When I tell people we’re Banting (low carbs, high fat), I can almost write you a letter that their reflex-reaction is to tell me how bad fats are for me. They almost always mention cholesterol and heart disease. There’s often the story of the one week that they tried Banting and put on 8kgs. Or, their friend that did it and went into cardiac arrest. I’m exaggerating, of course. And I have logical replies to all of these concerns. But, for the sake of this article, I’d like to deal with the less common concern that I think is really quite valid – is Banting for children too, and do we enforce it on our child?
The short answer is no. But, as many of my mom-friends would testify, we are very aware of what she eats and how it makes her feel. And we educate her to be aware of this too. This isn’t only so that she can make good choices about her nutrition, it’s also so that she learns to listen to her body and how it’s responding to the food she puts into it. And, as adults, we need to learn to do this too.
Do you feel an energy slump at 10h00?
Do you cramp or bloat after certain meals?
Are you hungry an hour or two after breakfast?
Do you still struggle to lose weight and keep it off?
Your body’s talking to you. And I want my daughter to learn to listen to it as soon as possible.
I talked to Catherine Barnhoorn – mom to Mila, a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and the author of Mila’s Meals: The Beginning & The Basics. While there are some differences between what she and I feed our kids and how we handle the adventure of nutrition (by “differences”, I mean she’s way better at it than I am), I certainly admire her ethos and approach. Here’s how our chat went:
What dialogue have you had with your daughter to help her to make wise food choices?
From the age of 2, I explained to Mila why she couldn’t have gluten, sugar and dairy in a toddler appropriate way. It was important for me that she understands the “why” so that she will be empowered to make these choices and decisions for herself when I am not with her (like at school for example).
When she asked for cheese I would say “You know that cheese makes your nose snotty. Do you want to have a snotty nose?” Most times she would say no and then readily accept that she was not going to have any cheese. Other times she would say something to the effect of maybe it won’t make her nose snotty. I would then give her some. Later / the next day she would be snotty and then I would remind her that she had had some cheese. So, I always connected the food and the effect it had on her body.
With regards to sugar – I have simply explained that sugar is not good for her (or anyone else for that matter). Since she has been raised eating very little sugar, she can notice the effects when she does have some. She had a marshmallow at the hairdresser when she was 4 years old. After finishing it she slapped her little hand to her heart and said, “Mama, I feel sugary!”. Shame, her little heart was racing! Nowadays, at a birthday party, she will have the birthday cake on offer but she very rarely finishes the whole piece.
When we make food together, or when I give her something like her morning veggie juice, I always find a way to mention that it is “delicious and nutritious.” I want her to grow up knowing the value of nutritious food, and what examples of it are. (I call nutritionally bankrupt food “nonsense food.”)
Now that she is five years old, I am also telling her more: that some food is made with chemicals, I read food ingredient labels with her when we are grocery shopping, she knows about pesticides etc…
I believe it is very important not to “deny” her the food she wants, which is why I go to so much effort to make a healthy version of things she may come across in the shops, at school or at a friend’s house. It really is sweet to watch her in the grocery shop – she will go up the sweet aisle, for example, look at everything on offer, pick something up, smell it and then look at me and say “Mama you must make me this!” She never asks me to buy it.
What are the must-have ingredients / items that make feeding Mila easier? This could also be the things that always appear on your grocery list.
I truly believe that the various superfoods are a parent’s best friend when it comes to feeding children. Mila does not have a big appetite and she is a “discerning” eater. By adding superfood powders to her food I know she is getting sufficient nutrients from the few bites that she eats. The ones that I am using most at the moment and that I always have in my pantry are:
I add them to smoothies, fruit rolls, sprinkle over muesli, etc…
What is your and her favourite treat?
I am opposed to the conventional concept of “treats” – you know, something to eat that has some sort of guilt attached to it. I have made a point of raising Mila with a variety of “treats”. These include a new sticker book, watching a programme in the morning, going out for lunch, new crayons etc…
The bonus of maintaining a clean way of eating is that food that would be part of someone else’s daily menu is something Mila considers to be a “treat”.
Mila’s most regular food “treat” is the two sweets she gets at her grandparents’ house when we go there for a braai on Sundays. Or pizza, sourdough bread, cheese, croissants, tomato sauce and babycinos… you know, all the things I restrict in her diet.
My favourite food treat is Kombucha and Lindt dark chocolate. Kombucha is a treat because I find it expensive – so I get a couple of bottles once a month when I place my order from Faithful To Nature. (I used to make my own – but there is not enough time in the day to make everything!)
I have also created the concept of “adventure food” with Mila. Essentially, these could be considered “treats” because she doesn’t have them every day (only on holidays or weekends). They are “treats”, not because they are not healthy, but because they are expensive or simply not necessary as part of her daily eating. Things like coconut water, kombucha, ready-made oven chips, organic rice crackers with the yoghurt on them, raw cacao chocolate, Banting chocolate chip cookies etc…
What advice do you have for parents that want to start enforcing healthier eating choices for their children?
Firstly, I would change “enforce” to entice 🙂 You can make healthy eating enticing for kids by getting them involved with the preparation:
- Grow your own veggies.
- Make healthier versions of the things you find in the shops.
- Make fresh juices. Mila’s cousins’ favourite part of the play-dates at our house is squeezing the naartjies to make fresh naartjie juice!
- Get sneaky – you can hide so many vegetables and nutrient-dense foods in dishes. Mila loves marmite on toast – she doesn’t know that it’s actually miso!
- And, of course, make it delicious as well as nutritious. There really are delicious healthy versions of most kids’ favourite foods. Force-feeding a spoonful of cooked spinach is going to be an uphill battle of wills. But, add that spinach to a smoothie or make spanakopita and ta-da – healthy eating without the fight!Then, very importantly – explain “why”. Point out the negative effects of unhealthy food or food that they may have intolerances to. And point out the health benefits of the healthy food. Also, have certain days that they know are for the “nonsense” foods or treat foods. For example, Sundays can be sweetie days, when you eat at a restaurant they can have babyccinos and tomato sauce. Then, it’s not a daily battle.
Do you have any favourite stores (online is fine too) where you get your food or ingredients?
I prefer buying my fresh foods from Farm Fresh Direct or Food Lover’s Market (they have a wide range of local organic produce).
So, for some stunning ideas for really super-duper healthy kids’ meals, check out Catherine’s recipes here.
For a slightly less super-duper (but still very good) eating plan, here are some Banting-friendly meal ideas that (most) children love:
- Bacon, eggs, and cheese
- Cheese and mushroom omelette
- Mashed avo topped with crispy bacon bits and mushrooms
- Banana and egg pancakes with cinnamon
SCHOOL LUNCH / SNACKS
- Dry wors
- Boiled eggs
- Cherry tomatoes
LUNCH and DINNER
- Tuna or chicken salad
- Soup (just about any soup, without adding potatoes, barley, wheat, dumplings or bread)
- Roast chicken
- Grilled or pan-fried fish or calamari
- Spare ribs (easy on the basting)
- Pork chops or rashers with crisp crackling
- Lasagne (just replace the pasta sheets with slices of brinjal – so delicious)
These are just some suggestions. We’re a little more lenient, as Katie doesn’t have an aversion to gluten or dairy. She doesn’t react well to sugar at all, but she’s started to make her own wise decisions about that. So, when we go out for dinner, she’s allowed to have chips with her fish, for example. And we really ignore the sugar thing on our Fridates, when she often has cake or an ice-cream. But, the point is that it’s not a habit. It’s not even close to every day. And, if you ask her, she really enjoys the way she eats.