A Maryland mom was accused of child abuse by her followers when she proudly posted photos on social media of the ketogenic recipes she fed her two children. Abby Durlewanger, 32, put her children on the food plan to ensure, in her opinion, they ate healthfully. But little did she suspect the tsunami of controversy that flooded her on TikTok.
Durlewanger, who goes by House of Keto, on TikTok has received an incredible 8.9 million views of her keto-friendly recipes like chicken lettuce wraps and berry desserts. The ketogenic, or keto, diet is a low-carb, low-sugar, high-fat diet that has many benefits, says Healthline. These include weight loss, diabetes prevention, and treatment of cancer, epilepsy and even Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the New York Post, Durlewanger says that her daughter Penelope, 11, and son Huxley, 6 are “healthy and happy, and they love the keto lifestyle we lead.” She adds that her kids are not being deprived of junk food but are “being empowered to make better food choices.”
Durlewanger’s posts have not been applauded by all her viewers. In fact, they’ve triggered a torrent of outrage, including death threats to her and her husband Mike, and warnings to call Child Protective Services. Her critics have said that feeding her kids a high-protein, low-carb diet is “child abuse.”
“I get at least 100 messages a day from people telling me to kill myself because of the way I feed my family,” she said, according to the Post, adding that her pediatrician has backed her food plan.
The American Heart Association states that kids in the U.S. consume 81 grams of sugar daily, equaling over 65 pounds of excess sugar a year. Children are ingesting over 30 gallons of added sugars from beverages alone — enough to fill a bathtub, says the AHA.
That’s one reason Durlewanger decided to pull the plug on feeding her kids the typical American diet and prevent the “sugar addiction” that is plaguing youngsters in our country.
While some experts, like pediatric dietitian Courtney Glick at NYU Langone told the Post that putting children on restrictive diets can cause adverse effects on their physical and psychological well-being, others support Durlewanger’s efforts.
“We typically don’t suggest any diets for kids because food restrictions can create disordered eating patterns,” Glick told the Post, adding that when adults label foods as “bad” children may become anxious about eating, which could lead to eating disorders. Glick also said that a keto-based diet may limit the nutritional intake of B vitamins, fiber, and iron.
Dr. Alexandra Sowa, a dual board-certified doctor of internal medicine and obesity and metabolic health, tells Newsmax that while ketogenic diets are safe for children, they are generally not recommended for the average, healthy child.
“It’s best for children who have a therapeutic need for such a diet,” says the founder of SoWell Health. “For example, we know that ketogenic diets help children with epilepsy reduce their seizures. And there is nothing unhealthy about a ketogenic diet for children, but I would recommend a much better approach by simply reducing some carbohydrates.”
Sowa says she objects to the accusations that feeding children a ketogenic diet is akin to child abuse.
“What I think is actually a lot more abusive to our children is to feed them highly processed foods that we have become accustomed to. We know 100% that following the typical Western diet leads to incredible high rates of prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity,” she says. “We also know that 88% of our adult population has evidence of metabolic dysfunction and this no doubt starts in childhood.”
Sowa adds that focusing on a lower carb diet fueled with whole foods, vegetables, proteins, and some limited fruits can be an effective way to teach children healthy eating habits from the start.
“The problem I would have with a strictly ketogenic diet for children is that many foods that are keto friendly are too high in fat, so we don’t want to do that,” the expert explains. “But there is nothing wrong with feeding a child a plate of vegetables, a little portion of healthy fats and proteins for dinner and enjoying vegetable sticks and a dip for snacks. This can be very, very healthy for children.”
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