Dr. Kantor recently answered questions from Parents Magazine about healthy eating habits for children.
Specifically, is it better for the parent of a young child (age 2-5) to be more restrictive or more permissive with junk food?
Small children should be aware of boundaries when it comes to food, but that being said, restricting foods aggressively will always backfire. It’s only human nature to want something more when we feel deprived; this is true in both adults and children of all ages. Restricting a child from foods has been shown to encourage the child to sneak junk food or gorge on junk foods later on in life. Rather than restricting your child from junk foods, educate them on the consequences of having processed foods, (ie. tooth aches, tummy aches, poor energy for play time, and not enough brain power to practice numbers or letters).
Rather than focusing on depriving children of junk foods, focus on the amount of servings they need to have of healthy foods. They should be consuming at least 3 servings of vegetables and 2 servings of fruits per day. Let them know they cannot have their treat until they have met their fruit and vegetable servings for the day.
Also, if your child’s favorite treat is cookies, find an alternative recipe for a refined sugar and flour free cookie recipe. Here are some healthy dessert alternatives for sweet treats without the processed ingredients. http://blog.greenboxfoods.com/category/recipes/desserts/
Are there any known causes of eating disorders that stem from
what children eat when they’re little?
The most common trait in young children who develop eating disorders is family problems, they feel like they have no control over their family problems (abuse, divorce, etc.) and the one thing they can control is their eating habits and this is typically when an eating disorder develops. This is completely unrelated to restriction of foods.
Other studies suggest that children who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) tendencies are at a higher risk for developing eating disorders, especially if they view certain foods as morally good or bad. The strong influence of their peers, the media and unknowingly their parents, who have disordered eating behaviors due to their personal weight management struggles, will influence them negatively.
Research has suggested that Vegetarianism can be a healthy alternative for many people. However, vegetarianism can be a problem for children who have risk factors for anorexia. Those families who are restrictive vegetarians with their children at a young age could promote obsessive compulsive behaviors around certain food groups, leading to disordered eating patterns later in life.
Penn State Hersey, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Eating Disorders. http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=10&pid=10&gid=000049
Herzog, H. (2010). Eating Disorders: The Dark Side of Vegetarianism?
This is a preview to an article that will be featured in Parents Magazine. Check back for the full article.
Dr. Kantor’s greatly anticipated new children’s book, The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, is now available. Be sure to order this highly reviewed book, filled with healthy living tips for the whole family. A portion of the proceeds benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.