Nutrition for children is such an important topic and one that is not talked about nearly enough. There are so many mixed messages as to what children should be eating, from the TV commercials to what is fed in school cafeterias. It’s no wonder the messaging gets confusing.
The Problem With The Way Children Eat
If you follow a Paleo lifestyle, you are well aware that those cereal commercials, or the milk ads claiming to help start your child’s day off on the right foot and support growth are the same products that are often packed full of sugar and artificial ingredients.
The average children’s cereal contains approximately 2 ½ teaspoons of added sugar. This means that the average child who consumes sugary cereal each day would consume approximately 1,000 teaspoons of sugar in one year! That is just the cereal. This does not take into account the other sources of sugar found throughout the day such as packaged snacks, processed foods offered at school, and dessert.
This topic can be controversial as some people feel children should experience sugary foods as part of their childhood. Unfortunately, these foods are highly addictive, contain toxic ingredients and can certainly lead to blood sugar imbalances, sleep disturbances, decreased performance in school, and in some cases can even lead to obesity.
While our culture is so accustomed to purchasing packaged snack options, sugary beverages, and takeout food, there are so many healthier options one could be feeding children.
Check out Pete’s Paleo weekly meals for home-delivery options that are nutritious and delicious, with no apron required!
You would be surprised at how adaptable little one’s palates are and how quickly they may prefer the real food option over the processed bag of chips.
A few things to consider:
- A child will not starve if you are out of stock of the junk they want
- Children will eventually eat whatever you put in front of them if you hold your ground long/firmly enough
- Children are unbiased when it comes to foods YOU may think are “weird” (like organ meat or fermented food)
The Paleo Diet for Children
What makes the Paleo approach for children such a great way to feed little humans for optimal health?
A Paleo style diet is one that removes inflammatory foods and focuses on the foods that man evolved to eat, an ancestral diet. It eliminates processed and artificial foods and keeps sugar, gluten, and dairy out of the eating plan. What you are left with is an incredibly nutrient dense diet to support your child’s overall health.
The Benefits of Paleo for Children
Fat & Iron
Children of all ages need nutrient dense foods to grow. They also need fat and iron for proper brain development. Fat is also needed to help build nerve tissue and for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins. Iron is necessary for body functioning. Most packaged ‘kid’ foods are not rich in iron or fat (although some may occasionally be artificially added). A Paleo approach encourages the intake of healthy fats as well as high-quality protein to support optimal brain and body development in children.
Low in Gut Irritating Foods
The processed and packaged foods that are made available to children today are recipes for gut health disaster. The high sugar foods can lead to gut health imbalances, not to mention sugar addictions. A Paleo style diet eliminates many of the gut irritating foods (grains, gluten, dairy, sugar) which means your child is more likely to have an optimal functioning digestive system. This is incredibly important because gut health is at the center of overall health. True health is difficult to attain and maintain without having gut health in check.
Grain & Gluten Free
While being grain and gluten free does not automatically make a diet low in carbohydrates, it does eliminate things like processed and refined carbohydrates that are linked to obesity and diabetes. The CDC states that obesity affects 1 in six children in North America. Diabetes and insulin resistance are also on the rise. With a continued high processed carbohydrate intake, this number will continue to grow. When you choose to adopt a Paleo diet for your children, you encourage the consumption of foods that help to naturally balance blood sugar levels instead of spiking them.
High in Nutritional Value
On top of all of the great healthy fats and quality proteins your child will get on a Paleo diet, there are also many vegetable and fruit options. What better way to ensure you child get the maximum nutrient density from their food?
Transitioning Children To The Paleo Diet
Talk to Your Children About Food
Your young people are still people. They have brains and critical thinking skills. Food can be a tough issue for children because it is one aspect of their life where they feel they have control. You cannot force your children to eat and they can turn the dinner table into a battle field with one eye-roll and a simple plate push.
When you take away certain foods such as pasta, breaded protein products, and sugary treats, you have to expect questions and be prepared to do some explaining.
‘Because I said so’ can come across as insulting and offensive. You can do better. Documentaries and books can be your best friends in this case. Help your children understand why fluffy white bread is no longer gracing your dinner table and offer delicious replacements. I am certainly no parenting expert, but I try not to treat others, both old and young as if they are incapable of understand and accepting change.
Netflix is full of great food documentaries that will get your kids thinking about what they put into their bodies. Fed-Up made a huge impact in my house, as did Food Inc. Podcasts and YouTube channels can help too.
There is so much wonderful media available on the Paleo lifestyle. Take a trip to the bookstore, plug in your smart phone and cue up some awesome radio or just check out a few Netflix documentaries for your next movie night. You are certain to find material that speaks to you and your kids.
I cannot emphasise this enough. Your household will not be a happy one if you clear out the cupboards overnight and suddenly change everything they have sadly come to love. Simply start one meal at a time. There will be set backs along the way, but this will be a long journey and it is best to have everyone on board.
Don’t go too crazy at the start making special meals, this new way of eating has to be sustainable and if you think you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of making waffles each morning, you’ll resent it and give up. Be easy on yourself and your children. As each box of cereal leaves the house, don’t make a fuss, just don’t replace it.
Focus On Healthy And Tasty Alternatives
Instead of the sugary cereal, make some Paleo approved granola with some soaked nuts, grade B maple syrup, and cinnamon with a splash of almond milk. Instead of mac and cheese, make a butternut squash mac and cheese sauce poured over spaghetti squash. For dessert, make a ‘treat’ using coconut oil mixed with some raw unsweetened cocoa powder and almond butter.
Make Dinner Easy
Parents often struggle to find a balance between making a healthy dinner and not having enough time or energy to make something nutritious. A great way to get around this is to use a crockpot to toss in some grass-fed beef, chicken, lamb, or whatever meat your family enjoys Add some bone broth, veggies, herbs, and spices. A crockpot or electric pressure cooker are fabulous time savers and an easy way to pack some healthy nutrition into your family’s diet.
Get Your Children In The Kitchen
Children. Of all ages, even little ones, can stir, drop in veggies, and add spices. Older children can cook, pick out ingredients, and even meal plan.
It is important that they learn how to cook as a child is more likely to eat what she has helped prepare. Through cooking she will also learn how much time and effort goes into food preparation.
No time? Order Pete’s Paleo meals (both large and smaller portions) to continue to feed your child nutritious meals daily. Sit back and enjoy a different seasonal menu, every week! Organic prepared meals delivered fresh to your door. Just reheat and serve
Choose Snacks Wisely
Snacks are where many families have difficulty. This is due to the plethora of poor choices when it comes to kids’ snacks. Always have some unsweetened coconut yogurt or plain coconut cream on hand and combine with some berries and raw honey. Another great snack option is an almond milk-based smoothie with some berries, avocado, and coconut oil. For a more savoury option, cook up some Pete’s Paleo bacon and serve with guacamole and salsa.
It is important to take charge and change the way children are being fed. The Paleo diet will benefit them in similar ways (and often even more) than it has benefitted you. When shifting your child’s diet, make small changes to start and before you know it you will have the whole family switched to this way of eating! Taking the step now is an excellent way to safeguard your children’s health for the future
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