"Most of the time what the parent is eating is what the child wants whether it's healthy or not," she says. She advises spacing out snacks so that no one gets too hungry and to keep an eye on portions when hunger does strike.
Whalen was determined to lose weight and after seeing the success of her friend Susan McGuire of Oakton, Virginia, a 40- pound "winner" on the South Beach plan, she felt controlling carbs was worth a try. Her first strategy was to convince her husband to go on the diet too.
"Having my husband start the diet with me on the same day made it easy," she says. "The hard part was feeding my picky kids who wouldn't eat meat. My oldest girl always wants pasta for dinner, so I made her pasta and dealt with having pasta on the table."
McGuire's start down the controlled-carb road was similar. She has two teenage girls and a two-year old.
"My husband went on the diet with me and he has a lot of respect for it, and only complained once, when he asked longingly for pizza," she says.
McGuire also says that she cooks lower-carb meals for the entire family and adds carbs for her older girls if they want them. "The biggest change for us is that we really have no junk food or sweets in the house other than for special occasions," she says. "We do have some kid food like Goldfish crackers and fruit treats that don't really tempt me."
She says that she hasn't changed what her youngest daughter eats for breakfast and lunch but does keep lower-carb snacks on hand. Her daughter likes hummus with whole wheat crackers or pita bread, cheese sticks, fruit and yogurt. She feels these snacks are "safer" for her to have around.
"It is a good idea to provide complex carbohydrate foods in the child's diet rather than all simple carbohydrate foods such as soda, chips, white bread and cookies," she says. She also suggests explaining to kids the benefits of making good food choices. She says this works well with teens who are involved in sports and can make the connection between a healthy, junk food-free diet and how they get through soccer practice or a swim meet.
Like McGuire, Whalen, too, has changed the family's snacks.
"String cheese is a hit for everyone in the house," she says. "... My husband has become addicted to sunflower seeds."
Colette Heimowitz, MSc, vice president, education and research for Atkins Health and Medical Information Services, says McGuire's and Whalen's approaches to starting a low carb diet is right on track. They've gotten support from their spouses and have simply changed how the whole family eats to make eating low carb a lifestyle change, not a diet regime.
"It's perfectly healthy for children and teens to eat a low carb diet," Heimowitz says. She adds that a low carb diet doesn't include processed foods, refined flour or sugar. It does include a variety of proteins, cooked vegetables, and healthier foods such as brown rice. Eating these foods is good for anyone following any diet. She does stress, "no growing child should be put on any weight reduction diet without the supervision of a pediatrician."
"There are a lot of good low carb products but read the labels and be careful of products that have a lot of Maltitol. It's a sugar alcohol used to sweeten many low carb products and eating anything over 20 grams a day can cause stomach problems," she says. With these tried and tested tips, and the resolve to start eating low carb for a healthier life, following a low carb diet, even when you have to feed the kids can become a family plan that benefits everyone.
Here are some tips to help you start your low carb way of eating:
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