Can Too Much Health Food Be Bad?

The dangers of being overly restrictive with your child's diet.

Introduction

Too Much of a Good Thing

Dinner has just ended in Thousand Oaks, CA, and Bruce Pendleberry is giving kids Chad, 11, and Monique, 9, dessert -- a cookie he deems acceptable. "It's made with rice flour," he says proudly.

Pendleberry, like many parents, is concerned about what his kids eat. But unlike most, he's banned junk food from their lives as much as possible. They eat tofu dogs with sprouted-wheat buns, organic veggies, and free-range meat. In a society where Happy Meals are a staple for many kids, the Pendleberry children rarely go to fast food eateries -- their introduction to them was courtesy of a playmate's parent. They got sick afterward, says Pendleberry with a smile.

Meanwhile, Erica and Scott Hirsch of New York City have a lengthy history of eating a vegan diet free of all animal products. Along with their children Zoe, 5, and Zachary, 3, these days the family eats mostly vegetarian (they have some fish and dairy, though rarely).

"They're not big animal-product eaters," Erica Hirsch says of her kids. "If they had to choose soy milk or regular milk, they'd pick soy."

Even though their diets are very different, these two families have one thing in common: They're trying to feed their children the healthiest food possible. With diet-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes on the rise and the epidemic of childhood obesity being attributed at least partially to what we feed our kids, most people believe that American children are eating far too much junk food. Yet, can families like the Pendleberrys and the Hirsches also go too far?

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