Paleo is very much an adult choice in terms of an eating plan. Choosing to forgo modern, processed foods for healthy alternatives made from natural ingredients isn’t somethings kids tend to consider doing! In fact, even as paleo parents, we don’t usually get our kids involved. But is this really a good idea? Surely it is kids who have the most to gain from adopting a paleo lifestyle.
The reasons for keeping kids on a modern food diet are pretty obvious. Firstly, they will fit in with everyone else. If you are a parent, you know just how important this can be for kids of all ages, especially teenagers. Nobody wants to be that one child who stands out from the rest.
Secondly, it is just so much easier to give packaged snacks, sandwiches and ready meals to our offspring when life gets hectic. Think of school lunch boxes, snacks and evening meals when everyone is rushing back from school or work and perhaps have to do homework or other activities in the evening. There just doesn’t seem to be time to make good, wholesome meals, does there?
The third reason is often just to avoid conflict. Children, especially teens, can be hard to please. Offering him or her a plate of broccoli instead of a fast food burger could well lead to arguments!
So maybe it is easier just to forget about paleo altogether. After all, we’ve made the switch and that is already a pretty good thing, right? Actually, as hard as this sounds, I think we should be working on paleo for kids too. There are certainly some pretty big obstacles, but there are also at least two huge reasons why it is worth making the effort as early as possible.
Think how hard it was for you to pack in junk food, processed carbs, and sugar. As an adult, you had been eating this stuff for decades. That made it a huge habit to break. I bet there were a few withdrawal symptoms from sugar, for example. So why let your child get addicted to this stuff for decades? Surely it is going to be easier to build (and stick to) new habits if they are created much earlier in life?
The second reason here is even more alarming. Our kids’ generation is by far the least healthy ever. There are higher rates of obesity and disease, including everything from cancers to tooth decay. Whilst there are lots of reasons for all this, such as sedentary lifestyle, diet is a major cause. Can you really sit back and let them eat rubbish knowing the damage that it is doing?
So we can accept that paleo (or some form of paleo) is a smart choice for kids too. The difficulty now is getting them to give it a try.
It is going to be next to impossible to enforce a radical change from one day to the next for the reasons already stated. With kids, you need to be a little smarter in how you introduce this way of eating. For example, kids tend to have a very carb-heavy diet. Replacing all those starchy carbohydrates with raw vegetables probably isn’t going to work. Although frowned on by lots of paleo followers, you need to make some compromises. Things like vegetable pasta are great. You let your child have what they are used to (pasta) but you are replacing (at least partly) the bad stuff with something better.
The same goes for vegetables. Make vegetable fries instead of potatoes. As a snack try slices of fruit and nuts rather than sweets and crisps. Let him have his burger (meat is good, remember?) but don’t use a bun. Buy a slow cooker or prepare meals in advance and freeze them. This is an easy way to avoid ready meals when everyone is in a hurry. Don’t keep endless processed snacks in the cupboards if they are there, the kids will eat them.
Perhaps most important of all, don’t worry if it isn’t ‘perfect paleo’. Your kids will doubtless end up eating fast food at some point. They will snack on junk at their friend’s houses. If you are working on what they eat at home and, to some extent, at school that is already a step in the right direction. You are already making a big difference to their heath compared to 99% of kids out there and you are making the final step to a complete paleo diet much easier when they decide to do it themselves.