Dinner Diva: The paleo diet and your kids
I feel so amazing since transitioning to a paleolithic way of eating. I feel even better than I did when I was a teenager. Honestly, I wish I knew more about about the benefits of avoiding grains, dairy, gluten and legumes back when my kids were little!
Let me back up for a minute here in case some of y’all are new to the term “paleo.”
The paleo diet is a manner of eating that mimics the way our ancestors would have eaten in the Paleolithic age. When we adopt a paleo lifestyle, we eat only the types of foods our predecessors would have been able to gather themselves, like fish, meat, eggs, berries, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Research suggests that our hunter/gatherer ancestors were stronger and leaner than we are, and they didn’t suffer from cancer, diabetes and other illnesses that are so common today. So, it only makes sense that following a similar diet would help us to achieve greater health, too.
Notice I use the word “similar.” While I credit the paleo diet with a lot of positive change in my life, we aren’t living in the Paleolithic age anymore so in my mind, it’s more about adapting things to fit into a more paleo lifestyle. In other words, the advent of agriculture isn’t the root of all evil, so I temper that a little, especially with kids.
I think it’s more realistic and less extreme and removes the guilt from those attempting a paleo lifestyle. In other words, you don’t have to be perfect! Many people out there are trying to eat better so they can live longer and better for their children, which is all fine and good. But quite a few of these folks are resistant to the thought of 100% transitioning themselves (and their children) over to a more paleo way of life.
This is because our kids are used to eating those typical “kid” foods which, honestly, should be referred to as “food-like” products than actual food. A typical kid’s lunch today consists of a hotdog, some neon orange mac and cheese, a few goldfish crackers and a fruit roll up. Not very healthy, but it’s not that difficult to make some swaps.
•Instead of the traditional hot dog, shop for wieners without any nitrates/nitrites in them. Try Applegate Farms and Boar’s Head brands.
•Rather than the scary artificially colored mac and cheese, buy Annie’s brand mac and cheese. Kids like it and it’s healthier. (That familiar bright orange brand we all know has actually been banned in the UK because it contains proven carcinogenic colorings!)
•Try making a healthy and delicious substitution for the crackers and fruit roll ups. Whip up a batch of gorp. “Good Old Raisins and Peanuts” that is! Try your own combinations of nuts, fruits and salty things. I like using dried cherries, carob chips, sesame sticks and nuts (almonds or walnuts; peanuts are a legume!).
What’s the point of eating better so you can keep up with your kids if you’re feeding them with foods that aren’t good for them?
I know that it’s a lot easier said than done to change the way your kids eat. And that’s why I think the earlier you can get your kids onto a paleo path, the better.
When children are very young, they’re just starting to form their food associations and their eating habits. If you nourish them with fresh produce, fruits, nuts and lean meats, they will grow up knowing how good those foods make them feel. And on the other side of the equation, they’ll also learn quickly how eating non-paleo foods makes them feel like crap.
So how do you go about changing those habits?
I would prioritize avoiding gluten-containing grains (did you know gluten can impact learning disorders?). We need less omega 6s and omega 9s while adding more omega 3 fatty acid foods like nuts, seeds and fatty fish (salmon rocks!).
Kids need more carbs than we do, but instead of feeding them plain old white potatoes, use sweet potatoes or purple potatoes too. They’re not only more nutrient dense, but they’re also more fun!
Milk is a touchy subject so use your own judgment. Fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheese aged over 120 days are preferable over milk and would work if you’re hesitant about giving up all dairy.
Here are some tips to consider:
• Try to stick to a part-time paleo diet at home
• Don’t make a big announcement to your kids. Just start serving up your new healthier dishes and wait to see if they notice.
• Don’t bring unhealthy foods into your home. If there are no crackers or cookies in the fridge, your kids can’t eat them.
• Get them involved in the grocery shopping so they can select which foods they’d like to try. Plus it’s a life skill to know how to shop!
• Get their help in the kitchen so they’re involved in the food preparation process: hands on nutrition! They’ll eat what they make, great trick!
• If your child goes to a school with a mandatory lunch program, sign up for a gluten-free option if one is available.
• Don’t worry too much about kids getting into junk food when at a friend’s house for a birthday party or a sleepover. Kids have to be kids! They’ll figure it out as they get older which way they want to go, trust me on this; it worked for me!
More from Dinner Diva Leanne Ely at www.SavingDinner.com.