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If you search online for information about whether intermittent fasting is safe for children, you’ll enter a jungle that abounds with misinformation, dire warnings, and unsubstantiated claims of harm to children you care about if they fast.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
So let me make this easy for you!
Yes, kids can absolutely do intermittent fasting.
Their bodies, like those of adults, weren’t designed for constant snacking and grazing. When they eat all day long - especially when they eat highly processed junk and fast food - they set themselves up for a lifetime of health risks including obesity, insulin resistance, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
In fact, research shows that millions of children in the US are already obese, forecasting a health epidemic in the making.
No one wants a child they care about to be at risk for such serious medical conditions. In this article, I’ll explain how intermittent fasting combined with a low-carbohydrate, high-fat Healthy KetoTM diet, can support a child’s health.
First, a little background.
In this article: -
- Being in Ketosis is our Natural State
- First Get Their Agreement
- Then Ease Into It
- But What If My Child Is Normal Weight And Active
- Get Ready To Support Your Child On Their Fasting Journey
Being In Ketosis Is Our Natural State
Interestingly, being in ketosis; that is, burning fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates or sugar, is our natural state. A newborn is in ketosis and will stay there if fed breast milk, which has a high percentage of fat and is designed to be the perfect food for infants.
Nature didn’t make a mistake and forget to include high amounts of carbs in breast milk! Fat is the body’s preferred fuel.
A child will stay in ketosis if their diet remains high in healthy fats and comparatively low in carbohydrates. The same for adults. When you or your child eat a very low-carb diet, your insulin levels drop, resulting in fatty acids being released from your body fat in large amounts. Many of these fatty acids are then transferred to the liver, where they are turned into ketones to provide energy for your body.
Keeping insulin levels lowl is key to weight loss and overall health. Besides a keto diet, intermittent fasting is a powerful way to lower insulin levels.
Each time you eat, your insulin levels rise in response to your blood sugar levels rising. The more often you eat, especially if you consume sugar, the more frequently your insulin spikes. Chronic high insulin sets you up for the health problems I mentioned above.
But the reverse is true, too. The less frequently you eat, and the less sugar and carbs you eat, the less frequently your insulin is raised. Thus, when you fast, you’re allowing your body to go long periods without raising insulin to unhealthy levels.
Interestingly, younger children seem to naturally fast. They eat only when they’re hungry, and don’t when they’re not. If they’re not forced to eat on an artificial schedule, they intuitively honor their body’s needs.
You can see why I say that kids should do intermittent fasting, especially if they’re overweight. If you want to help a child lose weight, intermittent fasting is a powerful way to do so.
Let’s take a look at how this could work.
First, Get Their Agreement
Before you decide your child will fast, be sure to get their agreement. Fasting, for many kids, is a substantial change to their eating habits. A lot of them love to snack all day long.
And of course, with intermittent fasting, they can’t snack without breaking their fast.
Some kids may be motivated because they’ve become uncomfortable with their excessive weight. But if not, I have a few suggestions. Offer to fast with them. You can turn it into a game to see who wins at sticking to their fasting goal.
Just don’t arbitrarily impose it on them - you know that’s a surefire way to spike their resistance.
You also don’t have to make a big leap into going hours without food. Ease into it gradually.
Let me explain.
Then Ease Into It
First, I would get them to go to three meals per day with no snacking. This could be the most difficult change for them, and they’ll need your support.
Keep their intake of healthy fats relatively high at first, to keep them feeling full between meals. Healthy fats include coconut oil, olives, and grass-fed butter.
Once they’re steadily on three meals per day, no snacking, see if they’re willing to go to two meals per day. That would do incredible things for their weight loss and health. They may move naturally to two meals a day as their periods of hunger stabilize and become less frequent.
If they do go to two meals, make sure the food is nutrient-dense. Don’t be concerned about the number of calories. It’s more important to ensure nutrient density.
Some ideas to try are large salads, or a kale shake with some berries. Although most fruit is too high in carbohydrates and sugar to be healthy, berries are an excellent addition to a low-carb diet.
If your child balks at eating a lot of vegetables, don’t worry! I created a shake recipe especially for people who don’t like vegetables. You can get it here.
Although in the intermittent fasting community you’ll hear a lot about what’s called OMAD (one meal a day), with children, I wouldn’t aim for just one meal unless the child is very overweight. Especially if your child goes to one meal a day, be sure that meal is highly nutritious and that you don’t count calories.
I also recommend a good multivitamin supplement, because teenagers in particular often don’t get the nutrients they need.
But What If My Child Is Normal Weight And Active?
What if your child isn’t overweight and is involved with sports? Should they still intermittent fast?
Yes. Because, remember, we’re also supporting their overall metabolic health by fasting. They may be a normal weight but a diet high in carbs, coupled with constant grazing, will wreak havoc on their metabolic health.
I would still cut out the snacks and go to three meals per day, but add some starch such as a red potato or yam with butter, wild rice, beans, or a type of sprouted bread called Ezekiel bread to keep some complex carbohydrates in their diet.
Although none of these items should be consumed by overweight adults on a keto diet, it’s different for normal weight, active children. Their metabolism is generally so fast that they’ll get too thin without these additional starchy foods.
Even if your child is a normal weight, and active, encouraging them to adopt intermittent fasting, switching their body to burn fat as their primary fuel, will give them more energy, focus, and mental clarity.
Who wouldn’t want all this for a child they care about?
Get Ready To Support Your Child On Their Fasting Journey
Now that you know why intermittent fasting is not only safe for your child, but supports their health, I encourage you to get your child onto this protocol. Especially if they’re overweight - you’re giving them a chance to lose weight and improve their health in a safe and effective way. You don’t need to count calories, or impose some weird diet on them, or stand over them like a drill sergeant while they eat.
Instead, you’re encouraging them to intuitively adopt a healthy way of eating, doing your best to get them nutritious food to meet the needs of their growing body, and setting them up for a future free from obesity, insulin resistance, and the risks of type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
There’s no greater gift you can give them than the gift of health. So let’s get them started!
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