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Low Carb Tips

The induction phase of most low carb diet plans requires you to restrict your carbohydrate intake for at least two weeks. No pasta, no bread, no potatoes, no sweets and no fruit. "It's only two weeks," you say and the results will be worth it. But, if you're a parent, and one that is always on the go from work to your kids' practice and then home, you may feel this new way of eating will be impossible. It's not.

Managing your low carb diet with a family takes planning

When your six year old insists on pizza and bananas for lunch and your hungry teens down plates of pasta, your initial thought of "it's only two weeks" turns into a nightmare of doubt. "How am I going to follow this plan and feed everyone for the next two weeks?" Rebecca M. Mohning MS RD, a nutritionist in private practice, affiliated with George Washington University Hospital in Washington, DC suggests planning both meals and snacks in advance.

"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.

Keep your eye on the low carb prize

Dawn Whalen, a busy mother of two in Fairfax, Virginia, and now 20 pounds lighter thanks to the South Beach plan says this way of life (avoiding refined carbs) is the right way to eat. "I have both heart disease and diabetes in my family so I know, for my own health, this is the way I should be eating for life," she says. "I only hope I can pass this down to my children so that they never have to struggle with their weight."

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.

Complex carbs for kids fit into your low carb lifestyle

Mohning agrees with McGuire's approach to adding "good" carbs into her kids' diets.

"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."

Stay on top of your low carb food choices

Heimowitz's own family eats low carb and that includes her teenage son. She advises trying many of the new low carb foods now on the market to replace high-carb favorites.

"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:


  • Diet with a family member or friend for support.
  • Plan your meals and snacks in advance. Having a menu and dividing cooking chores will help take the stress out of meals and keep you on your goal.
  • Stock your fridge with quick-grab low carb snacks such as cheese sticks, pre-sliced vegetables with low carb dips, such as salad dressings or hummus.
  • Cook your meals in advance and freeze them for busy days.
  • Drink plenty of water -- at least 64 ounces a day.
  • If you have a family that snacks outside of the kitchen, say in front of the television, change the rules. By eating only in the kitchen you and your family develop better eating habits and contain restricted foods to one room that you can leave.

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