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

Raising Your Kids on Primal Foods (plus Mealtime Strategies for Picky Eaters)

The Ol' Stink EyeThe fact is, feeding children is never for the faint of heart or stomach. It’s an entirely different solar system when it comes to dining experience – the noise, the spills, the frantic pattern of go-get-this, can-you-help-me, cut everyone’s food until your own is stone cold, precise timing of chewing to complement your expected participation in knock-knock jokes – you get it. In the years my children were small, Carrie and I would relish the times when we were able to go out to dinner alone or when family members took the kids and we had a solo meal at home. The silence and ability to eat – uninterrupted – at a normal pace were enough to make us ecstatic. I think most of the time we didn’t even talk – not a word, and we each understood exactly why.

I think it’s safe to say this mismatch in preferred ambience often coincides with a mismatch in tastes. While the Primal Blueprint can be plenty child-friendly, in many cases it’s a trickier proposition for the small set, particularly if they’re used to conventional fare. Although we’d all, I’m sure, like the same perfectly Primal family affair, a lot of us don’t end up there. As hard core as we might be, sometimes the kids just aren’t so much.

You’re Primal. Maybe even your spouse is Primal (or close enough). It’s not that you haven’t tried. You’ve spent weeks – maybe months trying to transition your child to the Primal eating plan. For some, maybe it’s recurring cycles of effort over the course of years! You’ve read the books and the boards for ideas. You’ve laid out carefully crafted menus, collected all the ingredients, and experimented with an insane number of recipes. You’ve perused and “pinned” hundreds of ways to manipulate the plate presentation. You buy mini-swords, doilies, and cocktail toothpicks in bulk. Martha Stewart would be proud. Your kids, however – meh.

Sometimes it’s the taste. Other times it’s the texture. For some, it’s just the sheer, staggering force of habit. They know what they like, and that’s it. Research confirms what parents have observed: a child’s familiarity with a food determines how full he’ll feel as a result of eating it. Familiar foods are just more satisfying to kids. After a while, even the biggest believers get worn down if they’re trying to instill a significant shift in their children’s diet. With hundreds of dollars of food thrown away and dozens of cooking hours gone, it’s hard to keep justifying the misery.

I know folks – good, healthy, well-intentioned people who are strongly committed to eating Primal – but feed their kids SAD. They themselves wouldn’t touch the Cheerios or Gold Fish crackers their kids are snacking on, but there’s the paradox. It boggles the mind, sure. Still, having had kids, I get it. Having been worn down by the fatigue and the arguments and the cajoling, fed up with the wasted time and money, they finally just throw up their hands. Though perhaps bothered by guilt in certain moments, over time they learn to justify it in their minds – as we all justify many things in life. The kids are so young, they tell themselves, their bodies will burn it off. They don’t see any obvious differences in behavior or general health. They give them a multivitamin. Maybe they look at the way they ate growing up and tell themselves, “If I survived that, my kids can too.” They’ve given up the internal conflict.

However much I identify with the fatigue and frustration – and respect parents’ needs to make independent compromises based on their given situations, the actual science is less understanding. Research suggests early nutrition impacts cognitive functioning in the adult years and even by the age of eight appears to reduce IQ. In terms of overall health, we know  how nutrition sets us up for epigenetic changes – positive or negative. We know how even the roots of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can begin in childhood.

In other words, good nutrition matters even more to them than it does to us. Though we might be motivated to stave off mortality or aging – i.e. maintain what we have longer, their bodies’ and brains’ very ability to reach their basic potential is on the line. What they eat today will determine what they’re capable of for the rest of their lives. Likewise, the habits they begin early on can cement pretty quickly. The older they are, the more the window closes on making dramatic change in diet and exercise. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sugar coat that point.

I don’t mean to throw those points out there in the interest of inciting a massive guilt trip. I didn’t feed my kids 100% perfectly all the time. It’s not passing judgment, but it is about passing on information. Doing so, with support and strategies, can help us individually brainstorm and prioritize. The fact is, I think there’s major stress in our culture – now more than ever – to be the perfect parent in dozens of ways that weren’t even on the radar screen when most of us were growing up. I’m sure we could go on for days talking about all the things we used to do that we’d never let our kids try today (e.g. lay on the floor during car trips, bike across town alone, etc.). I’d say the vast majority of today’s pushes toward perfection should be chucked, repudiated, scorned and named the worthless wastes of time and energy (and often hindrances to personal development) that they are. Nonetheless, one of the few genuine priorities worth having, I think, is nutrition. When it comes to kids’ food, fighting the good fight matters – as early and as often as you can.

Creating Strategic Versions/Substitutions

Many people find focusing on strategic substitutions allows them to preserve their sanity while making sure their kids are fed decently. Grass-fed organic hot dogs, sans buns can win over most kids. Homemade jerky or nut butter offers a healthier version of less desirous packaged foods. Parents learn to make gluten free versions of chicken fingers. They make their own sweet potato fries. They figure out how to make better fish sticks. They bake root veggie chips with healthier oil options and sea salt. I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve heard from already – on the boards and in emails – who say Primal Cravings has been a godsend (their words) for this very reason. The recipes look like food their kids would recognize and want to eat. There’s a mind to texture and simplicity that will work well with kids’ palates. Most children I know want uncomplicated food.

Using Copious Varieties (or Quantities) of Desired Condiments

There’s the assumption that most kids will eat a lot of things if they can put ketchup on them. Why not? I’d suggest making your own, but why limit it? Kids love the concept of dips and sauces, and I think I’ve got a good book somewhere for that, too.

Planting Forbidden Fruit

This defies reason, but sometimes the best strategy is to prepare a healthy (but kid-friendly) Primal dish and put it aside, tantalizingly almost – almost out of reach, in a place or position that makes the the child suspect it’s “for the adults” (for guests, even better) or not ready to be brought to the table. There’s something in children’s impish (or reptilian) little brains that makes forbidden food – even when healthy – seem that much more appealing. A friend’s daughter was so anti-meat that she wouldn’t even eat bacon. (Collective gasp.) One day, the husband was cooking a second batch of bacon for dinner and had put the plate with the first on a far counter to keep himself from eating it. His little girl ran in, saw the slightly obscured plate, gleefully grabbed a piece and absconded with it while he teasingly called after her to get back there and help, police. Within 10 minutes, she’d repeated the same move a few times and eaten half the batch. Since then, they’ve used the same technique to get her to eat other meats. For the “harder sells,” they go all out in making the platter look more enticing and forbidden looking (e.g. on the fancy china, in behind one of their wine glasses). Of course, it means she ends up eating most of her dinner on the run instead of at the table (so much for family dinner), but their perspective is this: at least she’s eating well!

Bartering Food for Freedom

This introduces another strategy – one we used with our children. Make certain foods or meals “roaming” approved. In other words, the parent grants freedom to skip sitting at the table if the kid will eat the healthy fare. Lay it out in a fun, festive, or otherwise eye-catching buffet style. Put on music. Teach and practice conventional manners at easier meals.

Some people might cringe at the idea of a toddler run amok and family dinner down the tubes – especially if there are other, older children. It highlights another important point. We all have our personal priorities, our chosen compromises, our sacred cows, our deal breakers as parents. This goes far beyond issues of decorum to the food itself. As I’ve said often, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Getting your kids to eat better isn’t an all or nothing proposition. It’s your call. Maybe you’re a solid no-GMO above all else. Maybe you’re first and foremost anti-gluten or grains. Perhaps your main goal is promoting veggie intake. Whatever goal you commit to, you’re making a positive difference in your children’s health and opening your mind – and theirs – to the idea that food choices matter.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take the poll, and add your comments below.

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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. Seeing as I experienced blood sugar disregulation pretty much from childhood (I was one of those ‘Mum, I’m hungreeeeeeee” kids), I’m glad I discovered primal/paleo eating before becoming a parent.

    PrimalParkGirl wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  2. We’ve tried, believe me. We’ve run the gamut of puking it back up (steak, seriously) and then flat out refusal to eat for days. My older kids (11 and 9) will puke before eating something good for them.

    My 3 year old and 14 month old actually like steak, and that can cover ‘stew meat hunks’ and other large chunks of meat. Ribs, pulled pork, etc. The older two? nope.

    I’m not home every night due to work travel, so my wife is left to fight with the four of them, some nights peace is better than fights.

    Tom B wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I think its the fault of the parents. This deserving attitude that is knowingly and unknowingly passed on to the kids. What’s bad is some parents don’t even think they are teaching their child these behaviors. I have many friends who spent their childhood in foreign countries and they didn’t get a choice – you ate what was given to you. Granted most of that is because there wasn’t much choice to be had but why can’t those principals still apply in the land of plenty? How about instead of asking kids what they want you let them know what they are getting? Who says they need so much freedom and choice so early on? Too much power from “nice” parents? Setting themselves and their kids up for failure. They have sniffed out your weakness and will now apply as long as you let them. Your child is snickering behind your back about how soft you are and how all they have to do is x,y, & z to get their way. I have actually heard kids say they do stuff just because they know they can get away with it with their parents! They have no fear! PUT THE FEAR BACK IN THEM!!!! And this is coming from someone who walks the walk. It can be done.

      Kidsdowhatyouallowthemto wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • Having been raised by one such “strict” parent, I can say that its actually really damaging to kids to be like that. It teaches kids that bullying is okay, that if someone doesn’t do things you like, you just need to scare them into submission. Or in my case, it turned me into an antisocial, shy kid, who was too afraid of her mother to invite friends over or even go outside to hang out with them, and now refuses to speak to my mother because of the way I was treated. By being under the freedom of my dad, I discovered primal eating. If someone tried to force me to eat like this, I simply wouldn’t do it out of rebellion.

        Just teach your kids. Give them the articles, show them the videos. Just telling them it is healthy isn’t enough. During our teen years, we want to learn for ourselves. Show them how people get dead sexy on primal, how they don’t get cavaties, depression, diabetes, etc. Your teens aren’t little rebellious monsters, they’re people too.

        Look at the young girl behind the blog Yes to Yummy. She learned to change her eating habits.

        Your kids aren’t aliens; they’re young adults trying to understand and interact with the changing world around them. Don’t give them orders, give them knowledge.

        Don’t use fear. That just results in damaged people.

        If it is really difficult, tell them that all you will serve is paleo/primal, and if they want something else, they should earn their own money and buy it. Then you aren’t trying to scare them, you’re just exerting property rights like an adult should. Eventually, they’ll prefer the path of least resistance.

        Or just stop calling it primal or paleo or whatever and just carefully select and modify recipes from great cookbooks (Barefoot Contessa back to the basics was nearly 2/3 paleo. There were so many good grain free, paleo recipes in it) that aren’t necessarily paleo. Surely, they eat things that aren’t bread! Serve only those! Appeal to their likes first before feeding them livers! Who could turn down a good omelet?

        Little A wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • I so agree with you, Little A. You can’t bully someone into eating what you want them to eat. Food is a very personal part of a person like clothes or music choice and they should choose healthy foods of their own volition. Except when they’re very young when you can mold them. I’ve seen adults who were forced to eat foods they didn’t like as kids who now have problems with those said foods and cannot stomach them. I was never forced to eat anything by my dad as a kid and I’m able to stomach all sorts of foods. My dad’s freedom helped me to develop a love for food and health.

          Respect your children and teach them the right way but don’t bully them to your way of thinking. You’ll just make enemies in the long run. Of course, there are instances where some firmness is needed. My son had TB as a baby so developed such a wacked appetite, the only things he would eat were bread, rice, meat and popcorn. My husband forced him to at least try vegetables. It took lots of tears, cajoling and persuading but he had to try. Once he tried, he learnt to like them. But he still cannot stomach some fruits and any soup or sauce. He will vomit if he eats soup. I just don’t serve it to him. Who wants to serve a child something that makes them vomit?

          Those parents who say that kids won’t eat things because they have no manners, were granted kids who didn’t have any health or mental issues with food. My step-mother forced her kids to eat everything on their plates when they were young. My step-brother doesn’t eat vegetables now. Those that say that don’t understand and I’m sorry to say, are very narrow minded. It’s like a parent whose kids sail through academics and critizise those parents whose kids struggle with academics. Every one has different genetics. We just have to do our best with the kids we have and teach them the way with firmness if needed especially when younger.

          Kathy wrote on May 24th, 2013
        • Good on you,

          Nice to hear you learned a lot whilst suffering growing up, working out the right path and to pass on your knowledge.

          Well done, seriously good on yourself.

          Gunnersaurus49 wrote on May 28th, 2013
      • You’re absolutely right! I tie my kids down to the chair and threaten to slit the dogs throat if they don’t eat their dinner……

        You’re an idiot…don’t come on here blaming parents. That is directly counterproductive to the point of the article.

        Nick wrote on May 24th, 2013
        • “You’re an idiot”. Seriously? What a reaction from you to someone who dares suggest that parents actually lead instead of plead. You sound like a typical spoiled child raised in a “democratic” household, meaning you learned that there should be no limits for your behavior and sense of self-importance. Typical for your time.

          Erik W wrote on May 24th, 2013
      • I employ the “this is what’s for dinner, eat it or don’t” method. However, if my 3 year old refuses to eat any of it (and we’re usually talking food she previously gobbled – roast chicken and veggies), I cover it up, put it in the fridge and bring it out for the next meal. Even if it’s breakfast. She’s gone 2 whole days without eating food because she is stubborn and didn’t want to eat what was given to her. She is very slender – 3rd percentile for her age – so when she refuses to eat for two days she gets grayish, lethargic, we can count her ribs and she starts throwing up. At this point I usually “give in” and feed her scrambled eggs. It’s very frustrating but at the same time how can I let her physically deteriorate so much that her health is obviously at risk? I think your blanket statement is in error that it’s clearly the fault of the parents. You have to factor in stubborness of the children.

        Crissy wrote on May 24th, 2013
        • My God… You would let a toddler go two days without food just so you can force them to eat chicken and veggies?

          She likes scrambled eggs, those are easy and healthy. It’s not like she’s demanding Oreos! Why not just give her the eggs to begin with? What’s the point of all that struggle – to the point she gets sick?!?!

          Seriously, wtf. I’ve been reading MDA for years, and this is the first post that’s ever compelled me to respond. I can’t believe it.

          PS – I like nearly everything, as does my 2.5 year old, and we don’t want cold chicken and veggies for breakfast either!

          Jill M wrote on May 19th, 2014
        • Why not? There is nothing inherently wrong with cold chicken and veggies for breakfast. If you broaden your horizons a little, you will realize that there are no fixed attributes that predefine specific foods as “breakfast” foods. Have a look around the world – anything goes.

          Anna wrote on May 22nd, 2014
      • I don’t think kids are that robotic or thoughtless. They are astoundingly capable of their own thought, and manipulating fear into them using your power of being ‘adult’ is pretty awful.
        Age is not indicative of maturity or ability. I work with kids and I can tell you they’re smarter, more loyal and more true to themselves than most adults I’ve met in my life.
        Give kids a bit of credit.
        You know how they say ‘eat/train for the body you want, not the body you have’? I believe it’s the same with kids: treat them with respect and you’ll nurture them into becoming the strong, savvy, intelligent and healthy adults they’re capable of being.

        Kids are people, too wrote on May 24th, 2013
        • @ Kids are people, too:

          Thank you for your thoughtful post. It actually made me tear up.

          I have 2 young children that will pretty much eat anything & eat almost everything that we eat but I attribute at least some of it to (good) luck.

          To the PP (Crissy): while my kids (3 & 1) are generally great (& mostly paleo) eaters, there is no way I would let either of them go 2 days without food because they refused to eat what I gave them. I would hardly call whipping up some scrambled eggs “giving in”. Some days I don’t feel like roasted chicken & veggies either…

          Telly telly wrote on May 27th, 2013
      • Are you really considering the consequences of what you are saying? How it reads to me is, “If an authority figure tells you something you should do it or be afraid of the consequences.” Personally I don’t want my kids to grow up to be followers and cogs in the machine. I want my kid to question authority if it seems illogical and to argue (logically and respectfully, not emotionally) with people. I treat my kid like he’s a human and expect him to treat me and everyone else the same way. This doesn’t mean he always gets his way. As humans we live in social groups and sometimes you don’t get your way in order to be a good citizen. This includes eating the dinner that is served, or not at all since I’m not a short order cook.

        I also think that you are likely assigning a lot of motive where it just doesn’t exist. I’m pretty sure that the amount of conspiratorial manipulative thought that you attribute to kids just isn’t there.

        If you think this is going to lead to a spoiled jerk of a kid you are incorrect. At 8 my child is both polite and eloquent (the words of strangers not relatives). If it is “the fault of the parents” then I’ll happily lead by example and be courteous, kind, and thoughtful. I’m pretty sure kids learn more by watching what we do as adults then they do from whatever we tell them to do anyway.

        Michael C wrote on May 25th, 2013
        • Although I am not a parent, I am a kindergarten teacher, so I see a huge range of eating habits among my 23-25 students each year. In my experience, the best approach for the absolute pickiest children is to find a few healthy foods that appeal to their palates and introduce more gradually. Most children have primal foods they love- apples, nut butters, bacon, eggs, something. They can eat their half-dozen foods and then you can add something similar, for a child who likes watermelon, cucumbers. Young children often need ten or more tries to accept a new food. I figure, give them time and they will find more and more foods they enjoy. I teach in a community where many of the children eat few, if any, fruits and vegetables. By introducing them in a fun way- we had citrus week and a which pepper is better contest, for example, even my most particular students found vegetables they loved.

          Emily wrote on May 25th, 2013
      • I disagree with the approach that some parents take when it comes to eating and mealtimes. I had the parents that would save uneaten meals for the next meals. I did not like the approach to say the least. It was a power move in my opinion. In my home, with seven children ages 9-27 through the years I had only one rule when it came to food. Try one bite, if you do not like it you never have to eat it again in your life! I have traveled the world, will eat almost anything and have made mealtimes a fun thing to do. Everybody helps and we experiment together. I don’t know if this is for everybody but I do know that kids tend to step out of their comfort zones when they are most comfortable.

        Patrick wrote on May 27th, 2013
      • Do you have kids?

        Catherine H wrote on May 28th, 2013
    • It makes me so sad to read some of these comments. That parents feel forced into using some extreme, and sometimes damaging, approaches to feeding their children. There is help available! Even a lot of doctors have no experience or knowledge about effective techniques for dinner time. Two resources available are Ellyn Satter’s works and Dr. Katja Rowell’s site, The Feeding Doctor. Please take a look at these resources to help you with the minefield it is when your child is combative when it comes to meal time. It’s about changing behaviors and allowing your child to come to the table with trust and intuition.

      Tangytam wrote on May 25th, 2013
  3. Personally I don’t have much experience with this. My kids always ate what they were served and we always served healthy stuff – there was just simply no discussions about it. And we’ve always demanded a “no-complaining” at meal time. Eat, or don’t – but no complaints. My kids are now 10 and 12 and LOVE food. Any kind of healthy food, any veg, and they love trying new things. I think a lot of people just make too big a deal of it….

    Lisa wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • +1. And I think most of the problems children have mentally and physically today are due to the food they pound down as well as what their parents ate pre pregnancy. After we raise kids on all this Conventional Wisdom crap (not this community hopefully), Weston A. Price thought it would take 4 generations to get back to becoming healthy humans. I think we are in real trouble and hope we can get out of this mess.

      Nocona wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • We have the same experience.

      Zero tolerance for complaining has been key for me as the person who goes to the effort of producing the meal, as well as a “thank the cook” ritual. Appreciation for the work (including appreciating the person who earned the money to pay for the food) that goes into a meal just seems good manners to me.

      I never know what to say to people who say their kids are “picky”. Neither of my kids are picky at all but I don’t have the experience to say whether it’s nature or nurture.

      Now my kids are older (13) we adopt a 98% primal diet at home and they can eat whatever when they’re out.

      Alison Golden wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • You’re very lucky. You have “abnormal” kids. Ha! My kids 4 and 6 have no problem not eating for an entire day if it means not eating something they think looks or tastes bad. They will happily accept any punishment I give them for complaining or crying about the meal they don’t want to eat. I have accepted that I cannot make them eat a certain way for every meal. I just hope they are paying attention to how their parents eat and slowly start to follow it. Very good article. Painfully close to home.

      Jamie wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • Its all nice and fluffy and a great bumper sticker until you have a child with multiple food allergies, will gladly starve rather than put a sweet potato in their mouth and continues to lose weight, falls off the growth charts and you have to put them on a medical formula that feed kids with GI tubes, plus douse what they do eat in olive oil. No thanks. Meal time has been a nightmare since she got on solids. She has a big bowl of grits or oatmeal every morning, all the white rice she wants drizzled with olive oil, and eats sunflower butter and jelly sandwhiches for lunch after I found out she was throwing away her avacado and meat wraps and going without lunch for days. We try to do what we can. But I’m not going to risk her ability to thrive by forcing a diet on her that she isnt accepting.

        Kiachu wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • Is that some kind of medical condition? We know that the sense of hunger can be broken… it’s a rare mutation, but children can be born who produce no leptin. And some kinds of chemotherapy can mess up the part of the brain that controls appetite. When we see those children, who stuff themselves uncontrollably, we know something is wrong. Can hunger be broken the other way, so a child will gladly starve? I do wonder. Because I know I and my sisters would never have gone completely without food for days.

          AriaDream wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • Have you heard about GAPS? An MD named Natasha Campell-McBride developed a a diet to treat kids who have a chronically leaky gut, and symptoms include things like very poor growth and hyper-pickiness (as well as a variety of other things: ). I haven’t tried GAPS, but it has a huge following and success stories abound. It’s not that far removed from Primal, so it wouldn’t be a huge stretch for you. Good luck to you and your family…that sounds very difficult.

          Christina wrote on May 25th, 2013
    • How did you start out? Were they always told to eat it or leave it even as babies? That’s what I’m doing with mine. If he eats he eats if not maybe he is not hungry. I don’t try and cajole.

      Aloka wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • I agree with Alison above – it’s a matter of good manners. Just like we taught our kids to behave in other situations, we taught our kids from the very beginning how to “behave” at the table. No punishments or stuff like that, just firm “rules”. We’ve always been big on “respect” – and that goes in both directions. You respect the person that cooked (and as Alison said – also the person who earned the money). My daughter does not eat mashed potatoes or other mashed veggies, simply because she can not handle the texture. It’s the only exception to our “eat everything” rule – and it’s a way of showing HER respect as well (she has tried it on many occasions, but just can’t). Other then that, they both eat anything. I think a relaxed atmosphere is important and simply be firm on the respect rule.

        Lisa wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • Our kids are allowed to eat or not–their choice. They are 4 and 6. Many nights the younger daughter will not eat a bite. By morning, she is quite hungry and will mostly fuel her day in the morning. We also don’t offer snacks. But, if they are hungry in between meals, we have dried Hungarian salami or bacon that they are permitted to just grab off the counter.

          Now that it’s warmer weather, I never call the kids in for their meals. I simply place the bowls outside and they run over, eat and then run off to play. I often place bowls of cut veggies, cheese and different salami meats out near the playground. Not only do my kids eat it, but our “very picky” neighbour kids eat it too!

          I really believe that hunger will eventually force them to eat. We used to battle at the dinner table when I was a kid. I refuse to do that with my kids. Even a day without eating won’t harm them. Eventually they’ll get hungry enough to eat and I’ll make sure that what I provide is primal.

          Happycyclegirl wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • Allison and Lisa have it right. I taught my daughter to be polite and to behave appropriately (at the table and elsewhere) as a little girl. We had reasonable, clear rules: one bite for each year of age, no complaining. No other option. She tried everything, and liked most of it.
          Now, as a young teen, she is still polite, and also has the self-discipline and self-respect to eat healthy without my supervision. She’s proud of her “strange” lunchs, stew, sweet potato, curries, salads, etc. And, unlike her mom at that age, she has an ideal body composition.
          I think that often kids’ eating problems are a reflection of an imbalance of power in families, and uncertain authority. Kids need firm boundaries that they can test but that still keep them secure and safe/healthy. Parents often try to reason and negotiate when it’s totally inappropriate, then claim they have no influence over their kids. Of course they don’t–they gave it up.

          _Bringing Up Bebe_ byPamela Druckerman is a great read that addresses some of these issues from an intercultural perspective.

          Louise wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • I’m aiming for this as well, but because he’s my stepson, not my biological child, his father has the last word, and so I try not to step in even though I’m the one who prepares the meals. If he decides to give his son yogurt and cereal as “dinner”, I won’t argue, even though he knows I don’t agree. That said, making chicken nuggets “breaded” with milled flaxseed was a hit with him. He didn’t even want dip with them, which is awesome. I think we need to give him more credit. Encourage him to eat just small bits of new food at every meal, perhaps?
        His son has intestinal distress like I do, and it dawned on me that he may have a similar grain sensitivity to me because the symptoms are so similar. The kid loves bread(sprouted grain bread is what he’s eating), but I suspect that it’s causing him problems. That or the dairy, not sure which. But I can’t experiment with his diet without his father’s(and mother’s) blessings, so I’m not sure how to help him. I know his dad will give me some leeway, but I don’t think his mom will at all. :\ Not sure what to do.

        Joanne wrote on May 24th, 2013
        • If only it were that easy. Congrats to those that have kids that do everything you ask.

          I have raised both of my kids the same. They both have the same set of rules to follow. One will eat anything without a fuss, the other would rather starve than eat certain things. The personality of the kid plays a HUGE role in how compliant they will be with a diet.

          That being said, both of my kids do eat very well. They are pretty much primal at home and both kids love their fruits and veggies. When they are at the grandparents they are allowed bread/cereal/oatmeal, but I don’t buy that stuff for home. At restaurants they get to choose what they want to eat and when we go camping in the summer they get to choose a box of gluten free cereal to take along.

          Heather wrote on May 24th, 2013
  4. Just yesterday, I was making beef roast and french fires for my folks, and my soon to be 7 kiddo wanted sweet and sour sauce (like I made when we do Chinese inspired things-and-dips meals), so I set her up with a can of nothing added tomato paste, soy sauce and raw honey, and let her create her own sauce. Not only she did not want ketchup, she made daddy to eat her sauce instead, and asked for the rest of it being packed with her meat for lunch at school. Soy sauce may not be the best ingredient, but I liked the fact that ketchup was not the MUST!

    leida wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  5. These are awesome ideas…. That still sort of make me glad I’m not at the point of having kids… Yet.

    Bjjcaveman wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  6. It’s the time/money wasted that keep me from getting him there 80% of the time. Also, he likes grilled cheese. I get the good cheese but put it on bread. I do the best I can with the bread (no HFCS) but it’s still BREAD.

    The trick will be finding a primal bread that is close enough to still make a grilled cheese or other sandwich when needed. I make primal chicken nuggets, meat balls, he likes spaghetti squash and sauce… eggs, almond flour muffins on occasion… he loves fruit, raw veggies… brussel sprout chips, brussel sprouts, BACON…. It’s those damn sandwiches

    zack wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I should say the other issue is that my wife and I make a batch of something and eat it lunch/dinner for 3 days and that’s something I don’t expect my 3 y/o to put up with. Also, we eat a lot of chicken/egg/tuna salads to save $$ and he’s not too into those.

      zack wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • When I want a grilled cheese sandwich, I make a quesadilla. (organic, sprouted tortillas) The young kids I know love quesadillas. (My own sons are in their 30s.) Yeah, I know – still grains. Whatever.

      Purists will probably scoff at this post of Mark’s. But it is posts like this that will enable Primal to help many millions of people, as opposed to rigid paleo, which will always be an elitist subculture.

      Harry Mossman wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • If you’re trying to get him off bread, maybe start with open-faced sandwiches? One piece of bread instead of two and more meat/veggie fillings. If that goes well, move from there to alternatives to a slice of bread – a lettuce wrap might be a hard sell, but raw stuffed red bell pepper halves are pretty tasty and look fun.

      Not sure what to do about the grilled cheese sandwiches – I’m on his side with those!

      Mantonat wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Zack, try looking for the Paleo/Primal bread recipes that use almond butter instead of almond flour. The butter makes a bread that has the same mouth feel as grain bread. Add about a 1/4 cup of tapioca flour to the recipes, though. It helps make the bread “fluffier.”

      Shannon Davis-George wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • Good idea! I’ll search for some. Do I just add tapioca flour to what’s already out there?

        zack wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Just run out of bread. He’s 3.

      Or try Elena’s Pantry. She’s got a good grainfree bread recipe.

      Catherine H wrote on May 28th, 2013
  7. Very timely post I have a nephew who is an extemely picky eater and a super busy single mom sister. It’s a double wammy.

    I’ve been tryin to make a smoothie that just packs as much real food into it as possible. So far my frozen sweet potato, acocado, spinach, coconut milk, and berry smoothie has NOT been a hit. I assume smoothies would be a good vessel to get alot of nutrients In for a really picky 4 year old.

    Anyone have any recipe there kids love? I would love to pass a few my sisters way.

    Ps the easiest way around this is to just be the uncle and not have kids, that’s my strategy anyway 😉

    Luke wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Avocado goes nicely in smoothies. Just serve it in an opaque glass because it can make the smoothie look muddy.

      Ruth wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • Whoops! Should have reread that recipe you said! Maybe the sweet potato is too much, as it the spinach. Better to transition slowly, like a coconut milk, avocado, banana and berry smoothie and then add in other ingredients as he gets into it.

        Ruth wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • My kids like spinach, celery, parsley, banana, avocado, orange, lemon, kiwi, apple, pear. It is a lot of fruit but the sweetness brings it off and they’ll drink it. Over time, I’ve been able to increase the amount of smoothie they’ll drink at breakfast (along with scrambled eggs and bacon) and lower the fruit content.

          Alison Golden wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Is he old enough to run the blender? Kids are more likely to eat something their not sure about if they have a hand in making it. Even just letting him drop the ingredients in might help. Color is also a huge selling point for kids. Muddy browns and greens are really off-putting for most kids. Berries are a good sell and have a little less sugar than apples or bananas. I also think kids have a hard time mixing food groups – to them, mixing fruits and vegetables can seem weird and gross. Throw in something like zucchini that won’t affect the color or flavor too much, especially if you can dice it up and call it something fun (lying isn’t always horrible!).

      Mantonat wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • “Lying isnt always horrible” this will key Hhaha thanks for the suggestions will pass them on!

        Luke wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • My kids, one of whom is extremely picky and in the 5% for height and weight, love The Green Monster Smoothie.

      3-4 chunks frozen banana
      a few chunks frozen pineapple
      6 oz coconut almond blend milk
      8 oz coconut milk yogurt
      2 tbsp almond butter
      and a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach

      I use the coconut/banana/spinach/almond butter as a base and swap out the pineapple for berries or avocado/cacao or whatever i have on hand. I’ve also thrown in chia seeds occasionally. I’ve never tried sweet potato per say, but I have used some of those fruit/veggie puree pouches (i think one was sweet potato/apple) and they were tolerated.

      Oh, another big hit was green apple/pear/spinach/cucumber. just make sure you peel and remove the seeds from the cuke first. Very refreshing.

      Allie D wrote on June 12th, 2013
  8. Both of my boys are gluten free. My older boy has very sensitive taste buds and texture receptors, and has declared he no longer likes fat, even though he used to eat butter by the spoonful when he was young. So I compromise and make rice and quinoa with bone broth and butter. I have to get fat into him somehow… My younger is more primal, but again, I hide bone broth and butter in his rice. They both love Paleo Pals (the book) and know the deleterious effects of gluten, so I’m doing a very long transition to primal. So even though I put 50/50 for the poll up there, it is really more 50 primal, 50 gluten free which is an improvement. I try to do my own baking for everything except gluten free bread and I’m going to start that this summer.

    My husband still eats Raisin Bran for breakfast (sigh), so even having the kids gluten free was a huge compromise.

    Ruth wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Yes, it is more difficult when both parents are not eating the same and that kind of food gets in the house, b/c the kids will want it. My husband went along with primal after seeing his blood pressure drop just from cutting out soda and eater lower carb (our first step) before we found primal.

      Colleen wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  9. Definitely easy to start when they are younger. We went primal when my daughter was 3, so eliminating grains at home not a big deal. She has SAD snack at preschool (we don’t have any noticable health issues so I decided not to battle this). We talk about how this food is not healthy. One day we walked by the pasta at the grocery store and she said remember when we used to eat that? She knows we like to eat food with nutrients b/c they are good for our bodies and has said some amazing things along these lines (I guess she is listening to all my chatter about this and how the food Grandma is eating is making her sick). KEEP OFFERING THE FOODS, she has recently eaten many new veggies b/c she wants to eat what I eat. She has also commented about cookies in books and that they are not a good snack. DON’T HAVE THE OTHER FOODS IN THE HOUSE, this makes it easy, they will eat when hungry. It’s been a good journey so far.

    Colleen wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  10. We’ve “boiled the frog” slowly at our house. I went primal first in an effort to stop my declining health and roll it back (which it did). My 17 year old son followed three weeks later and showed spectacular improvement in his track times.

    Then my wife joined at the 10 week mark. She’s been struggling with her health for 15 years (CFS) and has experienced tremendous healing, a process that still continues.

    Then there’s my 11 year old daughter. I am at the 18 month mark now, and she is fully primal at supper (the first meal to go), and for the last few months is primal at breakfast; I get up and prepare it every morning. Her last holdout is the lunch she takes to school.

    Our plan is to convert lunch over the summer…a little at a time…all the while experimenting and building a “go to” list of transportable, primal foods with enough variety to provide the building blocks for school lunches. If all goes well, by August we’ll be there.

    Thank you, Mark, for the even-handed way you bring relevant information to our attention. Many people promote their own ideas a little too zealously, and paint themselves in a corner due to their overreach. I’m convinced the truth is not something we have to fear…even when it means eating a little crow. Hmm, is crow primal?

    Anyway, you’ve been a real blessing to our family and I appreciate you.

    Paul67 wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  11. My kids forage for their food in the woods behind our house.

    Steve wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  12. Gosh dang I needed this today. Thanks Captian Caveman! I had my first run-in with CW at day care and need to prepare myself for many more years. This sentence will help.

    “What they eat today will determine what they’re capable of for the rest of their lives.”

    That. Says. It. All.

    Ham-Bone wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  13. Sitting here with my three year old who is eating sausages and a paleo German pancake. Last night was lox, butter, eggs and blueberries. At home we are 100 percent primal. Outside they have more freedom and do eat some wheat (gasp!). My six year old loves tasting food and we talk nutrition ALL THE TIME. I categorize food into two categories – crappy and not crappy. Easy for my young children to understand though my husband does not get it by his frequent cisits to Jack in the Box….
    Yes it is more time consuming. Yes sometimes they don’t want to eat what I serve (I NEVER make them eat. I cook and serve. And we have standby snacks like jerky, fruit, cheese and butter). I figure they will eat when they are hungry. But I insist that the home be a haven from crappy food. It is a bit weird for me since my husband won’t eat with us (see Jack in the Box comment above!). But at least he respects the primalness of our hearth

    Diane wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • My husband, like yours, is supportive of my choices but wants nothing to do with it himself. He honestly believes he is living proof that the SAD is not unhealthy. Sigh, it makes it hard to get my kids on board while they see him dipping oreos in his coffee every morning!

      Vettech wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • My husband, too. He loves Raisin Bran and doesn’t think he has a belly (he does). I gave him Wheat Belly, written by an MD because he really won’t read anything else I give him. If it’s not written by an MD, he won’t read it. He still hasn’t read it, hopefully soon.

        Ruth wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • Kudos to you guys…my boyfriend refuses to give primal a try and it’s been driving me CRAZY. He suffers from excema and asthma, and has put on a few pounds since we started dating. I just want him to feel how I feel, and be happy with himself (I know he’s not). Sigh. I couldn’t even imagine trying to get my (non-existent) kids to eat healthy if he wasn’t on board with it too. Someday…someday.

        Stace wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • I think it is lame when a husband and father will not join in a healthier eating plan, knowing what is at stake. It is the height of irresponsibiilty. I know what I’m talking about, with a partner who smokes and won’t quit. Not even for his kid’s sake.

          Anna wrote on May 22nd, 2014
  14. Thanks! I needed this post. It takes a little bit of effort and motivation. Of course time and energy, but well worth it. And we need little reminders like this to stop slipping and make our kids some paleo food already.

    tina wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  15. Thank you, Mark, on so many levels for your kind and compassionate approach to this today.

    I thought it would be SO hard to convert my picky eater a year and a half ago, but having her help fix the food, and making it a requirement to sit and have fun and talk while eating was all so much more wonderful that she took to the new food and in fact, LOVED it. Within two months she was eating challenging foods like braised kale, and spicy ground meat casseroles with fancy veggies in them… eggs, steamed broccoli, and a fresh fruit each morning for breakfast… All changed from Lucky Charms for breakfast, pbj for lunch, mac n cheese and fruit and the standard “Kid Fare” for dinner. No longer picky, she is a joy to eat with, and yesterday she said, “I love that you and I eat together. Other families don’t.” She’s now 10, and I love how we eat and enjoy each other and our nourishment. We’re just really fortunate.

    Joy Beer wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I’d say you’re doing a great job teaching! :-)

      Alison Golden wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  16. My kids are in their 20’s now and only one lives at home. We also have an adult relative living with us. I went primal first, then my husband about a year later. It took a while, but I gradually moved to completely primal cooking and shopping. If the other two want non-primal meals, they have to buy and prepare them themselves. Guess what? They don’t. So their main meals are healthy, primal fare and they enjoy them. True, they aren’t keen on the liver and fish and I do accommodate that by cooking them when they aren’t home or having two protein choices.

    If they go rummaging in the fridge or pantry, they see veggies, cheese, yogurt and fruit. If they open the freezer they see berries and meat. If they open the pantry they see canned tomatoes, canned fish and about 10 different kids of vinegar! I know that processed foods and snacks come into the house but they don’t bring them into the kitchen. They are adults and can make their own choices but I don’t enable them.

    I truly wish I had known about primal living when my kids were young but I’m not going to beat myself up over it. Feeling guilty won’t make my grown up kids healthier. Everyone in our family has a weight problem. My husband and I have ours under control now. I’ve lost 175 pounds and my husband has lost 90 pounds. I can only hope that they are watching and will someday follow in our primal footsteps.

    Ravey wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Awesome, way to go. Sounds like a success story waiting to happen!

      Tom B-D wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • +1

        Melissa wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • So when are you submitting your success story for a Friday read? =) Congrats! And definitely don’t beat yourself up over it…I’m a 20-something “kid” and I don’t blame my parents for how they raised me with food. I really wish we had known about being primal and I could have avoided a lot of weight issues growing up, but I know they did the best they could for me with the knowledge they had. Now I’m teaching them how to be primal, little by little, and slowly educating them on what being healthy really entails. I like the fact that I’m giving something back to them and helping with their health.

      Stace wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  17. I don’t have kids myself, but I’m getting to the age where I’m starting to think about them a lot. I’m grateful that I’ll have the opportunity to feed my kids primal right from the beginning.

    Lucy wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Cool, I hope you do Lucy. My first was totally conventional- I had low iron, took iron supplements for it, and had a fair bit of fatigue and morning sickness back when I was 22.
      Four years ago (36yrs) with my second I still had morning sickness but iron levels were fine- I was on the WAPF diet and soaking/sprouting/fermenting grains, then cooking or dehydrating then grinding in to flour. EFFORT.
      Now I’m 40 and pregnant with my third; iron (everything) levels fine (full primal) plenty of energy, and NO MORNING SICKNESS. Just thought I’d mention this for when you do get pregnant. You CRAVE hollow carbs but if you meet the cravings with grains you get morning sickness. Meet them with root veg you sail through.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on May 25th, 2013
      • I just had to say, that it doesn’t always work out that way. I’m glad it did for you, though! I was certain I would have an easy pregnancy. I’d been primal for two years, eating liver and heart, all the good veggies, lots of steak, some fruit, and no grains. My anemia was gone and I was finally building muscle. My mom never had any morning sickness. I figured I’d done everything right and my genetics were good, so I would breeze through pregnancy.

        It didn’t happen:(.

        I’ve had nausea, light-headedness, and shortness of breath/weakness. It’s slightly better now in the second trimester, but I’m still weak and lightheaded. During my first trimester, I couldn’t stand the smell of meat. *ANY* meat. My husband (Knifegill) would cook bacon, pork spleen, beef, liver, fish, even eggs, and I’d have to hide in the bedroom with the door closed for hours until the smell was completely gone. So much for me being Primal while pregnant!

        For two months, I ended up with a diet consisting largely of butter, cheese, cheese, more cheese, milk, yogurt, rice pasta, frozen organic gluten-free dinners, seaweed and fruit. You know you’re not making it up when even chocolate doesn’t taste good anymore!

        Now, in my fifth month, all I want to eat is steak, and I rejoice in that fact. I’m positive eating primally helped and things would have been worse if I hadn’t eaten so well before I got pregnant. But, being primal doesn’t necessarily mean there won’t be morning sickens!

        Aldergirl wrote on May 25th, 2013
        • Thank you. This is (mostly) what it’s been like for me (a full evening of bone broth cooking was a total nightmare). I’m in month six and still don’t really want meat, but I keep trying.

          Bee wrote on June 1st, 2013
  18. one of my sons, who is now 16, to this day has an aversion to any food that is colored yellow.

    David Gardner wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  19. My wife, bless her, suggested a family-wide Whole 30 (prior to that, I was the only one Primal, the rest were maybe 60%), and it made a huge difference. The main thing is, don’t have SAD food around! The kids adjust really quickly to eating what is available. Another big help was taking the kids shopping and asking which veggies they wanted. We had no idea our daughter loved artichoke (maybe she just decided to?), but that has become a regular thing. And, yes, sauces! Or at least a nice amount of olive oil, salt, and dill on those green beans…cooked right…
    The amazing thing was to watch their appetites change over the 30 days (and the fact that there is no more sugary crap in the pantry!). They are malleable, especially when they know it’s good for them, and especially when the whole family does it together.

    Tom B-D wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  20. Primal food choices for kids at school, parties, sports, etc, primal food is not always available and not always convenient, especially as they get beyond age 10. Plus, we know as adults how hard it is to “pass” when the food is social. My kids understand primal living and eating, and generally would choose a primal meal over anything packaged or fast-food, but they do like pizza and are slightly addicted to sugar, which I think only goes away with very, very purposeful elimination of sugar from the diet. And my 13-yr old drinks coffee with coconut oil most mornings (plus sugar :p). Looking for moderation and knowledge, not perfection .

    molly wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  21. 1st thing is kids are going to eat junk. It is just going to happen. The best you can do is to give them good stuff and remember Hunger makes the best sauce. Get them to busy to eat, make them wait a little for supper and then have them try something new first. When they are hungry things will taste much better.

    Chad G wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  22. It wasn’t easy choosing a vote category. My kids eat primal meals without even realizing it and there are times when we’re better at feeding them strictly primal, so maybe 30-50 percent primal. My kids are not picky eaters at all. Compared to other kids in the lunchroom, my kids are anomalies – vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein – very different than Fluff on white bread. So, yeah, I might throw in a graham cracker smeared with nutbutter, but I try to look at the overall nutrition. Could I do better? Sure. But I’ve had several moms tell me I should receive the “mom of the year” award for the lunches I pack. I don’t think so, but it’s all relative, you know?

    The biggest problem we have with fully converting our kids is volume. Our kids are slim and eat large volumes of food. They are great at eating nutritious food (vegetables, etc.), but it would take quite a few sweet potatoes in addition to a regular meal to fill them up. And they aren’t that fond of sweet potatoes. So, getting them to eat large volumes of strictly primal food might cause more food issues than it would solve: unhappy kids, kids who start categorizing food as “good” or “bad.” Right now, my kids know they’re different than other kids (no fast food, no fluff and hershey bar sandwiches, no chips), but they’re happy and healthy and make good food choices independently. Why mess with an already good thing?

    We talk about eating more plants and protein and less grains. We talk about healthy choices. And they do a great job. Primal, to me, is not stressing about perfection but raising health-conscious kids. A way of eating they can use throughout their life – not from a childhood of restriction, but from knowledge and choice.

    Kim wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  23. What a helpful post. I have a 8 month old who has been 100% primal so far and I plan to keep him that way for the first year. After that most people who have older kids have told me best of luck, it’s not going to happen.

    But for those who’ve raised primal babies, do they develop a taste for the real stuff? Or do they all just meander towards sad? I think that would be a helpful post, if you’ve started out with a baby so young, how to stay on course.

    I agree with mark, nutrition for growing kids should ideally not be compromised. I feed him a fat rich diet which I have been writing about too.

    It’s really hard though in india where it’s unheard off! I see a mountain ahead. Babies here eat rice and pulses.

    Aloka wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I’ve got a 4 year old and one year old who are basically 100% primal. It is how we eat at home. Outside of the house, I’ve been very strict about gluten and dairy, more flexible about certain other things, but still pretty nutritious real food.

      They both love their food. The old y-o was shovelling in home-made liver pate today (4 y-o not so much, but I don’t force it). I try to lead by example, making good choices that they can emulate. If we’re out socially, and there is something she wants but can’t have, I try to point out all the people, including me, who are not eating it because of the gluten in it, so she doesn’t feel alone.

      I also often have nutrition podcasts and movies playing and she listens with me. I show her the Friday success story too – that person wasn’t healthy, and now they are. We talk about why her friends are often sick. So she’s being educated; it’s never too early to start. She was arguing with me yesterday about whether vegetables have protein (i.e. are they a filling snack), and I was pleased that I have a 4 y-o that even knows what protein is!

      Tracy wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  24. I think presentation is a HUGE thing with kids. My four year old niece drinks what my SIL calls “dragon blood”, which is just juiced green veggies sweetened with a little fruit. She gets excited to drink it and has no idea that it’s good for her.

    How do people combat the grandparent influence? I see all of my niece’s healthy eating habits go out the window when we’re with my inlaws. There’s also the times when the kids spend the night at friend’s houses… when I have my own kids I don’t want to be the weird mom who insists my kid can’t eat what their friend’s mom has made…


    Kate wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I don’t have any kids, so take this opinion however you’d like, but I really think you shouldn’t stress over the things you can’t control. Like the sleepover thing, it’s out of your control, so don’t try to insist on anything. The best thing you can do is talk to your kids and educate them on making healthy choices, and why those choices are good for the body. I don’t typically like “if” statements, but I really think that *if* someone had explained to me as kid growing up that food is fuel, it’s there to nourish our bodies, and what we eat directly affects our energy levels and health, then I think I would have responded to that pretty well. Instead, I was just told DONT eat that, or DO eat this, with no real rhyme or reason to why it was so. I hated that.

      Stace wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  25. It’s a good post, but it’s always for people with kids that wasn’t primal all their life. What about people who will soon (soon as in like 4 years…) have a kid ? What should we feed him to have optimal health ? Bone broth ? Breast milk ? What, when he will be reaching a age to eat solid stuff, etc ?

    From a young primal couple

    Maxime wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • When they reach and age when they start eating solids, you can just feed them softer mashier versions of everything you’re eating yourself.

      I don’t think that’s the challenge.

      The challenge is when they have been primal for the first 1-2 yrs and then step out into the world influenced by peers is when it’s going to be hard to keep up.

      Also grand parents, aunts, uncles, are going to say, why is your kid on a diet, he’s a kid he should be eating cake.

      Ofcourse the best compromise I think is to only have primal fare on hand at home. And then let them have cake or whatever when they r out at birthday parties etc.

      I don’t plan to stop my kid from everything but try and minimise it.

      Aloka wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • As a ‘nana’ who has been blessed with having her one y-o grandchild living with her, I have read that breast milk/ formula provides all the nutrients needed but a child has to “learn about food”.
      My grandson has been “eating” since around 7 months but it’s really about exploring colours, textures and tastes. (They say to introduce ‘food’ when your baby starts watching you eat and when they’re trying to put things in their mouth)
      Foods he seems to gobble for 3 days in a row may suddenly be tossed on the floor the next. Thankfully mom offers a variety of fruits and veggies as well as whatever protein we’re serving (last night he scarfed nearly a whole stuffed salmon fillet) His current favorites are peas, carrots, fruit smoothies made with spinach and coconut milk, an egg yolk/coconut milk ‘pudding’ (search Maria Emmerich) and today blueberries. Bananas may be back on the list tomorrow :) He also drinks up to a cup of water per day out of his sippy cup. We’ve offered bone broth – sometimes it goes down, sometimes there’s no interest. So we usually just offer what we’re eating – helps us make the best choices too :)

      Melissa wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Hi, I know this does not answer your question, but just want to recommend: if you’re thinking about conceiving, definitely check out the Weston A Price or who are pregnant. It’s all mostly Primal, but with a lot of specifics on what to emphasize. (This blog post from Nourished Kitchen sums it up really well: ). Hope that is helpful to you, and good luck!

      Christina wrote on May 25th, 2013
      • Woops–not sure what happened there. That should say “check out the Weston A. Price foundation, which has a slew of recommendations for couples who are about to conceive or who are pregnant.”

        Christina wrote on May 25th, 2013
  26. I think it’s really important for moms to be passionate about nutrition though. It’s sad that all parents want to raise healthy children but have no idea what a healthy diet is.

    I think eating primal food at home and eating ice cream when out is a great compromise.

    I plan to make primal desserts often so my son doesn’t eat awful ingredients. So the primal cravings recipes will sure come in handy for me.

    Aloka wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  27. My kids are 13 and 17 and they’ve been quasi-Primal since 2011 and fully Primal for a full year.

    Like many of the commenters here, we don’t have any non-primal food in the house, so if the kids want to eat, they are going to eat primal. End of story, no compromises. I promise you, they won’t starve, as long as you don’t cave in. I care too much about them to compromise their health with crappy food.

    They are old enough to know why we eat the way we do and have felt the benefits themselves. It took a while to get them here (we did a family Whole30 last year, which set the stage), but this is the way it is now. At least at home. When they are out with their friends or working, I don’t try to control what they eat, but I trust them to make good decisions and to learn from their mistakes.

    Janet wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  28. My daughter is 14 months and now is almost 100% primal. However, I struggled immensely with breastfeeding so she was only breastfed for 3 weeks which is something that I now feel horribly guilty about. I read the ingredients on a formula can and want to cry.

    Otherwise, people are usually amazed by what she eats. She eats broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, mushrooms, olives, and loves onions. She also eats a very wide variety of spices. One day I gave her a fed garlic cloves that were soft from the crock pot and she gobbled those down. She even ate grassfed liver that I just couldn’t stomach. My husband has tried to give her cake on a few occasions and she has refused. I was thrilled, but I think it’s a strange texture and that is why she doesn’t want it.

    I have noticed recently that she is becoming a bit picky. She used to eat avocado and stopped. She just recently started refusing scrambled eggs.

    She was at my parents’ house for a week while my husband accompanied me on a work trip and she was refusing some of her favorites. She still ate primal while she was there, but she ate a lot of ham and more fruit and cheese than she gets at home.I think part of the issue was that my mom had a wide array of foods on the counter and she could see them. At our house all she sees is meat and vegetables. Cheese or fruit stays hidden until after she eats the main meal or unless it’s snack time. Once she came home from their house she started looking around for more food and realized that there was nothing else except what she was being given so she ate. She also tends to eat better at daycare because she knows that there are no options besides what she is given.

    She will sometimes favor the chicken over broccoli, or mushrooms over pork, but her options are meat or veggies so if she only eats one or the other at a meal I let it be. If she stops eating I tell her “all done” and take her out of her highchair. We have some non-primal food in the house because my husband is not primal, but we don’t have any chicken nuggets or fish sticks or any other “kids” food.

    Once she is older and realizes what pizza or other party food is I think I will allow her to have some on special occasions. I am glad that I introduced primal solids to her from the start. I think it would be much more difficult to primalize a kid who has been eating SAD. Also, I find the increase in pickiness to be extremely frustrating (even though she is still eating very well compared to the majority of toddlers), and I definitely sympathize with parents who have to fight that battle everyday for every meal.

    It’s also easy now because I can control her options, but sadly I know it won’t always be that way. I’m hoping that by educating her about food I can encourage her to turn down the cake in the future once she actually knows what it is.

    Jules wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • About the “pickiness:” a child learns by observing and copying what her adults do. She’s keenly aware that grown-ups make choices. So why shouldn’t she?

      Also, she’s beginning to see herself as an autonomous being. Once she knows she has options, she’ll test her independence by trying them out . The Terrible Twos (not very far away for the both of you) are all about making choices, and learning to deal with frustrations of sorting out what doesn’t work from what does.

      So encourage that independence, and avoid unnecessary conflicts! Make sure all her choices are primal, and leave it alone. She’ll eat what’s good for her no matter what.

      Nannsi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Jules, please try to let go of that “mommy guilt” for not breastfeeding your daughter longer. It’s tough, I know, I still have occasional twinges for not breastfeeding my oldest for longer (8 weeks). you made your decision based on your personal situation and the knowledge available to you at the at the time. That you know better now is irrelevant to your past situation. Earlier today, I read a blog with the following statement on it “I’m not trying to be right yesterday, I’m trying to be right today. Sometimes that means admitting that I was wrong and making the best change I can.” I found it to be a rather liberating statement when I applied it to myself.

      In the mean time, kudos to you that your daughter is being raised eating primal foods. I’m struggling to transition my 10-yr-old to something even semi-primal, because she spends more time with my husband, who is unable to work because of his health and a work related chronic injury, and he eats a deplorable example of the SAD. So do my in-laws, who my daughter also spends a lot of time with. Even worse, my teenage daughter has moved back home, and she’s now a mostly vegetarian version of the SAD. Her favorite foods are macaroni and cheese, Ramen, and PB&J on white bread… Both my oldest daughter’s biological father and I have independently introduced her to MDA, to no avail. *sigh* But, I’ve not given up on any of them yet. I just nudge here and there.

      b2curious wrote on May 24th, 2013
  29. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

    Joanne - The Real Food Mama wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  30. My kids eat Primal most of the time. Luckily for me (and them!), I knew a lot about it before my first child was even born. My now four and two year olds went straight from breastmilk to fruits, veggies and meat. Now, they beg for green smoothies, avocados, nuts, and plain Greek yogurt. Their dream is to eat their body weight in fresh fruit on a daily basis!

    The trouble comes whenever we go out to eat. Kids menus are woefully unhealthy. I’m not going to fight them in the restaurant, but I do try to minimize the damage. Instead of a giant bowl of macaroni and cheese, I try to steer them to breaded chicken, or something a little less horrible.

    School can be difficult – kids bring cupcakes for their birthdays, and I’m not going to tell my kids they can’t partake.

    I just focus on making sure that all of the food I buy and prepare at home is healthy, so I don’t have to worry as much about what they’re eating when they’re out and about.

    Bekki wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I wanted to offer what we do in restaurants–we never order off the kids’ menu. We simply either give our kids some of our meal or order their own “adult” portion off the menu. This has been really great at keeping them more primal when eating out.

      Happycyclegirl wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • We often just get a couple of sides for our 2 year old – the veggie of the day, some mashed potatoes, cottage cheese, fruit cup, and (if the restaurant serves breakfast) they’ll probably make you an egg if you ask.

        Kat wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • We do the same. We usually order an adult meal for our 1 & 3 year old daughters to share & then take home the leftovers. It’s rare to find a single vegetable choice on a kids menu besides French fries. :(

        A steak place near us has a nice kids menu so we ordered kid sized sirloins & steamed broccoli. The girls still decided our “adult” plates looked more appetizing so we had to share our King crab legs. Not sure we’ll go back anytime soon – three $40 dinners seems a bit hefty of a price!

        Telly telly wrote on May 27th, 2013
  31. I so agree with so many of these posts that if it isn’t in the house, they can’t eat it! And it isn’t just the kids, either!!

    One thing we have done is institute a “Weird Vegetable of the Week” game. It adds fun, variety, and a buy-in from all involved. Once a week we wander around the produce section of the grocery store, the Asian market, or the farmer’s market and pick out a vegetable we have never tried before. Very often we haven’t got a clue what it is. If we’re lucky there will be someone else picking one out and we ask them what to do with it and what it tastes like. Almost always the other shopper is more than happy to answer our questions and give us tips.

    Sometimes we just come home and google it. There was once we didn’t even know the name of the vegetable and just googled “bumpy long green warty vegetable.” Sometimes we love them, sometimes we don’t care for them, sometimes they become part of our regular groceries. We then moved on to “Weird Meat of the Week.”

    The point here is to give everyone a real stake in what they are eating. They picked it, they researched it, they asked the questions, they helped prepare it . . .

    P.S. Did I mention that I did this to get my HUSBAND on board and it worked??? 😉

    Ravey wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • That’s the best thing ever. I don’t know how easy it is to get Kangaroo in the US (I’m Australian) but if you can, definitely give it a go!! Such a delicious, lean and weird meat. And, because we don’t farm kangaroos in Australia, you know it’s grass-fed and as organic as whatever it feasted on was.

      Georgia wrote on May 27th, 2013
  32. My antipaleo partner feeds the kids with bread and pasta five times a day except for the weekends when I do the cooking. Any advice?

    Martin wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • So your partner has no respect for your research? Leaky gut and grains are coupled. My advice would be to cook more.

      Paleo Bon Rurgundy wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Maybe batch prepare foods – hard boiled eggs, cut up cucumber, peppers, cheese (if you do dairy), burgers/meatballs, carrot sticks etc. So then it is easy for your partner to just grab the ready made foods and feed it to the kids. Wishing you the best of luck!!!! Sad that she isn’t supportive.

      redsnapperuk wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Talk to her every day and little by little get her to agree with you ( not by arguing or making her wrong just talk about how good it is) Over time she will begin to think differently and eventually go paleo herself

      RJ wrote on May 24th, 2013
  33. My children are “unfooded” and have always had the freedom to eat whatever, wherever and whenever they please. As a result their diet is significantly healthier and more primal, naturally. They listen to their bodies.

    Making the switch to primal has been pretty straightforward thanks to this approach, though they still eat crap whenever they like. Their diet is exceptional and there are no forbidden fruits that may lead them to binging/addiction in their teen/adult years.

    The long game is more important, in my opinion, than immediate perfection. It’s about living in the modern world and all that it offers. Forbidden fruits and food battles aren’t the best way to teach healthy habits.

    Elle wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  34. I said 100% Primal because he eats 90/10 at 2.5 years old. We have a gluten-free household and went Primal when he was 1 years old. At the grandparents we allow corn chips and sometimes out he gets hand made corn masa tortillas and some rice. Quinoa very infrequently as well.

    This kid refuses sorbet and ice cream but eats plain frozen banana ice cream. He doesn’t like any cake or bead like things- even fully primal made baked goods that I find excellent. He just doesn’t have any reference to junk food being a comfort food so it isnt’ one. No muffins, no pancakes, no cake… even at his preschool they are shocked he isn’t begging for or trying to get the other kids crackers,goldfish, etc…

    At stores when I pick up a package and flip it over and put it back he will say “has gluten in it” and knows gluten makes him sick. He is still having trouble with cow dairy too.

    His favorite treats are 90% dark chocolate, raw kale (don’t understand this one since I despise it raw), and dehydrated fruit strips. I sent the organic fruit strips to preschool and they offer him raisins while the other kids eat crackers, goldfish, and grahm crackers and chocolate chips. He doesn’t complain one bit.

    He does however have some issues with food textures- doesn’t like messy things and hates dips. I think I’m the only parent with a kid who has skipped falling in love with dips :( He also seems to hate tomato and avacado which disappoints me but overall he eats such a good diet. His grandparents are shocked at the variety of veggies, fruits, and meats he eats.

    Laurie wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  35. My husband and I eat a primal diet but his son (my step son) does not. At most meals with us he eats what we eat but when he’s with his mom (which is most of the time) or at his grandparents he gets the usual grilled cheese, pizza, hamburgers etc.

    I feel a bit of guilt because I am now pregnant and am planning to raise my son primal but I give in and let my step son eat garbage because I know it’s not my place to tell his mom what to feed him. It’s frustrating.

    Kris wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  36. I have 3 kids under 6. One of our strategies has been to cook a whole bunch of stuff on Sunday to have on hand for lunches, etc. This way, if one kid objects to a particular dinner, there are 3 options in the fridge to choose from. I will always eat what they don’t. Sometimes simply having the ability to choose themselves has an impact.

    Also remember – kids often object to foods not just due to taste but because of texture. My son won’t eat formed ground meat for anything (burgers, meatballs, etc) – so I just treat his like a saute.

    Do remember that at some point your kiddo is going to go to school or be around a bunch of SAD eating kids. Figure out early how to allow them to participate and not seem weird while maintaining at least an 80/20 primal diet.

    WC wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  37. Eat Like a Dinosaur! (

    My kids are eating primal because they like the concept of eating like a dinosaur! The recipes are great, and they show how to get the kids involved. We haven’t had any leftovers with the meals we’ve made from this book – both kids, even the pickiest one, eat it all! I now know to double the recipes if I want leftovers!

    If you don’t have any junk in the house, they can’t eat any junk in the house. Kids might not want to eat what you put on the table, but they won’t starve. There are lots of great tips in the books for parents, like get your kids to at least try one of everything on their plate as their taste buds are ever changing and what they didn’t like last time, they might like now.

    Let your kids “cheat” when they are in someone else’s care (i.e. birthday parties).

    Karen wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  38. My husband and I have been eating Primal for about 3 years and have two daughters (7 and 9). Transitioning them to a complete Primal diet probably took about one year. We always ate healthy so it was just a matter of eliminating the pasta’s, bread, etc, from most meals and substituting with other ingredients, such as raw cabbage or zucchini for texture. We also made all of our own baby food so they never had a problem eating real vegetables versus that stuff in the jars on the shelf at the grocery store. Eliminating the cereal was the first step. We just stopped buying it and now on the weekends instead of munching on cereal they cut their own apple and dip it in some almond butter while watching cartoons (while mom and dad peacefully sleep). The next step was phasing out milk (too much sugar). Again, we just stopped buying it. The final food item to phase out is ketchup. They each get one bottle and it has to last 3 months (this started out as a one month plan). When they buy their next bottle, it has to last them 4 months, and so on. It’s amazing to watch them stretch that bottle of ketchup. Now instead of ketchup being the main ingredient on their plate the meat is instead…they think twice about if they really need it at dinner. For example, they now use guacamole on their burgers!
    Most people think I am crazy when I tell them our kids eat what we eat, but it is so much easier. With two working parents in the house, I don’t have the time to make separate meals every night, plus the health benefits of them eating Primal are so worth it. Their favorite meal is broiled or grilled salmon and every morning before school they have a whey protein shake with a tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil and a little bit of fruit. My 7yr old daughter’s latest request is more sardines in her lunchbox.
    Also, knowledge is power. My husband takes them grocery shopping every Saturday so they are involved in selecting the food. Then when they get home they are involved in washing, chopping, and cutting all fruits and veggies for the entire week. They also assist in making their lunches every night. It’s rewarding to hear one of them ask me “Is that Paleo?” when we are in a grocery store or at a restaurant. The other bonus to them being fat burners is that we can be out and about as a family for about 5 hours without being armed with snacks and we don’t have to hear “I’m hungry!!!!”
    Beware though, once they are converted to the Primal eating lifestyle and you decide to treat them to an occasional ice cream cone…WHOA! They turn into monsters because they can’t handle the sugar rush. It’s an amazing metamorphosis.

    Jessica wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • They like preparing the veggies and such, I am sure they would love it if you purchased an icecream maker and once in a while you could pick out fruits to put in the machine. I know I have seen recipes with coconut milk which you can find without added sugar. The fruit or stevia(if you use stevia) makes it sweet. Also there is a maker that uses frozen banannas to make the creamy part. It would be a whole new level of ‘treat’ for them to know that they don’t have to have conventional crap that makes them feel awful(sugar crash) but still they can still have a ‘conventional’ like treat.

      Brandi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • You don’t need an ice cream maker to make ice cream. Chop up bananas and then put them in a zip lock bag, in the freezer. Then when nicely frozen blitz them in the food processor! Done! Banana ice cream – add some cocoa or other fruits!

        Also I make coconut milk ice cream I just put the mix into a glass or plastic container and into the freezer it goes. Job done! It takes a wee while to defrost but our kids are very happy with the ice cream that we make at home (we also make it using thick cream too). But prefer coconut milk.

        But am loving all these ideas that everyone is talking about how to get their kids to eat more primal foods. I have forwarded this on to a friend of mine who is trying to convert their family to Primal but their youngest is a very picky eater and doesn’t eat that much food. Poor mum is pulling her hair out as to what to do as she won’t try this, that or the other.

        I have forwarded this article through to her to read but I will point out all the comments that people have made as I am sure there are some wonderful things that she could try on her darling daughter!!!

        We have been primal for 14 months and well our kids have always had foods cooked from scratch and there wasn’t an issue really for us going primal with them. The only issue we have are birthday parties but we let them eat whatever as they don’t go to them every week. So they are 98% Primal and we are pretty happy with that!!

        So love this community and this way of life!!!

        Have a great weekend everyone!!!! 😀

        redsnapperuk wrote on May 24th, 2013
  39. I needed to read this today!! Really struggling with my almost 4 year old. She is mostly primal, but can’t seem to give up bread. I just quit buying it and I am hoping she will stop asking. I know I can’t control it all, and that gets really frustrating. Grandparents house, friends, and preschool are the worst. I feel like she is constantly bombarded with SAD outside of the house….hey it’s Tuesday so have a freakin cupcake!!! I have a 10 month old and I am hoping it will be easier with him. Me and husband have been primal since January and it has been awesome. Our family thinks we are crazy, but jokes on them. For someone who grew up eating cheese whiz, wonder bread, and had coke for breakfast (no lie) this has completely changed my life and health tremendously. I actually enjoy cooking and eating now. I don’t have digestive issues anymore, like i used to no matter how much oatmeal/shredded wheat i ate. lol. We joined a CSA and have our grass finished cow on order!! Grok on people!!!

    Pdawg wrote on May 23rd, 2013

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