Is the keto diet safe for kids? Experts weigh in.

Is the keto diet safe for kids? Experts weigh in.

US News

When you’re on keto, is it a good idea for your family to eat the same way?

The popularity of the ketogenic diet is undeniable, and with that popularity comes Instagram accounts, blogs and recipes dedicated to the keto lifestyle, which is based on a very low- or no-carb food plan. When a keto kids cookbook recently landed in the HuffPost newsroom, it got us thinking ― is it a good idea for kids to be on this diet? 

We consulted with several nutrition experts (registered dietitians, a Ph.D and a pediatrician) to find out three key things: 1) Is it safe to put kids on keto; 2) Is it a good idea for parents to put their kids on the same restricted diet they’re following; 3) What’s the best way for parents to talk to their kids about their restricted diet? Here’s what we learned.

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Celebrities who love the keto diet

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Halle Berry 

The 53-year-old mom of two took to Instagram last year to talk about her love of the keto diet and its effect on aging. Berry reportedly relies on Maria Emmerich’s best-selling keto cookbook. 

She said:

“Keto is a very low-carb food plan which actually forces your body to burn fat like crazy. I also believe it’s been largely responsible for slowing down my aging process. The keto lifestyle offers so many benefits such as weight loss, (moms that’s how we get rid of our baby bellies), appetite control, more energy and better mental performance. If you’re like me, you can possibly reverse type 2 diabetes, you’ll experience better physical endurance, better skin and also less acne if that’s an issue. And it even helps control migraines!”

Tim Tebow

The quarterback-turned-baseball player revealed he was on the keto diet a few years back to keep him in shape.

Revealed the athlete to GQ in 2017: “I’m on something called a ketogenic diet which is high fat, moderate protein, low carb, low sugar. So I have to take in a lot of fat, and the number one fat comes from avocados. It’s incredible. It’s a superfood. And even if that’s not your diet, it’s incredible food for you.”

One essential superfood in the Mets player’s keto diet? Avocado: Tebow estimates he consumes at least four a day.  

Vanessa Hudgens

The actress regularly shares footage of her workouts and post-workout snacks to her 35 million (!) Instagram followers and has taken to interviews to discuss her diets. While she has spoken out in support of intermittent fasting, the High School Musical star also alternates with the keto diet. 

She said to People in April:  “If you have the right ingredients to keep you on track, I think it’s amazing. People a lot of times think of fats in diets as a negative thing, and when you’re doing keto it’s a very positive thing. I’m always making sure I’m getting those healthy fats in, so I eat a LOT of almond butter. You feel really energetic and supported on the keto diet.”

Vinny Guadagnino

The Jersey Shore star is such an advocate for the diet that he even dedicated his Instagram name to “Keto Guido” and is releasing a cookbook in September with the same name

“I’ve discovered the fountain of youth,” he began in a shirtless Instagram post last spring. 

“When I ate sugars and grains I was 50lbs heavier and looked 10 years older. I look around and feel sad and angry for the majority of the population who are overweight and obese that have been taught to eat grains, use “healthy” margarines and oils, drink diet soda with artificial sweeteners, and stay away from saturated fats. This is why I started this page,” he continued.  

Kourtney Kardashian

The eldest Kardashian sister was reportedly first introduced to the diet in 2017 after doctors found high levels of mercury and lead in the system. Kourtney detailed her experience with it earlier this summer and why she was back on the diet. 

“My body never looked better than when I did the keto diet two and half years ago, when I did it for two months. In my experience, I’ve found the best method to train my body to curb sugar cravings, burn fat, and kick-start weight loss is by sticking to a keto diet,” she penned for Poosh’s website

She continued, “I had a really positive experience the last time around and wanted to restart my routine this summer. It’s definitely a more restrictive eating plan, but I found that once I knew the ground rules, I was very strict and really stuck to it. My plan this time is to eat minimal carbs and no grains, beans, or legumes. I’m focusing my meals on fresh vegetables and lean proteins. I eat three meals a day with no snacking in between if possible.”

Alicia Vikander 

The Academy Award-winning actress teamed up with trainer Magnus Lygdback (clients include Mark Ruffalo, Gal Gadot and Alexander Skarsgard, amongst other stars) to get in shape for the action film Tomb Raider. Lygdback got Vikander in tip-top Lara Croft shape by exercising up to seven days a week and, you guessed it, the keto diet. 

“It was a high-fat, no-carb diet — not even low-carb,” he said in an interview with PopSugar. It’s always tricky the first couple of days, but [Alicia’s] willpower is just unbelievable, and she didn’t complain, even though I could see she was struggling a little bit. She kept on bringing it every day.”

Mama June 

The “Honey Booboo” star, whose real name is June Shannon, made headlines back in 2017 after losing 300 pounds after undergoing a gastric sleeve surgery. Though she gained some pounds back due to other health issues, the 40-year-old revealed to BUILD Series that the keto diet has helped her maintain her weight. 

“It’s not that bad,” she said during the interview. “It’s like cheese, eggs, protein, meat, and you honestly lose weight with that. That’s what I’ve been going back to and it actually really works.”

Al Roker

The anchorman opened up with his experience on the keto diet to TODAY back in January, explaining he’s seen “great” improvement with his blood pressure and cholesterol.

He also stresses the need for patients to consult their doctors before going on the diet, saying:

“There’s science on both sides that says it’s not a great idea and science that says it is a great idea.I think it’s up to people, with their doctor, with their medical professional (to make their own decision).”

 

Jenna Jameson 

The adult film actress has been a staunch supporter of the keto diet, taking to Instagram in November to reveal how she lost 80 pounds after giving birth to daughter Batel. 

“I have absolutely never felt better! she shared on Instagram in May. “Combining #sobriety, the keto lifestyle and intermittent fasting is the perfect trifecta for me when it comes to a healthy sustainable fitness journey.”




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Kids and keto: A diet combo that has been around for decades

“The ketogenic diet originated in the 1920s to treat a certain type of epilepsy (called refractory epilepsy) in children when medication was not effective,” said Alyssa Pike, registered dietitian and manager of nutrition communications at the International Food Information Council Foundation. “Other than that specific circumstance that would be advised by a medical doctor, children are not recommended to adopt the keto diet.”

Pike added that no population-wide dietary guidelines recommend ketogenic diets for children “or suggest that such a diet would be beneficial to a child’s health.” Citing the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a 144-page document that does not include the term keto or ketogenic, Pike pointed out that none of the three recommended eating patterns would put someone in ketosis, the process whereby your body burns fat for energy instead of carbohydrates.

The best dietary guidance advises that children eat a diverse diet that provides them with the right amount of all the nutrients (macro and micro) that their growing bodies need.Alyssa Pike, RD

Pike also cited the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations 2012, which “set their average requirements for glycaemic carbohydrates at a level that avoids ketosis among children and adults,” as well as the American Heart Association’s Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children; guidelines which, if followed, wouldn’t put children in ketosis. 

Keto doesn’t provide the macronutrients children need for a healthy diet.

When it comes to the keto diet versus a traditional diet, vast differences exist between the recommended allowances for macronutrients, aka carbs, fat and protein.

Additionally, the highly popularized keto diet that is all the rage today has key differences from the established intractable epilepsy treatment for children. Most importantly, the latter is “a prescribed diet with close medical supervision that is precisely calculated to induce ketosis while providing adequate nutrition to prevent malnutrition and promote normal growth and development in children,” said Carol Kirkpatrick, a Ph.D and volunteer science and nutrition expert for the American Heart Association.

“A ketogenic diet that is followed by adults ― most commonly for weight loss and more recently type 2 diabetes management, but also by some athletes as part of their training regimen ― is typically not as precisely calculated as a ketogenic diet prescribed for children with drug-resistant epilepsy,” Kirkpatrick said. “The primary emphasis [of the adult keto diet] is a reduction of carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams per day and limiting protein intake to 1.0-1.5 grams per kilogram of body weight ―or an ideal body weight if overweight ― to induce ketosis.”

In terms of macronutrient composition for the contemporary keto diet, this breaks down to 70-80% of daily energy from fat, about 15% of daily energy from protein and 5% of daily energy from carbohydrates.

“This macronutrient breakdown does not reflect the recommended macronutrient composition for children between the ages of 4–18 from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans: 25-35% of total daily calories from fat, 10-30% of total daily energy from protein and 45-65% of total daily energy from carbohydrates,” Kirkpatrick said.

The keto diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health issues.

“Even when used with children with intractable epilepsy and close medical supervision, there are possible adverse effects of a ketogenic diet, including increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides and increased risk for kidney stones,” Kirkpatrick said. “There is also a risk for reduced bone mineral density if the ketogenic diet is followed for longer than two years.”

Jonathan Valdez, owner of Genki Nutrition and spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, cited a 2013 study on the efficacy and safety of the ketogenic diet in Chinese children, which found frequent reports of gastrointestinal disturbance, food refusal and hypoproteinemia (low protein levels in the blood).

“It seems that unless completely necessary for seizure control, the keto diet isn’t necessarily the best diet for children,” Valdez said.

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The Craziest Celeb Diets and Beauty Routines

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In the September 1952 issue of Pageant magazine, Marilyn discussed her unique diet regime which included two raw eggs mixed into warm milk and raw carrots. Easily, the best part of this diet came after dinner when Monroe would consume a hot fudge sundae.

The Baby Food Diet

Actress Reese Witherspoon is said to have tried this diet, which consists of eating 14 servings of baby food a day followed by a healthy dinner and plenty of water.

The Bland Diet or The Bleak Diet

After gaining some weight in the early 2005, Mariah Carey attempted this diet which consisted of bland foods like soups and fish. Carey lost nearly 32 pounds in four months on this diet.

The Raw Food Diet

Stars like Demi Moore have tried this simple diet which consists of mainly uncooked, unprocessed plant foods.

The Grapefruit Diet

This diet, made famous by singer Jennifer Lopez involves eating half a grapefruit before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The diet also restricts carbs and calories per day.

Trimspa!

These famous words were uttered by the infamous Anna Nicole Smith during her attempt to lose weight with this weight-loss supplement. While diet pills are often discouraged for weight loss, in moderation, Trimspa users have seen some weight-loss results.

Acai Berries

This diet involves supplementing the acai berry into a low calorie diet. Celebrities like Oprah have tried this diet and have seen great results.

The Master Cleanse

Many have discussed this cleanse which stars like Beyonce have credited for their weight-loss. The Master Cleanse consists of fresh lemon juice, rich Maple Syrup, and cayenne pepper into pure water. The dieter is asked to drink a minimum of six to twelve glasses of this a day whenever hungry. There is no food involved in this cleanse.

The Fish Facelift

Enjoy the taste of salmon? Kim Catrell recently tried this diet which consists of eating 3 pieces of salmon per day. The results are said to improve the dieters skin and energy level along with weight loss.

The Cabbage Soup Diet

Sarah Michelle Geller tried this diet which is a low-fat, high-fiber diet that involves drinking at least 4 glasses of water per day, a multi-vitamin and plenty of cabbage soup.

The Juice Diet

The always-thin Gwyneth Paltrow has tried this diet which consists of blending fresh fruits and fresh vegetables to boost one

The Seven-Day Color Diet

This diet is an interesting way to eat your fruits and veggies. Each day of the diet is devoted to a different color food (white, red, green and so forth). By day 7, you eat a rainbow of colors.

Kim Kardashian has also tried the Dr. Siegal cookie diet, where she would only eat diet cookies. The entrepreneur is famous for her fad diets and beauty regimes.

The Watercress Soup Diet

Actress Elizabeth Hurley has tried this soupy diet which consists of the watercress soup and a strict list of fruits and vegetables.

The Ice Cube Diet

Renee Zellwegher, famous for her weight gain for a movie, has tried this interesting diet, which consists of supplementing ice cubes instead of food.

Facial Analysis Diet

This diet, used by actress Kate Winslet is said to have helped the Titanic actress lose 50 pounds after her pregnancy. The diet reads facial signs and suggests minerals that help balance the body.

The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet

This diet, used by Actress Meghan Fox, consists of taking a shot of apple cider vinegar before and after a healthy meal.




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Kirkpatrick noted that severely restricting kids’ carbohydrate intake to 20-50 grams per day (compared to the recommended dietary allowance of 130 grams per day) “restricts the intake of foods that provide fuel for energy and cognitive function, as well as foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals required for growth and development.”

Rapid growth, bone deposition, hormonal changes, metabolic rate and a host of other differences make kids react very differently to nutrition than adults.Dr. Christopher F. Bolling

“Children should be offered nutrient-rich carbohydrate foods, including starchy and non-starchy vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, beans and dairy products like milk to achieve their carbohydrate needs,” Kirkpatrick said. “Carbohydrate foods that have less nutritional value and should be included minimally include foods with added sugars, sugar-sweetened beverages and highly processed or refined carbohydrate foods.” 

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9 Brain-Boosting Foods for Back-to-School Meals

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Cook with these nine ingredients for improved brain function.

Avocado

Avocados are a good source of the antioxidant vitamin E, which helps protect the brain from free radical damage. Use guacamole as a topping for burgers or sandwiches and try adding cubes of avocado to fruit salad in your kid’s lunch box.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil, which is found in the meat of the coconut, is being studied as a possible treatment for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Try using coconut oil in your baking or add fresh coconut meat to breakfast smoothies.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Blueberries

Dark berries are good for the brain and improve memory, learning and cognitive function. Add fresh blueberries to cereal in the morning or cook them down in a pan to make a sweet glaze for grilled chicken.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Broccoli

Broccoli is full of nutrients and may help remove heavy metals from the body — metals that can damage your brain. Add broccoli to stir-fry dishes or try roasting it in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil for an easy and delicious brain-boosting meal.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Quinoa

Quinoa is a healthy way to get your brain the glucose it needs to perform its best. Use quinoa in place of rice when you’re cooking dinner or try it with milk and honey at breakfast time instead of oatmeal.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Red Cabbage

This crunchy vegetable is rich in polyphenol, an antioxidant that’s good for your brain. Shred cabbage and use it instead of lettuce on your next taco dinner night (added bonus: it’s also more authentically Mexican).

Image Credit: Shutterstock




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“The best dietary guidance advises that children eat a diverse diet that provides them with the right amount of all the nutrients ― macro and micro ― that their growing bodies need,” Pike said. “This includes a wide range of fruits, vegetables, grains ― half of which should be whole grains ― and dairy. Many of these are forbidden or severely restricted on the ketogenic diet.”

She cited a study that outlines health issues that have been observed in children following the keto diet for seizure control, including micro- and macronutrient deficiencies and side effects like constipation, vomiting and diarrhea.

Unless medically prescribed, it’s probably not a good idea to put your kid on a restricted diet.

If you’re following a specific diet like keto, paleo or vegan, while it can be convenient to prepare those same foods for the entire family ― including your children ― it’s important to tread carefully. 

“Children can eat similar foods that the parents are eating if the parents are following a special diet,” Kirkpatrick said. “However, parents should offer an overall healthy dietary pattern that teaches balance and a healthy relationship with food. Parents should offer a variety of nutrient-dense foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates that promote the healthy growth and development of their children.”  

Dr. Christopher F. Bolling, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics section on obesity, pointed out that there are major physiological differences between children and adolescents versus adults.

“Rapid growth, bone deposition, hormonal changes, metabolic rate and a host of other differences make kids react very differently to nutrition than adults,” Bolling said. “Despite being more resilient in many ways than adults, [kids] will often be the first to show the effects of exposures or deficiencies.”

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Foods nutritionists always buy at Costco

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Organic nut packets

For Sharon Zarabi, RD, program director of bariatric surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, one of the best Costco finds is organic mixed nuts. “Nuts are packed with nutrients ranging from heart-healthy fats to fiber, which aids in digestion, and even more so proteins, which help you keep your hunger at bay,” she says. She also loves portion controlled nuts from Costco because with nuts, “once you pop, you can’t stop.”

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Kirkland Signature shelled pistachios

Another nutty favorite with dietitians is pistachios. Lauren Manaker, RD, and her family go through Costco’s Kirkland brand like they’re going out of style. Manaker says pistachios are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients like manganese and vitamin B6—but they are typically tedious to de-shell. That’s what makes this Costco option so great. “These pistachios come pre-shelled, so adding it to anything is as simple as opening the bag,” she says.

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Wild Alaskan canned salmon

This canned fish is a favorite of Zarabi because it contains omega-3 fatty acids. But what’s really special about this Costco option is that it’s wild. “Most fish canned in the U.S. is farm raised,” Zarabi says. “Wild salmon is higher in omega-3s than their counterparts and [they] also eat a more natural diet as they are free to roam the sea.” Plus, fish is an excellent source of protein, which helps keep you full.

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Single hummus packs

Costco sells single pack servings of non-GMO, organic hummus. Zarabi says that means they are made with the highest quality chickpeas. Really fresh hummus can go bad quickly once opened due to oxidation, so these single-servings are a money saver, too. Zarabi suggests swapping mayo for hummus or using it as a dip for fresh raw veggies. Here are 10 more things you never knew you could buy at Costco.

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Kirkland Signature Three Berry Blend

This frozen bag is a blend of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Zarabi loves this Costco item because it’s convenient and full of vitamins, fibers, and antioxidants. “They are the perfect addition to smoothies, yogurts, or even my personal favorite, as a frozen treat for the summer,” she says.

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Smart for Life Cookies

For those who need something more starchy to satisfy their sweet-tooth, Zarabi recommends Smart for Life cookies from Costco. These are gluten-free, low in sugar, made with non-GMO ingredients, and clock in at only 100 calories. “The low sugar and high protein content will prevent spikes and crashes in your blood sugar levels, so you won’t be craving a second cookie,” Zarabi says. “You will satisfy that craving and be good to go.”

Protein shakes

The specific brand at your Costco location may vary, but any of the low-carb shakes could be a good addition to your haul. And no, they aren’t just for people who want to build muscle. It’s actually a perfect on-the-go snack or breakfast for anyone who has a busy schedule. “This is an easy way to add to your regimen, as protein keeps you full and the low sugar content prevents that sugar addiction first thing in the morning,” Zarabi says. “[The] best part is they don’t need to be refrigerated until they are opened.” Plus, they have a relatively long shelf life.

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Organic Wholly Guacamole minis

Portion-controlled guacamole packs are a popular pick for Costco grocery hauls, too. Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN, CDN, a virtual dietitian based in NYC, says that Organic Wholly Guacamole minis are a good choice. “These individual packs of guacamole are a great on-the-go snack with whole grain crackers or sliced veggies,” Amer says. “The slowly digested healthy fat from avocado will keep you full for hours.” Check out all the things you can do (and buy) at Costco without a membership.

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Comvita Manuka Honey 5+

Manuka honey is different from your average sweetener. Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, and author of Eating in Color says this Costco pick has the three key markers that signify manuka honey: leptosperin, DHA, and methylglyoxal. Not to mention, this honey is also proven to help improve sleep, fight acne, and aid digestion, among other cures. “I take a spoonful of manuka daily and add an extra dose when I’m sick or dealing with allergies,” Largeman-Roth says.

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KIND protein bars

These protein bars are a staple snack for Amy Gorin, MS, RDN. “I love that Costco sells them in a 16-pack of the Crunchy Peanut Butter bars and White Chocolate Cinnamon Almond bars,” she says. As a vegetarian, Gorin is always looking for great sources of plant-based protein, and up to two thirds of each bar’s 12 grams of protein come from nuts. These bars also get bonus points for coming in a variety of flavorsand not using artificial ingredients, sweeteners, or sugar alcohols.

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Kirkland Organic extra virgin olive oil

Finding a high-quality olive oil for a decent price isn’t as tough as you might think. Kaleigh McMordie, MCN, RDN, of Lively Table says the Kirkland brand tastes wonderful and, at $16.99 for a two-liter bottle, it’s a really good deal. “It’s my favorite cooking oil because it provides healthy monounsaturated fat,” McMordie says. “I go through tons in my house!” Here are more shopping perks only Costco members know about.

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Garlic

McMordie also goes through garlic quickly. That’s why she likes buying whole heads in bulk at Costco. “Fresh garlic is the ultimate flavor booster for cooking and contains the antioxidant allicin, which could help prevent damage from free radicals,” McMordie says.

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Grape tomatoes

Shelley A. Rale, MS, RDN, and her family never tire of these tiny tomatoes. They are the one thing that is always on her Costco list. “They are part of my husband’s lunch, a quick snack for any time of day, easily added to a salad when we have one, or added to a cooked dish for dinner,” she says. Not only are they filling, but Rale says they are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and lycopene. Now that you’ve seen some of the best Costco purchases, make sure you know these things you should never buy from Costco.




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Bolling added that there are also behavioral concerns when it comes to children adopting the same restricted diet as their parents.

“It’s one thing for an adult to choose to do an unproven diet,” Bolling said. “How much choice does a minor really have? They can be coerced or shamed into a variety of unhealthy choices not of their choosing. Additionally, teens are much more susceptible to mental health issues like anxiety, depression and, most saliently, eating disorders. Equipping them with ways to deal with food healthfully is important so as to avoid maladaptive behaviors like excessively restrictive dieting or excessive exercise.” 

When talking to your kids about a restricted diet you’re following, keep the focus on the health benefits.

“It is important for a child, at any age, to realize that while some foods may have a higher nutrient density than others, this doesn’t mean we should create this culture of negative food talk,” Valdez said. “This can lead to disordered eating and other issues down the road.”

Pike recommends that parents consult a health care professional like a registered dietitian before talking to their kids about a restrictive diet they’re following, as these experts are trained to counsel on this sensitive subject.

“It’s important for parents to be aware that children observe and are influenced by their parents’ relationship with food, including the negative language that is sometimes used around certain foods,” Pike said. “The tone of these conversations may affect how children view that food. There’s a fine line between labeling a food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and subsequently labeling yourself for eating or not eating that food.”

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Nutritious swaps to try in the kitchen

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1) Swap squash or zucchini for noodles

“Do you ever make smart swaps? You know, instead of whole milk you use almond milk or in baking, you sometimes substitute granulated sugar for applesauce? Well, lately I’ve been on the smart swap kick myself. Lately, I’ve been making a lot of noodles made from zucchini, or squash!” – Dana, This Silly Girl’s Kitchen

“I am sharing a recipe for one of my favorite zucchini noodle dishes, Zucchini Noodle Primavera! I thought since Primavera was already a dish loaded with veggies, why not just take it to the next level! And you know what, it’s even better than the original if I do say so myself! I was inspired to start trying out some smart swaps after I saw these SmartMade meals in the freezer section at various grocery stores.” – Dana, This Silly Girl’s Kitchen

2) Prepare cauliflower rice

“I do best with smart eating when I take small steps like no pasta during the week…I make pasta and rice for the kiddos but I always have zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice in the fridge for myself.That step alone makes a huge difference for me and it’s not hard to do.” – Karen, Seasonal Cravings

“I don’t always have time to make meals like this during the week since I am often playing chauffeur to my kids.  On those nights, I look to SmartMade to make eating smart easy. SmartMade is a new line of frozen meals that uses smart swaps like this one to create delicious, balanced dinners that can be ready in minutes. I love having meals like this in the freezer that I can cook quickly on busy weeknights. These are meals made like I cook.” – Karen, Seasonal Cravings

3) Make a weekly dinner menu with healthy swaps

“There are two ways I know of to combat the surprise need to order take-out mid-week: 1) make a weekly dinner menu and stick with it, or 2) have a few fast, easy, and nutritious meals up your sleeve for those crazy-busy nights that inevitably come up. And it’s a total bonus if those meals simulate your favorite take-out!” – Faith, An Edible Mosaic

“I made a few smart swaps that help make this meal as nutritious as it is delicious. Here I used quinoa instead of rice because even though they have about the same calories per serving, quinoa has more protein and fiber, as well as more vitamins and minerals like B vitamins and iron than rice. I think quinoa tastes just as good as rice, so that was an easy swap for me to make.” – Faith, An Edible Mosaic

4) Substitute quinoa in fried rice

“Part of being dietitians means we are always looking for creative swaps for our favorite foods that may not be quite as nutritious.  So when our friends at SmartMade contacted us about creating our own healthy recipe using a “smart swap,” we jumped at the chance to turn a traditional fried (white) rice into a yummy vegetable quinoa delight.” – Wendy, Food Heaven Made Easy

“You’ll be happy to know that this vegetable quinoa fried rice is even more flavorful than its traditional counterpart. Top that off with the fact that this dish actually nutritious — really nutritious — and you would be missing out big time if you do not to give this goodie a chance.” – Wendy, Food Heaven Made Easy

5) Reach for the spaghetti squash

“Chicken parm is usually served on/with pasta but I’ve swapped that for some yummy, healthy spaghetti squash. How cool is this vegetable?! So crazy that its fibers are in long strands like spaghetti!…If you’re trying to eat a low-carb diet or consume less calories then make this swap in your next spaghetti recipe.” – Melanie, Garnish & Glaze

“Maybe your life is super busy and hectic and you need a healthy meal fast. SmartMade is a new line of frozen meals that would be a great choice. It’s your favorite dishes but made with better ingredients to offer a balanced and delicious meal. They are meals that are inspired by the same healthy cooking techniques you already use like grilling chicken and roasting vegetables.” – Melanie, Garnish & Glaze

6) Create custom bowls with healthy ingredients

“This magical bulgogi is far from authentic, but I love how the ground chicken absorbs the flavor of the soy-based sauce, which is equal parts sweet, savory and tangy. Combined with the coconut cauliflower rice, crunchy fresh veggies, and a dollop of gochujang or sambal oelek for heat, these bowls are a satisfying, nutrient-packed feast that you’ll want to keep in regular rotation.” – Serena, Domesticate Me

“I know this bowl seems to have a lot going on, but it’s actually pretty easy to pull off. I’m talking 30 minutes from start to finish if you’re committed. As always, feel free to customize your bowls based on what you have on hand. Ground chicken could just as easily be 93% lean ground turkey, pork, lean beef, or firm tofu. Sub shredded or grated coconut for flaked. Throw in whatever fresh veggies happen to be hanging out in your fridge.” – Serena, Domesticate Me

7) Go Greek

“I love the way SmartMade meals swap things out for more nutritious alternatives. So I SWAPPED out the heavy cream for a cup and a half of Greek yogurt in this recipe! While the swap made a change to the overall texture of the dish, I am happy to report it maintained its full flavor.” – Jennifer, Tatertots & Jello

“Recently we found SmartMade meals at the store. They’re fun frozen meals that feature smart ingredients. For instance, white pasta is swapped out for whole wheat and white bean puree is used instead of heavy cream.” – Jennifer, Tatertots & Jello

8) Turn to cashew milk for heaps of flavor

“When we were asked by SmartMade to come up with a Smart Swap (i.e. an idea to replace a common ingredient with a more nutritious one,), we decided to create this Quick Cashew Chickpea Curry recipe, which is DELICIOUS, but also completely vegan. This recipe has no butter or ghee, and uses cashew milk rather than the normal heavy cream or yogurt for its distinctive flavor and creamy texture.” – Sarah, The Woks of Life

“This Quick Cashew Chickpea Curry is everything. It’s spicy, filling, and has a hint of coconut. Thick, ever so slightly sweet cashew milk gives the dish that distinctive creaminess that you’re looking for in a great curry, without the dairy. Oh, and the leftovers are awesome, making for great weeknight dinners or daytime lunches.” – Sarah, The Woks of Life

9) Forget about meat when you have mushrooms

“You can make this mushroom Bolognese recipe for a casual weeknight meal, or for when you’re watching your wallet or your waistline, without having to compromise any flavor.” – Phoebe, Feed Me Phoebe

“This mirepoix technique is great for meat sauces. But it’s even more essential for a flavorful vegetarian Bolognese, which cooks up in a fifth of the time… You can easily use this smart swap for topping gluten-free pasta. But I love it ladled over a creamy bowl of polenta, which is made rich and buttery by using only full fat coconut milk.” – Phoebe, Feed Me Phoebe 

10) Mash cauliflower as a hearty potato replacement

“One of my favorite things to do lately has been to swap cauliflower mash for mashed potatoes whenever possible. Don’t get me wrong, I love potatoes but cauliflower has significantly less calories than potatoes. So naturally, a cauliflower mash will definitely give you more bang for your buck if you’re looking to cut down on your calorie intake.”
– Amanda, The Skinny Fork

“I love that this recipe (like a lot of my others) is made with real ingredients that anyone can pronounce. That’s always how I like to eat! Clean and lean. If you’re like me and you enjoy smart swap style meals, then you’ll love SmartMade too!” – Amanda, The Skinny Fork




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For parents following a restricted diet to lose weight, Kirkpatrick encourages them to avoid negative language about food and their bodies in front of their children and instead keep the focus on an overall healthy lifestyle.

“Children are very impressionable and focusing too much on dietary restriction or eating habits in general can increase the risk of disordered eating and body dysmorphia, which can cause them to struggle with eating and body issues far into adulthood,” Kirkpatrick said.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.




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