Childhood Obesity: Is it safe for my teenager to go on a strict low-fat diet?
It is, in fact, very healthy for your teen to go on a low-fat diet as long as the diet is full of unrefined, fiber-rich and nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans and moderate amounts of lean protein like seafood, chicken breast and nonfat dairy foods. Numerous studies have shown that people from cultures who follow this type of low-fat diet have the lowest rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, childhood obesity and many forms of cancer in the world.
What you don't want your teenager to do is to follow the 1990s American version of a low-fat diet, which included a lot of fat-free but heavily processed foods like fat-free cookies, fat-free potato chips, and other fat-free snacks and desserts. These foods, although low in fat are chock-full of calories and sugar. Processed foods are no small contributor to the fact that America is now struggling with a childhood obesity epidemic.
So, when you are grocery shopping for your teen, head straight to the produce aisles for foods that actually look like something that came out of the earth. The closer you can get to what nature grew (an apple instead of apple juice, a baked potato instead of french fries), the healthier your teenager will be. Nature's foods, particularly fruits, vegetables, beans and starchy veggies like corn and potatoes, are low in fat and calories and are rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytonutrients.
Another tip: Do your best to wean your teen off soft drinks (they're fat-free but packed with belly-bulging calories from sugar). Let them know how easy excess weight will melt away by making the switch from caloric-rich beverages (such as regular sodas and frappucinos) to zero-calorie and low-calorie drinks (sugar-free teas, nonfat milk, a little fruit juice mixed with soda water and, one of the best choices of all, water). Drinking six cans of fat free regular cola each day (not uncommon among American teenagers) totals a whopping 900 calories a day. If they were to drop those colas, they'd drop about 8 pounds of pudge in one month.