“Kids Are People Too.” This was the name of an acclaimed TV show on ABC that ran on Sunday mornings in the late 1970s. The Emmy-Award-winning show featured celebrities being interviewed by kids and was geared toward children and respecting them for the people they are.
In contrast, today’s headlines talk more and more about the rise in childhood obesity rates that is causing serious public health concerns. Considering this spike in childhood obesity, it’s no surprise that type 2 diabetes, which is the result of diet and lifestyle, is now reaching epidemic proportions in children. These are very serious developments, not only for the future of the children suffering from these conditions but also for the future of our nation as a whole. How did we get from the bright and energetic kids on “Kids Are People Too” to today’s childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes epidemic? It’s food for thought (no pun intended).
The good news is that with some education plus diet and lifestyle changes this sad state of today’s rising obesity and type 2 diabetes rates in children can be turned around. The same Zone principles of balanced meals and timing apply to both children and adults. Most elementary-school-aged children would eat between 1/2 to 2/3 of an adult- size Zone-balanced meal, and a middle schooler or older would eat a full adult-size meal or more. Toddlers and preschoolers can get in on the act too. Provide them with the same protein, carbohydrate and fat choices that the rest of the family is eating. Give your kids some leeway with portion size. If they balk at vegetables, just keep offering them. It takes a while for everyone to get used to new foods so don’t give up. When your children are in the Zone, they will instinctively choose what they need. You’ll probably be surprised to find them making better choices when eating away from home too.
Use these kid-tested and kid-approved tips and recipes to help the whole family stay on track.
- Keep a variety of ready-to-eat protein on hand for quick meals and snacks. Chicken breast or tenders, lean deli-style turkey and ham, reduced-fat cottage cheese, tofu and hard-cooked egg whites are good choices. String cheese is an easy option for the lunch box.
- Keep an assortment of fresh-cut vegetables on hand. Kids like to dip them into hummus, cottage cheese or guacamole. Let your family pick their favorites from a selection of cucumbers, colorful bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, celery, zucchini and more. The sky’s the limit when it comes to vegetables in the Zone.
- Serve fruit and vegetables on the same plate to help level the playing field by taking away the sense that the fruit is the treat or the dessert.
- Macadamia nuts and almonds are both excellent choices. Be sure your little one is old enough to be able to chew them well. Take care to honor the rules your child’s school might have about allowing nuts.
- Kids love yogurt. Stir in a teaspoon of almond butter for a complete meal or snack. Yogurt already contains all the protein and carbohydrate needed but feel free to let them stir in a few berries or chunks of apple or orange if they want.
- Let your kids help make the meal. Try this easy chicken-nuggets recipe. Have an adult or older child cut boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders into desired sizes. Dip the chicken pieces into beaten egg white, roll in finely ground almonds and place on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pop into a 350° oven until cooked through. Do the same with avocado wedges and serve a few avocado “fries” with your chicken nuggets!
- Don’t forget the fish oil! Dr. Sears’ recommended dosage to children is 2.5 grams of EPA and DHA per day. In his words, “This is equivalent to the levels of EPA and DHA when your grandparents gave your parents a daily tablespoon of cod-liver oil.”
Help your kids enjoy a happier and healthier childhood and give them the gift of a bright future by following the Zone Diet and lifestyle as a family.