In our culture, and in fact all over the world these days, to eschew starchy foods is downright dissident behavior. It goes against the norms of society, the wisdom of the ages, and the advice of our doctors.
From childhood we learn that whole grains are healthy, that breads and rice are life-giving. Our government disseminates this information like bees spread pollen. Our friends support it with every sandwich, pizza, and doughnut they savor.
Most of the western world these days recognizes that sugars are indulgent to say the least but the sinister nature of grains, particularly gluten grains, is only beginning to surface.
So where does this leave us – we who have read the literature and are convinced of the diet’s power, we who have experienced rapid recovery from high cholesterol or joint pain, who no longer get colds and allergies, and whose energy levels remind us of the good ol’ days?
Well, it leaves us outcasts in a food-centered society, and we have to figure out how to get our kids to stick with us.
Because grains produce feel good chemicals in the brain primal diet followers must learn to rely on other sources of pleasure and learn to disconnect food with joy. It’s not to say that paleo recipes aren’t delicious and satisfying in their own way but they can’t replace “comfort food.” The link in our brains between food and fun or food and sadness must be severed if we are to succeed at the paleo diet long-term.
This is one of the hardest things to grasp about the transition – how to feel satisfied in situations where food is no longer at its center. To be successful we have to retrain our brains to disassociate food with pain and fun. We no longer go out to ice cream to cheer up, or to the bakery to start the day off right. We learn to find other reasons to laugh, other sources to comfort us in pain, and another focus for gatherings with friends. All our lives food has been the topic of discussion, our psychologist, and our door to new cultures. Not only must we seek alternatives but it is our added responsibility to offer these alternatives to our children.
We want our kids to experience just as much fun as other kids and we don’t want to give kids the impression that the whole world is off limits (I mean it sort of is but let’s try to disguise the fact for a while). Successful primal parents can’t just give their kids a piece of food to cheer them up or to quiet them down, they actually have to think a bit and put some effort into it.
How to Take the Focus Off Food
- When kids get sad, go to the bookstore to pick out a favorite book. Remember that we build neural connections and create associations. Later on in life, their brains will go for a book rather than a scoop of ice cream when the going gets tough.
- Instead of going out to dinner to “cheat” at a restaurant every Saturday evening, consider making Saturday nights board game night. If you haven’t done this yet, it may seem boring but it’s just a matter of retraining the food-addicted brain.
- Make games and art projects the main attraction at birthdays. Offer some lunch and a birthday fruit arrangement and then move on to presents and more games. If you don’t make a big deal of it, neither will they. The only ones who will really care are the adults who have made lasting associations with birthdays and sugar.
- Do things differently. Get in to trouble sometimes, jump over a fence, get rid of your tv (since that is almost certainly associated with packaged foods), go to the park barefoot, make art out of things you find laying around, walk to the store or ride your kid to school in a trailer. Make odd the norm in the family. If everything you do is a little off kilter, then eating different foods will almost seem normal.
How to Convince Kids That the Primal Life is Best
In order for our kids to follow this idea on their own while they are bombarded with pressures from friends and teachers they must believe in it. So our second job is to convince our kids that the benefits of living the primal life and eating the primal diet is worth giving up junk food. With children this can be tricky. They don’t really know about pain and suffering yet.
On the other hand, if I want to convince adults, I might show them examples of primitive peoples who’s teeth are large and straight, who don’t have or use braces, who have never seen acne or heart disease, who’s bones are strong and rarely break, who’s temperament is calm. I would tell them of my own story of recovery. I would juxtapose the nutrient profile of canned vegetables to that of fresh, organic vegetables. I would tell them how sugars alter our hormonal balance and paralyze the immune system. Oh, there is so much I would say!
But all of this is Greek to children.
What do they care about crooked teeth when dentists can straighten them? What does it matter if your bones break when doctors can fix them? And heart disease, what is that anyway?
We can’t fill little heads with technical details but we can show them real-world examples of the difference between primal and modern choices.
- Take children to a free range farm to play. They can milk a healthy cow and gather a few eggs. Now drive by a feed lot for contrast. Even from the car it will be obvious to children that something is amiss. Get outside and look around. It will smell and there won’t be much color. It’s not a place kids will want to play or stay for more than a minute.
- At home, crack two eggs – one golden egg from the free range farm you just visited and one pale yellow egg from the grocery store (where hopefully you don’t shop). Talk about the sun and pretty golden things. The bright egg is more cheerful and kids will recognize that.
- Make connections to the way their bodies feel with the food they’ve eaten. When kids eat healthy, turning back to junk food will cause some noticeable discomfort. Point this out every time they cheat and they will start to understand the connection.
- I don’t want to make your kids judgemental or turn them into haters but it’s important for them to recognize that while sugar makes kids upset and sometimes wild, a low insulin diet is calming.
- Pack lunches every day with some of their favorites. Even if these lunches are a little less than ideal, don’t worry about it. Sending them with foods that they don’t enjoy will only intensify cravings and bring attention to the difference between their lunch and the yummy junk food lunches at school. But if they are satisfied with their lunches then they can keep focused on their friends at lunch time and not on their friend’s lunches.
- Discuss the purity of the foods they eat in contrast to packaged foods and their lists of unpronounceable ingredients. Note that those ingredients don’t come from the earth but are chemicals made in a factory.
- Use herbs to heal sickness and injury. There are all kinds of activity books and board games you can use but our favorite is A Kids Herb Book.
How to Gain Love and Respect From Your Kids So They Choose to Follow You As Adults
- Be active together. Start doing some kind of activity together like riding bikes, going hiking, or taking a class. Sharing activities together builds strong bonds.
- Be interesting! If they think you do cool stuff, then they will have more interest in your opinions and beliefs.
- Engage them in your life; engage with them in theirs. This will build respect and adoration and they will strive to emulate you in every way.
- Prove to them that you live by this diet. You don’t just talk about it or want to do it. Kids won’t want to join you if you constantly fall off the wagon. Be consistent. If one week you’re a healthy family and the next week you’re too busy for it or too bored to keep it up, your kids won’t take it any more seriously than you do.They will simply learn cheat and quit too.
- Be honest about your faults and limitations. None of us are perfect and kids certainly can’t handle that pressure. Don’t expect 100% compliance from yourself or your kids, but do make smart choices when you do deviate.