I've been getting a lot of questions about how this lifestyle change has affected our family dynamic. Everyone asks if Cad is paleo too. I have received so many questions about these dietary changes I thought it might be easier to try to answer them all in one post explaining how we did it, what has worked, what hasn't, and what other changes we may be making soon.
Over a year ago Cad was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder which can affect his behavior and ability to moderate his emotions. He has been getting help learning how deal with some issues like disliking certain food textures, handling stressful situations, getting his body in control. He was eating healthfully but I was noticing a link between certain foods and his behavior. My sister has been gluten free for years and is so much happier as a result. There is also a family history of stomach cancers and bowel disorders related to food. I myself had a history of depression and self-medicating with food. It seems plausible that Cad could have some of these same family traits passed down. The more I read about the link between diet and mood, the more convinced I was that we should head in a gluten free/grain free direction. Around the same time I was told I needed to lose about 40 pounds.
Cad is 3 and half which is a great age for long term goals. When we first started doing research about how to tackle our weight issues I was also researching how we could do it together as a family. It's nice to have a reward coming your way if you work really hard, whether you're a kid or an adult. We set a goal of me losing 40 pounds and getting a family trip to Disney World. We have a contract and everything. To make this into a whole family project we told Cad that we couldn't go to Disney until we were all healthy enough.
We had long family conversations about what "being healthy" means for each of us. I wanted to eat really nutritious food, get more sleep, and exercise more. My hubby wanted to eat nutritious food that tasted good and feel more energy. Cad made his own list of what being healthy is for him. His list included eating more vegetables, trying new foods, getting exercise, and feeling more calm.
As Cad's parents we needed to decide how immersed Cad would be in this lifestyle. Early on in our paleo adventure we went to a birthday party where the only foods available were pizza, cake, and salad. Cad's likes veggies, but salad was a little much for us to ask of him when everyone else was eating pizza and cake. We let him have a slice of pizza and half a cupcake and within a half hour he was an overwhelmed mess, crying and miserable. That's when we knew that we were definitely on the right track by giving Cad fewer grains. My hubby and I tend to stay strict paleo, Cad occasionally eats grains and dairy. The grains definitely affect him.
When we made this lifestyle change we went cold turkey on grains, dairy, beans, and sugars. Cad did too. Common favorite kid's foods like chicken nuggets, yogurt, cheese, pizza, pasta, sandwiches were out the window. So were some of Cad's not so common favorites like edamame, garlic bread, hummus, and kefir. If they aren't in the home then your kids can't have them, so it was nice that we were all on board and eating the same way together.
We have always tried to teach Cad about where his food comes from. We've been honest about meat being animals and yogurt coming from milk in cow's udders. I try to get him to help me cook at least 2 times a week so he can see how food from the fridge becomes dinner on the plate. When it came to the paleo switch we followed our own example and talked about why we don't eat certain foods anymore.
Knowing why we were making these changes was really helpful for Cad. He knows what it feels like when he's in a terrible mood, when he can't control his emotions, and when he feels like everything is falling apart. When we told him that sometimes that happens because the food he eats isn't good for his body he couldn't understand why we let him eat it. He made the connection faster than I thought he would. A few times he's made the decision on his own to eat something knowing that it could affect him poorly. Later, he might say something like, "My belly hurts and I can't stay still, maybe I had too many grains."
As my hubby and I have grown more comfortable and knowledgeable about the paleo lifestyle we are finding that we don't feel like we are denying ourselves favorite foods and treats. We are able to find recipes to satisfy all of our nutritional needs and our craving wants. Cad has an all new lineup of favorite foods that include meatballs and spaghetti squash, steak, macadamia nuts, eggs, curry, asparagus, and bunch of others.
After our trip to Disney we are hoping to transition Cad to a totally grain free diet with no occasional non-paleo treats. 75% isn't enough for him and he deserves to be himself, not the self that sometimes eats foods that make him (and his parents) unhappy. This will be a bit harder as we'll have to make sure the grandparents are on board and really understand his restrictions, but it will be what he needs.
Here are the keys to making a major dietary change happen as smoothly as possible:
- Talk with your kids about why you're making the change. Use language they understand, but be totally honest. For example, if you're cutting out dairy because it causes intestinal distress tell them, in detail. "You know how you get bad belly aches sometimes and your poop is very yucky when you eat ice cream and drink milk? That's not fun, is it? Let's talk about how we could make it so that doesn't happen anymore."
- There are tasty substitutions available for most items that commonly get cut out of people's diets. Coconut and almond milk are both delicious alternatives to cow's milk and we LOVE coconut milk ice cream. We have even made bread from ground cashew that was delicious.
- Substitutions aren't necessarily "healthier". If you are giving your kids gluten free cookies that are super processed and full of sugar the only difference is the lack of gluten. Read labels, make good decisions in the long run.
- Involve your children in menu planning and cooking. Cad's getting pretty good at peeling carrots, he still has 10 fingers. We also make him choose at least one dinner a week. Most weeks Cad chooses chicken fingers with mashed cauliflower and broccoli.
- Make the change easy for parents too. Find recipe websites, blogs, cookbooks, phone apps, facebook groups, or whatever you need to support you in the transition. Many of the blogs I love are family oriented.
- Expect there to be people in your life that don't get why you're making the change. They may give you a bit of a hard time or may even get combative. You know what is best for your children and for your family. This is another reason why it's nice to find some sort of support.
- Stop buying the foods that are making you and your family unhealthy. Ban them from your house and clean any leftovers out of your cabinets when you start on this journey. If it's in your house it will get eaten.
- Try to get the whole family eating the same way. I have seen lots of jealousy and unhappiness among siblings and between spouses because everyone was eating differently. The more people in the family, the harder this task can be, but it's worth it to have a happier and healthier family.
- Make the change now! Do your research and make a solid plan, but don't put it off for too long because it's much easier with younger children. Which do you think would be easier cutting out grains and dairy in a 3 year old, or in a 10 year old?
- When you make rules about food, stick to them. This is really hard. It's especially hard when it's not a traditional allergy. It's easy to avoid shellfish if you're truly allergic to them, but if you really like the way they taste except they just make you a raging jerk it's a little harder to cut them out completely.
Life is short. How can you truly enjoy it if you're unhappy with your appearance, your health, or your family's health? Now is the time.
If you're thinking about transitioning to paleo here are some of my favorite books, blogs, and sites that have helped me in my journey:
Books and Authors:
Paleo Parents- This amazing couple also has a fabulous cookbook (and another on the way) called Eat Like A Dinosaur. I love their blog, facebook, and twitter, super awesome and inspiring!
Well Fed- It's a wonderful cookbook by a very cool blogger named Melissa Joulwan. Her blog is The Clothes Make the Girl.
Primal Blueprint- This is the book that introduced my hubby and I to the paleo lifestyle. It's easy to read and understand. The author's website Mark's Daily Apple, has tons of information for those who are hungry for more paleo knowledge.
The Whole 30- The book that really changed my life, It Starts With Food, is written by another paleo couple who have a tough love attitude about making big changes in your life. I am currently on my 5th Whole 30 and each time I learn something new about myself and remember how strong I am!
Websites, Blogs and Facebook Favorites:
Primal Fatso- (my hubby)
Primal Fatso- (my hubby)