Family Matters

It’s All Good…Or Maybe Not. Gwyneth Paltrow Limits the Carbs Her Kids Eat

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Pablo Blazquez Dominguez / WireImage

Paltrow reveals her latest diet decisions in her new cookbook. And they don’t include some of children’s favorite comfort foods.

Feeding children is a weighty topic. On one hand, there are too many kids who are now overweight or obese. On the other hand, plenty of tweens and teens develop eating disorders. As parents, we’re urged to feed our kids good food, and we all think we know what that means: whole grains, vegetables, fruit, and lean protein.

But there’s more to life than quinoa and kale. Take bread, rice and pasta, for example. In most kitchens, they’re not considered archenemy edibles. Yet actress Gwyneth Paltrow recently stirred up a flurry of controversy by suggesting in her upcoming cookbook It’s All Good that she’s limiting the number of carbs in her kids’ diet .

The reason, according to the Daily Mail, is that her family can’t tolerate gluten, a protein found in grains.

Her decision was based on the fact that everyone in her house — including husband Chris Martin — is apparently intolerant of gluten, dairy and chicken’s eggs.

Miss Paltrow’s comments are an admission that her habit of going for the latest fad diet is filtering down to how she behaves as a mother.

It’s not clear whether Paltrow’s family has celiac disease — in which gluten can inflame and damage the lining of the gut — or whether they’re simply jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon. In recent years, gluten-free diets have become popular even among those not affected by the condition as a way to lose weight, eat healthier and “cleanse.” Plenty of experts have cast doubt on the effectiveness of such an approach, however.

Regardless, it looks like mac and cheese won’t be on the menu much for Apple, 8, and Moses, 6, according to their mother, who appears to acknowledge in the cookbook that it’s tough to cut carbohydrates: “Sometimes when my family is not eating pasta, bread or processed grains like white rice, we’re left with that specific hunger that comes with avoiding carbs.”

MORE: It’s the Calories, Stupid: Weight Gain Depends on How Much — Not What — You Eat

Without a doubt, Paltrow is sure she’s doing right by her kids. But is she? According to licensed dietitian Shelly Summar, the answer is probably not. 

There’s no reason to avoid carbohydrates completely; they are one of three energy-containing nutrients, along with protein and fat. They’re packed into undeniably healthy products such as fruits, milk, whole grains and vegetables. But cutting out highly processed carbohydrates — cookies, cake, candy, brownies – does make some healthy sense. “When you talk about eliminating carbs, that’s a very general statement,” says Summar. “It’s hard to figure out what they’re doing, but if Gwyneth Paltrow says she’s eliminating all carbs, that means she’s cutting out things that have a lot of nutrition in them.”

If she’s kissing junky pastries goodbye, however, it might be something everyone should consider.

As with so many diets, however, people can go to the extreme. I cringe at serving white rice to my kids when brown rice can provide them with more fiber and protein. But my son flat-out refuses the brown stuff. Summar pointed out that it’s not that white rice is unhealthy; it’s still nutritious, but just doesn’t pack as much good-for-you ingredients as brown rice. And it’s still better than potato chips. So “one thing we should do is try not to get caught up in fads,” says Summar, who is weight management program coordinator at Children’s Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, Mo.

(MORECalorie vs. Calorie: Study Evaluates Three Diets for Staying Slim)

Why do many kids prefer white over wheat in the first place? Is it a taste issue? Possibly, but it might also have something to do with a baby’s first taste of “solid food,” which is, typically, white rice cereal. In 2011, Stanford pediatrician Alan Greene called for a “WhiteOut” — a farewell to white rice cereal and a hello to better replacements. Babies get the bulk of their calories in their first year of life from processed white rice baby cereal; he advocates subbing brown rice cereal or actual food, such as mashed avocado or sweet potato.

wrote about Green’s idea in a Healthland post:

Greene worries that introducing babies to refined food as their first foray into the world of solid food will anchor their taste buds in the processed-food camp, dooming them to a life of unhealthy — or not-as-healthy — choices.

At an age when babies can’t talk back and demand cookies instead of cauliflower — they’re essentially culinary prisoners in their high chairs — why not offer them food with more nutritional value?

Meanwhile, researchers have found that Paltrow may not be alone in her quest: kids are eating fewer carbohydrates than they used to, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that doesn’t mean they’re shunning pasta or toast; they may be cutting back on sugar-sweetened drinks, which are high in carbohydrates as well.

(MOREStudy: Does Eating White Rice Raise Your Risk of Diabetes?)

Still, that’s an encouraging trend. The key to promoting healthy eating habits in children, say experts, is not to teach them to avoid or cut out certain foods, but to preach moderation. “What’s bad, especially with kids, is when we get too rigid and start eliminating foods or food groups,” she says. “Kids are growing. If you become too rigid, you run the risk of creating nutritional deficiencies and stunting their growth. It’s a fine line and you have to be careful about that as parents,” says Summar. Maybe Paltrow had it right in the title of her book: It’s All Good.