I was listening to a podcast the other day and someone suggested that a person was ‘lucky’ because their child was open to eating different things. It got me thinking; in the past I have acknowledged that I was ‘lucky’ because my children would eat the different food that I cooked, food that their friends might turn their noses up at. Then I realised…I’m not lucky.
My kids are what I would consider ‘normal’.
We made a decision when we had kids that they would eat what we did. I wasn’t into cooking a meal for them and then another for my husband and myself. Thats too much unnecessary work for me. So when I decided to go Paleo, I wasn’t going to feed my kids the food I had decided was not healthy for my own body.
Around the same time I started to change my eating habits, a doctor (without allergy testing) suggested that my son go gluten free, because of some skin and bowel issues he was suffering. I said to the doctor “Well that will be easy, he’s been mostly eating Paleo recently anyway.” So my kids eat gluten free. Most of the time they are actually eating Paleo, but its harder with school aged kids to pack a lunch every day that sticks with the Paleo principles, especially with nuts and nut products banned from schools (most Paleo baked goods use nut products).
When I’m asked what it’s like to eat Paleo, I describe it as an old fashioned way of eating. When I was growing up we ate a lot of meat and vegetables at dinner time. It wasn’t until maybe my early teens, that meals included more and more grains, though bread had always been a part of our diets. Meat and vegetables for dinner was normal to me. Somehow we’ve been convinced that as our lives became busier it would be easier as parents to take the convenient, prepackaged meal options like pasta and forget about the meals that we grew up on. So when I look at what I cook or serve my kids, its not that dissimilar to what I ate in my youth.
I haven’t worked any magic to get my kids to eat this way. There aren’t any tricks that I think I can share with those parents frustrated at their child’s pickiness either. But what I made for dinner is what they eat. There are no other options. I’m not going to make their favourite food, if they didn’t like what I cooked. It sounds tough, but it’s what we d0, and it works for us. They eat meals that aren’t their favourites, and so do I. That’s ok, not everyone has to love every meal. I’ve accepted this.
So, lets take a look at some of the things my kids eat most days:
Breakfast: CADA, eggs and bacon, or organic puffed rice cereal with almond milk.
Lunch (school lunch): leftovers maybe soup or curries, gluten free multi seed rolls, or organic brown rice corn cakes, fruit.
Dinner: whatever I make for dinner (which are Paleo). I might make them rice or gluten free pasta maybe once a month.
Snacks: fruit, vegetables, dehydrated fruits/meats, tins of tuna, nuts, homemade dips, plain rice crackers, and paleo goodies I bake e.g. muffins, cookies, slices.
My kids aren’t perfect, they eat things when we are out that may have gluten in them. What’s most important to me is that we talk about it. I’ve told them that I am ok with them eating ‘naughty’ treats at friend’s houses every now and then, but they need to make the choice. They need to understand how it makes their tummies feel and what will happen if they eat too much of it. I have been told by my son, when he’s got a tummy ache or suffering cramps and constipation “I shouldn’t have eaten that bit of gluten mum”. That is enough for me, to know that he understands the consequences and how his body reacts to the things he puts into his mouth. He gets it. More recently, they are making better and better choices when they are given the chance.
As a whole I am very proud of the choices they make. They will choose sushi (their favourite) if they can when we’re out, rather than fried food. Their favourite meals at home are my Chili Con Carne, homemade curries, or asian dishes. They even read food labels when we are at the supermarket and tell me “there’s gluten in this one mum”. I believe this is due to the example that my husband and I have shared with them. Letting them try different cuisines (which are often more gluten free friendly). We have educated them on better choices and it’s sunk in.
The chain reaction is even evident. My kid’s friends have asked about what they are eating, have tried my Paleo goodies when visiting, and I have even had their parents ask for the recipes. I love it!
I hope to remove the gluten free products out of my kid’s diets, but for now a little gluten free works for them and me. I know, however, that they are healthy and eat balanced meals, that are going to give them enough energy to get through their busy lives and that is the best I can do for them. As parents we need to lead by example. Educate our children on better food choices, don’t think they are too young. Also, encourage them to try everything, even foods that aren’t your favourite, they might become theirs. Don’t assume they won’t like something because you don’t.
Hopefully, if we can start having these conversations and get our kids talking about food, we can educate them and work towards changing the national obesity rates. As parents we buy the food that is available to our children. We cook the food that our children eat. We can have an influence on their eating habits and we need to not abuse that responsibility.
If you are looking to improve the way you eat, don’t separate it from your family. Don’t cook them pizza and serve yourself a salad. Talk to them about your positive changes, how good it makes you feel. Get them involved in the kitchen and trying the rainbow of foods that are available to us. Who knows, your children may start eating ‘normally’ like mine.