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.