Paleo Plates for Kids
This guest post is by Leslie Blood, a busy Mom determined to keep her family Paleo within reason. If you've got kids, you'll probably dig her useful and straightforward advice about how to make Paleo an easy diet for everyone in the family.
“Yeah, that’s great, but what do you feed your kids?”
This is one of the first questions I receive from people when asked about my diet. I can tell you that I do not have the time or, to be honest, the desire to prepare a separate meal for my children. R and G are my two boys and both have been eating a primarily Paleo diet for the better part of a year; the following is based from actual experience. It works.
Here are three easy tips you can use in your home to help make the transition into healthy eating less of a struggle and more of a relatively enjoyable foray into the Paleo sphere.
1-Talk to Your Kids about Food
Your small 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 kids to eat and they can turn the dinner table into a battle field with one wonky side-eye and 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.
Documentaries and books can be your best friends in this case. “Because I said so” feels cheap and insulting. You can do better. 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 my kids like 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. Thanks to the NomNomPaleo podcast, my boys willingly gave up desserts, save for a special treat on the weekends. (Can we shamelessly plug Paleo Treats here? The brownies are always a huge hit. )
There is so much wonderful media available on the Paleo lifestyle. So, take a trip to the bookstore, plug in your smart phone and cue up some awesome radio or just check out Netflix documentaries for your next movie night. You are certain to find material that speaks to you and your kids.
2-Include Your Children in Menu Planning
I have read countless articles discussing the merits of children taking part in the kitchen. Yes, it is important that they learn how to cook. R and G are more likely to eat what they help prepare and through cooking they also learn just how much effort and time goes into food preparation. This has made a difference in how my boys treat food waste even when a meal may not be their favorite.
Here is what you can do to take it one step further. I take out all my Paleo cookbooks, put them on the dining room table and ask my kids what they want to try. I make sure that their preferences are reflected in meal planning and they become excited when their menu choices come up during the week.
Another fun way I get my kids involved with menu planning is “meal makeovers.” Let your kiddos tell you how they think you might turn an old favorite into a more healthful choice. Long standing menu items such as Taco Tuesday were not simply going to disappear without notice.
My eldest loves the butter lettuce wraps in lieu of tortillas and neither boy cared one bit about giving up beans. I roast some extra vegetables, such as sweet potato, zucchini, bell peppers and mushrooms, in chili seasoning and those stand in texturally for the classic pintos. Extra toppings such as salsa, roasted corn and guacamole, make up for a lack of cheese and sometimes we even have a cashew nacho “cheeze” in the fridge for an extra special taco accoutrement.
If my boys want something that is not Paleo, I still try to accommodate their desires. Just because they do not eat certain foods often does not mean they cannot eat them at all.
Your kids will learn how certain foods make them feel. My little one will normally pass on ice cream and have “nice cream,” frozen bananas blended up till they resemble soft serve, instead. He knows how dairy products make him feel and can make good choices based on his personal chemistry. Let’s be honest. Sometimes you decide a food is “worth it”. Allow your children the same flexibility in certain situations. For example:
Is it your birthday? Eat whatever you want.
Are you attending a party? Enjoy the foods you desire freely.
Did your mom spend all day making your favorite treat? Feel free to say yes.
In our house, movie nights are also for special snacks. Most of ours are Paleo, but sometimes some gluten joins the party in the form of a giant baked pretzel or a slice of pizza.
I always have extra baked sweet potatoes and basmati rice in the freezer in case of emergencies. If you have prepared a meal and need something extra to round it out for less developed palates, do a quick defrost and add some healthier carbs to their plate.
In conclusion, our diets are a work in progress. As we learn more, we try and do better. I know more now, but with that knowledge comes responsibility. I cook the majority of the meals in our house and so I feel it is my duty to make sure I am feeding my family the healthiest meals I can.
What are your kid-friendly paleo meal ideas?
Too much reading...
How about dessert?