It is a universal battle, through various generations: Parents trying to get their children to eat healthy. Didn’t you grow up hearing these very words — “Eat your vegetables?” Two weeks ago, I was babysitting Rob and Sandra’s kids while they went to the Paleo FX conference. We had to go to the grocery store one day, and in every aisle there was something that caught Zach’s attention – Pringles, Snickers, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Fritos, etc. Bright colored packaging, advertising geared for children, and fun shapes were all screaming “BUY ME”. Don’t even get me started on what they are adding into the food these days to make it more enticing flavor wise, all so you will buy more. I felt like I was running through a gauntlet. How do parents do this, I thought?
At the conference, Sandra had this very question, and sought out resources to help her move her children to eating Paleo. Let’s face it, in some cases, for us adults making the transition wasn’t easy. But we can read up on why Paleo is good for us and understand it. Kids, well, they just want their food to taste good. Period. Half the time it is a battle to get them to eat, let alone to eat healthy. So, below are some simple tips, resources, and encouragement to help move your kids to eating Paleo.
Below is geared for the older children who have established eating patterns that include processed/junk foods. For these children, it is a harder task to get them to eat Paleo. The following are some tips to help parents move their children to eating foods that are good for them:
1. Sit down with your children and explain WHY you are wanting to eat healthy. Informing kids help them to process why things are changing. They understand more than you know. Sandra found a wonderful book for children at the Paleo FX conference entitled: Eat Like a Dinosaur by the Paleo Parents. It includes a story about why we eat Paleo and includes recipes tested by another family.
2. Purge your pantry of processed/junk food. If you have it in there, they will want it. Plus, it would be very easy for you to give in with those foods after a tantrum. If it is not there, neither of you would be tempted.
3. Look for recipes that you all would enjoy as a family. You will wear yourself out trying to cook separate meals for the adults and children. Ask your children to list their favorite foods from the Paleo list. Look for recipes that will include those foods.
4. Involve your children , as best as you can, by having them help cook. In the same vein, empower your kids by giving them a choice between two healthy options. Strawberries or carrots? Chicken or Beef? If they have some control over what they eat, it makes them feel more ownership and empowered.
5. Make meals FUN. Use cookie cutters, pancake molds when baking Paleo. Make one night a breakfast for dinner or favorite color meal. Call each menu item something fun – like Superman Steak, Popeye Spinach, Green Lantern Asparagus.
6. Going Paleo doesn’t mean you cannot bake your children cookies or give them treats. Just make Paleo treats. When I was in Houston, I made some Paleo Cookies. Zach loved them and kept asking for more Paleo cookies. Just like with all treats, they should be limited, but it doesn’t mean you forgo them. Just rethink your treats.
7. Know that kids will NOT starve! They will eventually eat anything. You just have to be strategic about it. Here’s the key if they will not eat what is offered: Do not allow them to snack before or after dinner. If they say they are hungry, give them a choice – eat the dinner that was offered or go find something else to do. Do not let them raid the fridge or pantry at anytime. You have to be firm and consistent. Most kids will start eating after a day of that. Parents, this is where power struggles can come into play. This doesn’t have to be a throw down, just calmly offer the meal and the choice.
8. If you find something Paleo that they DO like, keep offering it as a meal until they get bored and want try something different.
9. Try to do as many Paleo meals as possible. When they do eat non-paleo food, ask them to tell you how they feel afterwards. Sometimes if you can get them to pay attention to how foods affect them, they would be more willing to avoid them.
10. Don’t give up and don’t feel guilty. Often, parents get discouraged and after some pushback from the kids, they give up. Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it. Sometimes it takes awhile for it to sink in or for them to get that you really are serious about it. Even adults go through some periods where we fall back and don’t do Paleo/Whole 30 as strictly. But each time we learn something new or something becomes more engrained.
Above are just tips. Some will work, some won’t. You know your kids. Just start somewhere. Start by making one meal a day Paleo, until it turns into two, etc. Before you know it, they will be turning down processed potato chips and clamoring for the healthy Kale chips.
Here is a fun, easy Paleo snack recipe:
1/4 cup almond butter
handful of macadamia nuts (can use other Paleo approved nuts of your choice)
Chop macadamia nuts and place on a plate. Peel bananas and cut into thirds. Melt 1/4 cup almond butter in a small saucepan on medium heat until smooth. Using a fork or a skewer, dip the banana chunk into the melted almond butter. Immediately roll into the nuts. Place banana on a plate and freeze. To eat, slightly thaw banana for a few minutes. Serving size: 2 chunks.