Deciding to radically overhaul your lifestyle is made more challenging if you have kids. So when we decided, as a family, to go paleo, it required some serious planning.
My husband and I have three children, who were 7, 9 and 10 when we decided to make the change 2 years ago. We already ate very little processed food, virtually no ready meals and very little sugar and my husband and I had already stopped eating starchy carbs for our evening meal but it still seemed an enormous jump.
We decided the best time to trial paleo was during the 6 week summer holidays as the time pressure was reduced and if we hated it after 6 weeks, we could go back to how we used to eat, having given it a fair chance.
This is how we did it.
1 Prime the Kids and Make a Deal
We explained what we were planning on doing and why we felt it was important. The kids cheered at the prospect of not having to eat potatoes any more (!) but were dismayed at the idea of having to give up spaghetti. We agreed that we would try to come up with as many fun meals as we could to make up for the lack of spaghetti and that they could choose (within reason) what they ate out of the house, which they agreed to.
The kids are on board! They positively promote their way of eating but are happy that they get to break the rules when they are at friends’ houses or out for a meal, although they are also happy to try to eat paleo when we go out – they just need a little encouragement.
We also purchased a spiraliser, which is great, and can now make ‘spaghetti’ from carrots and courgettes, which keeps them happy.
If you are making a huge change to your nutrition, you are taking a lot of control away from your kids so it can help to include them in planning and trialling new recipes to help make them feel a part of the process.
2 Plan Breakfasts
Lunch and dinner weren’t a particular challenge, in that we only had to remove the starchy carbs and increase the fibrous veg. It was a bit of a challenge removing bread from lunches, but breakfasts, on the other hand, seemed impossible!
Before paleo, during the week, we used to have either porridge with fruit and honey, raisin wheats (sugar free) or sugar-free Alpen – all with milk – and banana pancakes and chocolate sauce or croissants and chocolate brioche at the weekends.
It seemed impossible to make a breakfast without grains or dairy! We did some research and trawled Instagram and Twitter and paleo blogs for inspiration.
After some research and some trial and error, this is a typical couple of week’s breakfasts for us now:
*Monday – pork loin steaks with chopped apple, broccoli and cauliflower
*Tuesday – paleo Bircher muesli – grated apple and carrot with toasted seeds and almonds, warmed berry and honey compote and coconut cream
*Wednesday – turkey mince hash (made with onions, courgettes, carrots and peppers served in lettuce wraps and 1/2 an avocado)
*Thursday – Beef in gravy (I cheat here and cook the beef chunks in butter and a couple of beef Oxo cubes but you don’t have to…) with broccoli and carrots
*Friday – paleo granola (made with a mixture of seeds and nuts, including chia seeds, baked in the oven with a little coconut oil, honey and grated rind and juice of an orange – a sprinkle of cocoa powder doesn’t harm either and raisins added at the end) with home made almond milk or thinned down coconut milk – chilled.
*Saturday – banana pancakes and chocolate sauce (for the pancakes: 200g creamed coconut melted with 6 – 8 eggs, 2 mashed and 2 chopped bananas; for the chocolate sauce: dark chocolate melted with coconut cream).
*Sunday – bacon and eggs with chopped strawberries, melon, carrots, yellow pepper, cucumber and blueberries.
*Monday – Omelette with bacon and veggies
*Tuesday – paleo breakfast muffins (200g creamed coconut, melted, with 4-6 eggs, 1 large carrot, grated, a couple of handfuls of raisins and a squirt of honey)
*Wednesday – Chicken curry leftovers with cauliflower ‘rice’
*Thursday – paleo ‘bread rolls with a variety of fillings (a million different experimental recipes – some pretty successful – used for paleo bread until we gave up and lived without it.)
*Friday – gammon with watermelon, carrots, yellow pepper, cucumber and blueberries
*Saturday – Apple pancakes with paleo caramel sauce (same pancake recipe as above but made with chopped apple – caramel sauce: boil honey and salted butter and coconut cream for the length of time it takes you to make the pancakes.)
*Sunday – Sometimes we cheat with daddy pancakes (oats, cottage cheese and eggs, whizzed in the blender and fried – made so much better with marmite) and chopped fruit and veggies.
It does take more time and effort and planning. But you choose your battle, right? We aren’t always perfect with breakfasts and sometimes when I can’t be bothered or we are in a rush we have porridge with raisins or berries or my husband makes Daddy pancakes at the weekend.
Plan your meals weekly so you know what you need to take out of the freezer the night before (we get our grass-fed meat from Paleo Wales every other week and keep it in the freezer and I shop two or three times a week for fruit and veg).
3 Be Flexible and Transition Sensibly
The point, in my mind of changing our style of eating, wasn’t to necessarily replicate exactly what our ancestors ate. We don’t, after all live in a cave. We have access to really excellent nutrients all year round – it makes sense to take advantage of this. The point was to avoid sugar and grains and processed food. With this in mind, flexibility has to be key. So we don’t beat ourselves up if we have less than 70% chocolate at Easter and sometimes we just have to eat what’s on offer – but generally, it’s possible to eat paleo, even when we eat out. Ask for salad instead of chips or extra veg instead of mash etc.
It takes around 6 months, I reckon, to fully transition from your standard diet to paleo. Within this first period, it can be handy to make it easy on yourself and give in to the paleo ‘treats’. I spent a lot of time initially experimenting with dessert and ‘treats’ so that I didn’t feel my kids were missing out on what we had previously thought of as ‘delicious’ food. I made paleo cakes and paleo tarts and paleo birthday cakes and paleo mince pies. I made paleo fruit and nut bars and paleo chocolates. (See the blog for recipes) My kids thought they actually had more treats eating paleo than they had before. After a while, though, we got used to the paleo way and needed these treats less and less. I still make them but much more rarely.
Make paleo work for you, not the other way around. Remember why you chose this way of life and don’t get sidetracked by becoming obsessive in a situation that doesn’t warrant it.
Initially, it seemed impossible to keep my kids from getting hungry between meals but we got round it. Firstly, I had to increase the amount of vegetables I gave them, which helped fill them up. Also, without sugar and starchy carbs in their diet, they now find it much easier to go longer without snacking but it did take a while for the sugar and carb cravings to go. I also try to make sure there are leftovers in the fridge, like cold chicken or hard-boiled eggs or paleo cakes, fruit or chopped up veggies to snack on if they get the munchies.
Out of all of us, I am probably the most committed to paleo but my kids now totally understand proper nutrition, they get why the paleo model of the food pyramid makes more sense than the government one. They know that processed food, sweets, crisps and wheat-based cakes are not necessary for survival and they can explain to their bemused teachers why their way of eating is so beneficial. Once you get your head around spending more time planning and prepping, paleo is a doodle, even for a family of 5!
About the author
My name is Krish and I am a REPs registered, level 3 personal trainer and fitness instructor, living in Uckfield.
I also hold certificates in Functional Fitness and in Group Training, Circuits and Bootcamps.
As a freelance writer, I contribute monthly to Magnet magazine.
I have three children and a husband; we all follow the paleo diet.
From my own little gym, here in Uckfield, I have enjoyed training over 40 clients.
I was a primary school teacher before retraining as a PT but I still like to teach kids so run Junior Hero Academy classes, where I still get to use all the skills I learnt in school – I have full CRB clearance.
My aim is to enable anyone – regardless of age, gender, prior experience, fitness levels or attitude – to discover just what they are capable of. I believe that in discovering just what our bodies can do and in taking control of our nutrition and fitness, we can change our lives in unimaginable ways.
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