Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Low-Carbonanza: Carbs, Diet Soda, And Children

I have a little mix 'em up, match 'em up of topics to share with you in this blog post today, so let's get started!

First up is a neat column on carbs from friend and fellow blogger Amy Tenderich from the "Diabetes Mine" blog who asks "Why Did God Make Carbs So Yummy?" As a diabetic seeking to control blood sugar levels through carbohydrate restriction, Amy has a rather humorous look at those darn carbs! I'm sure my readers will get a big kick out of this post!

Next, we have a rather alarmist column on diet sodas entitled "Is Your Favorite Drink Toxic?" from Dr. Jonny Bowden. Jonny's main issue with the sugar-free, bubbly soft drinks has more to do with the use of the artificial sweetener aspartame (which I call NASTY-tame!) in them than anything else. And yet he came down rather harshly against them as a whole in this article.

So I e-mailed Jonny to inquire about my favorite diet sodas sweetened with Splenda and the new ones that will be coming out sweetened with stevia. Here was his response:

"Obviously stevia is a no-problem, no-brainer. The problem for me is I hate the taste and aftertaste, but I see no health problems whatsoever with it.

Splenda SO FAR seems to me pretty innocuous. I know my friend Dr. Joseph Mercola doesn't agree, but I've looked like mad and can't find any really good, responsible argument against it that can be substantiated.

That does NOT mean I won't be proven wrong in a year and I reserve the right to change my mind if there's more compelling stuff coming out. But right now I see it as the least bad of the choices."

Fair enough, Jonny! THANKS for the clarification.

Finally, I received an e-mail from someone about whether livin' la vida low-carb is appropriate for feeding young children or if it's better to wait until the children become adults. Here's the e-mail:

My wife & I are in the process of adopting a child from Russia. We're tentatively thinking that we'll be standing in Red Square by Fall. It's understandably an exciting time for us and we're doing as much preparation, planning, and research as we can to be ready for this addition to our lives.

With that in mind...

We're also both in the early phases of going low-carb (although my loving wife is having a tougher time making this commitment than I am) and I'm wondering how much of our newfound low-carb eating habits should we try to encourage with our new child, when he arrives?

The established dietary guidelines for toddler's are quite carb-heavy with lots of fruits & grains, but I'm wondering if that's okay due to the unique dietary needs of a developing post-infant-aged child. Now sure, I know that we can steer some of those choices in better directions by choosing more nutritionally-dense fruits (like raspberries or melon instead of sugary raisins or apples) and vegetables (maybe broccoli instead of carrots?) but should we do more than that?

Ultimately, I guess I'm asking, at what age is it appropriate to begin limiting carbs and/or emphasizing protein consumption with the goal of sorta having the whole family eating similar foods.

As soon as I got this e-mail, I knew EXACTLY who to ask--my reader Valerie Jacobsen who is the mother of ELEVEN CHILDREN!!! Yep, I'd say she qualifies to answer this one. :D

Forget the Brady Bunch, Valerie's even got them beat! See a picture of her robust family before the newborn arrived a few months back by clicking here. She's quite the knowledgeable one regarding livin' la vida low-carb, so there was nobody else who could answer this question quite like Valerie. Here's her response:

How thrilling! Thank you for giving a home to a child who needs one!

I'll just share my experience and opinions, because there is no definite, clear, research-based answer on this. Also, you should know that while our children have never had refined carbs in significant amounts, their mommy just started eating low carb in 2003. I am definitely still learning!

We have 11 children ages 17 years to 6 months. I woke up this morning to see the box of 5 dozen eggs open on the counter with a beautiful tray beside it arranged with browned ground turkey, sliced cheddar cheese, and sliced red and yellow peppers. A bag of frozen broccoli was steaming in the microwave. This all for made-to-order omelets already in preparation.

Children in cultures all over the world have eaten diets based on combinations of protein, fat, vegetables and fruits in season for thousands of years. We don't have sufficient, recent, long-term controlled studies to satisfy the American Academy of Pediatrics that this is a healthy way to eat, but one of the joys and blessings of being a parent is doing your own research, knowing your own child well (you will!), and making your own best decisions.

Given adequate calories and abundant fat and no portion control, this parent believes that low-carb food choices are fine for toddlers--and the AAP does not have long-term controlled studies to show me otherwise. ;-)

I like to have my children avoid artificial sweeteners and low-carb "products" with the exception of rare treats until near adulthood--but that's me. You'll know your own child, you'll observe his growth and watch how he reacts to different foods--and you'll make your own good decisions based on your observations. Even without AAP oversight for every decision, this is what loving parents do.

While I think that a low-carb diet is a healthy choice even for toddlers, my husband and I do believe that healthy, active children are able to safely consume more carbs than most adults--provided that those carbs are unrefined and eaten as close to their natural state as possible. Low-sugar fruits and modest amounts of whole grains probably don't cause obesity in active children--but I definitely wouldn't want to build in them a taste for junk.

We do allow birthday cakes (a dozen a year!) and occasional whole grain cookies. (My eldest daughter's first birthday cake was a whole grain carrot cake sweetened with stevia. You may or may not want to do something like that in your family, but this kind of rare treat is at least not the kind of white flour + white sugar + fluorescent food coloring garbage that builds an appetite for a lifetime of eating trash!)

We encourage our kids to eat all different kinds of vegetables. When a child meets a veggie that he doesn't like, I just tell him, "Well, that's because your tongue is still little and it hasn't learned to like broccoli yet. If you help your tongue practice, then you will see that it will learn as it grows. Try just one bite." And I tell him, "Remember, your tongue is not the boss of what you eat; YOU ARE!" :-)

When we go to the grocery store, even my tiny children will point at the refined carbs and say, "THAT'S not our kind," with a tone implying wonder that anyone would want to eat it.

We also encourage our children to be active explorers of their environment--to take family nature hikes, play in the back yard, build things, dig holes, play kickball, play volleyball, play sports. Part of the low-carb healthy lifestyle is to live an active life! We have no video games and very little TV here. It's not that I think they are poison, necessarily, I just don't want those things to take the place of better, more healthy life experiences!

These are just my thoughts. I think you can invite your child to your table to eat what you eat. If he needs something more or different, you'll know it. One of the reasons that I can have 11 children without tearing my hair out is that I believe caring for them is far less complex and more intuitive than a mountain of childcare experts would lead us to believe. :-)

THANK YOU for sharing your experiences, Valerie! By the way, are you going for a full dozen? LOL! Wish you could spread the wealth a little with me and Christine. :D

That's it for my little low-carbonanza! Gotta go for now, but we'll do this again real soon. Ya'll come back now, ya hear?

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Blogger renegadediabetic said...

Amy Tenderich's post was funny. I've been there myself and know what she means. It was interesting to read comments. Many said they ate their carbs and covered it with insulin. Eating carbs with large doses of insulin will rev up the cravings.

One was a Bernstein follower who said they no longer crave carbs. I'm now in that group. I can watch people eat sweets and it doesn't bother me. I can go to a buffet and stick with meat & veggies and avoid the starch & sugar. That wasn't the case a couple of years ago. Another comment said that if you restrict something, you will crave it more. Not true for me & carbs.

8/30/2007 12:50 PM  
Blogger Gary J said...

Jones Soda has started showing up in some stores here in Connecticut with Splenda-sweetened soda. FYI.

8/30/2007 2:30 PM  

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