You have transitioned to a Paleo style of eating and the benefits are stacking up – you may have lost weight, have more energy, are feeling better and thinking clearer. Now you may be contemplating how to transition your kids to your new way of eating, worried that it might not be as simple.
When beginning to change how your children eat, it is important to remember 3 key points:
- Your children will not starve if you are out of stock of the processed foods they want or are accustomed to eating.
- Kids will eventually eat almost anything you put in front of them if you hold your ground firmly.
- Even though you may think a food is odd or weird (gelatinous bone broth, parts and bits of animals, sardines, fermented foods and the like), your children do not hold the same bias.
It is not necessary to be tyrannical, but important to remember that you are in control of what is on your child’s plate!
I am not a fan of hiding new foods to ensure your kids get the nutrients present in them, but it is good secondary strategy. You should be gently teaching your children about the importance of nutrient dense foods from the time they are old enough to understand. While you are busy training (or re-training) their taste buds, it is still important to get some whole foods into their little bodies. Puree vegetables into spaghetti sauce and soups.
Keeping a few foods omnipresent with each meal is an important strategy to get your little ones to a place where they will finally choose to eat these new foods on their own, without begging, coercion or bribery.
An important factor in their transition is your behaviour around the foods you want them to eat. Watching you choke down some fermented vegetables or listening to you complain about your distaste for organ meats does little to encourage them to sit down and enjoy their serving of it.
If your kids re a little older, the challenge may be a little tougher, but don’t give up. You followed this path for a reason, food is medicine and the benefits of nutrient density far outweigh the effort it may take to get accustomed to this new nutrition path. I firmly believe this!
A few of my strategies to get kids eating Paleo like champs include:
- Slow and Steady.
Begin with one food at a time and let them adjust and become accustomed to it as their ‘normal’. During this stage, focus on ‘good enough’ rather than trying to get them to be ‘perfectly Paleo’. Gluten-free options for standard favorite foods (think rice tortillas instead of wheat or corn options as an example) work well, along with gradually reducing the frequency of these foods in their weekly meal plan. When introducing a new or foreign food (think bone broth or an oily fish), add it to a favourite meal without making a fuss or drawing attention to your addition or swap. When the addition/omission becomes the status quo, move onto your next dietary goal.
- Resist Replenishing.
When you run out of something, there is no need to buy it again if it does not fit within your protocol. If possible, avoid taking your children with you to the store if that is potentially problematic for you during this time. When they ask for something, you can tell your kids you ran out and offer an alternative. Initially they may not like it (change is tough for everyone), but they will adjust.
- Sit Firm.
If you are ready to transition your children and have made the decision that the food they are currently eating on a regular basis does not promote their optimal well-being, say no, and stick to it! There are many parenting scenarios that involve non-negotiables (like running into the street or electronic use), and food can become one of those too. Your kids will probably notice the changes you make and may even rebel or act out in their way. It is okay to hold your ground. Children will not starve themselves and will, given time and persistence, adjust.
- Experiment Without Bias
This works especially well with young children but can be successful with older kids if they are able to see you as an example. Young kids have little to no preconceived notions, bias or peer pressure working against them. Their palates have not yet had too much time to be hijacked and over-stimulated by hyper-palatable processed foods. They will happily try fermented cod liver oil, organ meats, bone marrow and other ‘weird’ foods as long as you present them as ‘normal’ and just part of a meal. When older kids see you enjoying these items, they may be more likely to at least give them a try.
- Stock Good Snacks.
This may sound obvious, but kids will eat more often than not eat what they are offered when they are hungry. If you put out a bowl of pretzels they will eat them. Alternately, offering some fruit and vegetables (or other more adventurous options) will allow them to eat nutritious foods to satisfy their hunger (and retrain their palates simultaneously).
- Empower Your Kids.
While standing your ground is important, empowering your kids to make their own choices within your guidelines allows them to feel more in control of the changes you are making. When making a salad or a meal that requires toppings, dips or Paleo friendly condiments, serve the vegetable and protein options separately, allowing your kids to create their own plates. Ask for their input when planning out meals and include some options that they like and enjoy.
7. Participation and Involvement.
No matter the age, get your kids into the kitchen and participating in the creation of their meal masterpiece. This is pivotal in teaching them the joy of creating the food to nourish their bodies. Whether it be something as simple and age appropriate as breaking the broccoli into florets, helping to mix and stir, becoming the ‘official’ taters or more advanced activities like chopping or cooking, the sense of pride created when your kids are involved in the preparation of food not only teaches them about how their food became a meal on their plate, but makes them more likely to want to eat it as they helped make it!
Transitioning your kids is neither luck nor chance. It comes down to persistence and patience. The change does not need to happen on a set time schedule, but, once you commit and start, it may go a lot quicker than you expect. As they begin to feel better and you notice the changes, it becomes easier and you have more motivation to continue and stick with it. Before you know it they can be sipping bone broth and adding sauerkraut to their lettuce wraps!
Will your kids still ask for (or beg and whine) for specific foods, especially treats? Probably. This, however, will give you the opportunity to reframe their concept of a treat to some fruit or kombucha, some bacon dipped in guacamole or even a Paleo ‘treat’ or baked good (which they can help make of course!). This is okay, and part of their process. Take your time, watch the changes and enjoy the journey.
Michal Ofer is a wellness and digestion expert and nutrition coach. She is focused on assisting clients to take control of their health and happiness through the sustainable food and lifestyle choices that best support them. Through strengthening the body from the inside out, her clients are able to reach new heights of health, happiness and wellness. Michal obtained her Professional Training and Certificate from The Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York. She has a further studied through the University of Colorado (Boulder) and Stanford University and is a Certified 21 Day Sugar Detox Coach. Michal has also received a Bachelor’s Degree in Life Sciences and a Master Life Coach Certification. For further information and to connect with Michal visit her website at www.michalofer.com