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How Soon is Too Soon For Kids to Be on a Restrictive Diet?

Thursday, April 20, 2017 1:30 PM

Not too long ago headlines were made when the media found out what Tom Brady and Gisele Bunchen’s children’s daily diet looks like. Tom and Gisele are on a strict diet of no gluten, no nightshades, no sugar and no processed foods –which their children also follow. It is not just celebrities: some parents put their kids on vegan diets at the young age of four and some children also cut dairy out because a parent is dairy-free.


While some of these diets may be for religious or allergy reasons, Molly Antoniolli, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, discusses why the average kid should not be put on a restrictive diet at such a young age:

  • Kids are still growing and developing. They need these nutrients from food to help them grow into strong and healthy teenagers. Protein helps build muscles, calcium keeps bones growing, carbohydrates help for energy and fiber prevents constipation.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a mix from the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, low-fat dairy, and quality protein sources including lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and eggs.
  • It can be hard emotionally. Research has shown that children on restrictive diets, particularly those that restrict calories, feel excluded and may be at increased risk for eating disorders or problems with body image.

A restrictive diet like Tom Brady’s should not be considered until children are fully done growing. Overweight kids do not need to be on a diet with a caloric or food deficit to lose weight according to Dr. Antoniolli. The goal is to reduce the weight as he or she grows taller – and that can be done through nutritious meal plans that the whole family follows. Adding a small amount of sugar, salt, fats like butter or oil, and highly nutritious foods like broccoli or oatmeal will make food more palatable and more likely to be eaten.  They still get their nutrients and you are creating healthy habits as a family. In general, highly processed foods should be avoided. And despite the 100% fruit juice on the label, there is a ton of sugar added to juices which outweighs the benefits of getting fruits in this form.

If you want to remove some food groups from your child’s diet or restrict caloric intake, consult with his or her physician before doing so for best and safe practices. You may even want to see a nutritionist for meals that are nourishing while following a certain diet.