Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
27 Feb

Co-Feeding: How to Get Your Family Involved with Healthy Food

cookingfamilyJust about every week, I get emails from readers who are trying to get their kids on board with healthier eating. It’s easy enough for us to read about the health benefits of a particular way of life and then enact the changes necessary to attain them, but small kids are ruled by their immediate desires. That’s what makes being a kid so great. Rather than try to stifle that intrinsic part of their being and risk creating the unfortunate abomination known as a tiny, prepubescent, stressed-out adult, what if we could somehow work with their natural proclivities to make healthy food appealing? Wouldn’t that be awesome, effective, and far easier than fighting them?

A recent email from a reader gave me a great idea for making this a reality. She called it “co-feeding” (a la co-sleeping) and described it as getting the kids (and all other family members) involved with the shopping, cooking, and eating process. I thought this was a fantastic idea and figured I’d run with it.

After all, food has always been a social phenomenon. Cuisine itself is the transformation of raw dietary fuel – plants, animals, and their associated micro- and macronutrients – into food that appeals to human sensibilities. We cook food and follow recipes and pay attention to presentation and color and all that other stuff because other people are going to be eating it. Without people to appreciate and observe the sum total of a dish, it’s reduced to its base materials and, in my opinion, somewhat cheapened. To a hungry dog, curry is just a big pile of tasty calories (and future diarrhea, maybe). To a strict reductionist/nutritionist, it’s turmeric, coconut milk, ginger, garlic, beef broth, carrots, and onions (and you can go even further down the rabbit hole). To most people, it’s a delicious, rich, aromatic, invigorating, stimulating experience. And so food is about people. If we can involve our families with the food-making process, perhaps they’ll come to appreciate food and make healthier choices on their own, or at least buy into what you’re serving up. Because it’s not just you serving it up; they’re participating, too.

In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of mindful eating and how thinking about what you’re eating in the immediate moment and savoring the flavors, textures, and aromas change the perceived quality of the food and how you respond to it. When we consider food an afterthought, a side dish to whatever’s on TV or on our laptop, or whatever racing thoughts are coursing through our brains, we miss out. We look up from our stupor to find an empty plate, a full belly, and zero recollection of what we just ate. Did we even eat? Maybe there’s room for dessert after all… I digress.

Today, I’m going to throw out some tips and ideas for co-feeding with your family – for getting kids to learn to love real, Primal food just as much as you do. (And on Saturday we’ll have recipes that complement this blog post.) It won’t be a systematic step-by-step detailed outline. Families are too unique, and kids have different needs. I’m confident that everyone will find something useful, though.

Foraging

When foraging for food, parents don’t always have the luxury of leaving their spawn behind. And even if they do have that option, I don’t think they should take it, because it’s a golden opportunity to expose kids to real food.

Let them choose.

Kids (humans, really) like having a choice. When they can make a decision, they feel empowered. They are empowered. Yeah, they might grab the durian because it looks funny and has spikes, or want ten pounds of chicken feet because, well, they’re chicken feet, but so what? They’re getting invested in actual, real, Primal food (and you can make some awesome broth).

Stick to the perimeter.

Yeah, if you traipse down the cereal aisle, that gleaming hall of colorful toucans and cookie thieves and deliciously stale marshmallows, your kid is going to be grabbing junk left and right. The solution is simple: don’t go to the cereal aisle. For that matter, don’t go down any of the junk food aisles. Stick to the produce, the meat, the real food. That way, your kid will still be able to choose, but the choices available will be generally good.

Go to farmers markets.

Grocery stores pale in comparison to a bustling, vibrant farmers market. Where else can your kid be exposed to free-market competition, twenty kinds of kale, a guy selling sauerkraut juice shots, a hippy lady selling magic crystals, and produce with real dirt on it? Plus, farmers markets are generally bereft of junk as a rule.

Give them a basic framework, but let them fill out the details.

When you take your kid shopping, give them a framework for making decisions. Say “I need two green vegetables, two meats, a fruit or vegetable of every color, and a nut,” and then they take it from there.

Make a game out of it.

Tell your kid, or kids, that it’s up to them to come up with the perfect dish. Then, they have to go find all the requisite ingredients. It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt, except you end up eating what you find. Let’s just hope they pick something edible. Winner gets a trophy and accolades, and the loser goes hungry for a night (kidding).

Preparation

Food must be prepared, especially if you want truly Primal food. Plus, as anyone who’s gone and stayed Primal can tell you, making your food forces you to appreciate that food. It’s more satisfying, fulfilling, and nourishing when it comes from your own hands. Kids (and people) may like taking the easy way out when it’s available, but if they literally get their hands dirty in the kitchen, they’re more likely to want to eat the food.

Work on kitchen skills one by one.

This isn’t a sprint, it’s Chronic Cardio. Start slow, and make sure your kids are adept at a skill before moving on to the next one. Skills include washing produce, whisking, beating eggs, emulsification, knife skills, spatula work, tong handling, seasoning, smashing garlic, egg separating, use of the stove and oven, sautéeing, grilling, and the list goes on and on.

Trust them.

Assuming they have full control of their opposable thumbs, functional nervous systems, and reasonable hand-eye coordination, let them cut things with actual sharp knives and handle hot pans. Start with forgiving items like romaine lettuce and celery and graduate to more tricky things like onions and five year-aged gouda. Oh, and even though it may go against your natural inclination, be sure that the sharp knives are truly sharp; dull knives are more likely to slip off the target food and end up in fingers and hands. Have the bandages and first aid ready, of course, because accidents do happen. Just know that accidents are rarely serious and ultimately end up being potent learning experiences. Regarding the pans, shy away from cast iron and stick to stainless until they’re strong enough to handle them adroitly.

Cede control of the spices.

If your kids are going to learn how spices, salt, and other additives affect the dish, let them add them and taste the result. After each addition, have them stir, have everyone take a taste, then report back with their impressions. Over time, they’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. That said, I wouldn’t exactly give them access to a tablespoon and a bag of saffron. Instead, give them a quarter teaspoon to mitigate the potential damage.

Clean as you go.

There’s nothing quite so demoralizing and off-putting as a kitchen in utter and total disrepair following a big meal. Kinda like how new drinkers often swear off booze after that first real hangover, first time cooks might swear off cooking if they have to clean the entire kitchen in one fell swoop. To combat this, clean stuff as you use it. Let’s face it: washing dishes is the worst. If you can break it up into bite sized pieces, it’s not nearly so bad. This is good advice for anyone who spends time in the kitchen, but it’s especially important for parents who want their kids to actually like (or at least tolerate) cooking.

Eating

This may be the hard part: actually getting your kids to eat the food with you. If you’ve got them cooking and shopping with you, you’ve at least got a head start.

Use your hands.

Kids are naturally inclined to eat with their hands, and I’m not convinced it’s all that awful. Choosing foods that work well with fingers will play to their desires. Ribs, drumsticks, lamb chops, cowboy ribeyes, carrots, broccoli, orange slices, cherry tomatoes are just a few examples. Heck, go ahead and eat chili with your hands if you want. Just be prepared for the massive cleanup job after.

Use fat.

A recent study just came out showing that adding fat to veggies helps kids learn to like them (it works on adults, too, I find, especially if you use butter). So, be sure to incorporate plenty of healthy fat in your meals.

Use variety.

You’re going to strike out once, twice, ten times. Eventually, though, you will find some foods your kids will eat and love. You’ll get into a groove, you’ll learn (and shape) their tastes, and things will get easier. But if you keep throwing the same five dishes at the wall that have yet to stick, nothing’s going to change and you’re only going to be frustrated.

When weaning a fussy babe, try keeping them on your lap.

They may not think they’re interested in whatever food you’re trying to get them to eat, but if they’re on your lap, food is constantly whizzing by their face only to be eaten with great relish by the person they look up to most of all: you. Be sure to make lots of smacking noises; make it obvious how much you’re enjoying it, and they’ll eventually want in on it. Watch the diner scene from When Harry Met Sally for an idea of what to do. This should work on kids of varying ages, too, although I wouldn’t recommend trying to place a sixteen year old on your knee.

If there’s one theme running through this post, it’s that people need to have a stake in their food. When you do that, when kids have a role in the decision-making, food-preparing, and cooking processes, they are far more likely to be interested in the end result: a healthy, Primal plate of food. Giving them a personal role in the process also makes them less likely to develop neuroses from having their desires imposed upon by an authority figure. Parents are the ultimate authority in the parent-child relationship, but it shouldn’t be a totalitarian regime that engenders rebellion and resentment.

What about you guys? What’s worked for you? What’s worked on you? Let’s get a nice compilation of tips going in the comments!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. This is a great advice on how to wean a fussy baby. For parents being patient is the key because we might try to do certain things with our kids, and if they don’t get it right, we give up. Patience and consistency will do magic. It is certainly a challenge to introduce new foods to a baby.

    Anon wrote on February 27th, 2013
  2. For us young primal/paleo lifestyle followers, this can also go the opposite way in getting older parents involved. When I was able to convince my parents to buy a quarter cow of grass-fed beef, I can’t tell you how ecstatic I felt! The difficult part is getting them to actually eat the beef (I give as much help as possible when visiting their house).

    Paul wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I would love to see a post in that direction. Especially since my parents probably have way more to gain in the short term than I do – I didn’t have any health problems and was in ok shape to begin with, just went primal to stay that way. The only really noticeable effect for me has been more stable energy. Oh, and I may have lower body fat at the same weight.

      But I really want my parents to try it – I’m gonna live with them for probably about a month soon, and I’m gonna try to convince them to adopt a primal eating plan for the time at least. Would be great to hear some suggestions.

      Chris wrote on March 1st, 2013
  3. Don’t forget to think creatively about what food can look like. My son, who is four, would not touch broccoli (Even with cheese), until we described it as trees and he was a dinosaur. Broccoli is a favorite now. Also, if you can get on child to eat something, that can go a long way to the others trying it. My toddler slurped up homemade sauerkraut one day, which encouraged the others to try it. Of course, the toddler also eats curries, spicy pickles, and mustard straight.

    Beccolina wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • When I was very young, and going through the ‘dinosaur’ phase, I was led to pretend that Brussels sprouts were cavemen, and I was a T-Rex. As a result, I have always loved Brussels sprouts, especially when they try to run away and get trapped in the melted butter.

      Erok wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • I’d pretend that ketchup was blood. Now if I want blood, well, I go for the real fresh stuff. :)

        Animanarchy wrote on March 1st, 2013
  4. Great idea! It’s what’s gotten me interested in the kitchen…

    can’t say that it’s done much for my cooking skills though… but you can’t really screw up bacon.

    bjjcaveman wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • One of the best cookbooks (i.e. skills and techniques) I’ve encountered to date is “Ruhlman’s Twenty”. Plus the recipes are tasty too. Check it out.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • A quick review of it seems to include lots of non-paleo stuff.

        Skills and techniques are good, but how much of the recipe content is worth perusing?

        John wrote on February 27th, 2013
        • The first technique is “THINK”. The recipes in each section incorporate the technique for that chapter, sometimes several cascaded together. A recipe is a template. A recipe inspires. A recipe can show the pairing of ingredients you have not thought of.

          Thinking in terms of flavor profiles and ratios will change how you view food preparation. Learn real kitchen skills, think, and you can “paleofy” a recipe.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 28th, 2013
    • I disagree, I’ve screwed up bacon more than once – usually burning it whilst frying eggs :-)

      Primal V wrote on February 28th, 2013
  5. My two-year-old grabbed a carrot at the farmer’s market in the Fall, and ate it right up. It took me weeks to get him to eat another carrot, but he’s on board now.

    He’s also done all of the non-stove steps in the attached recipe for sour gummy starts.

    Ion Freeman wrote on February 27th, 2013
  6. Karen LeBillon’s book “French Kids Eat Everything” and the Food Rules inside offer great tips on establishing a happy, healthy relationship with food. She reversed her young daughters’ extreme pickiness and excessive snacking habits with these guidelines (and some creativity and hard work).

    Of course, it’s easier if you do these things right from birth, but I recommend this book to everyone, especially anyone who’s having trouble with getting their kids to eat well.

    E. wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I second the recommendation of Karen LeBillon’s book. Excellent read! I actually scrolled down just to post about her and now I’ve found I don’t have to :)

      Heidi wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • I was just going to suggest that book, but instead, I’ll third the recommendation. Not primal food, but good principles.

        Susan wrote on February 27th, 2013
        • Yep great read, very entertaining too.

          Charlotte wrote on February 28th, 2013
  7. These are great tips and as we begin to introduce more food to our baby as she grows, we plan on incorporating many of these. Nice to have them all listed out.

    One other thing running around the ‘get your kids to eat healthy’ world right now is to not make a big deal out of the transition. If you’re trying to transition from Lucky Charms to eggs, just put the eggs in front of them with no ‘we’re eating healthy now’ type of discussion. No bribery (eat two bits of broccoli for some ice-cream) and no fighting. Certainly not changing everything at once, but little steps. Throw away the bad stuff so there’s nothing to fall back on. The kids *will* eat it. Kids thrive on attention, so making as little deal about it as possible is supposed to help. I say that never having done it, but trying to keep it in mind as our baby is starting to eat grown-up food.

    leslie wrote on February 27th, 2013
  8. I have young elementary-aged kids. We started out by teaching them that food has speed. There’s fast food (carby) and slow food. (protein and fat). They know that their body uses up fast food quickly, and slow food stays with you longer so you don’t get hungry/tired/cranky.

    Then we taught them that fast + slow = medium. So plain peanut butter turned into a PBJ becomes pretty fast. They’re getting better at modifying their requests, by choosing slower versions of the taste they want.

    Recently we started in on food timing, based on their activities and when they can eat next. So bananas and apples are healthy and not-too-fast, but are much faster than eggs and sausage. So they get fruit after school, and the slower stuff for breakfast on school days.

    They’ve finally stopped asking for chocolate chip primal pancakes on school days.

    Karen wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I forgot to add: teaching them these concepts gives me the ability to respect their food tastes and preferences. Instead of just saying ‘no’ or ‘that’s not healthy’, I can suggest a better time of the day to eat the item or a modified version of what they’re craving. They’ve really become quite open-minded about food now.

      Karen wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • I really like the fast/slow food concept!! I try to time my eating preferences based off of when I am more active vs. not, so that’s perfect to be able to explain to my toddler! it’s great to instill this info so early for them.

        EMily wrote on February 28th, 2013
    • I really like the sound of that! I’m going to have to try it with my kids. It seems more concrete than simply, “it’s good for you”.

      Meesha wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • What a great concept! I will definitely use it with my 4 year old. She is interested in healthy eating and has tons of questions.

      Kathy wrote on February 27th, 2013
  9. I think that we forget that we are the parents and have the control; it’s really as simple as that. Don’t give them an option to choose unhealthy foods! They are not going to starve themselves, they’ll eventually eat. I’ve been there – done it with my own daughter. If she is truly hungry she’ll eat, even if she doesn’t think she’ll enjoy it – and then usually she’ll end up admiting that it wasn’t as horrible as she thought it would be.

    Sarah A. wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and that’s how my parents handled it. Children, especially small ones, have little to no knowledge about what is good for them. They’ll eat poisonous plants from your flower garden if you don’t watch them. Parents need to put good, healthful food on the plates of their children. It they are hungry enough they will eat it.

      D. M. Mitchell wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • P.S. Although it did take me a long time to learn to like liver. Mom mother would fry it to death.

        D. M. Mitchell wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • I agree with you 100%.

        Chris wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • EXACTLY! If they are hungry enough! One of the things I like about PRIMAL is the idea that you don’t have to snack constantly and getting hungry before meals is a good thing. Lots of little kids (that is, their caregivers) are way out of control when it comes to snacking, so it’s little wonder that they are “picky” when they sit down at the table. They are not hungry.

        Louise wrote on March 1st, 2013
    • Thank you for pointing this out! I absolutely agree. As parents, we are in control!

      Anon wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • so true – they will learn to love it when there is no other option- my kid the other day when asked what he wanted for lunch said – veggies and peanut butter- for the last year his taste buds have learned healthy is better

      lockard wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Yes, it’s common sense that’s gone by the wayside! Get rid of the crap foods – don’t have them in your home. Put out a bowl of fruit and a plate of cut veggies with a yogurt dip for snacking. You choose the meal instead of asking what they want to eat. I’ve seen too many parents act like slaves and short-order cooks for their kids. Anything goes.

      Take back your role as parent and leader. The rest will be easier.

      PureHapa wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I respectfully disagree. I have raised my children to take ownership of their own choices and trust their own bodies.

      Pamsc wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Might work for some; for others that’s a recipe for obese, unhealthy children.

        John wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Thank you for posting this. I didn’t bother raising this perspective as I generally don’t find this forum receptive to it. Children raised to respect their bodies and themselves and given good information about food are far more likely to ultimately make good choices about food. Kids don’t learn to make good decisions by being bossed around all the time (even if you call it “leadership” or “remembering who’s in control”) and restricting their access to knowledge (even if that knowledge is what they feel like after 4 bowls of ice cream).

        Notice the difference in how people talk about changing the opinions of adults in their lives (about food) vs how they talk about children.

        Susan wrote on February 28th, 2013
        • Susan – I have known this strategy to work with some children. However, the children in question were a)only children and b)had a personality that when given “good choices” they took them. In other words a perfect confluence of circumstances.

          The other only child I know allowed to “graze” at will is currently on the edge of obesity, like her mother.

          We don’t allow children to enter into contracts or direct their own medical care or expect them to earn money to support themselves for a reason. They are not “mini-adults”, capable of consistent rational thought. (Heck, there are a lot of adults who fit that category.)

          And more importantly, children feel safest in the confines of a consistent structure. The adults cope with the choices of a big scary world while to give them time to grow up.

          Children from abusive households quite often have troubles adjusting to their foster or adoptive households precisely because the basis of the world has shifted. It doesn’t matter that it’s remarkably improved – it’s just not what they’ve known. :(

          Amy wrote on March 1st, 2013
        • I disagree with Susan. Children can be raised to respect their bodies and make good food choices while still under guidance and leadership (i.e. control) of a parent. Letting them choose whatever they want just for the experience of it seems irresponsible to me. I would never let my child eat four bowls of ice cream just so he could “see what it feels like”. Would you let your child try four hits of cocaine just for the experience because he wanted to? I think not. Sugar (and other junk foods) is addictive like a drug and I have no problem controlling my child’s intake of it.

          Jennifer wrote on March 2nd, 2014
      • Look at all the educated adults out there “taking ownership of their choices and trusting their bodies” with Conventional Thinking, and ending up sick many years later. Children need guidance. There’s too much temptation and marketing and education about so-called “healthy” foods for children to wade through and go against. It’s asking too much of a child.

        PureHapa wrote on February 28th, 2013
        • But those adults behaving badly that you talk about–doesn’t it seem likely to you that they had their food choices controlled as children? Almost certainly their parents provided guidance and limits and controlled what foods were in the house, etc. That’s what Conventional Thinking tells us parents are supposed to do. Maybe it’s time to take a second look at where Conventional Parenting has already gotten us, and try something different. If you raise children to follow rules instead of to think for themselves, then that’s what you get. Adults who follow rules, sometimes for years and years before they figure out that those rules aren’t really working.

          Susan wrote on March 1st, 2013
        • Conventional thinking currently tells us to supply whatever the kid wants/whenever the kid wants. Those who limit what comes into the household are completely old school and out of fashion.

          If you supply rules that actually work and tell the child the reason why, chances are much higher they will resist the swan song of marketed foods. And even if they do binge, they know what feeling good actually means.

          Amy wrote on March 1st, 2013
    • Not 100% accurate.

      Being force-fed things that makes one physically ill for years, under that principle, tends to make one’s ability to eat “strange things” very stunted.

      If they consistently NOT-WANT after being forced into eating it, you probably should do something else. If it makes them throw up, the same. Not all parents actually BELIEVE that the food (that they themselves can eat) is bad for the kid. “Hungry enough” just means they’ll eat what they know is going to make them throw up later, because they’re not being given a choice.

      And I know, because that’s what _my_ parents did.

      Jessica wrote on February 28th, 2013
      • Jessica – I’m sorry that food turned into a power struggle in your house. It sounds pretty miserable for everyone.

        Good parenting means that the parents are still in charge and the kids aren’t throwing up after every meal. Finding that middle ground between authoritarianism and letting the kids rule the roost is not easy, but it’s always worth it.

        Amy wrote on March 1st, 2013
    • Sure sarah we are the parent, we now which food that’s being good for our family and which one isn’t. Sometimes this would be hard when they don’t eat their food, and that just my biggest depression. But I already have the key, sometimes I must modified my recipe for my children so they don’t know that what they were eat is something that they don’t like. And it’s work.

      Sadistre wrote on February 28th, 2013
  10. I say chicken feet for all kids…and how bout 10 pitted olives, one on each finger. That used to be my favorite.

    Nocona wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Yes, pitted olives on the fingers are practically a family tradition! Love it!

      My grandparents and parents used to put big platters of raw vegetables on the table with every meal, and we were encouraged to grab green onions, carrot sticks, celery, olives, and sliced turnips as much as we wanted.

      BonzoGal wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • For my kids it’s 10 raspberries, one on each finger. Times 5 or more. However, this is not something to brag about – it’s not so hard to make kids eat raspberries

      Izzy wrote on February 27th, 2013
  11. These are all great ideas! My kids were older when I went primal/paleo (they were 10 and 12), so I have been patiently teaching them about food, nutrition, reading labels to see what awful things are in processed foods, talking about how their friends eat, etc. It’s a process, not something that happens overnight. But it’s wonderful when you overhear your kid telling a friend that the friend “only eats junk” and isn’t fueling their body properly.

    NJ Paleo wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • +1

      This is what worked with my kids too. Also mocking the fake ingredients and make them laugh about them worked very well.

      I was so proud when I baked some muffins (modified version, less sugar etc) and my 12 yo daughter said they are too sweet for her, let’s make them with no sugar at all next time. Also, she just made me order 10 lb of organic pastured bacon from our favourite farm – she said this one tastes the best and she doesn’t want to be caught without until the next delivery.

      Izzy wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • “But it’s wonderful when you overhear your kid telling a friend that the friend “only eats junk” and isn’t fueling their body properly.”

      LOL – This is a double-edge sword moment. On one hand it’s absolutely wonderful that they absorbed the lesson. On the other, you run out of friends pretty quickly when you make unprompted criticisms/observations regardless of intent or age.

      I had to tamper down a “What, they’re vegetarian – don’t they know that’s bad for them!!??” reaction a few weeks ago in my 10 year old precisely because I don’t think it’s a good habit. *sigh* Parenting is not for the faint of heart.

      Amy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • My just-turned-10 year old son has autism, which is a large part of what prompted me to *really* learn about food the past few years. It was actually pretty easy to get him on board with the dietary changes…..but now he’s become a lecturer. “Why do you still eat wheat? Don’t you want to be healthy?”, or “Why does so-and-so keep junk food at their house?” (usually within earshot of so-and-so…)
        I always remind him that “it’s none of our business what other people eat” and that “everyone has to figure these things out in their own time…”. Quite a few embarrassing situations, and yes – some people get really offended! But secretly I’m really proud at those moments. ;)

        Kristin wrote on February 27th, 2013
        • Kristin, my 10-year old is exactly the same way. I have been teaching my kids about eating whole healthy foods, avoiding grains and sugar etc. for years. My son is always asking “why does no one else eat healthy like us mom?”, and “why does the school try to make us eat bad foods?”. He is frequently worried about his friend’s eating habits and he sometimes asks if they will get sick and die soon because of what they eat. So as Amy said, it is definitely a double-edged sword. It is great that they understand healthy but this also makes them different in todays SAD society.

          Jennifer wrote on March 2nd, 2014
  12. Can anyone recommend a cooking curriculum for use at home with kids 11 to teen that would lead us through the basic skills that Mark mentioned?

    PhilmontScott wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • 4-H! Get ahold of your local Extension office and ask them about cooking curriculum.

      Shevon1979 wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Former 4-H rabbit raising member here. Then we ate them. Great life lesson on real food.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Yes!!! My son was in a 4-H cooking project when he was 9. He learned to make all kinds of things from scratch, then came home and cooked them for us. (And also cleaned up his own mess because he was taught that also.)

        Janice James wrote on February 28th, 2013
    • Jacques Pepin videos! The recipes may not always be primal (you can adapt them), but he has done shows where he cooks with his daughter and grand-daughter. He’s a great teacher of technique and sometimes covers basic knife skills, using the right equipment, understanding heat, proper food prep, etc.
      Good Eats with Alton Brown would also be good for kids with a scientific inclination.
      Michael Ruhlman has a couple of good books – “Twenty,” which covers twenty techniques/ingredients that will turn anyone into a proficient home cook, and “Ratios,” which simplifies many recipes and food prep techniques into easy math. “Twenty” would be great for family cooking because it has great process photos. Some primal adaptation may also be necessary.

      Mark A wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • He cooks with his daughter and grandaughter! That is taking paleo to the extreme and not a part of paleo that I necessarily think we as a civilised society should adopt either. Even if they were grass fed! ;)

        Brad wrote on February 28th, 2013
  13. Sometimes a little (un)observance works as well. My friend and I had prepared a salad for our older (7+) kids, knowing the 5 yr olds wouldn’t touch it. With much giggling, the two youngsters crept in, and between them, ate the lot – enough for 5 people! We kept being ‘surprised’ that it had disappeared. Salad was always eated after that.

    Jenny wrote on February 27th, 2013
  14. I am transitioning to primal with a 1 and 3 year old and a husband that is not on board. Presentation helps – I can get my toddler to eat celery cars and smiley face anything. Presenting her with options is much better than asking what she wants. That way she still gets a choice, but I determine what the possibilities are. She also loves to crack eggs, count spices, mix things, and cut mushrooms with a butter knife. Showing her pictures of new recipes also helps!

    Melissa wrote on February 27th, 2013
  15. As weird as it sounds, being “fantastic” with food is another neat little trick I learned with veggies that would otherwise be boring.

    For instance, my 5 year old daughter eats her brussel sprouts enthusiastically because I told her that they will make her strong as an elephant.

    I’m going to try out the “have them pick their dinner themselves from the meat and produce aisle. This should make food that I eat…more interesting.

    Leo Dimilo wrote on February 27th, 2013
  16. Another great one Mark! No kids here, but a boyfriend whose picky eating could rival a 2 year old’s. When I first went primal, he thought I was a nut job. I quickly learned that trying to talk him into it doesn’t work so I’ve just been leading by example. He’s ever so slowly coming around to the idea and the fact that he can’t live off of jack in the box and pizza forever. He even mentioned the other day that he’d like to start coming to crossfit with me. Yay for small victories! I’m going to start implementing some of these tips ASAP. If it could work on a kid, it surely could work on a 27 year old man right?

    Ashlys Gone Primal wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Best of luck!! I’m still trying to transition a 55 year old man into more primal living. We have made progress. He will sometimes eat green beans now! His only other vegetable is iceberg lettuce. Sigh.

      Rhonda the Red wrote on February 28th, 2013
    • It was similar with my girlfriend. She didn’t really like the idea about life without cookies. But she didn’t have any objections when I cooked for both of us. She really liked how colorful the plate was, and now we are slowly coming to an agreement, that will work for both of us.

      Primož wrote on June 19th, 2013
  17. Last night I came home from work to see my 3.5 year old daughter on her stool at the stove, using a wooden spoon to stir around bacon in our cast iron dutch oven (husband was keeping a close watch). When she saw me, she cried out, “Mommy! I am making bacon! Want to help me?” The three of us then went on to make a wonderful pot of Salmon Chowder from the Primal Blueprint cookbook. She refused to taste the soup, though, so we gave her various cut up raw veggies and some fish fillets.

    She’s an enthusiastic cook, but only wants to stick to what’s tried and true. A bit frustrating, but I’m hopeful she’ll grow out of it eventually…

    Denise wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Explain to her that chefs need to taste their food to make sure it is yummy.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • That is a perfect idea, I will try it next time!!

        Won’t need it tonight–we’re having lamb (which she eats like there’s nothing better in the world).

        Denise wrote on February 27th, 2013
  18. Funny thing is that I’m the kid who has to get his PARENTS involved in healthy eating, no luck so far

    Gadsie wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • True that. Total “fail-leo” on getting my parents to try paleo.

      I do not talk to them about it anymore. Force is not my thing.

      Nothing stops a great idea when the time is right.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • I’m gonna put it out there; if you like it, you can take it, if you don’t, send it right back.

        Susie wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • I tried to convince my mother to try an avocado a few years back, which she’s never eaten. She explained to me that they were “all fat”. I tried to explain to *her* that it was good fat. “Oh, Kris – I don’t think there’s any such thing as GOOD fat…”.

        Kristin wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • This is what I want to know – how to get *parents* on board.

      ajb wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Getting the parents on board is a much tougher road. It’s already an uphill battle to take advice from a person you used to change diapers for.

        And then some personalities are so resistant to change or outside ideas that even bad advice goes ignored, even though their lives are a chaotic mess.

        The bottom line is that you might have to decide in advance how involved you are with their lives and put yours first.

        Me, I’m happy these days if I can get my Mom to take a few steps daily and maybe eat some meat in the carbs and the sugar. (She’s in assisted living thanks to a complete unwillingness to attend to her health. Watching her has completely changed my view of how people end up in nursing homes.)

        Amy wrote on February 27th, 2013
        • Get your Mother involved? Weigh yourself in front of her for two weeks. Look at her becoming more and more interested as the scales go down. She’s gone from eating prorridge with wheat germ, lsa, stuff with skim milk and whole grain breab for breakfast, to eggs, salad and avocado. OMG! my mother is an avid low fat high grain believer as well.

          JayJay wrote on February 27th, 2013
        • Jay-Jay – I really appreciate the thoughts. :)

          Unfortunately, if madness is repeating the same actions and expecting different results, then my Mother is as mad as a hatter. :(

          She’s been mostly overweight on low fat most of her life. She saw me lose the weight a decade ago and keep it off. Heck, she’s old enough to have grown up with the concept that too much sugar/starch made you fat and sick before we all collectively lost the plot about diet in the late 70’s. So the concepts aren’t even new to her.

          The bottom line is she’s going to do what she wants. Any evidence suggesting the self-discipline is worthwhile is completely ignored. *shrug* Education and even direct evidence isn’t a panacea for behavior changes.

          On a more positive note, though, I’m glad your Mom is feeling better. It’s always good to hear the conversion stories. :)

          Amy wrote on March 1st, 2013
  19. I still pretend I’m a dinosaur eating trees . . .

    Clasby wrote on February 27th, 2013
  20. I got my son and his friends to cook at least once a week beginning when they were about 12. If they cooked, I cleaned up, and vice versa. They planned the whole meal and delegated the cooking tasks. (Frequently their meals revolved around spaghetti and pizza, but this was before I was Primal.) One later got a job as a cook, and the other is a passable home cook. Sometimes they helped with the growing of food as well.

    shannon wrote on February 27th, 2013
  21. I’m glad to know my 2 year old daughter has no problem eating raw broccoli and tomatoes as if they were candy. (I started paleo a year and a half ago) so basically veggies and meat is all she knows. The problem is my 11 year old daughter who actually knows how to cook, but has no intention of changing her lasagna and spaghetti for lean meats and veggies. Any suggestions?

    Charles Palace wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Don’t keep those foods in the house. I assume your 11 year old doesn’t have access to a car and money to travel to the store to buy unhealthy foods. Don’t forget that you are the parent.

      Andrea wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Exactly. +1 on that.

        Sarah A. wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Agree with Sarah and Andrea about who’s in charge of stocking the house. :) I’d give her fair warning and let the stocks dwindle naturally (or only buy x more packages.)

      I’ve discovered my kids seem to be more agreeable to changes overall if it happens in the near future rather than right now. Adjustment time is good.

      Amy wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Let her have lasagna and spaghetti but with alternative ingredients that you provide. Hand her a spaghetti squash and some zucchini with a mandolin. Tell her she can try both as her spaghetti noodles and decide which one she wants to use going forward. For lasagna, again offer some zucchini, an eggplant and some fat portobello mushrooms to slice and use as her noodle layers. The noodles don’t add any flavor and that’s probably what she’s craving. So let her have the flavor but with veggies thrown in to fill her up.

      Decaf Debi wrote on February 28th, 2013
  22. Here’s one way to get a humanoid to eat your food.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7CDwfX66Fyw

    Animanarchy wrote on February 27th, 2013
  23. I like the idea of giving kids the framework and letting them choose. All too often you see parents forcing their kids which rarely works…even if it does it doesn’t last as kids start going to school.

    Hassan wrote on February 27th, 2013
  24. For anyone just starting on the feeding solids to babies path I highly recommend the “Baby Led Weaning” approach. Starting around 6 months you put some of whatever you are eating (as long as it isn’t a choking hazard) in front of them. Then they eat or don’t as they wish. I did this with mine and now have 2 16 month olds who happily gobble up kale, swiss chard, broccoli, etc. The mess in the beginning is impressive but so worth it.

    Stephanie wrote on February 27th, 2013
  25. Mark… Way more appetizing suggestion(s) today…. opposed to Mondays Placentophagy idea. I think the kids will agree as well! LOL

    Rod Hilton wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • “Okay kiddies, tonight dinner choices are liver, kidneys, or placenta”

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Next quote of the week!

        Hilda wrote on February 27th, 2013
  26. Hmm, we have never had issues with my daughter eating healthy. We both ate primal/paleo for atleast 4 yrs prior to her being born. This is all she as ever known (2.5yrs old). Even pretend playing, she will say shes going to the store and we ask what shes going to buy. She says” hmm carrots, matoes (tomatoes), baby ones red and orange, and meat.” Its funny, she actually eats things we don’t really care for some times ie we has left over roast and she was all about drinking the last bit of the soup and chunks of fat. She was seriously eating str8 up pure chunks of fat with barely any trace of meat. I would say from about 1yr she has had an egg for breakfast almost everyday. I really think its more of properly setting up the environment, so eating healthy is basically the only option.

    joe wrote on February 27th, 2013
  27. Just a note for the parents of those kale-crunching toddlers–it’s not unusual for kids’s tastes to become radically more conservative when they hit about 4. I have talked with parent after parent whose kids ate curries and salsas and Ethiopian food and who suddenly transitioned to, say, chocolate milk and rice when they got a little older. They do outgrow it and will return to being more adventurous. I suspect it’s evolutionarily wise–as kids become more able to venture forth without adults around, it makes sense for their tastes to become more conservative.

    Susan wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • How could a kid transition to rice and chocolate milk if you don’t buy or drink it? Not that i have anything against rice, since we do eat it every so often but not as a staple.

      joe wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Mmmm, chocolate tapioca.

        Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • Because eventually your child leaves your home and total control. They have friends. They go to school. My children were pretty picky toddlers, but became much worse after age two. I think it’s probably a little genetic – husband and I were both picky eaters when little, quite adventurous now. But it’s true. Very little children will often eat anything, and then get much pickier.

        Allison wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Yes! – our experience exactly (well, minus the chocolate milk). Glad to hear they come back around. My daughter is now 7, and I “think” we may be seeing the light again. Her younger brother on the other hand has always been a conservative eater. All kids are different and there is a host of issues that affect this. It’s not simply a matter of “good” or “bad” parenting.

      Shari wrote on February 28th, 2013
  28. I couldn’t stand cooked (mushy) vegetables as a child. Still not a big fan. My mom just gave it to us raw. Sliced endive stalk with a bit of salt, endive lettuce with salt and a boiled egg, cauliflower with a dip. You get the idea; just what they ate, but raw, as long as it was safe. Brussel sprouts were “children’s cabbages”, boiled with an union to reduce the bitterness.
    She also let us play with the food. I ate the outer part of the (raw) carrot first, then the sweeter inner part. I scraped the skin of the radish first, then ate the rest. It took longer, but we were happy to eat it.
    If we were impatient before dinner, we would get the raw vegetables first, or she gave us a frozen french fry (pre-fried), just one, to eat. That took us about 15 minutes. Not sure what the primal option is. Maybe frozen fruit.
    And my apologies: “name that vegetable in English” is not my strong suit.

    Diane wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I’m just the opposite, Diane. My Mom cooked every vegetable to smithereens (cauliflower in a pressure cooker for 20 minutes at 15 lbs pressure). I now can’t stand any vegetable that is even remotely overcooked, read a smidgen beyond bright colored… My brother accuses me of waving green beans over a pot of boiling water and calling it good. I’m guilty as charged!

      Mary Anne wrote on February 27th, 2013
  29. I really love the idea of telling your kid you need a number of meats and certain color vegetables and then letting them go pick. I’m using that to help control my toddler at the farmer’s market. ;-)

    I know from experience, the more hands on your kid gets to be in preparing the meal, the more they will eat or at least try. This is true for non-primal husbands too.

    Casey wrote on February 27th, 2013
  30. I used to give the kids the grocery flyers and let them circle what they wanted to buy, then discuss why we were or weren’t getting it.

    Also had a grocery list on the fridge with approved groceries so they could circle what they wanted…

    donna wrote on February 27th, 2013
  31. My 10-yr-old daughter has learned to like green leaf lettuce (used to only eat iceberg), bell peppers, cucumbers, and raw broccoli and spinach (but not cooked) by helping me make my salads at night (next day’s lunch for me). “Hey mom, can I try this?” She’s been cutting vegetables for me since she was about 8. Unfortunately, she spends most of her time with her dad (medically retired) and his diet is dreadful, so she’s got a bunch of bad habits from him that I’m trying to combat.

    b2curious wrote on February 27th, 2013
  32. My kids are adults and in charge of their own diets. Fortunately, they seem to prefer foods that are relatively healthy.

    My SO is another story. His idea of a good meal is a Big Mac or a pizza. This stems more from convenience than anything else since he likes healthy food too. I can’t do anything about the way he eats when he’s away from home looking for a quick bite, but we have a household rule: If I cook it, you eat it. This way he eats good food most of the time. Also, we never have sodas, sweets or junkfood around the house, which also helps.

    Shary wrote on February 27th, 2013
  33. This is so humorous to me because I have tried several of these techniques to invite my 11 year old daughter into the Paleo lifestyle with her mother and me. She agreed to hit the Farmer’s market with us on Sunday morning as long as we let her hit up the Corner Bakery in the parking lot for some pancakes : / Not the idea!
    But, she is warming up a little and we will keep at it with some of these suggestions. (She did not get the pancakes)

    David wrote on February 27th, 2013
  34. Advice from other parents appreciated here. I have a 4.5 year old, and he used to be a pretty broad/diverse eater, but in the last year or so he’s become pickier. I’ve tried getting him involved in cooking and he takes to it like a fish to water except for one thing: When it comes down to eating what he helped cook, it’s a no-go. He’s happy to peel and slice a cucumber, but won’t eat any of it. He’ll help me marinate chicken legs, but then won’t touch them. Any ideas?

    jj wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • This is normal at this age. In a year or so it will change again. They are cautious at this age for whatever reason!

      amy wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Recently, after trying and failing at so many different approaches with my 4 & 7 year olds, I’ve resorted to what all the experts currently tell you not to do — bribery. If they eat the veggies and protein on their plate (or a good portion of it– they get a starch on their plate too, as we are just transitioning them) they get a little “dessert”, generally a small piece of dark chocolate. In the past 2 weeks, they have eaten more veggies than the past 2 years, and my daughter, who usually refuses meat, is eating more of that too. So it’s what’s working for us right now.

      Shari wrote on February 28th, 2013
      • Yes, the experts are fabulous at raising theoretical children. (And those children are always completely rational.) ;)

        We’ve instituted is the “one bite rule”. If it’s on their plate they have to eat 1 bite. If they are known to vaguely like a similar food, the bite count is upped to 3 or 4. We figure we’re at least giving them exposure to other foods without turning it into a complete power struggle. They usually can be talked into 1 bit of anything.

        Amy wrote on March 1st, 2013
        • Love the “theoretical children” bit!

          We’ve been doing the one bite thing, but there’s such awful push back. A bite becomes a nibble, or gets spit out (even when it’s something he’s enjoyed in the past). Guess that’s just a 4 year old for you!

          jj wrote on March 1st, 2013
        • My friend, whom I met when she provided day care for our now 30-year-old daughter had this rule. If you have some food on your plate and decide you don’t like it, you must take one bite. If you still don’t want it you are allowed to push it aside and not eat anymore (at that sitting). You are not, however, allowed to make any derrogatory remarks about said food. If you do, you will be required to eat the entire serving.

          One day, my friend decided to go ahead and use the can of spinach (I know…eewwww, yuck, are you serious? kidding?). I didn’t hear anything about it until the ride home when our daughter observed that certain things can come in a can and certain things should never come in a can. I said, oh, what? she said Spinach should NEVER come in a can. It was all I could do to keep from laughing so hard…I almost drove off the road. When I got home (this was before cell phones and blue tooth) I called my friend who burst out laughing. She said she wished I could have seen 3 little girls trying to eat one bite without saying anything bad about it. We allowed as how our daughter had (at about 4 years old) come up with a very creative way to describe the offensive food!

          Anyway, my friend now uses this method with her Grandson who is extremely well-mannered at the table and who will go ahead and take one bite…

          Give it a try; see if it works for you. Of course, you MUST be willing to meet the test of wills.

          Mary Anne wrote on March 1st, 2013
    • Buy some paper chef hats. (Cheap on amazon). Give him the option of wearing the hat when he helps. The hook being, if he accepts and wears the hat then he is a chef. Explain that a chef must taste the ingredients and the final dish to make sure it is tasty because that is a chefs job. Plus they can draw/color on the hat too.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on February 28th, 2013
      • You’re unexpectedly kid savvy Mr. Burgundy!

        jj wrote on March 1st, 2013
        • One learns alot when trying to raise a family band.

          Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on March 1st, 2013
  35. Half the issue with kids is figuring out how they like food. My daughter loves raw mushrooms & cabbage while I like it cooked. So when I prepare those things, I set aside some raw just for her and she’ll eat it. If I cook it she won’t. And it doesn’t bother me at all. Besides it is probably better for a person raw anyway. We also have a garden and while she won’t eat spinach salad at the dinner table she loves to pick and eat it right out of the garden & I guess you don’t get more primal than that!

    Beth wrote on February 27th, 2013
  36. I posted a link to this on my Facebook with the following comment:

    I consider this to be one of the biggest and most important jobs I have as a father. I believe the habits and ideas and blueprints kids get about food, and health and life for that matter, while they are kids, sets them up for a much easier and enjoyable relationship with all of the above when they are adults and on their own. I am going to give myself a BZ for being “on track” with most of these, most of the time. I, like us all, am not perfect. I am also going to give my wife a public BZ to for the same and for being a great example, not just for our daughter, but for me and many others. Thanks. (for those who don’t know http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bravo_Zulu)

    Chris wrote on February 27th, 2013
  37. Getting small children to eat paleo is easy peasy. Just dish it up and noting else. We always had a mantra in our house “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset”.
    We’ve always eating probably 70% paleo anyway, lots of meat and two veg, irish stew, real butter and lard anyway, that’s just all my mum’s recipes. What I am struggling with is my daugter who is 12 just WILL NOT get on board, and the first opportunity to load up with sugar and carbs she will. She wants to be like her friends. It is very hard to control a teenagers diet these days, as there are so many options out of the home and at friends houses. The children know what’s healthy and what isn’t, have grown their own food, all of that. I don’t want to lecture, and am extremely conscious of not making her too aware of the food she eats as I don’t want food to be an ‘issue’ in any way. I’ll just stick with paleo at home and hope it rubs off eventually. Any tips anyone? I very very rarely read anything on getting teenagers on board. Little ones are so easy it’s almost not worth the converstaion, but teenagers are very different!

    Mazwegian wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • I really think that eventually she will come back around. Keep at it, I think you are handling it beautifully. And maybe cut her some slack, 12 is not easy : ) One thing I adored at that age was soups. They’re so cozy, especially a creamy or pureed soup, beef stew, etc. Maybe don’t outlaw a small chunk of bread. It might prevent a sugar binge later on. I know I am blasphemous here but in reality she is a human on her way to young adulthood and Paleo/Primal is not for everyone. The comments about being the parent/in control is fine when they are younger but older kids are different–they make more choices on their own, as they should.

      amy wrote on February 27th, 2013
      • As a different Amy, I tend to disagree that somehow we lose control completely of teenagers. We should gradually let go of control, but that does me throwing hands up in the air and counting down the days until their out of the house.

        I agree that you can’t club them over the head and say “You’re eating this all the time.”

        However, a 12 year old is desperate to be grown up (and to fit in). So the conversations need to be around introducing to them to a grown up world. Is fitting in with your friends so important you risk getting fat (that always catches girls), ill health and the rest of it? Girls are sooo prone to group think. They need an anti-dote so they don’t lose themselves. Paleo is a way of learning how to be an individual in a society.

        I would also simply not have any food in the house other than Paleo and send lunches (no hot lunch). If you know she’s getting carbs and sugar outside the house then there’s no need to supply in it.

        For the record, she will whine and complain. My answer is for her figure out how to earn her own money to buy these things. She’s only got 6 years before she can be on her own.

        In my mind, the role of parent is to supply an education (check) and be the stewart of her good health (double check). Family money will not be spent on low quality food to make the members sick, just so they can fit in with people they won’t see in a few years time. Setting boundaries is part of the job, even if I’m not making friends with my children or the neighbors.

        Amy wrote on March 1st, 2013
  38. Loved this post!! However, you could add to this a BUDGET. Not only having the kids shop for their ingredients, but give them a budget to work with too. I think it is so important for kids to understand the concept of money and how far you can make go and still eat healthy. I used to have them pick their recipe and make a copy, give them the funds, they grabbed a cart and they were on their way. It’s amazing when they say, “$4.99 a pound for raspberries!! :) Make them appreciate the food a little more too.

    Kim wrote on February 27th, 2013
    • Speaking of budget…how do you all budget with a large family and not go into debt? Mark, would love a post on shopping, budgeting,etc. especially those with lots of kiddos :)

      Megan wrote on February 27th, 2013
  39. Getting CSA boxes every week converted my picky 2-year old. He loved knowing the box was from a farm and picking out what we would cook for dinner. Now, at 5, he asked for chard and brussel sprouts when we go to the veggie stand.

    Jenny wrote on February 27th, 2013
  40. Thanks for the suggestions! I have seven children ages 17-7 and they have always had an interest in the kitchen and cooking. Going primal has made it easy to involve them even more as our meals have become much more simple.

    Catherine wrote on February 27th, 2013

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