Is The South Beach Diet Right for Kids?

South Beach Diet tips for kids
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Are you considering the South Beach Diet for your kids? Perhaps you are on the diet yourself, and you're not sure if children should follow Phase 1 or Phase 2 of the program.  Of course, all kids benefit from a healthy eating and exercise program. But there are some specific considerations to take into account before introducing your kids to the South Beach Diet.

South Beach Eating for Kids

The South Beach Diet promotes healthy eating principles for adults and children alike.  But calorie restriction is generally not recommended for kids, except when recommended by a physician. 

"Children should be introduced early on to an eating style that emphasizes good carbohydrates, good unsaturated fats, lean sources of protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains," says Marie Almon, MS, RD, LD. Almon is a spokesperson for the South Beach Diet and provides healthy eating tips for families.  

Almon explains that when children are provided with good food choices, opportunities for exercise and plenty of sleep, their weight will usually take care of itself.  "Cooking at home and eating as many meals as possible with the family at a dining table is important."

But there may be times when your child's weight becomes a concern. In those cases, your pediatrician should be consulted first. "Most pediatricians who see children regularly will take the lead with parents if a child’s weight is becoming a problem," says Almon. "But she adds that if a parent is concerned about the child's weight and the physician hasn't brought it up, you should discuss the South Beach Diet with the doctor before moving forward with the program.

South Beach Tips for Kids at Every Age 

So how do you encourage your kids to eat a healthy diet?  Almon provides a few South Beach inspired tips to help your family eat well.

  • Good nutrition begins before pregnancy. "A mother can play a role in her children’s health and well-being, even before a child is born," says Almon. "Studies show that children of women who are overweight during pregnancy are themselves heavier and have larger waistlines, more body fat, higher systolic blood pressure, lower levels of good HDL cholesterol, and higher levels of inflammatory markers." The nutritionist recommends that healthy eating begin before pregnancy.
  • Choose healthy solid food for babies. When your baby is ready for solid food, make smart choices about healthy ingredients. "Today, commercial baby food has become so much healthier, with ingredients like quinoa and white beans in some brands."  Almon also suggests making healthy baby food at home. "There are plenty of “cooking for baby” books that show parents how to make wholesome baby food at home, using many of the healthy foods we recommend on the South Beach Diet - foods the parents should be already eating themselves."
  • Involve young children in the kitchen. Even at a young age, it's healthy for children to be involved in meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. "Studies show that the time to teach children healthy eating habits is before the age of 9. After that, it is difficult to impose dietary changes because a child perceives it as a punishment. So the earlier parents make healthy dietary changes in the household, the better."
  • Promote protein for active kids.  "Because so many kids are involved in sports these days, getting enough protein is especially important for building muscle and bone." She says that if a teenager is involved in athletics, parents should be sure that the child eats enough lean protein, including low-fat dairy products.
  • Curb unhealthy cravings in teens. If your teen is struggling with cravings for sugary and starchy foods, then you may be able to introduce Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet under the guidance of a pediatrician. "Two weeks on Phase 1 to eliminate the cravings might be a possibility, with the okay of a pediatrician,"  says Almon.  But she cautions that because teenagers are still growing, giving up healthy foods like whole grains and fruits for longer than two weeks is ill-advised.
  • South Beach Phase 2 for teens. If your teen doesn't have cravings, he or she can start on Phase 2 of the South Beach Diet. "If followed correctly, Phase 2, which offers slow and steady weight loss, will provide all the nutrients an adolescent needs for good health and proper growth."

Almon recommends getting more detailed information about the South Beach Diet for children in Dr. Agatston’s book, "The South Beach Diet Wake-Up Call."  The book provides plenty of South Beach inspired information on improving your child's diet at home, in school, in restaurants, and on the go. The book is available in paperback and can be found in bookstores and online.

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