I was inspired to write this article after reading a recent comment posted to one of my blog entries entitled, Paleo Kids.
The comment reads:
“Hi, We have been on the Paleo diet for 3 weeks now (love your book Sarah!)
Our kids (ages 3 and 5) are Ok eating Paleo at home but when we are with other people they see what everyone else has (the bread, chocolate biscuits etc) and constantly say ‘I want that, why can’t I have that, it’s not fair!’.
We have even left places early due to our daughter’s tantrums because she can’t have what the other kids have. HELP!! We don’t know what to do!
I’m very close to giving in and taking them off the diet because I feel guilty that they think they’re missing out!”
I wanted to write my response as a blog post because I feel like this is an important topic and one that needs to be addressed.
To begin, I must ask; should a paleolithic approach to eating ever be all or nothing? My response would be wholeheartedly no way! If someone told me I could never again enjoy a glass of my favorite cab, a piece of dark chocolate, or a plate of nachos, they would have hell to pay. But at the same time, I would never want to go back to how I used to eat simply because I choose to sometimes hop off the paleo wagon. It’s not worth my physical and mental health to throw in the towel due to a few meals of indulgence now and then. Read this post for more on that subject. With that in mind, I encourage folks to approach transitioning and feeding our kids paleo with the same realistic expectations that we have for ourselves, but at a kid level.
First, I am so proud, ecstatic, and happy that the reader was successful at making the transition to paleo at home in only 3 short weeks! This is a huge accomplishment and often a daunting task that some parents choose to never take on. You are feeding your kids as healthy as possible and that is huge. As far as the readers concern in which she states,
“Our kids (ages 3 and 5) are Ok eating Paleo at home but when we are with other people they see what everyone else has (the bread, chocolate biscuits etc) and constantly say ‘I want that, why can’t I have that, it’s not fair!’ We have even left places early due to our daughter’s tantrums because she can’t have what the other kids have. HELP!! We don’t know what to do! I’m very close to giving in and taking them off the diet because I feel guilty that they think they’re missing out!“
I completely understand the dilemma, Paleo mom and kiddos leave for the day and are faced with unhealthy food options. What should you do? First and foremost, take it all in stride. I know it’s hard, especially when you have been working so hard to promote healthy eating habits at home, to watch your kids go for the garbage when it’s offered to them. Instead of making a big deal about their choices and going over board with your own reaction, I suggest not putting emphasis on the fact that they want the junk but instead put your focus towards open and honest communication and preparedness.
For example, if you are going to a party where you know there will be junk, bring an alternative like gluten free cookies such as my Nutty Cookies, or other paleo friendly snacks to share. Let your kids know simply and light-heartedly that they will have “fun” healthy options and then try not to worry about what might happen next. While in a social setting and your child eats something that isn’t paleo try not to freak out. You will be amazed at what might happen next week, next month, or maybe even next year in the same type of social situation. As children continue to eat a healthy paleo diet, they begin to notice, just like you do, that they might not feel so great when they eat junk food.
What I have noticed with my own kids as time goes on, is astounding. Now that our family has been eating paleo for well over 3 years, I witness my children making better and better food options outside of our home simply because they WANT to and not because they are told or asked to. As a family we have discussed what gluten and other grains do to our bodies and how it hinders nutrient absorption (but in kid terms) and how eating lots of veggies, fruits, and protein helps them to be healthier and not get sick as often. It’s not a daily discussion but in the early phases of transitioning my kiddos, we simply talked about it and explained our decision making. I want my children to have the information they need in order to have the ability and confidence to make the best decicisions that they can for their own bodies; be it food related or anything else that they are faced with as they are growing, learning, and developing, in the real world.
Furthermore, as you transition your kids to a paleo way of eating at home, celebrate your successes, keep focused on the fact that your are doing the best you can in the world that we live in, stay positive and confident that your kids will eventually figure out whats best for them when faced with making decisions that affect their health; whether that might be food related or not. Trust me, when I drop my 15 year old son at the insane asylum we call high school, the last thing I am worried about is what he’ll pick to eat for lunch that day.
When out and about with the kiddos, place emphasis on how great your kids are when in social settings rather then what they put into their mouths. Be honest when discussing why you want them to eat healthy and I promise that you will be amazed by what children will understand. The last thing we want to do is make our kids neurotic about food but rather educate them about food, what it’s meant to do for our bodies, and guide them by setting an example of making healthy food choices in and outside of the home. The rest will fall into place, I promise. Enjoy the little moments together and be proud of your accomplishments!
And as always, Enjoy!