Paleo Series Part II: Paleo for the Whole Family

This is the second installment of a four-part series on the popular Paleo way of eating and lifestyle from a mama’s perspective. You can find Part I here. Although Kate is not a medical professional or nutritionist, she’ll share her thoughts and experiences of implementing Paleo in her household. 

Paleo: a simple, whole foods way of eating that focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, and fats. It is also a lifestyle that places importance upon restful sleep, functional movement exercise, and interacting with and enjoying the outdoors.

Kale/Spinach Smoothie: A regular in our household

WARNING: Reading the following might result in improved health, more energy, and a desire to swing from a tree branch. Oh, and your kids will benefit as well! 

This morning my husband, my mother-in-law, daughter, and I shared a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, sautéed fresh squash from the farmer’s market, and cups of coffee for the adults (no cream/sugar.) Vivi wasn’t crazy about the squash, but tasted it several times, examined the texture, and eventually decided to enjoy her eggs without. She still seemed hungry, so I quickly blended up some raw kale, frozen fruit, coconut milk, and water. She gulped down three small cups.

This meal, while simple enough, met the complex and diverse needs of all of us. The low-glycemic index of the squash and eggs satisfied my diabetic mother-in-law. My husband, who seems to be always trying to slim down and get a six-pack (I support ya, sweetie!), appreciated the low-carb aspect of the meal, but felt satiated by the coconut oil used to cook the squash. And my daughter? Well at 16 months, a meal like this is normal, tasty, and unbeknownst to her, nutritious. When we eat Paleo as a family, every meal is a home run: nutritious, tasty, and satisfying.

Paleo is a total change of lifestyle and can be tough enough for adults. So often, there might be one person in a family eating Paleo, while the rest stick to what’s familiar. I want to assure you that it doesn’t have to be this way! But inevitably, there are usually two questions floating around when you mix Paleo and kiddos:

  • What does Paleo eating look like for babies, toddlers, and older children?

Paleo eating for kids is pretty simple: if you’re eating Paleo, they can eat all the same things as you. No more cooking two meals and loading the shopping cart up with “kid-friendly” options!

Babies and toddlers will naturally gravitate toward a more veggies/fruit/fat based version and less meat. My daughter will often refuse meat for a week at a time, while devouring everything else. Paleo and baby-led weaning naturally go hand in hand: think soft pieces of fruit and vegetables, egg yolks, homemade broths, and slow-cooked meats that are easy to chew for the baby who is at least 6 months old. Don’t forget the breastmilk…your cavewoman ancestors would be proud!

Independent toddlers will relish the opportunity to eat what their parents do, rather than something else that looks and tastes totally different. Having options to choose from will allow these headstrong babes to feel in control.

Older children might be a bit more difficult to get on board if they haven’t eaten this way previously. The best thing you can do is to only keep nutritious options in your home, make Paleo meals, and don’t worry about the rest. Kids are so resilient and adaptable: give them the chance to make healthy choices, and I think you will be surprised.

  • And is Paleo eating even healthy for kids? 

Immediate answer: YES! Do you know anyone who has ever become obese/sick/diseased while eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, and high-quality meats, eggs, fats, and fish? Children thrive on this type of diet, and you may have seen something similar prescribed for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder, the GAPS diet.  The Paleo way of eating provides such a varied, nutrient-rich diet that allows a parent to relax about food choices. No need to worry if your little one is getting enough of one nutrient or another because, most likely, they are getting them all and in ample quantities.

However, there are two big issues that concern many parents: no grains and no dairy. Aren’t kids supposed to have both for the fiber and nutrients (grains) and the calcium and vitamin D (dairy)?

The short answer is this: kids will get all of the above nutrients from a Paleo diet. Vegetables and fruit provide ample fiber (yay poop!), leafy greens and nuts take care of calcium, and vitamin D can be sourced naturally from a short play session outside (step away from the Wii, my friends.) Instead of cow’s milk, my daughter drinks plenty of water, kale/spinach shakes, and an occasional cup of straight coconut milk. I’m pretty positive (at least 99% sure) that she is not only meeting the government’s snazzy RDA (recommended daily amount) of nutrients, but blowing those old-school recommendations out of the water. But if you want scientific charts, medical studies, etc., and not the word of some random mama on the internet, you can’t do wrong with reading a little Robb Wolf.

Kids on a Paleo diet are healthy, happy, don’t experience sugar-induced mood swings, and will typically sleep pretty soundly. If the warm and fuzzy image of your kids growing lean and strong on whole, nutrient-dense foods and plenty of play outside has you clamoring for more info, take a gander at these oh-so-helpful resources:

Books

  • Family-friendly recipes, “games” (OK, exercises) for the whole family, and great information: Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso
  • Looking for the science behind all this? (I’m with ya, sister…or brother.) Then look no further than biochemist, research nerd Robb Wolf’s book The Paleo Solution

Blogroll

Who doesn’t love a good blog? (Ahem, TOBB.) Feast your eyes on these great internet writers:

And please, by all means, shoot your questions my way, and I’ll do my best to either answer them or point you in the right direction. Now go whip up a spinach smoothie, and get with it!

When Kate is not sharing a coconut-kale smoothie with her little one or planning/throwing together a Paleo meal, she enjoys writing about women’s issues, endlessly (virtually) redesigning her place a la Pinterest, and chatting with friends over coffee. 

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15 thoughts on “Paleo Series Part II: Paleo for the Whole Family”

  1. I’d never heard of Paleo before this post, but my family already primarily eats this way. It’s really interesting to find out there’s an entire diet/movement around it! Thanks for this information!

    1. Hey Jet,

      That’s awesome that “Paleo” eating is such a way of life in your family, that you didn’t even know it had a name. I suspect there are more people out there that don’t necessarily follow the movement, but know that they feel better on a diet that is primarily veggies/fruits, meats, and healthy fats. Kudos to your family!

      Be sure to check out Parts Three and Four of the series for recipes and a Q&A. Thanks for reading!

      Kate

      1. I look forward to reading Parts Three and Four (I’ve already gone back and read Part One)! Thanks again for the knowledge and references 🙂 We’re going to stock up at our local Farmer’s Market tomorrow and I look forward to trying your recipes!

  2. Great article! I would love to see the basic recipe for your special smoothie! Always looking for things to try to make for my 2 year old daughter.

    1. Thanks Gina!

      The infamous, kid-friendly smoothie recipe will be in Part Three of the series. Make sure to check back next week for more family friendly recipes.

      All the best,
      Kate

  3. Great post! WIsh I would have had this kind of info years ago. My 11 yr old has been diagnosed with arthritis recently and the doctor’s first choice for treatment is some really nasty meds. After weeks of research we’ve decided to go Paleo instead. My family is still in the early phase of being confused and mourning what we can’t have anymore but I refuse to give up. I want my son to walk back in that doctor’s office inflammation free. Thanks for this post, every bit of encouragement and information helps.
    Michelle

    1. Michelle,

      I totally understand the mourning period. When I discovered my soy intolerance (and gosh darn it, it’s in everything!), I was really angry. Why can’t I eat the foods I love? But the healthier I ate, the more I realized how crummy I felt on my old diet. It took a health scare to change my mind.

      Start slow on the new Paleo diet and eventually shoot for eating Paleo 80% of the time. If you slip up don’t beat yourself up about it. Your son will feel so much better, but make sure to give it time. I strongly suggest reading Robb Wolf’s book because he covers inflammation and specific routes to take when treating it. Get your son on a high-quality fish oil if he isn’t already taking some.

      Will you keep me updated on your son’s health progress and your family’s Paleo journey? If you need more specific resources or guidance, please feel free to email me.

      All the best,
      Kate

  4. I am eating 100% paleo but for my 5 kids (6,8,10,12 & 15) & husband it is a very slow adjustment! You are fortunate to have started this with a little one. Old habits die hard but that’s all they are, habits, which hopefully will change into a new lifestyle!

    1. Wow, that’s impressive that you’re doing 100% in a household of naysayers. Kudos to you! I agree, it is very difficult to get a family on board, especially if it is a drastic change for them.

      There are some really great resources out there for kids. A book come to mind: “Eat Like a Dinosaur” by Paleo Parents. Sarah Fragoso wrote a children’s book called “Paleo Pals,” but I haven’t read it yet, so can’t really comment on it. Might be worth checking out. Take the younger ones to the farmer’s market or grocery store and make a game out of finding the most unusual vegetable. Then take it home and have them help you cook it as part of a Paleo meal.

      Are you older kids and husband competitive at all? Challenge them to a 30 day Paleo experiment. Make a calendar, pick out recipes, and compete as a family to see who can go the longest. Watch the Crossfit Games online at ESPN3 to see normal, but incredibly fit people, who also happen to (mostly) eat Paleo, compete. Watching the games always inspires my husband and I to eat better!

      And finally, remember who is in charge. If you don’t buy non-Paleo food, they can’t eat it. If they choose to eat it at a friend’s house or buy it with their own money, that’s a different story.

      Please keep me updated on your family’s progress and keep it up…..it’s totally worth it!

      Take care,
      Kate

  5. started paleo several months ago and boom lost 12 lbs now i am stuck and cannot loose anymore 😦 I got frustrated and kept eating the same things) so i am looking for more receipes. I dont do dairy either..no grain or breads, pasta etc. some paleo ppl do dairy and breads.. any suggestions?

    1. Hi Jamie,

      First things first, congrats on the weight loss! It’s very common to plateau after your body adjusts to the new way of eating. There are some things you can do to fine tune. Make sure your portions are reasonable as it’s easy to OD on foods like nuts and fruit. Being tired and stressed can also make it difficult to lose weight from the increase in cortisol, the stress hormone. Your room should be pitch black at night (use blackout curtains) with no light from technology. Alarm clocks are a big offender.

      As for recipes, there are so many great websites out there! If you’ll hang in there another week, I’m writing an entire post devoted to recipes and resources. Hopefully it’ll spur your creative Paleo side.

      And as an aside: if people you know are eating grains and dairy, they are not eating Paleo. Sorry peeps, but you can’t eat Neolithic foods and call it Paleolithic….we’re talking two totally different eras.

      Now, on the other hand, it is perfectly reasonable to have an off meal or two a week. It can be really tough to do 100% Paleo. But I digress.

      Thanks for sharing Jamie, and I look forward to hearing more about your progress! Don’t forget to check back in next Thursday for the latest installment.

      Take care!
      Kate

    1. Hi Rossana!

      To be honest with you, I have a very run of the mill KitchenAid blender. I’ve had it for about 6 years now, and it still works great. I’m still pining away for a Vitamix though. Maybe someday!

      And if anyone else has a good blender/juicer suggestion, please comment below.

      All the best,
      Kate

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