It’s a Journey – The Children and White Water

As mentioned last week, children develop eating habits in their youth that can fuel a scary white water journey in adulthood. A child will eat whatever they are accustomed to. Adults most often eat whatever they grew accustomed to as children. It’s a vicious cycle.


For children a huge amount of energy is required to grow in just a narrow amount of time from maybe 20” long to 6′ tall, running every step of the way. During that time, almost anything eaten can be burned and burned fast, just like a paper-only fire in a fireplace. Certainly wood in the fireplace will generate more heat and last a lot longer. But in a pinch —.

The concept, however, of almost anything in childhood has major flaws. The anything might be missing the essential vitamins, minerals, etc. needed for long term health. And the diet becomes a habit. We are committed to our habits.

The child becomes an adult, walking instead of running, with the same eating habit that is missing the essential nutrients. And when that diet is full of fast burning fuel in an adult who shouldn’t be growing, the inevitable happens. Adults grow. Weight is gained. The journey has started.

None of us really want our children to grow up only to be on that white water journey. Because, over time, all those metabolic dysfunctions will eventually lead to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. So let’s consider how to avoid that.

Avoiding the White Water

Sugar and fructose, refined wheat flour, and refined vegetable oils in any significant quantity will fuel a white water journey. And refined sugar (which is half fructose) is the BIG issue.

Let’s clear up this vegetable oil thing. Good oils are fruit oils made by squeezing – avocado, olive, coconut oil. Vegetable oils are soy, canola, corn, etc. These oils are extracted from seeds (grain and beans), heat processed, chemically treated, and highly susceptible to going rancid. I explained all that in my book.

I follow people advocating every possible configuration of diet. No meat, all meat, only vegetables, certain vegetables, not “that” vegetable or meat, Keto, Paleo. I hear people so confused and stressed, unable to decide what they should do. I see advocators, even doctors making fortunes selling diet programs and supplements to confused people.

Might one of these programs be good for somebody with a special problem? Sure! But the simple answer for most people is what ALL these diets/programs have in common. No refined sugar, wheat flour or vegetable oil.

In other words, it is less what you SHOULD eat and more what you SHOULDN’T.

New Babies

If you are lucky enough to be teaching a new baby to eat, simply don’t give them sugar. My granddaughter breast fed and pureed vegetables and eventually meat as baby food for her first child. Her children have eaten what she eats all their young lives. Fast fried food is a rarity. They never developed a sweet tooth and they still don’t have one.

The point here is not that my granddaughter is the best (although she is). The message is that success in teaching good eating habits to children requires good eating habits for the adult delivering the food.

That harder job is changing the habits of children after they are set. First, if the adult’s habits are bad, then you have to change your habits as well. Don’t say what my Dad used to say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” It never works.

Preschool Change

The next best time after babyhood to change eating habits is before school while you have good control. “What we eat around here is what we eat around here.” This does take some thinking and a willingness to endure tears.

Look at it this way. If a child cries because you won’t let them play in the street, are you going to give up and take a chance?

Do not have anything in the house that contains sugar, flour, or vegetable oil. You and they can’t eat what you don’t have. What can you feed them? Anything that doesn’t contain sugar, flour, or vegetable.oils.

School Age Change

When they start to school and have extracurricular stuff like sports or clubs, it is the hardest still. You are in charge at breakfast but lunch and snacks may be at school. Dinner may seem to require “grabbing a bite” at some fast food place.

Ideally lunch and snacks can be packed for a child in school. In fact, planning ahead and storing take-out food in the fridge will allow for dinner sacks to be prepared for emergencies. In a pinch try to find a restaurant that has acceptable food on the menu.

Reminder! Anything is okay that doesn’t contain sugar, flour, and isn’t cooked in vegetable oil. For what it’s worth, a fast food restaurant that fries everything and doesn’t have at least salads will not be acceptable.

The more some family adult (or even older child) is willing and even entertained by cooking, the easier this can become. But it isn’t absolutely necessary.

Trying to convince a toddler the merits of eating this way may be an exercise in futility. But older children and teens can certainly be able to understand why they don’t want to end up sick like grandma, Aunt Ethel, or that guy they saw at the nursing home. That is, if you take the time to explain.

Food Possibilities

I rarely make recipe suggestions because I often hear, “Oh no, I don’t like that vegetable.” Or “I can’t afford to buy that.” But here I am going to offer some options for your consideration, alternatives adaptable to the challenges of raising children and a busy life.

By the way, seasonings are all okay unless sugar was added.

Eggs are inexpensive and adaptable. Good for any meal or snack. Egg muffins made in advance and reheated. Great choice to get a kid ready for the day.

Oatmeal: Not “instant.” Quick or traditional oats with butter and cinnamon. No sugar. Oats can be cooked the night before and reheated. Google for “overnight oats.”

Proper crackers: While it is easier and preferable to just say no to processed food, they are possible when carefully selected. Which means they don’t have sugar, flour, or vegetable oil in them. Read the ingredient list. You could make your own.

Homemade bread: The internet is full of bread recipes that don’t contain sugar, flour or vegetable oil.

Left over meat or fish: maybe from dinner yesterday. Canned sardines are good if you have a taste for it.

Chili, soups, casseroles: all reheat-able,without flour, sugar, or vegetable oils. You have to make these yourself because the things on the shelf or in the freezer at the grocery will contain the stuff you want to avoid.

Premade salads: Any mix of vegetables. Dressing that doesn’t contain sugar, flour, or vegetable oil. Vinegar and olive oil is good, at least for me.

Tuna and chicken salad: Either from a can (not canned with vegetable oil) or leftover from another meal. There is mayo out there that doesn’t contain sugar or vegetable oil. Or you can make your own.

Fruit and sliced vegetables with peanut butter: No sugar in the peanut butter.Pretty much any fruit but it’s easier if you don’t have to peel it yourself. I discovered the hard way that ten year olds can’t seem to handle peeling even a mandarin orange.

Wraps: Just about any meat or vegetables wrapped in lettuce as a sandwich. Any condiments that don’t contain sugar.

Closing with This

It doesn’t have to be perfect 100% of the time. There is going to be a birthday party with cake. You may grit your teeth and buy mayo with soy bean oil. The best laid plans can go astray. But if you are trying, a lot will go right – for both you and your children.


Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 501-605-3902. Her Facebook page is