6 Fad Diets that Could Harm Kids

By Lauren Le Vine, REDBOOK.

Thanks to juicing, paleo, gluten-free, and other diets, we're savvier than ever about the ways in which different foods affect our bodies-and how to use that information for healthy weight loss. What we're slightly less savvy about is how those food regimens might affect kids. We checked in with Dr. Dyan Hes, the Medical Director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City who also sits on the board of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, about the potential dangers of imposing the diets du jour on our children.

Related: Could Your New "Healthy" Diet Be Hurting You?


Dairy-free
"I'm sorry, but soy milk and almond milk are really juices--they're lacking in protein. You need to read the label and check to see that alternative milks are supplemented with vitamin D and calcium, which are really important for kids. Plus, they don't always taste good, so manufacturers add sugar-and even if it's organic cane sugar, that's still more sugar than you'd find in regular milk. Children need the fat from milk to develop myelin around their nerves, especially in the brain. If you suddenly switch them to skim milk, it can affect their growth."

Gluten-free
"I think this is the biggest problem we have right now: adults diagnosing themselves and their kids with gluten intolerance. When you hear about athletes who are on gluten-free diets, they have professional chefs cooking them whole grains with lots of fiber like millet and quinoa. When children's parents put them on gluten-free diets, they eat rice and corn. Not only are those very high glycemic index foods, they don't have fiber or vitamin B, which is important for cell development and preventing anemia."

Related: Juice-O-Rexia: Could Cleansing Trigger a Whole New Harmful Eating Pattern?

Paleo
"Coconut oil is very high in fat, and it's not such a good thing for people to eat-canola and olive oil are probably your best bets. The paleo diet is good because it has a lot of seeds and non-starchy foods, but it's important to remember that cavemen had to work to get their food. Exercise is always key."

Juicing
"Juice is the number-one cause of obesity in children. It takes the fiber out of the fruit and just leaves natural sugar, which kids digest quickly. Kids need protein and fat, not sugar. Children under four shouldn't have more than half a cup of juice a day. And children don't need to be cleansed; it's not good for their liver."

Atkins
"High-protein, low-carb is okay, but high-protein, no-carb isn't advisable. You can't eat salami all day and be healthy. I advocate a low-carb, protein-rich diet for kids. Lean proteins--not red meat--and not too much fish because of the mercury content."

Related: How to Finally Halt Emotional Eating

"Diets" in general
"Being too strict with your child about anything is looking for trouble. Many of my patients who are obese have mothers with eating disorders. They're forbidden from eating at home, so they go crazy when they go to other people's houses. A lot of people who go on diets want to know when they're going to end, but your diet is really how you're going to live. It's a lifestyle change you're going to make. I try to avoid using that word with kids and just say 'healthy eating.' I tell my patients I'm not here to judge how you look or what size pants you wear, I want you to be healthy on the inside."

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