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When You’re Older

Filed Under: Baby and Child Health at 5:14 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Taking a BiteYour kids are not adults. You are reminded of this every time you are forced to respond to one of their many “when can I” questions. When can I stay up past nine? When can I try wine? When can I drive? When can I . . . The actions change, but the start always stays the same, as does your response: when you’re older. When they are older, they can make decisions on their own and take on more responsibilities; they can be adults. Until then, you are in charge. You dictate the rules. You choose bedtime, curfew, allowances and chores. You decide where the money goes, and you decide what food gets put into the refrigerator. In the face of rising obesity, that last decision can be a tricky one. You don’t want your children to reach an unhealthy weight, so you grab the low-fat/no-fat foods. But, is that really for the best? No.

Recent studies have shown that children burn more fat than adults; therefore, they need more fat. As opposed to the 20 to 35 percent of fat needed in an adult’s diet, teens and kids over 3 should have diets with 25 to 35 percent fat and toddlers with 30 to 40 percent. Not getting that amount can deprive them of the nutrients and calories needed for natural development.  It could stunt their growth. And, that’s not all. Research also suggests that diet restriction in young children can lead to obesity later in life.  When kids are taught to eat only at certain times and only certain things, their internal hunger cues can become confused. They eat when they are not hungry or when they are starved, and often wind up eating more. Moreover, obsessions with banned foods often develop. The idea that you always want what you can’t have holds true. Not allowed to eat French fries at home? Have a huge plate every time they’re available outside of the house and douse them in cheese. Habits and patterns form that lead to unhealthy behavior, upsetting your initial goal: a healthy child.

Does this mean that you should go to the store and clean out the bakery section, buy out the chips and load up on sugary, syrupy drinks? No. Not over-restricting doesn’t mean over-indulging. You should, however, buy a wide variety of foods, with different tastes and textures so that your kids are exposed to a lot of different options. And don’t be afraid to bring some fat into the house; your kids need it. Then, lead by example. Your kids are watching you and what you eat. If you maintain a healthy diet, they will too. And if they ever ask you when they can go on a low-fat diet, stick to your classic answer: when you’re older.

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