What’s Wrong With The Kids?

As some of you know I spent almost 7 years, from 2002 to 2009, working as a full-time nanny in New York City.  What started as a way to afford to live in the city while completing my bachelor’s degree turned into an invaluable education itself.  A few recent articles in the NY Times have got me thinking about the lessons I learned from the children and families I cared for not too long ago.  The first article was “Ritilan Gone Wrong” which addressed the concern that ADD drugs don’t work long term in children.  Another article in last week’s Sunday Times Magazine was about puberty starting in girls as young as first grade.  The latter article seems to completely skip over what seems to me to be one of the most obvious causes (and solutions!) to both issues raised in these two essays: food.  The quality and quantity of the food we feed our children has, gasp, a profound effect on their health.

Here’s an example from my last nanny job, we’ll call him Tom.  Tom is 13 and finishing up 8th grade.  He has trouble sleeping; sometimes he is up half the night and has dark circles under his eyes.  He has trouble focusing and staying alert in school.  He sees a psychiatrist, the only mental health professional allowed to prescribe psychiatric medication, for anger and emotional issues.  Tom’s diet goes something like this: he refuses to eat any and all vegetables except potatoes and occasionally frozen corn.  This has been going on for some time and mom and dad are not interested in challenging this.  He sticks mostly with pasta, bread and any and all kinds of candy.  He eats conventional cheese, eggs and meat.   Very rarely will he eat fruit. His diet is mostly nutritionally deficient, refined white foods, much to my dismay.  Tom is very mal-nourished and is also concerned with staying thin.  He likes to skip meals and refuses anything with real nutrition.  As a result of what he eats and the low quality of his food, Tom is on a constant sugar high/sugar crash cycle that makes getting good sleep nearly impossible, no wonder he’s moody and can’t concentrate in school!

Mom and Dad decide at the suggestion of the therapist to put Tom on a Ritalin type drug to address his lack of function in school.  The drug helps him focus and also decreases his appetite to the point where he is only eating one or two meals a day which he is happy about.  I had to quit this job shortly after the parents started using a controlled substance to control their child while completely ignoring his emotional and nutritional needs.  Child abuse by my standards but clearly my standards are different from some of the millionaires on 5th Avenue.

My prescription for Tom would have gone something like this: First Tom needs to get out of the addictive sugar cycle by eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats like olive and coconut oils and organic proteins.  Changing his diet will allow his body to rest at night instead of using energy to process all those empty sugar calories.  Wheat is also a big red flag, many behavioral and developmental problems are being traced to wheat in the diet.  With any kind of illness I suggest looking to the diet first: it’s the easiest to change as it does not require health care professionals or prescriptions.  Try eliminating the major allergens like wheat, dairy, nuts and soy and then begin to add in large quantities of green veggies, whole, non-wheat grains like quinoa and brown rice as well as beans and high quality, organic soy (if not allergic) and/or animal foods.  Remember the young ladies that are starting puberty at 8 and 10 years old?  Perhaps this has something to do with all the growth hormones and chemical herbicides and pesticides in the meat and dairy products sold at conventional grocery stores across our country?  I know several family members and friends that have successfully treated ADD and other behavioral and developmental disorders by simply changing the food they ate.  Food is your most powerful tool in transforming your health, use it!

Kids and adults alike will find that changing their diet to a clean, whole foods, plant-based diet will improve everything from mood to energy levels.  Clear thinking (and clear skin!) starts with clean food.  And for those of you that might want a little guidance in this area I will be starting a new class series this May called ‘Local Nutrition’.  This class series will teach you how to take advantage of all the amazing local, organic food available in our area while not breaking your budget.  And that’s just the beginning so stay tuned for more information!


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Bobbie Fachini
    Apr 16, 2012 @ 21:12:17

    I wish you were my nanny.


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