At every workshop that Jason Seib and I present; we are faced with the inevitable question of how do you successfully transition the kids to paleo?? It’s a BIG question, loaded with fear, concern, hope, and sometimes dread. I get it. I’ve been there. These are all real emotions that parents face when considering making a huge lifestyle change. Thoughts run through your mind as you think of your little ones. Will they be traumatized? Revolt? Cry? Scream? Rebel? Move out? STARVE??? Yes, these are all thoughts that crossed my mind too when I decided to take that big giant step into living a healthier lifestyle as I dragged my family right along with me. The result after 5 years of paleo living? My kids still love me. No one rebelled (well maybe a little bit), moved out or starved. In fact, my children are healthier, more active, and happier than I could have possibly imagined even after I tossed out their cereal and bread. In fact there’s an entire list of benefits that I did not even ask for! Just to mention a few: No more eczema for Jaden. Better behavior for everyone. Healthier teeth. No more constant runny noses. Super strong bones (BIG crazy wild boy falls and no breaks). Great energy. Better sleepers. Less picky eaters. Meat lovers. Egg munchers. Sweet potato fanatics. Fresh veggie connoisseurs. Paleo aficionados.
Did all of this happen overnight? No. Just like fat loss does not happen overnight, curing disease doesn’t happen overnight, and becoming healthy after years of abusing your body doesn’t happen overnight, the transition to paleo for YOUR kids does not need to happen in a blink of an eye. REMEMBER, this is a journey, this is the rest of your life and it should be a JOY filled one. If you have kids that are extraordinarily picky, have textural issues, who have severe behavioral, emotional or developmental issues; transitioning all at once might not be the best solution for your family. You might want to start small. Be inconspicuous and go unnoticed as you begin the transition with only breakfast. Do no make a huge announcement that “TODAY IS DAY ONE AND I’M THROWING OUT YOUR (insert favorite non-paleo food item here).” Instead, say nothing. Make breakfast. Make something you know your kids enjoy like crispy bacon and strawberries or scrambled eggs and sausage or it doesn’t even need to LOOK like breakfast! Maybe on day one it’s a grass fed all beef hot dog like the ones made by Applegate Farms or maybe it’s meatballs or burgers (without the bun of course). Find a few paleo friendly foods that your kids love and rotate through those food items for breakfast. For some kids, transitioning to healthier eating is not a time to be adventurous and remember that real food does not have to be really scary. On day one of paleo breakfast for your kids, I would avoid plopping a pile of steamed spinach on their plates topped with poached eggs and homemade hollandaise (my favorite breakfast, yes, but maybe a bit too strange at first for the average kid!)
Stick to paleo breakfasts for a few days or maybe even a week or two BEFORE you change their familiar lunches or dinners. If your kids start to notice that breakfast is looking a bit different, STICK TO YOUR GUNS! Keep your reply simple, especially for younger children. You do not need to tell them that they are eating healthy because you don’t want them to grow up and end up with one or more of the major non-infectious diseases that are dropping us humans like flies. You can avoid spewing out how you’d rather they not to end up with fatty liver disease thanks to good ol’ straight from nature high fructose corn syrup. You shouldn’t try frighten them into eating healthier with stories of doom and gloom about their impending ill health. You should keep it light, fun, and breezy; at least for now. As your kids get older, or if you have kids who are older, you can be honest about your concern for their health but without using food as a scare tactic. You are in fact responsible for teaching your children how to be responsible for their OWN health so that someday when they are grown, they are armed with information and ready to make the best choices for themselves, whatever those choices might someday be.
So, instead of fear tactics, lecturing, or fretting; when they ask for cereal or whatever it might be – just a one sentence reply is all that’s necessary – “we don’t have that anymore” is your best bet. If you are faced with moments of meltdowns, begging or pleading, do your very best to ignore the fuss and distract your child with something positive. Suggest going outside, playing a board game or a game of tag or wrestling with you! Keep your child focused on fun, being a kid, laughing, playing, enjoying what’s most important in life rather than what’s missing in the cupboards.
Once you move onto the next meal of the day, the plan should stay the same. Be consistent. Be patient. But, no matter what, do not give in because if you do, your kids will know exactly what you’re made of and they will keep up the complaining until you are a loose heap of jelly on the floor and all the same old “foodcrap” (new word!!) is back in the house again. Remember, YOU are in charge. YOU do the shopping, meal planning and prep. Feeding your kids healthy food is NOT torture. Real food tastes really good and you are not asking your little ones to eat eyeballs and monkey brains right out of the gate. Which reminds me to remind you; calf liver and bone marrow should probably not be your non-paleo child’s first paleo meal. Start with what you KNOW is yummy to their sometimes sensitive taste buds. Do you see them scarfing down steak pieces dipped in homemade ketchup, roasted sweet potatoes, and green beans? Sold! Stick to being repetitive at meal time for the time being if you need to. Trust me, your child is still getting in a lot more variety than they used to when eating a “normal” kid diet filled with gut irritating grains and at least with a paleo based plan – your little ones are armed with good gut health and the ability to get all the nutrients they need from REAL whole foods (the kind with zero labels)!
So, my message for you today: You might have kids who are open and willing to jump on board the paleo wagon right along with you on day 1, BUT, if you know you will be faced with a ginormous and catastrophic challenge if all “non-paleo” foods disappear overnight; take it step by step until you rid your house of the food that should be trashed and replaced with whole real unprocessed goodness that you and your family will not just survive on but thrive on. Life is just that – life. A journey. Not a grand finale to jump into tomorrow. Cherish your precious ones, hold them close, love them, nurture them, feed them well and in time the transition will happen, but be SURE you get there by staying strong and knowing that you are doing the absolute best for yourself and your family.
In both Everyday Paleo (my getting started guide)and the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook (follow up book with all new recipes and loads of other helpful advice) I have tons of recipes and tips that are designed to help transition your family to a healthy paleo lifestyle. I have lunch box ideas, meal plans, shopping lists, and quick prep tips and the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook takes it all a step even further with suggestions on how to live life to the fullest with the ones you love the most; suggestions on how to cut back on electronics and reconnect with your kids and much much more. I hope this post helps folks who are thinking about taking the leap with their loved ones and always know that you have plenty of support right here at Everyday Paleo. Go to the search bar on the right hand side of this page and type in “kids” or “children” or “family” and you’ll find plenty of other posts on this topic as well.
As always, enjoy!