With childhood obesity levels at an all time high, society has every right to start freaking out about the health of our future generations. Last week my blog was all about tips to help your children be as healthy as possible. But what the weekend has shown me, is that balance is key, not extremism.
Over the weekend while doing the shopping at my local health food store, I overheard an interaction between an uber health conscious Mum and her young, thin 13 year old daughter.
Daughter: Mum, these look yum, can we get these? (Looking at some gluten free, dairy free, whole grain fruit and nut muesli bars)
Mum: No missy, you know you can’t have rubbish like that- it’s just full of sugar and you know you can’t have any sugar.
Daughter: But Mum everyone has muesli bars at school for first break.
Mum: Well you’re not everyone and I bet everyone isn’t as healthy as you so you can just keep having your piece of fruit and you won’t have weight problems later!
Daughter: But I’m still hungry after an apple Mum!
Mum: Well I’ll put in some celery sticks then too. Celery is a ‘negative’ calorie food- it takes more energy to burn it than it gives you!
It was at this point that the lady looked at me, standing with my mouth slightly open, and a look of shock on my face. I quickly snapped my mouth shut and scooted around the corner to another isle while repeating the mantras “It’s not my place, it’s not my place, she didn’t ask for my help, she didn’t ask for my help!”
This incidence took me back to high school, where my own health conscious Mumma packed me and my brother extremely healthy lunches every day until we left school (thank you Mum!!). When I was about 15, we went through a phase of getting a large fruit salad for morning tea, and a large green salad and some chicken pieces for lunch. I know this sounds very healthy, but honestly I couldn’t just eat those salads- I was starving! My body was finally starting to grow, and as a result I was constantly craving carbohydrates and fats. So I’d beg, borrow or buy additions to help satisfy the hunger. Sausage rolls and sweet tomato sauce were my first choice, fatty, carby and sweet all at once! And Mum never knew!
By no means was that a healthy choice and if I had continued to eat that way I most certainly wouldn’t be the healthy person I am now, but my point is at the time, my growing body was crying out for the building blocks of the human body- carbs, fats and proteins. We need to feed our growing kids healthy foods that contain all these elements.
I read an article posted on Facebook by Power Superfoods today, about juice fasting for kids becoming a trend in America. Click here for the article. The article was set in a negative light, saying “tots as young as 6 years old are mimicking their parents’ health-conscious ways, first getting hooked on raw foods, then graduating to juice cleanses”, and “According to Michael D. Gershon, M.D., professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University, liquid cleanses are based on “quack science.” And because many of them cause people to use the bathroom more often than they normally would, they wind up flushing out important nutrients and electrolytes that help keep their systems humming. Besides, “Your colon isn’t dirty, and juice cleanses wouldn’t ‘clean’ it anyway, since they don’t contain much fiber, which is what actually ‘scrubs’ the colon,””.
Ok firstly heaven forbid kids “get hooked on raw foods”, I mean, next thing you know they’ll be asking for water instead of soft drink!!! And secondly, anyone who says “your colon isn’t dirty” has never done a juice fast coupled with colonics!!!! One of the reader comments below the article says “Why in the world would a child have to cleanse their liver? They haven’t had a chance to put anything in yet”. This is quite misguided, and I’d like to go into this point a little before we go further.
From before we are even born it is our livers job to detoxify and cleanse the blood. Just because kids aren’t drinking alcohol or coffee does not mean their livers are not detoxing chemicals. Think about all the over the counter medications for pain and colds and flus that we give our children. How about the antibiotics and other pharmaceutical medications? The toxins in the air we breathe, water we drink and food consumed? The heavy metals in vaccinations? Pollutants around the home? Children have a significant chemical load dumped on their little livers from the start, and in some cases, this load may get too heavy, and detoxification is required.
I saw a young boy last week who’s Mum brought him in to see me regarding his inability to concentrate in class, his poor behaviour and his digestive problems. After doing some simple tests on him we discovered he was highly intolerant to dairy and eggs, his gut was leaky as a result, and his body had high levels of arsenic in it. Now in this case, liver detoxification IS required. Many of his symptoms were related to the overload of toxins circulating in his system. Detoxing the liver, avoiding all his food intolerances and helping to heal the gut will boost this boy’s health in as little as a month.
But should kids be juice fasting as a way to detox? I would say definitely not! Not because they would flush out vital electrolytes or nutrients as the article mentioned above (what rubbish), but simply because they need real solid food to function and grow. They need healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates for every single bodily function, for energy, attention, learning, developing, even detoxification!!!That’s right, the elements needed to help your child detox all come from foods. It is only in special circumstances that additional measures need to be taken to support your child in detoxing.
While being selective about what your kids eat is fantastic, remember they are entirely different creatures to you. They can’t eat what you eat and do what you do, and expect the same results. For that poor little 13 year old girl, I wish I could have talked to her Mum and explained to her that it was perfectly healthy to give her growing girl a gluten free, dairy free, organic muesli bar, plus an apple for morning tea. And I would tell her Mum to be careful not to put too much emphasis on weight or diets or calories. Yes childhood obesity is a huge problem, but so too are eating disorders.
For me balance is always key. Don’t get caught up in trying to make your children’s diet ‘perfect’, trust me they won’t thank you for it! But rather focus on wholefoods in variety and treats in moderation. If you do suspect your child may be suffering from food intolerances, liver congestion and learning difficulties, please come and see a naturopath like me. We can guide you and your child towards the healthiest future possible.