How a Kid Can Do Paleo So Well

| 28 Comments

Kristin sent an email with some questions about how Evelyn does Paleo, quite possibly, better than most adults do. I broke the email into sections and answered her questions here.

“I’m wondering if you’d be willing to do a post about Evelyn and how you adapted her to Paleo. For some reason, I am absolutely fascinated by this. I’m guessing a lot of it is just the environment in which you are raising her, but there has to be more to it.”

Raising Evelyn “Paleo” from the beginning and eating Paleo in the home is a big part of Evelyn’s success with her diet, but I agree there is more to it. The fact that I educate her daily, that we are positive and active, that I am strict but not too strict, that she has had her own dietary obstacles to overcome, that I do the diet myself, and the unusual fact that we didn’t have many outside influences to deal with until she was four, all play a role too.

I have been teaching Evelyn about real food and fake food from the beginning. I don’t hide anything from her about food. Even though the state of our food supply is sad and confusing, I explain it.

I wish I could give you more of an inside look into our lives. We talk about food often but not excessively. I don’t make special kid foods. She eats what we eat. Eating healthy food is not a weekend thing, it’s not a phase – it’s as much a part of our lives as work, school, and hobbies. As a result, she loves fish, she loves meat, she loves veggies and fruit, she tolerates salad, and she even eats oysters. (We always used to eat oysters together until she decided that they were just too gross and she couldn’t handle it. A year later she came around and she eats them with us again.)

“If she didn’t grow up on Pop Tarts and Chicken McNuggets, how does she know she prefers Paleo?”

Well, either she doesn’t know it yet or she knows it intellectually. I talk to her about traditional cultures (and she loves to watch tribal shows and shows like Survivorman), about disease, about tummy aches and moods, about happiness and sadness, about the way I used to be before I changed my diet. She knows that food plays a role in how well we focus and how much energy we have. Of course, she may some day go off Paleo and try out chicken nuggets and pop tarts, but she’s not going to do it without first knowing what she’s getting into!

If you think about it, we can’t live every possible life. When we believe that one path is better than another, we don’t typically try out all of the alternatives just to see that we have chosen the right one. If this were the case, we would all have tried drugs, theft, we’d never be able to buy anything because we might be better off buying something else, and we’d have a new partner every week! We would have an impossible time making decisions about anything.

“How did she come to be so confident in her diet that she’s enforcing it with those who care for her (relatives, parents of friends, etc.), and telling them which things she can have and which things she cannot?”

So far, she believes she must do what I say (this won’t last forever!). She is an obedient kid for the most part and eats what she knows is ok and avoids the rest. She also has seen first hand the power that food can have on a body – her own, mine, my parent’s. I have taken her to farms and to the middle isles of the grocery stores and have showed her the difference between these foods. I have been teaching her all of her life. Since the addiction to packaged foods is not already established, she can use her brain to make decisions, rather than her impulses.

“Most adults will not do this, so it amazes me that a child would have the presence of mind and conviction to do so.”

Indeed she does have strong conviction and presence of mind – quite possibly more than a lot of adults. But she is also healthier than a lot of adults. Imbalanced blood sugar, headaches, drug side effects, and other things affect our decisions and desires. She is and always has been a clear headed kid. I am guessing her life is a lot easier than the lives of the typical junk food eater since food choices have such a huge impact on the way we feel, negotiate, play, think – everything.

“And what about enduring teasing or ridicule in a school environment when she pulls out her lunch – a place where peer pressure bends even the strongest will at times – because she’s ‘eating weird stuff’?”

I have not heard of any teasing at school. She goes to a Montessori and there are a lot of kids who eat sack lunches and plenty of kids who eat healthy food options. Anyway, her food is not weird. There is nothing weird about meat, roots, fruit, and veggies. I think what is weird are things like veggie bacon and vegetarian “meat” loaf! She’s not showing up with anything the other kids haven’t seen before. Although, she does take kombucha to school because she likes it so much. I have not asked her what the other kids think about it.

I try to encourage her to be herself and not to care what other people think about her. I do things very differently in all realms of my life and find myself often explaining that it’s ok to be different.

“And finally, are doctors impressed with/comment on how healthy she is?”

She does not go to doctors. She hasn’t had the need to in all these years (but once when she was 3, which turned out to be a pointless visit). When we first started kindergarten she had to have a doctors note, verifying that she is healthy since she is not vaccinated. We went to an ND for this who did say that Evelyn seemed remarkably healthy, although the ND was not surprised. She herself knew how profoundly our foods choices affect our health, our growth, and disposition.

Author: Peggy the Primal Parent

The blog owner!

28 Comments

  1. Fascinating post. Does Evelyn ever see a dentist? I am curious because my family decided about seven years ago it was not in our best interests to keep seeing modern doctors/dentists because we simply felt it was too costly and pointless when eating a nutrient dense diet with no sugars or processed foods to cause damage to the teeth. Also, I am a firm believer that the flouride and other chemicals they use at routine dental cleanings are toxic and harmful. I am wondering what your opinion on taking children to the dentist is? What does your family use for oral hygiene?

    • Blanca,

      If your family is following a nutrient-dense, Paleo type diet, then your children likely do not need as frequent dental care. Were you also following this diet while pregnant with them? Because that will have a great deal to do with their proper tooth development/resistance to decay as well as their diets from 0-6 years of age when the adult teeth are forming.

      Many children do not develop tartar (the hard stuff, not to be confused with soft plaque that will brush off) on their teeth until around age 8-10 years, some not until around puberty, and likely even later if they are Paleo since all those grain carbohydrates contribute to tartar buildup. The most common place tartar builds up is on the inside of the lower front teeth. I’d recommend checking your children’s teeth every so often for this hard buildup that does not brush off and taking them in for a dental cleaning as needed. You can always tell your dentist/hygienist that you prefer to not have the fluoride treatment; not all of us dental professionals are deadset on fluoride treatments for all. I wish I had patients telling me they don’t need fluoride because they’re Paleo!

      Great post, Peggy! Love reading your advice and experience. Looking forward to raising Paleo kiddos in the future!

    • Hi Blanca,

      Evelyn didn’t have any cavities for the first 5 years. Her teeth were in great shape. However, we had a phase of eating a lot of dried fruit, and then things changed. I believe this is a pretty common “Paleo” mistake. When we shun starches, we look for other places to get carbs and fruit is the go-to Paleo carb. The fruit sugar is especially harmful for someone with fructose malabsorption. Evelyn never had the tartar that Debbie talked about but she did have some tooth decay. We did go to a dentist. I know there are a lot of people talking about alternative ways to heal cavities. And I think it is great that they try other routes. Personally, I chose to see a dentist.

      While at the dentist for a cleaning, you can skip the fluoride and generally even skip x-rays if the mouth is in good shape. You can also just have your teeth cleaned with pumice rather than with flavored and colored tooth polishes. The most ideal dental care, however, is avoiding cavities all together!

      • Well said, Peggy! Thanks for sharing your experience with Evelyn and cavities. It is important for parents to understand that just because they eat Paleo/Primal does not mean they are 100% immune to tooth decay. Even though Weston A. Price found that primitive cultures had nearly no tooth decay, he did still find a cavity or two here and there in the primitives. LIke you said, Peggy, tooth decay risk among Paleo/Primal children will vary depending on the amount of fruit, dried fruit, juice, rice or other starches their children consume, as well as when they consume them, how often, with what other foods they eat them with, etc. and effective brushing/flossing at home will matter too. While Paleo/Primal children may not require a trip to the dentist every 6 months, which is the recommended norm, a dental exam once a year would be advised to check for decay and determine dental cleaning needs.

        I also want to comment on the alternative/home remedies out there for remineralizing teeth and healing cavities discussed on sites like Wellness Mama and The Healthy Home Economist, a regimen that typically involves taking cod liver oil and high vitamin butter oil. I have not witnessed this (nor have I had a patient with knowledge of this regimen that wanted to try it) but I will say that while this regimen could have the possibility of working, it would likely only work in arresting the decay process in a tooth that was just starting to demineralize and starting to form a cavity. This would be a cavity so small that you would not see it with the naked eye, but would only be visible on a x-ray. If you can see the cavity in your child’s tooth, it has gotten a bit larger by that point and a remineralizing regimen, (which I would only feel comfortable allowing a patient to try it for a month or so if their child was not in pain) may not do much by that point.

      • Hi Peggy and Debbie – I used to go to a great dentist (in a really small town – wonder if that was a contributing factor?) who did his cleanings with high speed water jets, and high speed baking soda for the polish. I left there a little soggy and gritty, but there were no artificial chemicals. Then I moved out of state, and I go to a conventional dentist now. But, I’m sure there are other dentists like that out there.

  2. Please, please tell me you’re not restricting your daughter’s carb/starch intake.

  3. Hi Peggy! I am not a parent yet but a young woman and i too have some problems. Your posts are very interesting. But you are talking about the primal diet, i have my own paleo diet but i doubt a lot, is this the good way? Can you maybe give some information about what foods are allowed during paleo or primal diet? Because of allergies i cannot eat wheat, milk, yoghurt and cheese, sugar and cacao. I think fructose is also a problem. But there is not much left then, to eat. I now eat: eggs, chicken, steak, fish, greens, citrus, pineapple… What else can i eat? I used to leave out white rice because i want to increase my insuline sensitivity in order to lose some weight… Can you help me please?

    • Sarah,

      It sounds like you have quite a bit of options left. There are all kinds of veggies you can eat. You can eat fish and shellfish. You can eat organs. You don’t have to leave out starch all together to improve your insulin sensitivity. You just might need to cut it down a little. Going super low carb might cause other problems, like low thyroid, so you may not want to eliminate 100% of your white rice. Although, there are plenty of other starches you can eat like sweet potatoes, maybe potatoes, plantains, yuca, and others.

  4. Thanks for sharing! I started the paleo life after my oldest daughter was already addicted to PB&J and pretzels. I don’t expect her to be fully paleo, but she does like most veggies, fruits and eats them throughout the day which I think is pretty good for a preschooler. I might try educating her a bit more about food. She has been to farms and loves to work in the garden so she knows where the “real” food comes from, but I have been quiet about the “fake” stuff and how that it made.
    Thanks for the inspirations. It was a very interesting and thought provoking post.

  5. This is great! I hope many people share and read this. Its important for people to understand that good nutrition and relationship with food starts at birth! Not after damage has already been done.
    My son is 8 weeks old and recently I’ve been in discussion with other moms about the introduction of solids, and what sorts of things we plan to give. My veiwpoint is garnering derision and nastiness from most, including allegations that I’m using research which is ‘unrespected’ and bogus, basically (I linked some WAPF articles).
    The response is frustrating and insulting, but ultimately my kid will be better off. I wish I could say the same for theirs :(

    • Heather,

      People generally equate first foods with rice cereal. Not in this house! Sorry, but raw liver, egg yolks, and bone broth are where it’s at! How can you ever argue with that? Just remind them that eating is for nutrition. Where’s the nutrition in refined rice cereal?

  6. Thank you for sharing this!! I have 5 boys, from 18 months up to 12. The older boys (8, 10, 12) make their own decisions and often choose paleo simply because they know how they feel when they choose to eat processed food or food that doesn’t do well with their bodies. The 4 year old knows that wheat and grains make him sick, and he is very vocal about making sure his food is safe, even at 4! The baby has never known anything different, since we have been eating paleo for 19 months. I’m looking forward to seeing how he acts as he grows, to see if he is like our 4 year old. :)

  7. I didn’t even want to raise kids in the world that we live in until I started reading your blog. Seeing you succeed at raising your daughter happily and healthfully has given me a lot of hope. Thanks :)

  8. Thank you for the great post, Peggy.

    My son is 14 months old, and from the start we’ve been rasing him Paleo. Didn’t start with the grains and moved right on to veggies, and waited to introduce fruit until he was eating meat and veggies consistently. DH and I are hoping (with the naivete of new parents) that if we develop his palate early with real food he may bypass that “picky eater” phase most (okay, almost all) kids seem to get. Did Evelyn ever go through a picky phase, and how old was she when it started?

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Emily,

      Nope, she didn’t go through a picky eater phase at all. Now, there have been some foods that she hasn’t liked, like all of us I think, but she eats the same “grown-up” foods that we eat. I mean, in order to be a picky eater, I think packaged food would have to be at your disposal, wouldn’t it? She’s certainly not going to starve herself! The picky eaters I have known, prefer mac and cheese, pop tarts, cereal, twizlers – stuff Eveyln has never had.

      • Peggy, I’ve heard of picky eaters occurring in households that eat only real foods, but I would have to think it’s rare.

        Personally, I was raised on all real food because packaged stuff was considered too expensive to be anything other than a very very rare treat (and, I should say, this was in Israel, where packaged food was way tastier than what’s made here!). But it would have been inconceivable that I would eat anything other than what my parents were eating! Maybe some of the stuff I didn’t like that much, but it’s hard for real food to taste bad, especially when you’re hungry. What kid, after running around all day, is going to refuse to eat some meat or vegetable?

        And anytime I didn’t like something my parents instituted as law they would tell me: ‘If you don’t like it that much go find yourself some other parents. Feel free. But if you’re in this house this is how it’s going to work. Your choice.’ Worked like a charm :D

  9. Practical primal parenting as always, Peggy. Always enjoy your articles! We get all the same questions about our Primal toddler who loves her nutritious meat and veg diet, so your article has prompted me to do the same. In the meantime, I will share yours with our readers on facebook. Thank you!

  10. We just started eating primal about 3 weeks ago, the kids (7, 5, 3, 18 mo.) have been doing pretty well with the adaptation. I just have a question about amounts. When I make boiled eggs, for instance, each child will eat 3, 2 whole carrots and a stalk of celery (except the little guy, who is waiting on molars). Trouble I have is, an hour later, everyone comes to me wanting food. Does the rampant appetite thing calm down after a while?
    The 3 year-old follows me around after 2 chicken breasts and a bunch of broccoli saying, “I’m bery hungwy, mommy.” Is this the norm?

    • Hi Rachel,

      If you keep up the low fat approach, then no, the rampant appetite won’t calm down. There just isn’t enough calories in chicken breast and carrot sticks. Give them starch, give them fruit, and most of all give them fat!

      Use dark meat chicken instead of chicken breast. Cook your eggs in butter or some other fat instead of boiling them. If you’re going to do Paleo, you’ll have to let go of the low fat mentality. And if you want satisfied children, you really shouldn’t go low carb either. Kids need and crave carbs. Just make sure they’re Paleo suitable.

      • Thank you for the quick answer! We don’t try to eat low-fat at all. The kids get lots of raw dairy and butter but possibly not enough. We aren’t doing alot of starch and maybe that is the problem. Beside the sweet potatoes, what are some other nutrient-dense starches?

        • Rachel, it’s good to hear that you aren’t limiting fat! Limiting carbs can be a problem too. I myself did this with Evelyn, not knowing any better, and she was also always hungry. I mean, kids are always hungry in general, right? But when we were limiting carbs (mostly because I didn’t know what to give her) her hunger just seemed to be constant.

          Now she eats white rice with protein and fat. You can also do plantain and yuca. I wouldn’t recommend yams as they are high in anti-nutrients.

  11. I find the hardest part of Paleo for kids is the age they start and the teachers at school. My kids are in grade school and were when we started Paleo as well. Teachers are not supportive of feeding them differently and snacks are given out freely in class, my kids don’t turn then down like I would like. This causes them to be constantly craving carbs and junk. Drives me crazy, we had one teacher who was awesome about it and made my daughter feel good about not eating the crap, we moved schools and haven’t found one like that again. I make their lunches everyday but wish I had more control over classroom foods.

  12. Thank you for not vaccinating your kids! I wish I never had given either of mine any and am thankful I stopped when I did. My youngest is mildly autistic (I believe vaccine related) and I am very interested in going paleo. Not sure I will be able to get their father on board though so when they are with him, I have to let go. It’s tough b/c I do all organic and grass fed here – there…who knows? :(

    I just ordered your book. I have a ton of weight to lose and a carb/sugar addiction I’d like to kick once and for all.

    Blessings!