It seems like an elusive concept. Kids eating veggies, meat, and healthy fats and enjoying it? Aren’t kids supposed to eat kid food? According to our media, kids will only eat foods that taste insanely sweet, salty, or comes neatly packaged in bright colored superhero boxes. I challenge you to consider this: Who made this rule and why are we supposed to follow it? Something is wrong here, really really wrong. Think back not so long ago to Little House on the Praire days. Could you imagine Laure Ingalls refusing to eat her home cooked meal and her Ma giving in and making her a “special” kid dinner? Holy cow, no way in Prairie heck would Ma have done that. So, why do we?
I used to feed my kids special kid food, that’s for darn sure and I did it because I fell into a routine of giving my kids “kid” food thinking that it was the only way I would be able to get them to eat at all. It became easy, convenient, and my kids would eat a lot of that “kid” food without any argument. Another falisy we seem to have adopted; children for some reason need to eat three gigantic meals a day in order to be healthy. Again, we are have missed the mark. Kids have an innate ability that if not tampered with, will allow them to eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full. Often for active kiddos a day of eating will look more like grazing rather than sitting and wolfing down gigantic portions of foods. Think about how small a toddlers tummy is and how much food it actually takes to fill it up and relax a bit if your little ones are not wolfing down adult sized portions at every meal.
Let’s think a bit more about kiddos. Are their taste buds different than a grown-ups? Sure, of course they have a more sensitive palate, especially the younger ones who are developing faster than the speed of light and kids are different every single day. Feeding kids healthy paleo foods does not mean expecting your little ones to love kale and collards or to hear them beg for more asparagus; it’s about offering them healthy choices and revelling in the fact that kids will eat real food when that is what you have to offer!!
Remember when you first started eating paleo? You really craved those carbs, you cried for your daily doses of sugar, you probably, if like me, hated everyone in your family for at least a week because they were an easy target as you longed for your nightly bowl(s) of banana nut clusters. But what happened next? You started to feel better. The cravings went away. You realized that you loved how real food tasted and you started looking forward to your paleo meals and stopped wanting to die for your old food.
Kids are the same exact way, I promise. We just have to give them a chance. There are ways to make the transition less traumatic or not traumatic at all for that matter, and I have an entire section in my book dedicated to helping parents be successful in getting the kids on board the paleo train, and I will talk about the most important step here.
Get your kids in the kitchen!!! All kids can help, even little babies can stir, drop in veggies, and add spices. Older kids can cook, pick out ingredients, and even meal plan. Getting rid of all the junk food is paramount in your success. If you keep a stash of pop-tarts or apple cinnamon oatmeal, you WILL GIVE IN when you are rushed, busy, stressed and faced with a whining child. If you do not have the kid food as an option, it’s just that, not an option! Serve your healthy meals with a smile and a kiss, sing and dance together in the kitchen, let your kids make a mess, let them choose what they want out of your healthy paleo options, be patient and know that even if your little ones decide to skip a meal out of total revolt, they will not starve. Maintain a positive and cheerful “we can do this attitude” and you will succeed. Focus on what you will do next rather then the fact that the plates lack the pasta! A fun game of soccer in the back yard or tag in the living room should be the focus for all kids – not the lack of hamburger buns – distraction is awesome!!
I realize 100% that this blog post is just the tip of the paleo kids iceberg, and I have written about this concept before but everyone needs a place to start; I know because I have been there. So here’s a list to focus on as you start your paleo kid journey:
1. Rid the house of the junk.
2. Do not make a big deal about the transition to healthier eating and focus on FUN!
3. Get the kids in the kitchen with you.
4. Do not stress out; your kids will eat!
5. Jump up and down for joy when you see them dive into a yummy plate of slow cooked chicken and sweet potatoes – why? See number 6!
6. Rest assured that your child is getting more nutrients and better nutrients by eating paleo than he or she would on a standard American diet and by removing the gut irritating grains, dairy, and legumes, your child is able to better absorb the nutrients that he or she is eating!!
7. Stick with it, you can do this, celebrate your successes, relax and live a little, enjoy your kids and let the messes begin!!
As always, Enjoy!!