Truth is, when we first started out, we didn't want to restrict our children to the same diet, but we felt it would be beneficial for them to cut out wheat and dairy, especially since four out of five of our children have obvious reactions to dairy (typically in the form of diarrhea).
Most notable is the rash on my oldest daughter's hands. The tops of her hands have been scaly, rough, and red for months now. At first we thought it might be the soap we use to wash dishes, so I changed the soap. Maybe the hot water was drying her hands out? We bought gloves. Since removing dairy and wheat from her diet, her rashes have almost disappeared. When we did allow the children to have a little cheat when at a birthday party (white flour buns for their hotdogs), the next day, they all had complaints of tummy aches and feeling generally icky. Plus, Merikalyn's rash seemed to be just a little bit worse.
As time has gone on, we have come to see that having our children on the Paleo diet isn't really restrictive. They are really enjoying the food they eat, and our older two have been very interested in why we eat the way we do. In fact, they love informing random people about the Whole30 challenge and the Paleo diet.
On the other hand, there is our five year old, Keagan, who often asks, "Is the diet over yet?" to which his older brother replies, "It's never going to be over, dude!"
What has been the biggest challenge for the kids? Well, our family had gotten into the habit of grazing. It's not an exaggeration when I say we were having snacks at least five times a day. Our mostly-plant-based diet was not filling them up, and they always seemed to be hungry. If the younger ones (Keagan, 5, and Evangeline, 2) did not like what was for lunch or supper, they would wait fifteen or twenty minutes and ask for a snack, which they would receive.
We had also formed this lovely response every time we left the house, "I'm hungry!" because I had gotten into the habit of stopping for some sort of treat every time we ran errands. Sometimes it would be a Happy Hour half-priced drink at Sonic, other times it would be lunch at Chick-fil-a. So it became the expected thing- we would stop by some restaurant every time we went out, which, of course, was not good on the budget.
Snacking caused our grocery budget to be ridiculously high. We wanted to give our children healthy snacks when we were at home, so most snacks consisted of mandarin/cutie oranges, apples, bananas, or other fruits. Every now and then they would have fresh bread, pretzels, crackers, granola or other grain-based snacks. When I started breaking it down, I realized I was spending about $100 a week just the snacks we had at home. That's an unbelievable amount.
Most people think Paleo is so expensive because of the meat, but we were eating mostly whole foods before we took the challenge plus a minimal amount of meat and spending what felt like a fortune. I rarely escaped the grocery store without spending about $275 per week. (And, we ate out several times a week as well!)
I felt like we were spending a lot, but, I know, I have five growing children, so I figured I'd better just get used to a higher grocery bill.
The writers of the Whole30 book, It Starts With Food, recommend cutting out the snacking, so I went for it. And I cut out my children's snacking as well. Eventually, we found that we definitely needed a small snack between lunch and supper, but one snack a day was a far cry from the five or more we were accustomed too.
At first, I felt like I was starving the children, and I probably was. The younger ones had learned they didn't have to eat a meal if they didn't really want to, and could enjoy whatever snacks (fruit) they wanted to later, so it took a bit for them to learn that they had better eat the meal set before them because there wouldn't be a snack for them later. The older ones struggled with the snacking habit, just as I did. We all wrestled with stomach pains, but the older ones were able to understand that we were in the process of retraining our bodies. We would all go drink a glass of water and move on.
We usually include the kids in the meal-prep process, and some times they make the entire meal themselves. I have found it really helps to have children assist in the meals, especially if it's something they aren't particularly fond of. Just the pride and excitement in having made it might be enough to have them actually eat it without force feeding.
We almost always sit at the table together as a family, which I believe is very important. Do not make a habit of sitting in front of the television or eating while working. Sure, maybe on a special or rare occasion, but, again, not regularly.
Sometimes we change it up and eat outside. We may eat on the picnic table or set up folding tables and chairs outside, especially when we grill. The kids love it and it's less kitchen clean-up. Little things like eating outside are very exciting for the kids and create wonderful memories.
Dinner time is a great time to talk about what kids have done that day and what they have learned, as well as to teach them about the food we are eating- where it comes from, how it's prepared, what it has in it and what it doesn't have in it (hopefully it doesn't have chemicals and sugar!).
We do allow our children a little grain treat now and then. Sometimes its in the form of a WASA Rye cracker, or maybe it's a small slice of cake. (Usually I make healthier versions of cake or donuts using Spelt flour and natural sweeteners if there is a birthday party planned, or I'll bring Lara bars for them to have instead.)
I always keep snacks in my purse in case we get caught up in running errands and are not home in time for lunch or dinner, or maybe we go to a potluck and there isn't much for us to eat there. These snacks usually include Lara bars, Applesauce pouches, nuts, and little packages of almond butter.
Overall, our children are adjusting well. The key has been to explain why we are eating the way we do. They have become a bunch of label readers. They are often checking out what is in products, which I love. And, when Keagan wants something that is not on the approved list, his brother and sister will often coach him through it, explaining why it's not good for him.
|Banana and Egg "muffins, a boiled egg, and grapes for breakfast|
All of the kids are feeling so much better, and when we do allow treats, we always remind them that they will probably feel icky afterwards. Often they will pass on the "treat" (at least the older two will). Our baby, Molly Jo, loves meat, fruits, and vegetables, so she's done really well. She's no longer having those screaming fits because her tummy hurts, which is a major plus!
* Remember, if you live in another country, you will not be able to compare the grocery prices because they are often drastically different.
*We typically shop at H-E-B (a popular grocery store in Texas), Kroger, and Sprouts with the occasional trip to Whole Foods in Houston. We do not shop at Walmart because their foods are highly processed and their meat is over-priced, and, most of all, we loathe their business practices.