Following a ketogenic diet requires removing carbohydrate-rich foods from your daily diet. These include fruit, starchy vegetables (such as carrots, potatoes, corn), grains and of course, the ‘usual suspects’ such as cookies, ice cream, candy, cakes and so on.
It can be quite a challenge for yourself to ignore these (addictive) sugary and carbohydrate-rich products, but if you have a family it can be an extra challenge to keep everyone happy at the table.
In this article, we will discuss how you can follow the ketogenic diet taking your family into account.
Can children also follow the ketogenic diet?
The ketogenic diet has been in existence since the 1920s. It was used to combat the symptoms of epilepsy in children. These days the ketogenic diet is still used for these purposes.
The fact that the diet is used for these purposes in children does not mean that this can be without unwanted side effects. Children are in that phase of their lives where they are fully grown.
One of the effects of the ketogenic diet is that it inhibits the production of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1 ) (1). This hormone plays an important role in the growth of children and teenagers. IGF-1 stimulates the production of tissues and the growth of bones.
For adults, the reduced production of IGF-1 is a nice side effect, because a lower level of growth hormones and IGF-1 inhibits the aging of body cells (2).
People who are looking for longer life and are involved in ‘ anti-aging strategies’ benefit from lower IGF-1 production. For children, it is important to have growth hormones.
In order not to run the risk that the growth process of children is disrupted, it is not recommended that they follow a “full-time” or completely ketogenic diet.
But this does not mean that children cannot benefit from increased consumption of healthy fats. For example, it has been conclusively proven that omega-3 fatty acids make an important contribution to the development of:
- The central nervous system, where various cognitive functions are improved
- Better vision development
- Improved cardiovascular health, including improved blood pressure
- The improved immune system, which increases the chance of possible allergies during childhood
From the medical world, it is therefore recommended to consume more than enough omega-3 fatty acids during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It is also recommended to ensure that the child receives enough omega-3 fatty acids during the child’s childhood (3).
Meals that are ketogenically responsible can be an excellent source of these healthy fatty acids. Especially fatty fish and seafood are a good source of these fatty acids.
For example, think of:
But also vegetable sources such as:
- Chia seed
- Flax seeds
Increased fat consumption can, therefore, have a positive influence on the development of a child, certainly when these fats replace part of the carbohydrates eaten daily.
In view of the required production of growth hormones such as insulin and IGF-1, it is important for a child to consume carbohydrates, but currently, the consumption of carbohydrates and sugars in children is too high.
An institution in England called ‘Public Health England’ sounded the alarm in 2016 about the consumption of sugar among English youth. This organization found that the average child in England aged four to ten years consumes a quantity of sugar per year that is equal to 5,500 sugar cubes! (4)
This is more than 60 grams of sugar per day! On an annual basis, this is around 22 kilos, which is slightly more than the average 20.7 kilos that a 5-year-old child weighs. And here the sugars that are naturally found in fruits and in milk are not even counted.
Childhood obesity is also a major problem in the United States. The massive consumption of sugar has ensured that one-third of all new diabetes patients among children have type 2 diabetes (6).
Previously, only type 1 diabetes occurred among children, as this is the hereditary variant. Type 2 diabetes is the variant that results from systematic over-consumption of sugars. Sugar consumption has therefore ensured that type 2 diabetes is no longer a typical age disease, but also a childhood disease!
Now you may think to yourself: ” Aah but that is in England, the land of chocolate bars, toffee and English liquorice ” or “Yes , but in the United States everyone drinks liters of coke and they eat donuts every day and have fast food for dinner ”
Time for a wake up call: the situation in the Netherlands is just as serious!
According to Martijn Katan, professor of Nutrition at the University of Amsterdam, figures from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment indicate that the total consumption of sugars by five and six-year-olds in the Netherlands amounts to around 132 grams per day! This includes the sugars from fruit and dairy (7)
This amounts to an average of 33 sugar cubes per day! And this is not in England or the United States, but here in our own Netherlands.
The contemporary diet of children is therefore clearly too rich in carbohydrates. An important factor here is that the manufacturers of carbohydrate-rich children’s snacks respond to the sweet appetite of children by providing the packaging of their cookies, sweets, and snacks with appealing colors and images of children’s idols such as cartoon characters or famous pop stars.
This problem has also been recognized by the government and this has led to a ban on the use of advertisements with popular children’s figures on sugar-rich cookies and sweets (8).
However, the government can only remotely adjust with legislation and interventions the prohibition of certain advertisements and advertisements. Ultimately, you will also have to take action yourself to make your child’s diet healthier and therefore less sugary. And this can be done by replacing sugars in your child’s diet with healthy fats. A kind of part-time ketogenic diet!
Part-time Keto for Children
The part-time keto for children means that they eat along with the dishes that you prepare for yourself during the day, whereby you prepare any additional carbohydrates for the children.
For example, if you take a salad with grilled chicken and avocado yourself, then your children can eat it, supplemented with low-glycemic carbohydrates from carrots, (sweet) potatoes.
Of course you can also let children have more freedom in their own food choices, but for example, set a rule that in the evening people will eat what you are cooking at that time. Carbohydrates can still be eaten with the other meals of the day.
By at least limiting the consumption of sugars during dinner, you can already prevent a lot of sugars in your children.
In addition, you can also limit the supply of sugars indoors by eliminating soft drinks and fruit juices. The aforementioned health authority from England, PHE, states that soft drinks account for 24 percent of the sugar consumption of children and fruit juices – with or without added sugars – for another 12 percent (9).
A good reason to banish these drinks from the fridge!
So fruit juices are out of the question, but what about pieces of fruit?
Children and Fruit
“Fruit is healthy” is a conviction that has stuck up many a people idea about what healthy food is. And it is undeniable that many fruits are rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
Although the profiles of micronutrients such as vitamins and antioxidants in different types of fruit may be of interest to your health, there is another aspect of fruit that disqualifies virtually all fruit products for the ketogenic diet, namely: fruit sugars.
Fruit sugars, also known as fructose, are the sugars that occur naturally in fruit. And, as you may already know in the meantime, sugars are not exactly keto-proof. Sugars prevent you from becoming and staying in ketosis.
The healthy image of fruit is also the reason that the well-known fruit juices are given to children at school with a straw. But where fruit juices are just as bad as soft drinks, at least pieces of fruit still contain fiber.
Whereas as an adult you aim for the state of ketosis during a ketogenic diet, this is not the case with a child. A child can, therefore, afford to occasionally eat fruit. Do you want to know which types of fruit are the best option? Refer to the table below.
|Total Carbohydrates||Sugar||Fiber||Net Carbohydrates|
|Lemons (1 lemon of 58g)||5.5g||1.5g||1.5g||4g|
|Cantaloupe melon (28g)||13g||12g||1.5g||11.5g|
|Limes (1 lime of 67g)||7g||1g||2g||5g|
|Black currant (28g)||14g||7g||8g||6g|
Do you want to provide your children with extra carbohydrates, while you continue to eat low carbohydrate? Then you can in the morning, for example, choose to make a Keto Smoothie and add some extra red fruit for your children in the blender.
Compared to other types of fruit, red fruit is relatively low in carbohydrates and you can consume it moderately while remaining in ketosis. These fruits include raspberries, blueberries, red currants, strawberries, blackberries and black currants.
Replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats can therefore also have a positive impact on their health for your children.
Ultimately, it is also about finding a balance between what is healthy for your children without having to act as a sort of nutrition dictator. Too strict a feeding regime can be counterproductive, which means that children outdoors may go completely overboard with sweets and soft drinks.
The stricter you prohibit something, the more interesting it becomes for children to get involved in it!
By at least eliminating soft drinks and fruit juices, you can already remove a lot of unnecessary sugars from your children’s diet. You can also let them eat ketogenic meals with you and possibly supplement them with healthier carbohydrates from, for example, (sweet) potato, carrots, parsnip and certain types of fruit.
Subjecting children to a strict ketogenic nutritional regime is not going to work from a health perspective because children need carbohydrates to optimally produce growth hormones.