Specialist Diets For Children: Are they a good idea?

There has been lots in the news recently about children’s food products and children’s ‘diets’, especially as there are now a few children’s “paleo” food brands. This is quite disturbing and I know a lot of negative attention has been given about these. As a result, I thought I’d put together a few of my thoughts on some of the “specialist” diets that the media often talk about for our young children. Are they necessary and should we be following them?

How To Get Children To Eat Their VegetablesThe Paleo diet – A fairly recent trend but having ‘paleo’ baby food is new and concerning. A paleo diet would be very restrictive and certainly not something we would recommend to growing children who need plenty of nutrients and energy in their diet every day.

The low carb diet – carbohydrates are important for health. They contain energy, fibre and plenty of nutrients (especially if you’re choosing the right ones) and are a very important food group for young children who are growing and developing at a fast rate.  Cutting out carbohydrates or reducing them could have serious negative effects on a child’s development and will greatly reduce the variety of foods that they should be enjoying.

The low fat diet – Fat is an essential nutrient and including it in our everyday diet is important for everyone. For children, getting enough of the right type of fats is also vital as fat is essential for the growth and functioning of the brain. A “low fat” diet is not appropriate for young children.

The raw foods diet – different foods contain a different balance of nutrients. Sticking with just raw foods may mean that children are at risk of not getting a full range of the nutrients that they need for growth and development. Some foods can actually be more nutritious when cooked (such as tomatoes) and therefore it’s best not to limit your child to one range of foods.

The vegan diet – This can heavily restrict the amount of foods a child is able to consume. In early years variety is key to ensuring children get enough vitamins and minerals. If you are following a vegan diet, it’s a good idea to have a discussion with your GP, dietitian or a registered nutritionist to ensure your child is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need.

The vegetarian diet – a vegetarian diet is fine for young children, as long as you get support from a qualified health care professional to ensure that there is enough variety and to discuss if you may need to supplement your child’s diet with some nutrients they may be lacking.

Ultimately balance is key to healthy growth and development for your young children.

For more information on foods to offer babies and children please see my other blog posts.