are going to eat a vegetable tonight,” then give the child a choice of broccoli, squash, or green beans. You must set strict boundaries. Give the child an ownership in the choice of foods that they eat. And the child will likely eat only half of the plate. This is fine, the child made the choice about what he / she ate and felt good about it. They feel good about it because you praised the child for their effort. So it really doesn’t matter if they finish all of the broccoli. It matters that they got the proper endorphin response associated with a healthy behavior.

Ironically, these are also the first steps in getting kids to take ownership of their decisions and actions and living up to their mistakes in life. Funny how it starts with food.

Enter the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

There is pure craziness in our medical organizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics is causing our children to become fat. They have the position that preschool children should be eating about 3 servings a day of fat free skim milk or 1% milk. They also tell patients that bread is fine, butter is terrible. Finally, they state, “If juice is introduced, wait until 6-9 months and limit consumption to 4-6 ounces and Avoid introduction of sugar-sweetened beverages.”

So for a child, less than one year of age they are suggesting about 30 grams of carbohydrate in one sitting. For most, this about one juice box from the supermarket and we all know that a kid will drink 2 to 3 of these juice boxes per day. The majority of calories in apple juice come from carbohydrates. And it is very difficult and expensive to buy pure apple juice with no artificial sugar added. The goal is to always opt for 100-percent apple juice that has no sugar added. While you’ll still get a lot of carbs from this type of juice, you’re also more likely to get a large amount of vitamins and minerals. Even more, the discussion of whether apples are something we should be consuming is a whole other discussion.

One cup, or 8 ounces, of apple juice with no added sugar provides a total of 115 calories, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Of that amount, roughly 112 calories come from carbohydrates, which equals about 30 grams of carbs. Then take the reality of a juice box that a typical family can afford, and there is over 40 grams of sugar. The reality of what the AAP is trying to convey is just not consistent with the reality family’s face.

Despite relatively recent studies showing that children become obese from excess sugar, the AAP refuses to change what it recommends doctors say to patients. One study involved 10,700 children who drank skim milk or whole milk. The study found that drinking skim milk was associated with a higher body mass index (BMI). They also found that children who consumed more fat had a lower BMI. Pediatricians cannot change their dogmatic thinking, even though the studies are clear about eating more fat and less carbohydrates decreases obesity. We have to abandon the fact that low fat is a good thing.

I actually know of a pediatrician who told the parents of a child who was not gaining weight to feed the child the worst foods that they could find, pizza, juices, pancakes, etc. so the child would gain weight. Too many doctors only tell the patients what they think they know, and don’t offer other alternatives.

Finally, if you want a good example of how to make the veggies taste great for the kids, I recommend Dave Asprey’s approach to making a puree with butter and oil. More ideas can be found at his website.