Should Healthy Kids Be On Special Diets?

It’s becoming common to see parents eliminating foods from their healthy child’s diet. But should parents make drastic dietary changes without medical supervision?
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Photo by: Top Photo Group

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It's becoming more common to see parents eliminating foods or food groups from their healthy child's diet. Even superstar mom Gwenyth Paltrow reportedly cut all gluten and carbs from her kids' diets. Is it a good idea for parents to make drastic dietary changes without medical supervision?
Why Eliminate?

We're not talking about a child who is allergic to a food or needs to avoid it due to a medical reason. Parents are eliminating food groups like gluten, carbs, sugar, eggs or milk because they feel they aren't healthy. Perhaps they spoke to " specialists" who advised them to do so or they made their own decision based on views they've seen in the media. (Oftentimes, these recommendations are geared towards adults, not kids.) They may also decide to follow a hot trend that isn't scientifically sound.

According to this US Weekly article, Paltrow states that all the doctors, nutritionists and health-conscious folks she's approached agree that gluten isn't healthy. However, most registered dietitians agree that gluten shouldn't be avoided if not medically warranted, especially in children.

The Risks

Avoiding major food groups like carbs (including whole grains), dairy or eggs can be detrimental to a child's health. These food groups all provide essential nutrients that are important to help children grow and develop.

Shoshana Pritzker RD, CDN is dietitian at Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right Inc, a weight management program for kids in Garden City, NY. She says "Parents often make un-informed decisions regarding the food they feed their children. Omitting any nutrient or food group from your diet [at any age] for no reason other than to follow the latest trend or news-tip will limit the variety of food your kids have available to eat and may leave out valuable vitamins and minerals our bodies need to grow. Kids tend to be picky eaters to begin with. On top of that, they want to fit in with other kids during snacks and lunch. Liberalizing their diet can work wonders on their health and confidence. Parents should focus on facts and information coming from reputable sources like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, that way they can be confident that the decisions they are making for their kids regarding food are good ones."

What's A Parent To Do?

When it comes to your kids, it's imperative to get sound advice from qualified professionals like registered dietitians. You can find many who specialize in pediatric nutrition and are well informed about eliminating foods from a child's diet. If you think your young one should be eliminating certain foods for medical reasons, work with your doctor and dietitian to determine the best course of action and don't take matters into your own hands.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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