10 tips for a children’s ketosis diet
Parents considering a ketosis diet for their child have a great deal of questions. The Keto, Modified Atkins, lowGlycaemic Index or another low carb plan have some basic principles in common. The following tips are from my own experience managing my daughter’s strict Ketogenic programme and my own low carb eating along with her:
- Restrict CarbohydratesFollowing low carb diet plans is invaluable for learning about the nutrition elements that make up food, packaged and raw ingredients, foods that I had assumed would be low carb have higher totals so foods such as onions, garlic and kale are not ‘free’ foods and have to be calculated in your total.Net carbs are calculated by subtracting the fibre grams from the total carb grams. Many of the stricter low carb plans restrict adult carb intakes to 20g of carbohydrate per day. Children’s ketosis plans might typically be capped at 10g of carbs per day, depending very much on the child’s age, weight, meds, health, stage of the diet and other issues. Please don’t guess, work this out carefully with your medical practitioner.
- Measuring ketones
Three days is the typical time it takes for the body to adapt to using ketosis as its main fuel source. Inexpensive urine ketostix can be a useful tool to use measure whether you are excreting ketones. Read the instructions of your particular brand but in general any change in colour indicates ketones in the urine, if there are no ketones the stick will not change colour. A very dark colour reading may be a sign of dehydration and the need to drink more water. Tip: you can cut them in half to get double the strips. NOTE: Urine sticks only tell you that your body produced and is depositing waste ketones, they don’t provide any more information on body chemical changes or levels. Many children on hospital based Ketogenic programmes will have blood work at the beginning and at regular intervals throughout their diet programme to assess levels.
- Drink water
Ketosis eating can affect hydration levels so encourage regular drinking throughout the day and with meals. Water is the best drink to go for, free from anything added. You may need to use other approaches to keeping your child hydrated sufficiently. Ice cubes, water play and tea party games with drinking water, popsicles (with the odd berry in it that is calculated into their daily total), soups and broths. NOTE: Some Ketogenic plans calculate liquids, check your plan.
- Side effects
Initial symptoms are likely in the first days and weeks. Headaches, deep muscle aches, skin rashes, intense fatigue, irritability, dizziness, nausea, hair loss and just feeling grotty, all depending on your body and the lead up to the diet. These symptoms do fade as the body adjust to the new fuelling process. The benefits of seizure reduction or seizure control, clearer thinking, improved focus, behaviour, sleep, communication and cognitive skills that we have experienced, as well as better skin, healthier diet and increased energy are very much worth the initial difficult stages. NOTE: Always consult your doctor if your symptoms are severe or persistent and causing you concern. Children will be typically managed through these first days in a hospital and then have regular contact as an outpatient, so make the most of this hands on help in the early days. Weight and BMI will be monitored in children.
Ketogenic diets are not high protein diets. The body can convert excess protein into glucose, which is not the aim of a Ketogenic type diet. The body should be learning to use fat. Keto is a low carb / moderate Protein: high fat plan.
There are an increasing number of resources and tools available to support your diet plan online, many focused at US users or Ketogenic for weight loss or body building puposes, so be aware that they have other priorities. The following are essential for researching ketosis diets for children: The Daisy Garland Charity Matthews Friends The Charlie Foundation
Supplements will form part of most children’s plans, with others recommended such as Omega 3 oils, B6 complex. These will be dependent on your plan the type of diet i.e. Classic, MAD, GI for seizure control, fat: carb/protein ratio, age, weight, medication, overall health, disorder condition and other factors. There are some great recipes and tips for getting these medications into children on a daily basis. See my recipes for ideas. NOTE: Suplements and medication should be checked careful with your Keto team so they do not contain carb, or limit carbs to a minimum.
- Food labels
Brands and products vary enormously, so be ready to check each label of every product carefully. Organic diary and fats are particularly beneficial as the body is consuming so much of this and uses fats to transport and absorb other nutrients. Don’t assume anything is a ‘free food’ garlic, onions, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar all contain carbs that add up. When in doubt, look it up on sites like Calorie King or My Fitness Pal to be sure.
- Keep it simple Gain confidence in preparing and calculating your initial keto recipes before building up your repertoire with new ingredients and dishes. Serve foods up as pick plates instead of preparing more complicated muffins, breads and snacks. Make sure ketosis is working and that your child is stable and adjusting well before stretching yourself to include the different oils, fats and recipes you will here about.
- Next steps:
See my Simple 3 day Keto Menu Plan to get you started.