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Baby, You Can Feed It to Me Raw!

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Raw food diets are an emerging trend. But what are they? And are they safe for your child?

kid hating vegetables

Imagine feeding your kid nothing but uncooked vegetables, sprouts, beans, and seaweed. Sound odd? Well, more and more parents are shunning cooked foods for those in their natural state. But is this a harmless trend or are parents who ascribe to this diet harming their children's health?

"Strict raw diets are unhealthy and are a form of extreme parenting," says Stuart Ditchek, M.D., author of "Healthy Child, Whole Child." "Eating solely raw food robs your kid of protein, calcium and other nutrients essential for his growing development."

Why eat only raw foods? Here's the basic premise: Some parents feel that when food is cooked above 118 degrees F for three minutes or more, the heat breaks down the food's protein and natural fibers, diminishing 50% of its minerals and enzymes (which aid digestion), draining kids of the energy they need to maintain their tissues and organs. So by eating only unprocessed and uncooked foods, they feel food is digested in its most natural state.

The problem with this diet is two-fold: According to Ditchek, there is no real scientific evidence to support these claims. And by restricting children's diets to simply fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, kids wont get the nutrients they need for strong bones and healthy immune systems. What's more, there's a greater risk of salmonella poisoning when eating raw foods.

Another hassle: "It's hard enough to get kids to eat the four basic food groups, much less a diet composed mostly of vegetables," says Ditchek. "And for picky eaters or kids in a food rut, this type of diet is almost impossible to maintain."

And consider the extensive and oftentimes unrealistic time and effort parents put forth to prepare raw food. Think about it: Gone are quick snacks on the road, nuking leftovers in the microwave, even Campbell's soup, since canned food is usually processed and heated to very high degrees to eliminate bacteria.

"Kids who only eat raw also have to supplement their diet with vitamins to ensure they're getting proper nutrition," says Ditchek. "Taking vitamins is certainly not a bad thing, but it's much healthier to get your daily intake from real food."

And for parents concerned about childhood obesity, know this: "A major pitfall of this diet is that by the time kids are old enough to make their own food choices, they may tire of only eating raw, and rebel by binging on junk food at school," warns Ditchek.

While it's certainly beneficial for children to eat raw foods, Ditcheck says parents need to find a common ground between eating raw and eating healthy. "Just like anything else, a child's diet should be balanced and eaten in moderation," he says. "There is room for celery sticks and chocolate chip cookies with no harmful effects to a child's health."

Do you agree?


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13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Shannon February 23, 2009, 4:19 PM

I think this can be unsafe. It was possibly brought upon by generalizing the idea that raw foods are nutritious. Most are but some are also better cooked. Subjecting tomatoes to heat brings out it’s lycopene content. Any possible salmonella in fish would be eliminated by cooking. Perhaps in the olden times this would be more advisable when chances for food contamination were lower. I’m sure there is also a recommended list somewhere what foods are better eaten raw or cooked.

Uly February 23, 2009, 9:30 PM

Can your source saying raw diets are *bad* show some evidence to support that statement?

Rachel February 24, 2009, 3:18 AM

Everything in moderation…anything that preaches “ONLY EAT THIS” or “DON’T EVER EAT ANY OF THIS” is unhealthy. Whatever happened to people’s common sense?!

Anonymous February 24, 2009, 1:20 PM

You can get plenty of protein, calcium and vitamins and minerals in leafy green vegetables. I make a raw smoothie for my kids every morning….dark leafy greens(spinach, kale, collards, baby greens with bannans, strawberries, blueberries, pears, almonds and dates) They drink this before they have cereal or toast. I know they are getting their vegetables and fruits and protein from the almonds. I am not an extreme raw food person, but do feel better knowing they are getting a nutrient dense drink every morning with the things they need for their body to grow.

Sarah February 24, 2009, 1:21 PM

You can get plenty of protein, calcium and vitamins and minerals in leafy green vegetables. I make a raw smoothie for my kids every morning….dark leafy greens(spinach, kale, collards, baby greens with bannans, strawberries, blueberries, pears, almonds and dates) They drink this before they have cereal or toast. I know they are getting their vegetables and fruits and protein from the almonds. I am not an extreme raw food person, but do feel better knowing they are getting a nutrient dense drink every morning with the things they need for their body to grow.

Donna Pilato February 24, 2009, 4:18 PM

I feel that extreme parenting can ultimately backfire. Children’s palates are not developed enough to appreciate whole food solely in its natural state. And once they go to a friend’s home, they enter the dark side where they may binge on the “bad” stuff. I think it’s better to let them have cooked food along with the raw food, so they can learn to appreciate both, and not go crazy when they finally meet the cooked and flavored variety of food.

Laurie Wheeler February 24, 2009, 5:36 PM

This article is quite faulty.

First of all there is scientific evidence rather easily measured in a lab that food cooked over 120degrees F robs food of essential ENZYMES, and minerals (as well as vitamins).

If a child has been breastfed for only a few weeks in the earliest stage of infancy it is far less likely to have the disadvantage of getting E-coli or other bacterial infections of the intestinal tract.

Leafy greens, and plants in the cabbage family are full of calcium. Proteins can be found in legumes and (if one is not allergic to it) soy products.


Any extreme diet is unwise. I would rather see children on a raw diet than on a McDonalds filled diet (and that is far more common)…

I am afraid the good doctor has fallen prey to the issue that food is cultural. In the Western European culture raw foods are seen as extreme.

Children follow a parents example in eating habits, for good or for ill.

Not all raw foodists are 100% raw, some merely incorporate the raw food into an already healthy diet.

At least it’s not full of petrochemical based preservatives, added corn syrup, and other additives that are frankly a quick way to weight problems, and far worse issues.

It really bothers me that MD’s will come out like this and make blanket statements. I’ve known parents who had their children taken away because of their choice to feed them on a raw diet. The children were healthy, developing normally…but because it was outside the cultural norm it was considered wrong (they have the kids back)…but you can walk into any store and see children who are so overweight at 8 or 9 years old that you wonder what their hearts look like?! But their parents are just told to stop giving them candy.

Candy is the least of our problems when we have toxic processed food in every grocery store aisle.

And for the record, I’m not a raw foodist, but I incorporated some of the raw food principles into my diet, because OF the science behind it.


The Meanest Mom February 27, 2009, 5:46 AM

its unsafe, who knows the carrot could have been already dirty before it was cooked. And secondly, some raw foods are hard for a child’s tooth so it needs to be cooked. Studies say cooked food is healthier than raw ones. So if you love your child very much, don’t go for the raw foods.

nipsy June 15, 2009, 1:37 PM

So its unhealthy to eat fruits now? Because I sure as heck don’t go around cooking my childs grapes or apples. Get real. I’m not saying 100% raw is the way to go, but neither is cutting out raw foods. My kids love to snack on finger size peppers and carrots. I simply wash them beforehand. I only steam my vegetables to try and keep in the good stuff. I don’t use campbells or other canned soups as the main ingredient in those is salt.

Hqgqrdpx June 29, 2009, 3:13 AM

XAG17x comment2 ,

Michelle Ward September 26, 2009, 11:53 PM

My children eat raw apples and hemp seeds for breakfast: Full of vitamin C and complete protein for the day. For lunch they have an avocado/cucumber sandwich on sprouted bread: Healthy fat/protein and vitamins here, snacks they will have a green smoothie, full of vitamins, and minerals, dinner they have broccoli with hummus, again full of vitamins and minerals. The only thing a vegan/raw food parent has to watch out for is a vitamin b12 deficiency. All other vitamins and minerals are available in their natural healthy state from raw vegan foods.

It has been proven by the Hippocrates center in FL - who have healed thousands of people with stage 4 cancers and catastrophic diseases with a complete raw food diet, that synthetic vitamins split cells in half which is the exact same thing that cancer does, and these are in all of our children’s cereals. They have a living B12 vitamin that does not do this.

Mother of two beautiful extremely healthy and intelligent children who eat mostly raw foods…not to mention I cured my daughters extremely bad asthma from giving her mostly raw foods.

anon January 22, 2010, 11:29 AM

I googled Dr. Ditcheck and on HIS OWN WEBSITE writes
“You’re doing your kids a favor if your grocery cart is full of fruits and vegetables every week. A diet based mostly on foods from plants is good for them now and in the future. While many folks supplement with meat and other animal products as well, some find a vegetarian diet better suited to their tastes, health goals, finances, environmental concerns or ethical or religious beliefs.
Children can thrive on a vegetarian diet.”
This article is misleading. I obviously can’t come to this site for factual info..

shakeology January 1, 2011, 1:33 PM

He who comes first, eats first. [Familiar as: First come first served.]


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