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Old 01-03-2013, 08:13 PM   #1
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Low carb for an underweight teen to help gain weight?

This sounds like a really dumb question, but I have high-functioning autistc boy, 15 years old, who is 5'8" and weighs 108 lbs. In the last year he grew 4 inches and gained 12 lbs. At his physical this morning, the doctor thought it might not be a bad idea to gain a bit of weight, though it's not urgent.

He likes pepperoni pizza, fresh fruit, pumpkin pie, hamburger meat, lean pork and ham, all-beef hotdogs. Absolutely hates all veggies except for salad mix with ranch dressing and green beans. He does not like sweets except for strawberry ice cream, and he hates milk and milkshakes.

He is active and athletic, with a small bone structure. His BMI is 16.4, under the 5% percentile for his age.

Is there anything in low carb, that might help him, or is low-carb not a good plan for those who need to gain weight. (wish I could give him a few of my excess pounds!)
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Old 01-03-2013, 08:51 PM   #2
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I have to smile at his food preferences because they are not far from mine prior to LC

LC is super duper healthy for living! You can't do better by your son than to help him eat LC.

As far as gaining weight on LC ... absolutely no problem. Just keep the protein reasonable, the carbs low and add on the healthy mono and sat fats. Push the calories up to a bit more than he is expending and he'll gain some weight. Then lower the calories a bit by cutting the fat a bit to stabilize him.

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Old 01-03-2013, 09:42 PM   #3
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Teens are often underweight as they go through growth spurts. Moms worry, but years later they end up as normal weight adults.

I dont know if he is on anything such as Ritalin or Adderall, but those stimulant type medications can also stunt growth. Doctors often give summer "holidays" from the medications to let children catch up on growth.

In any case... I think of low carb as the healthiest way of eating... a diet that will normalize weight. He should be at "maintenance" levels of carbs, not doing an Atkins Induction style diet with 20g carbs a day for weight loss.

If he is interested in doing it, I think it would be great. But if he already has a limited diet due to very narrow food preferences, taking away his pizza and ice cream will probably just leave him with less to eat and not help him gain weight. It might be better just to encourage him to eat more.
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:18 AM   #4
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Reddarin - I'm thinking maybe we might do some of your ideas gradually. He is very resistant to change, with his autism.

Strawberry - he is not currently on any meds. I think we will just encourage him to eat more, maybe gradually changing to some more low-carb foods.

Thanks a lot for your ideas
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:27 AM   #5
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A boy I went to high school with gained weight by drinking Slim Fast with his meals. It worked ! I'm sure Ensure would work the same and probably tastes better. I'm not sure how low carb would help him gain, but it is a great diet plan to follow and avoiding gluten and dairy could possibly be beneficial for his autism.

A friend of mine has a 2-year-old son with autism and he tested positive for quite a bit of food allergies. She noticed a big change in him when he no longer had soy. I have some food allergies and I'm amazed at how I feel different avoiding those things.
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:37 AM   #6
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I would be encouraging a low carb woe for him simply because he is autistic.
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Old 01-04-2013, 07:58 AM   #7
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No advise, just a big (((HUG!!!))) I am also a mom to an autistic (low functioning) teen son (16), he luckily will eat just about anything I plop in front of him. My son has seizures and the meds he was on caused him to totally lose his appetite, he lost 10 pounds before that side effect went away, then the seizures came back so we switched his meds. He has been seizure free since late July and once again eating like a pig. He eats mostly low carb but sneaks chips at times.

**Autistic kids can be hugely picky eaters due to sensory issues (for anyone reading that doesn't have an autistic child), changing their diets is sometimes impossible.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:03 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Star73 View Post
A boy I went to high school with gained weight by drinking Slim Fast with his meals. It worked ! I'm sure Ensure would work the same and probably tastes better. I'm not sure how low carb would help him gain, but it is a great diet plan to follow and avoiding gluten and dairy could possibly be beneficial for his autism.

A friend of mine has a 2-year-old son with autism and he tested positive for quite a bit of food allergies. She noticed a big change in him when he no longer had soy. I have some food allergies and I'm amazed at how I feel different avoiding those things.
My son also tested positive for a bunch of food "sensitivities" when he was 4, we still have to keep him away from milk (or he goes flipping nuts for 2 days!) but other than that he seems to have grown out of everything else. A child in my son's class can't go anywhere soy or he has all sorts of issues.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:06 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sk8termom View Post
This sounds like a really dumb question, but I have high-functioning autistc boy, 15 years old, who is 5'8" and weighs 108 lbs. In the last year he grew 4 inches and gained 12 lbs. At his physical this morning, the doctor thought it might not be a bad idea to gain a bit of weight, though it's not urgent.

He likes pepperoni pizza, fresh fruit, pumpkin pie, hamburger meat, lean pork and ham, all-beef hotdogs. Absolutely hates all veggies except for salad mix with ranch dressing and green beans. He does not like sweets except for strawberry ice cream, and he hates milk and milkshakes.

He is active and athletic, with a small bone structure. His BMI is 16.4, under the 5% percentile for his age.

Is there anything in low carb, that might help him, or is low-carb not a good plan for those who need to gain weight. (wish I could give him a few of my excess pounds!)
Forgot to add, my son's neurologolist said that if low carb is not doable low glycemic is also great for autistic kids (and kids with seizures) it allows more foods than strict low carb.
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:18 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Becky View Post
My son also tested positive for a bunch of food "sensitivities" when he was 4, we still have to keep him away from milk (or he goes flipping nuts for 2 days!) but other than that he seems to have grown out of everything else. A child in my son's class can't go anywhere soy or he has all sorts of issues.
That's good to hear that he has grown out of most of them. Yeah, soy is the worst thing for my friend's son. He was on soy milk as an infant and when she found out he had a soy allergy and switched him to another formula he was a new baby! He is 2 now and she has another baby now and she's going to get her tested for food allergies even though she doesn't show signs of any problems now. She just wants to make sure she doesn't have problems later with foods
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Old 01-04-2013, 08:37 AM   #11
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Will he eat cheese or cheese sauces? Are his hamburger and hot dogs on buns? Sweet potatoes? LC pancakes? LC blueberry muffins?

Are you trying to keep him ketogenic?

Low carb to gain or maintain can be higher carb, 50-100g, and still have the benefits of LC eating. He needs higher-ish protein for growth at this point, especially if he is active in sports.

I have a friend with a 15 year old in the spectrum and we have been able to make SOME LC foods he will eat, but you have to know his texture issues to come up with food he might eat. He burns a lot of calories due to the extra rocking and other repetitive movements and has a problem with a lower than normal body weight. She has encouraged him to eat a large "snack" when he gets home from school and a normal dinner to get an extra meal in each day.

Last edited by drjlocarb; 01-04-2013 at 08:38 AM..
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Old 01-04-2013, 10:11 AM   #12
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I wonder if gluten free would be more beneficial for your son. Maybe add more "neutral" carbs like sweet potatoes, potatoes, rice. That would help put on a little weight, or at least not make him lose.

But limiting/removing sugar, wheat, legumes, and minimal or lower glycemic fruit like berries and citrus. Maybe limiting dairy too.

I'm thinking along the lines of a paleo/primal diet. Just some ideas!
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Old 01-04-2013, 11:45 AM   #13
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That sounds like my son's diet and he is very skinny too.

We restrict gluten and sugar - but allow any "healthy" carbs like lots of avocado, rice (unfortunately he'll only eat WHITE), whole wheat pasta cooked el dente, etc.

Our little guy doesn't eat cake or cookies - just tons of fruit. At this point, I think it is probably fine as he probably has a fully functioning system right now. As he gets older, we will educate him and hopefully he'll make his own good choices.
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Old 01-04-2013, 01:32 PM   #14
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Honestly I would try low carb eating not just for weight loss but for possible management of his symptoms. Do some research about autism and diet... it's worth a shot!
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Old 01-20-2013, 12:58 PM   #15
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Why would you feed your kids a gluten free diet? I'd say 75% of the food I ate as a kid had gluten in it (poor family) and I have zero allergies or stomach issues. It seems like ten years ago nobody even knew what gluten was, and now it seems like everyone and their mother has jumped on board the gluten free train. I can't even find half the low carb stuff I used to find on the diet/specialty shelves at the grocery store anymore, it's all gluten free crap and chock full o' sugar alcohols atkins bars
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Old 01-21-2013, 01:10 PM   #16
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How about nuts?
If he likes nuts and you can get him to eat a lot - that's a good way to gain. I know, that's lots of ifs.
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Old 01-21-2013, 02:02 PM   #17
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I would lean more paleo-wise for him, because it allows "safe" starches (white rice--healthier than brown rice because the hull is where the toxins collect--sweet potato, winter squash, etc.) and "natural" sugars (maple syrup, raw honey, coconut sugar). Low carb might stabilize weight, but by design it's not supposed to increase weight.

Fat doesn't increase weight, but carbs do.

I wouldn't go overboard with the sweets, but a little more safe starch might add on some weight. You could add some pureed sweet potato into pumpkin pie and he'd never know it's there.

And be sure protein is adequate, because ideally you want him to have more muscle mass rather than visceral fat.
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Old 01-22-2013, 06:24 PM   #18
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Many of these tips are not relevant/appropriate, and not particularly low-carb, but you and he might get something from this article:

50 Tips for How to Build Muscle the Right Way | COACH CALORIE
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:16 PM   #19
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I have read somewhere that LC is not good for developing children, especially ketosis. I can't remember why, but I would ask your doctor or try to google information for developing muscle in growing teens. I think a reduced carb diet is probably best, something that is less carb rich than the average teen diet, but that includes lots of fats and grains like brown rice, steel cut oats, etc., over sugar, pizza, and wheat-rich foods. Adding oils might also work. My cousin's teen learned about low carb and went on a reduced carb diet on his own, although he was overweight to begin with, and he lost a ton of weight and grew like a beanpole.
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Old 01-22-2013, 07:32 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moonequipt13 View Post
Why would you feed your kids a gluten free diet? I'd say 75% of the food I ate as a kid had gluten in it (poor family) and I have zero allergies or stomach issues. It seems like ten years ago nobody even knew what gluten was, and now it seems like everyone and their mother has jumped on board the gluten free train. I can't even find half the low carb stuff I used to find on the diet/specialty shelves at the grocery store anymore, it's all gluten free crap and chock full o' sugar alcohols atkins bars
Autistic children have gut issues (most of them), along with a host of other digestive issues, and a gluten free, casein free diet is sometimes the only thing that helps with the symptoms. My son when he was 4 was banging his head so hard on the floor that if I didn't catch him in time he would have a nice black and blue (he is severly autistic). I read that taking milk out of his diet may help and sure enough after 2 days of a milk free diet he never did it again. We also took wheat out of his diet and his eye contact improved significantly. He is able to eat wheat now with no issues. I myself have issues with wheat and am not autistic, you should consider yourself lucky that you don't have issues with it and can eat however you please but some of us have no choice.
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Old 01-22-2013, 08:49 PM   #21
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I read in an LC book (Protein Power I think) that a low carb, adequate fat and protein diet will bring you to your correct weight. You will lose if you need to and gain if you need to.

Given his autism, I think I would try gluten free and see if that helps him.

Moonequipt, you might want to read Wheatbelly. There are some very good reasons to cut out wheat and gluten, even if many of us were raised on it.
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Old 01-22-2013, 09:13 PM   #22
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If you can get a copy of Life Without Bread by Wolfgang Lutz, you'll see a case study of an underweight younger man who gained on low carb. Note that Lutz recommends 72g of carbs, not induction levels, and considers that level the one at which we benefit but don't experience adverse effects.
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Old 01-23-2013, 05:13 AM   #23
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I read in an LC book (Protein Power I think) that a low carb, adequate fat and protein diet will bring you to your correct weight. You will lose if you need to and gain if you need to.

Given his autism, I think I would try gluten free and see if that helps him.

Moonequipt, you might want to read Wheatbelly. There are some very good reasons to cut out wheat and gluten, even if many of us were raised on it.
I second Wheatbelly, very eye opening! I grew up with a typical diet (chock full of wheat...my mom was a homemade bread artist!) and never had issues with it until I hit 40 then everything went wacko. My youngest (10) has wheat issues too, my older kids (18 & 16) are both skinny, he is "squishy" they all eat the same foods but his body just doesn't tolerate much wheat or he puffs up.
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