Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tips for Raising Paleo Kids

Changing your diet is hard enough... So what happens when you're trying to get your kids on board as well? I know there are a few article out there already on the topic, but I'd like to mention a few other points that may be beneficial. The following list is based on kids that are 9+ years old.

1. Sit down and talk to the kids about what you're doing, why you're doing it, and why it's important.
This is CRUCIAL. Don't talk to them about this when they're watching TV, or when they're eating, or when they're glued to a screen. Plan a meeting, and bring some paper and pens. Sit down with them and have them realize the consequences that a poor diet will have on their health (diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer.. Or to a lesser extreme but possibly more realistic to them may be acne, IBS, allergies, insomnia, irregular/delayed/early menses, mood swings, low energy or inability to exercise, and of course the obvious, weight gain.) These factors are ALL directly linked to the foods that we eat, and our "gut integrity". The gut can be considered like a "second brain"... What we eat literally has a direct effect on our mood, hormones, and the way our metabolism functions. It is not just about "calories in/calories out", and I would NEVER ask kids to count calories, as this creates a very unhealthy relationship with food. If you think about it, they already may have an unhealthy relationship with food. It may be a fix for boredom, stress, fatigue, or just because "it's there" or "it tastes good." You may be able to relate to this as well. This is just as unhealthy as somebody who is obsessed with calorie counting. Food should definitely be enjoyed and celebrated, but it should be used to NOURISH the body and not eaten out of emotion. I think it's wise to eat based on how that meal is going to make you feel later rather than eat based on how that meal is going to make you feel in the present.

2. Ask them to write down their favorite "healthy" foods or meals.
I mention the paper and pens because I want them to write down all of their favorite "healthy" foods. Here are some "appropriate" options:

Any type of vegetable (peas, carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, winter/summer squash, brussel sprouts, broccoli, mushrooms, onions, okra, cauliflower, peppers, etc)
Any type of fruit, preferably not dried (bananas, avocado, apples, grapes, pears, citrus fruits, berries, etc)
Any type of meat/protein (beef, pork, poultry, eggs, bacon, game meat, etc)
Any type of nuts (almonds, coconut, cashews, macadamia nuts, etc)
Any type of starch (red/purple/russet potatoes, corn, white rice)

Perhaps make some meal suggestions like "brussel sprouts and bacon", "crispy chicken thighs", or "pulled pork." I didn't list any dairy because I think it'd be beneficial to just get off it completely, aside from organic, real butter (5$/lb.) Dairy is notorious for causing hormonal disruptions including acne, allergies, or even headaches. It can also behave on the body just like sugar does! If you do choose to include dairy, it's actually better to have FULL-fat, organic, pasture-raised. If you do allow cheese, it's best to choose hard cheeses that don't have a lot of lactose (milk sugar) in them. Also, dairy should NEVER be a "staple" and should never be made into a whole meal. The same goes for nuts, nut butter, or starches. These should be used more like CONDIMENTS. A small serving! Also, nuts should not be roasted with oils. Buy them raw and unsalted. Roasted nuts are usually rancid and often contain mold that can cause gastric distress. Go raw!

3. Ask them to write down WHY they want to commit to this.
What has the biggest effect on our decisions? Emotional attachment. Make sure they are not just doing this because "you told them to" or because "it's the right thing to do" or some other nonsense. They're doing this because they WANT TO. You MUST establish this before moving forward, or you'll never get anywhere. Make them recognize that this isn't going to be hell, and that they will feel MUCH better. That you are not depriving them of their favorite foods, you are just introducing new foods that will make them FEEL good and soon become their NEW favorite foods.

4. Plan a "cooking day".
A huge part of getting the kids on board is actively involving them in the process. During the week, tell them to go lookup recipes they want to try that includes any whole foods. One day a week (to begin with,) rile up everybody to go to the grocery store and collect all the ingredients. Then go home and cook together! Become involved with the preperation of food. Meals should include a protein (say 3-4oz per person,) a vegetable (as much as you want,) a fat (say 1-2tbs per person, but more/less based on appetite. Think of fat as FUEL! This is your primary source of energy and calories. If you're still hungry after a meal, you need to add more fat in the form of butter, olive oil, coconut oil, or lard.)

5. Gradually make every meal a whole foods meal.
First off, establish regular meal times. For example, breakfast at 7am, lunch at noon, dinner at 6pm. Try to eliminate all snacking, but it should be quite easy to stop since cravings will drastically decrease and meals will be so satiating that there should not be hunger throughout the day. Typically, snacking will just stop naturally. If snacking is still an issue, try providing them with 1oz raw nuts, or a small piece of fruit, or a handful of raw veggies and homemade dressing, or boiled eggs. An ounce of hard cheese, shredded coconut, or cold meat may also be good choices.

You may find it easier to start going "paleo" with one meal a day. For instance, breakfast might be a big pile of bacon and eggs. No time to cook? Leftovers make a great breakfast. Other options may include smoothies comprised of full-fat, canned coconut milk, one piece of fruit (berries, banana, or an avocado work great,) big handful of spinach (you don't taste it at all,) 1-2 scoops pure EGG protein powder (with no additives/sugar,) or some other goodies (nut butter, cinnamon, cocoa powder, etc.) If they're drinking a giant shake full of protein, fat, and nutrients, I doubt they will need any mid-morning snacks! As this becomes habit, slowly transition into whole foods lunches. This is why I suggest a cooking day. When I was super busy with my PTA internships, I used to spend quite a few hours on Sunday preparing my food for the whole week. I didn't view it as a chore, but something actually enjoyable. Crockpot meals are especially easy, and I'm pretty sure there are microwaves at school cafeterias to warm up their food. If this still isn't cutting it, you may opt for some gluten-free sandwich bread. It's expensive and NOT preferrable to real, unprocessed food, but would be a far better choice than just leaving them to pizza and chips in the ala carte line. And don't put all the work on yourself; have them actively participate by having them make their own lunches!

6. Ask them to choose a physical activity they want to do.
It doesn't have to be at school or a club; it might just be bikeriding, running, or dancing at home! I really suggest enrolling them into Crossfit Kids, although it can be a little expensive. Even joining a weight lifting club would be an EXCELLENT option, and compliments a "paleo" diet very well. Giving them an activity will give them more incentive to eat better, because they will soon realize that eating Mcdonalds before a basketball game (or whatever) will make them feel worse AND perform worse than if they ate a healthy meal of steak with sweet potatoes covered in butter!

7. Throw out everything in your pantry.
Pile up all the junk food, processed foods, etc. and put it in a big box. Send it to someone you hate. :-) Or, donate to charity. Getting the crap out of the house is a BIG step that is one of the most important. Pantry items that are OK may be plain rice, canned tuna/fish, canned vegetables, olive/coconut oils, vinegars, unsweetened coconut (flakes/shredded), 75%+ dark chocolate, coconut milk, raw nuts/seeds, small servings of dried fruit (do NOT make this a staple, it's just like candy!)

BONUS: 8. Get thrifty with your purchases.
For one person, it costs me about 30-40$ a week to eat like this. To keep things cheap, I only buy meat that is between 1-3$ a pound, and vegetables that are under 2$ a pound. I primarily buy sale items, so I keep track of all the weekly specials at various grocery stores. My cheap go-to staples are bulk organic carrots (70 cents a pound,) frozen veggies at Target/Walmart (1$/lb for broccoli/cauliflower/green beans/peas/carrots,) bananas (.59 cents a pound, sometimes cheaper if they are slightly brown,) eggs (1.25$/dozen), and I also will save ALL of my meat fat! Especially bacon grease. Nuts can be pricey, so I rarely buy them, and when I do, I get them in self-serve bulk bags. Most of my budget goes toward meat, butter (I'm addicted, what can I say,) and nutrient-dense veggies. Lately, I've been buying a lot of turnips, beets, yams, and carrots (all excellent roasted) since not only are they very nutrient-dense, but they also have more calories (energy!) than kale, spinach, or peppers. So, essentially "more" for your buck, but I do reccomend cycling through veggies routinely, depending on what's on sale. Canned tuna can be a good option, but remember to stick with the "under 3$/lb" rule for meat. A can of tuna might LOOK like a good deal at 1$ a can, but consider one can is only 4oz. Therefore.. You're really paying 4$/lb for canned tuna, and it's typically not the meaty albacore kind, meaning a lot of it is water/vegetable broth. Canned salmon is a good deal at about 3$/lb, especially since fish is one of the best proteins you could eat, but I'm not sure they'd like it (especially since there are [edible] bones in it! It might freak them out.)  Otherwise, your best, cheap options will probably be things like whole chicken fryers, chuck roast, or fatty pork roasts. Try to get as "humane" as possible, at least anti-biotic/hormone-free. If you have a large down payment, you may opt to find a local farmer (eatwild.org) and buy grass-fed beef. The final cost may be anywhere from 4-6$/lb. Grass-fed, pasture-raised, or wild meat (including the organs) is ALWAYS preferred, when possible. Also, remember that your main source of energy (and the most satiating food) is fat, and fat is one of your cheapest items (25 cents or less per tablespoon/serving of fat, and virtually 0 cents if you save the animal fat from cooking.) Potatoes and white rice are also very cheap and calorie-dense, just remember not to make them into main meals (a feast of potatoes covered in tons of cheese, even if it's organic, is STILL not a good idea.) Oh.. and rotiserrie chickens are a quick, 5$ dinner that you can't go wrong with. Have fun with this and make it a learning experience for everybody!

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