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.

Do your kids eat Primally?

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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. Each child and each family is unique. We should be careful about judging about “good” and “bad” based on what works (or doesn’t work) for us and our children. We are all doing the best we can in our own circumstances. My son has sensory integration dysfunction and one of his big triggers is food, especially the textures. He is not being picky – he will gag and throw up if the texture is off. He is also one who will not eat for days and pass out from low blood sugar if there are no choices acceptable to his extremely limited palate. Does he now psych himself out of giving new foods a chance? Absolutely. For us, I have chosen to require him to try a little taste of everything we are having for a meal, but then I respect his determination as to whether he can eat it or not, rather than fight about it (because even if I win, chances are, I will be cleaning it up!). I keep trying to introduce new and healthier choices and versions of food and eliminating unhealthy ones, but it is not an easy road.

    Jennie Clarke wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • My son has this same issue. I want to reassure you that as they get older, it gets better. My son is now 10 (almost 11) and he will eat many more things that he used to. Though he still won’t touch shrimp or any shellfish because of texture. Nor will he eat lettuce or spinach for the same reason. I’ve actually had him say, “That’s not bad.” and then puke it up on his plate. Don’t give up! Add things in one at a time. Zuchinni was on his list of ‘won’t eat’ but I kept trying it different ways and finally found one he liked (sauteed with butter and herbs). I slowly got him to try it other ways and added yellow squash (they have different textures-so we introduced them one at a time).
      I know it’s frustrating because he might only eat one vegetable for 3 months. But that’s ok. At this point,we have absolutely instituted trying something at least, with the exception of things that I know will make him gag-lucky for me the list has gotten smaller over time.
      Best of luck and don’t give up.

      Sonja wrote on May 29th, 2013
      • Our 7 year old is very conscious about being ‘different’. He doesn’t like to stick out and that extends to what he has for lunch at school. Any clues on how to replace the ubiquitous sandwich with Primal alternatives without creating an emotional wreck?

        tim wrote on August 15th, 2013
        • I have 4 years of experience finding paleo alternatives for kids and it does work for us.
          I have recently opened a facebook page ,,Low carb experiences with type 1 kid” where I share recipes and tips.

          Ekaterina wrote on May 20th, 2014
  2. When my husband and I went full Paleo about 6 months ago, the kids did too. We simply removed all junk food, processed food, grains, dairy and sugar from the house and never bought it again. We got some whining at first, “I don’t like this food” and my favorite “we have nooooo food.” I had to repeat myself over and over, “We have plenty of food, you’re just choosing not to eat it.” I never forced my kids to eat certain things. If they didn’t like what was being served for dinner, they didn’t have to eat. Eventually, they realized if they were hungry they better eat and when they ate, they realized they loved trying new things. I always try to prepare 3 different veggies for dinner and let them choose at least one. One kid loves spinach but doesn’t like avocado. The other one loves kale but wont eat brussel sprouts, etc. They feel empowered by making a choice of something they like, instead of forced.

    Erin wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  3. Easy. We just don’t keep junk in the house. Period. If it’s not there, the kids can’t eat it. It’s really not that tough.

    Stephanie wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  4. My older two eat quite Primally, especially dinners which I prepare almost nightly. My youngest is a very picky eater. I let him eat as many apples and bananas as he wants but he doesn’t care for meat. I have tried to do homemade chicken nuggets (even put back in the SAD bag) and fish sticks but he seems to know the difference. It doesn’t help that the husband is not Primal (except the dinners I cook) and loves to buy Cheez-Its, chips, and donuts for the family. At least I have the older two who love meat and veggies (and fruit for the girl, not the boy).

    Kris C wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  5. It’s very hard when your kids have been eating wrong for years and they are not preteens and teens. They are more resistant to change.

    I’ve been on primal for about 14 months and my husband mostly too. Initially, I forced my kids to eat eggs and bacon for breakfast and no more cereals but they became so tired of that, that I eventually gave in and bought them gluten-free cereals. They still have eggs but less often now. I tell them why those things aren’t good for them, but I can’t force them to eat things. It tends to push them further away from the good stuff. We don’t have money for healthy snacks like jerky and almond flour baked good. Coconut flour is non-existent where we live.

    I’ve tried the gluten-free route but that’s also expensive and gluten-free bread just doesn’t taste the same. So yes, I have failed my family. But if all you can afford is a good vegetable and meat meal at night and eggs for breakfast, plus full cream yoghurt for lunch, well, it’s better than what they used to eat.

    And yes, forcing a baby to eat will make them more fussy. It’s not about manners or upbringing. I forced my oldest to eat as a baby as he wasn’t growing. I later found out it was an infectious disease that was taking away his appetite. Because of that, he built up a resistance to being forced to eat certain foods. To this day, he cannot stomach any sauces on his food or soup.

    I’m hoping that one day when we can afford totally primal, tasty foods, that we can convince them otherwise.

    Kathy wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • You have not failed your family. YOU TRY which is more than I can say for many parents. Plenty of places wont have the things you need and alot of people don’t have the money for healthy food. That isn’t your fault, its just that bad food is cheaper to make and the government and other big Industries make it that way. You do what you can and that is still great.

      Brandi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Kathy, I’m with Brandi on this one! You have not failed. You are trying AND you have made some real improvements, and you have learned to deal with a tricky situation with your oldest. Chin up, mama — you’re doing good!

      KEW wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Kathy, there’s nothing wrong with eggs for breakfast, meat and veggies for dinner and yogurt for lunch. Life is all about compromises and what works on an individual basis. That includes food. Whether you and your family are two-thirds primal or fully primal, or whatever, it shouldn’t be something that causes so much stress and anxiety.

      I eat a pretty primal diet about 98 percent of the time, mainly because I prefer to eat that way. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a bite or two of (gasp!) birthday cake on rare occasions, or a bit of turkey stuffing with gravy at Christmas. I think it’s a bad idea to become so straitlaced about food that it dictates one’s entire existence. Life should be fun; don’t make it a drag for yourself and your loved ones.

      Incidentally, gluten-free is cheap and pretty easy if you don’t try to buy replacement foods. Just eliminate the gluten grains and stick with rice on an occasional basis. Also, yogurt will be healthier by either making it yourself or buying the plain kind and adding fresh fruit.

      Shary wrote on May 24th, 2013
  6. My biggest issue is that my 1 year old spends 8 hours a day 3 days a week with her grandmother (my MIL), who likes to feed her pasta, bread, etc. She does give her a lot of fresh fruit, and gives her veggie purees, but I don’t know how to tactfully stop the bread and pasta. I don’t think she feeds her much of any protein either.

    I walk on eggshells with my MIL as it is… Anyone have some tips?

    Halek wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Prepare the foods for her, put in tupperware. Let her know that you don’t want YOUR child eating those things, Hopefully HER son is on your side. At the very least she can be grateful not to have to do the full cooking herself. Then its up to her to be a Good MIL, a good grandmother and respect your wishes.

      Brandi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  7. I think we are “over the hump!” with my 3 year old… finally! He eats pretty much whatever is served to him. He makes the most horrible faces when eating certain vegetables (cabbage, carrots, etc.) but he will at least take a few bites before he is excused. He knows he won’t be able to play or go outside until he eats dinner… otherwise he’s stuck sitting at the table. We are less strict with him, though, then we are with ourselves… lots of fruits, raw dairy, even gluten free (rice) pasta at times. He has never been much of a bread eater… thankfully, but he would love to eat more dairy than we give him. It’s hard to find organic/raw though (besides milk). We make cupcakes on special occasions and even then he just licks the frosting off… doesn’t even eat the gluten-free cake part that took me forever to find the ingredients for. The key is persistance!!!

    sara wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  8. My husband and I have been primal for nearly a year and a half, but our boys (3 and 5) are quasi-primal. Our stance is we try and pick our battles and then when they are older 12+ (maybe 14, I don’t know yet) they can choose their lifestyle. We hope it’s paleo/primal but it’s also their own body; I can only guide as a parent.

    First of all the boys go to daycare and the daycare does not allow outside food due to food safety laws and their own guidelines and policies, especially with allergies. The daycare follows the CW approach to food and it’s outside of my control. My boys each breakfast, lunch and a snack there 5 days a week. It’s not ideal but it’s outside of my control and it’s a battle I’m not willing to fight.

    At home we try and keep their diets as primal as we can, but we aren’t perfect. I don’t buy bread and the boys have come to accept that. They eat grass-fed hamburgers without buns and now my youngest prefers all meat without bread. Hot dogs are Applegate grass fed beef, no buns. They eat a variety of fruit and vegetables. The boys are also good about eating meat and love pork, chicken and steak which helps. They are also good breakfast eaters and love eggs, sausage and bacon.

    I do buy them cereal, but it’s organic and gluten free. Same with granola bars, organic and gluten free. They still like snacks, so I buy the Annie’s brand. Sometimes it’s gluten free, sometimes not. Really it comes down to picking the battles.

    We are far from perfect and have a lot to improve on but I know that they are far ahead of their classmates that get Cheetos, soda, and McDonald’s.

    Jill wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  9. Have the most primally-oriented person in the household do ALL the grocery shopping. This works for us most of the time. Sure there are treats (80/20), but if the bread or Goldfish or whatever aren’t available in the first place, it sure makes it easier! Our son (12) has wild salmon a few times per week and nice local veggies every night. He even brags about the offul dad eats at school (!). Now if I could just get my daughters’ universities on side!

    Mark Cruden wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  10. We learned very quickly we cannot control what they have access to in the community, but we can control what they have at home, and in their lunches. So we have resorted to Education for the eldest (10 years) and house of hard knocks for the littles (my 4 year olds will tell you that McDonalds makes them sick. Why? because they wanted it so bad we let them have some a month after going primal and it well made them sick a lesson they will never forget). So AT home the Rules are NO Gluten ever. We do not buy bread or other grain products with the odd exception such as a birthday (gluten free cup cakes), or road trip (gluten free muffins) but really we tend to take hard boiled eggs, bacon we cooked up previously, filler free sausages, Veggies, Fruit, a cutting board and knife etc. recently we even did a road trip (12 hour trip) and we stayed on track (except for those little gluten free brownies we got as a treat). instead of stopping at a restaurant we stopped at a grocery store for a ready to go Chicken and some fruit and veggie trays.

    Haley wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • I have been primal for most of the past three years. As a McDonald’s franchisee I can tell you that my kids don’t get sick from occasionally having McDonald’s. I can proudly tell anyone that there is nothing in our food that will make kids sick! At home we try to live the primal lifestyle (all of it, not just the eating), buy locally grown vegetables and fruit, etc. etc. But letting kids have McDonald’s once in a while (IF THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE CHOOSE TO DO) will not make children sick. Do we let our son have McDonald’s every night? No. Do we let him eat at any other quick service or full service restaurant? No. Do we let him have Dairy Queen all the time? No. Sorry, just had to say that.

      Mark Cruden wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • Nothing like ecoli, or bad hygeine or anything, but I believe she was refering to the fact that her children got sick after eat at mcdonalds, whether it was the MCds or not. 4 year old tummys can be sensitive to those things, like preservatives and such.

        I once got sick immediatly after eating a hamburger at a restaurant because it had a little pink in it. It wasn’t food poisoning or something like that, its just up until recently i couldn’t stand seeing pink in any meat, cooked properly or not. My brain said ‘oh hell no, that sh*t isnt staying!’

        What you said in reply came off as very defensive (she doth protest to much) and certainly rude.

        Brandi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
        • Not sure how I came off rude! My apologies to you, Haley if I did. That’s certainly not who I am or try to be. Not to sound defensive (again) but we have great hygiene at our (3) restaurants and spend many hours during training speaking to this (and the thorough cooking of meat). Again, not trying to sound defensive, just saying it’s about balance. Have a good night, everyone.

          Mark Cruden wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  11. I consider myself so lucky to have discovered primal eating before I got pregnant so that we can raise our twin girls on primal foods. We do what we can to give them the best possible start, something we never had ourselves.

    Kristin wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • It was all the more painful for me to send my little Primal girl to daycare where she is being fed a SAD breakfast, lunch and snack. (I’m not allowed to send her food along.) They try to be “health conscious” but of course this means lite margarine (argh!), sweetened cream of wheat, pasta lunches (whole wheat mind you!), etc. They have a “sugar free” policy but liberally offer honey and jam. All of this to me felt like it was polluting her pristine body. God I feel like such a freak.

      Anna wrote on May 23rd, 2013
      • wonderful if a few years Ill have to deal with daycares that do that sh*t, Im sorry I think that a daycare should have to feed my children, what I! choose for them. You are not a freak, you are awesome.

        Brandi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  12. I have been trying to implement primal foods more and more with my kids, ages 5 & 3. They love fruit, eat veggies ok, like yogurt a lot etc. we pretty much only buy organic to avoid gmo’s. My main issue is trying to find a way to replace carbs: bread, pasta, rice, corn. My 3 year old is allergic to nuts, coconut and eggs, which makes bread replacements almost impossible. Any suggestions on what we could use to substitute? Or is there a lesser evil, for example oats, rice and corn being better than wheat?

    Laura wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  13. Dang, when I was a kid we laid in the back of the car, rode our bikes across town, and we couldn’t leave the dinner table until we finished our dinner.

    Diane wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  14. The very Idea ^^ that people think that fast food doesn’t make you sick is sad. Sure maybe, like HFCS, it isn’t makeing you sick like food poisoning. It is however, making you sick, makeing everyone sick. A childs body is far more prone to the effects of this so called food, my two year old neice is 32lbs, can’t imagine what her ‘hamburger’ is doing to her. Her 4 year old sister is 62lbs and I know what its done to her. Fast food is full of the worst ‘Food’, how can anyone defend the crap. Sure its under 2 bucks but so is an apple and some cashews.(-allergies.) Yes having it once in a while is certainly and OK personal choice wise, but don’t sit there and say it doesn’t make you sick.

    Brandi wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  15. My kid loves meat but anything ‘green’ would be only his soccer club T shirt. Mother eats like a catterpillar !

    eny wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  16. The two most powerful tools a parent has in the realm of nutrition are a) the example we set and b) the food we make available. I have been primal for over 2 years and have never felt better, but have transitioned the boys more slowly. I now buy no gluten-containing products/flours/etc., and most everything is either homemade or very minimally processed. What I’m learning is that as they get older (they are 10 and 14 now) they make the connection between what they eat and how they feel. Eating “clean” most of the time means that when they do have the occasional fast food with friends, they feel like crap for a long time. This, in my mine, is the most powerful tool for anyone looking to make significant lifestyle changes, and it’s lovely to watch it unfold. They also know they no longer take daily allergy and asthma meds…amazing! It’s a work in progress, but with patience and preserverance, the right attitude, and the adults around them practicing what they preach, they will learn. I never force feed, and if they don’t feel like eating breakfast or dinner, I let it go. It’s working…so far. :)

    Emily wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  17. Hi I have only just gone paleo and I am really struggling with my teenagers . They are 15 and 16 . Really hard to try and change their diet in one hit so I am trying to change a bit at a time any suggestions would be great

    Lyn Handasyde wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • First, take care of yourself and don’t have junk in the house for them to eat.
      Figure out a way to make Paleo food they will enjoy. Get them to read the books or watch some videos on it. Being teens they may be more inclined to take advice from others rather than mom.

      RJ wrote on May 24th, 2013
  18. We are working on a more traditional/primal diet for the whole family. I succeeded in eliminating breakfast cereal completely, as well as crackers. Granola bars still make it into the house because my husband likes them. I haven’t found a paleo granola bar recipe he likes yet. We do home-made corn tortillas sometimes too, and taco shells. I very much doubt I will ever be able to eliminate those completely; it’s too much of my husband’s culture. What helped me the most with planning meals for the was following The Paleo Mama on facebook. Overall, I feel like we are doing okay. The kids like scrambled eggs or omelets for breakfast. There is usually left over roast or meat from the night before for lunches, or I’ve made my own fish or chicken nuggets when I’m on top of everything. I’m so behind right now. I feel like I can’t take the time to plan, even though it would help be more on top of everything. The hardest part is making dinners that appeal to my children, my husband and myself.

    Beccolina wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  19. I think that Mark would agree that a healthy adult will eat intuitively. But many of us can’t, right? We’ve lost that ability that we’re just now trying to get back the Primal way. Letting kids develop their own intuition about how to feed themselves will go a long way to ensure that they don’t grow up with food issues. Every parent that has a difficult or picky eater needs to read Ellyn Satter’s works or go straight to the FeedingDoctor’s site. Every kid’s motor skills develop at different rates and some might have trouble with certain foods in their mouths. We need to have a little compassion for their little growing bodies! Just like understanding that bedwetters are not messing up because they’re lazy; they’re constipated! Simple answers, hard to implement. Go find the Feeding Doctor!

    Tangytam wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  20. I don’t have children of my own, but I asked my mum. She never knew about Primal back then, but she says that she never put up with any fussiness about food. We ate what she gave us or we didn’t eat, and it worked. The closest thing I can remember to pickiness was my sister’s aversion to the smell of hot parmesan, or they way I would try to keep my foods from touching each other. :) Good times.

    AriaDream wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  21. One of the things that’s been really important to me is to genuinely listen to my child. My 5 year old is going through a picky phase and after a month or so of struggling with him about it, we sat and talked about what foods he did like and what foods he didn’t. Turns out he actually liked plenty of healthy primal goodies, like plain meats, uncooked veggies, fruit & cheese cubes. But what he didn’t like was any sauces or seasonings, and nearly any cooked veggies or soup. When I started serving him a side of raw carrots or bell pepper with every meal, we made a lot more headway with a lot less struggle… and once he took a few bites of one thing on his plate it made it more likely that he’d be try a few bites of something else (not always, but more often). He’s not strict paleo by any means, but he likes and is willing to eat many paleo & primal foods. It’s more important to me that his palate includes healthy foods than that it’s picture perfect.

    jj wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  22. I guess I’m fortunate to have started this journey 4.5 years ago and now have a 2.5 year old son who eats very well. He eats meats, fish dipped in his own dish of butter, all sorts of raw or cooked veggies, fruit, yogurt, cheese, nuts–he’s got favorites but has a varied palate. He’s also not offered bread at home or when we go out, so he doesn’t expect to get it. He does enjoy sweets but he seems to know that he has to eat what he’s offered first and that No Means No and whining doesn’t work.

    As a juxtaposition, I’ll mention that I watch my 2 year old nephew 3 days a week. I’ve been watching him since before he was on solids, but since his parents let HIM dictate what he wants to eat (mostly sweet stuff, very little meat) he’s become increasingly resistant to the meat and non-fruit items I try to feed him. It’s a source of frustration when my nephew flat-out refuses to eat delicious food and would rather not eat anything than something non-sweet. It’s getting harder and harder as he’s getting older.

    Parental influence is everything, in my opinion, but since I’m not his parent I can only keep trying and hope he’ll take some hints from my son who is making all the yummy noises in the highchair next to him:)

    Robin Stange wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  23. I am lucky in that my husband and I started eating Primal about a year before my daughter was born. Now that she’s 19 months old, people are amazed at the food she will eat and asks for – kale, carrots are here favorite, broccoli, peppers, “beast” aka beef, eggs and the list could go on and on. Literally the only thing she absolutely will not eat is green beans, go figure. Oh, and she is known as the “bacon girl” at our local farm store because as soon as we walk in, she starts saying, “bacon, bacon, bacon”.
    I always say, she doesn’t know any different so she likes good, healthy food. I’ll be interested to see the difference in food preferences in our second child due in September. Hopefully, she will love all the primal, real foods our older daughter does!

    Hannah wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  24. I have found that the surest way to sabotage my own efforts is to tell the kids “just try one bite”. They usually take this to mean that this is an awful thing and that I don’t expect them to like it and the y automatically go into “bargaining” mode, “well if I taste it then I get ice cream, right?”. What does often work for me is to get excited myself, “Hey, check out this awesome thing, you will love it!” And really mean it.

    Beverly wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  25. My son is NOT Primal. I’ve tried but it’s my own fault. When I was pregnant I ate copious amounts of doughnuts cause that’s what I craved and I should not have listened to THAT craving. Although doughnuts DO have a lot of fat too. I paid for the high sugar/fat combo with some readings my doc didn’t like in a person my age.

    I also have been lax about making my son sit down when we sit to eat so now I have to deal with the screaming. My husband has NO patience for such behavior and only gets angry.

    When my son was a baby he’d eat every veggie that Gerber made. Now oddly enough he’ll eat some veggies RAW but not cooked. He is SO WEIRD.

    He wont’ eat meat, not bacon even. He’ll eat deli turkey sometimes, cheese, milk (organic cream top), yogurt. So I cram that down him to make up for the no meat. I think I’ve given him too much line. OH yes and breakfast sausage but ONLY Jones brand.

    My other problem is I live with my parents, who are not even CLOSE to being Primal, they think I’m freaking nuts and even more nuts for trying to ‘restrict’ bread and gluten from my son and my son begs for the ‘goodies’ and they give it to him despite my irritation. It’s incredibly frustrating.

    The boy won’t eat eggs and if he eats chicken nuggets they have to be from BK. SO ANNOYING. The only other way to sneak eggs into him is the flourless pancakes or oatless oatmeal. So tiresome.

    Don’t get me started on my hubby who despite me makin’ so many good Primal dishes still deigns to raid the plate of pastries in the break room and bring them home to me no matter how many times I scream “YOU AREN’T BEING NICE TO ME.”

    I mean c’mon people, do they just NOT GET IT? I want to eat a certain way, I want my kid to eat a certain way. Absolutely no respect! Weird looks and complete disrespect for what I desire. Can’t control hubby but he could at least be more considerate.

    Think I need to just have a talk with my parents to try and not give him ‘treats’, but I feel bad because my Dad and him have their morning ritual with Life cereal and lots of cut up fruit. I tell you, it’s hard to be Primal in a non Primal world, and it’s harder to get your kids to be. :(

    Kate wrote on May 23rd, 2013
    • Kate, that sounds sooo frustrating. Just a thought for you to consider…Have you tried getting your son just gluten-free first? Like switching out the Life cereal for gluten-free Chex, buying some gluten-free bread/treats with as few crappy ingredients as possible, etc. It might help with the tension with the grandparents if they can give him junk food that is a bit less junky? I have celiac, so to me gluten is the first, most important thing to reduce/get rid of, if at all possible. And this might sound weird, but on the chicken nugget front, it may be worth trying to get some BK containers and putting your own chicken nuggets in them on the sly. I read a study some time back that kids given French fries, I think it was, ate the ones in McDonald’s packaging and loved them and either rejected or didn’t eat as many as the SAME fries packaged differently.

      Jennifer wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Incidentally, the raw veggies only, not cooked veggies isn’t all that weird. My son is the same way. He’s got a decently wide variety of raw veggies he’ll eat (carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, snow peas, sometimes cauliflower), but cooked? No way. Except roasted kale and baked potatoes he won’t even touch a cooked veggie with his fork.

      jj wrote on May 24th, 2013
  26. Both kids are picky. My eight year old basically will not eat protein(meat, cheese, yogurt, eggs, hummus, beans, hates bacon…) and will go without eating rather than eat something he doesn’t like. He has been known to throw up when required to eat something. His little brother is also quite picky. It’s actually quite freeing to me, since I’ve never bothered to plan meals around their preferences – they can eat dinner or not. I pretty much leave it alone.

    On the other hand, I cook everything from scratch and can count on one hand the processed foods we keep in the house (sprouted grain bread, Joe’s O’s, ketchup, 85% chocolate and yes, Goldfish). So they’re not exactly eating a SAD diet, though they do have grains and sugar, and we eat out once a week.

    Allison wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  27. One day at a time, even one meal at a time for my child. One of the favourite meals is a what we call a “snacky plate”. It’s vegetable sticks and fruit etc cut up with some meat or fish. It’s colourful, easy to make and eat and primal. Also, we ask (never force or beg) our daughter to try new foods, even if she doesn’t like it this time, she might the next, or the next, or the next time after that.

    Julie B wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  28. I try to encourage my 4 year old to eat healthy (paleo/primal) but it is difficult when her father does not! I am working on him but he believes in ‘everything in moderation’.
    I realise that we are her most important role models but its hard to make this work when her dad eats bread etc and I do not.

    Jen wrote on May 23rd, 2013
  29. It’s great to read all the comments. Eating healthy is not difficult it’s just happens to be way too easy to eat poorly. We are a blended family… 52 year old man (Primal), 46 year old woman (Primal). Two girls aged 21 and 19. Two boys aged 19 and 15. A beautiful 4 1/2 year old granddaughter. It’s chaos when it comes to food, especially with most of the kids now young adults.. it’s tough. We run the gamut of nutrition. There is one who does not eat vegetables or fruit! We have one who eats mainly processed, low fat, sugar laden junk. Another one is quite interested in what she is eating, so it is kinda fun The oldest boy is doing very well for the most part, eating well and exercising. He’s buff! Other boy is sedentary, if he had a beard he would be a poster child for a nursing home, either slouched in a chair or propped up in bed playing PS3 or I-phone apps! It’s certainly not genetics. It’s lifestyle choices. The little princess is doing pretty good, bacon is a favorite! No processed food, at least when she is here (6 out of 7 days). It’s easier when dealing with a young child. My partner and I have pretty much got it dialed in nutrionally and have never felt better (18 months now). Inroads are being made. Influence is possible. We just keep forging ahead and try to stay focused on what’s important. Grok on!

    Rob wrote on May 24th, 2013
  30. Our Kids Eat Primal :)

    Breakfast they have either ice-cream or pancakes or cake

    Lunch they have chicken and veg or fish or similar or fruit or eggs or pizza or lasagna, egg salad,

    Dinner what ever we cook which is mainly primal within 80% and may include the above luch items or soups.

    I do make one concession, I make 3 day fermented sourdough bread 1 loaf once a week and they can have that with butter and so on.

    So what is ice-cream ? Drip dried Kefir from raw milk with egg yolk , half banana and cream.
    So what is pancakes ? 3 Eggs, 2 tablespoons of coconut flour fried in lard and butter and a lick of molasses on top
    So what is cake ? 10 eggs, 250g of almond meal, 80g of dried prunes, 250g of butter. Generally no sweet spread on it, but its great with a dollop of cream.
    What is pizza ? base 4 eggs and coconut flour salt and oil, topping is meat some veg and cheese.
    What is Lasagna ? Sweet potato base, ground beef and cheese and topped with egg and kefir cheese to bake the top nice.
    What is egg salad? 10 hard boiled eggs 200g of home made mayo, onion and grated carrot with 100g of shredded ham

    Bread is with butter and with Kefir cheese or eggs.

    Still a war to get them to eat many night , but even when we fail at least they eat the back up food like cake so they are primal and don’t even know.

    Michal wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Just want to clarify that Kefir cheese is just drip-dried kefir that resembles cottage or farm cheese in consistency with all the pro-biotics .

      Michal wrote on May 24th, 2013
  31. My sons (15 and 12) are 1 week primal 50% the week after they are primal 10%, the week after they are primal 50%……..up and down! I continue to teach them to eat primal as long as they eat primal to 80%!!
    Thank you Mark

    claudia wrote on May 24th, 2013
  32. The “forbidden fruit” part reminded me of when I was a kid and invited to a birthday celebration for my uncle. The adults were served prawns and the kids were served hot dogs (because most of us didn’t eat anything but pancakes and hot dogs) at another table. Guess what I did then? I stole my mums plate of prawns and ate them all. I have loved prawns ever since.

    Emelie wrote on May 24th, 2013
  33. I have very little problem with food at home, my kids are only 3 and 1 so they don’t remember the old days of whole grains. We always offer them primal choices at home and they are glad to eat them or not to eat them and I hope that as they get older this continues. The problem is when they are with friends. Their friends are constantly stuffing their faces with you know what and it is very tempting to a small child who doesn’t even know what health is. And saying that they have to be different than everyone else is too difficult for me and keeping them locked up at home is not ideal either. Everyone knows how we eat but they think we are crazy.extremists or that it sounds ok but too difficult to inflict on their family. I just hope that they grow up not too damaged and make the right choices later on when they are more aware.

    Natasha wrote on May 24th, 2013
  34. I never realized that some daycares restrict the food that can be brought in. Our daycare is peanut free, but otherwise we bring our own food. They offer snacks (goldfish, fruit in sugary syrup, etc.), but we are free to provide our own snacks. I would imagine there would have to be a way to get around any restrictions for medical or religious reasons otherwise the school would have to prepare separate meals for the children and ensure no cross contamination. For example, if a child had celiac disease he would have to eat gluten free. Or if a child was kosher I doubt he could eat much of the school food either.

    Has anyone with the daycare food restrictions inquired about medical or religious exceptions?

    Jules wrote on May 24th, 2013
    • Our day care restricts brought-in food for numerous reasons.
      Homemade food cannot be brought in. They need all food to have ingredient labels for allergies. Plus they run a commercial kitchen that is subject to state food preparation standards. Commercially made and packaged foods are done under the same conditions. From what I understand this is more for allergies. Our daycare is 100% nut and peanut free. So any birthday treat needs to be something purchased with the labels in tact, like Larabars for example.

      Our daycare accommodates allergies and religious preferences to the best of their abilities. Children can have soy milk (:P) if they have a dairy allergy. There is rarely pork on the menu for halal students. Our daycare is not gluten free and doesn’t offer that accommodation, so I assume if a child had celiacs disease that parent would have to find a private in home provider.

      Food aside, our daycare has all state licensed teachers, has the highest state safety and health awards, and focuses on academics and community service, virtues, etc. So it really is finding what fits for each family and fills as many needs as possible.

      I’ve quickly learned as a parent that there is no such thing as perfection and you just have to do your best every day.

      Jill wrote on May 24th, 2013
  35. One great tip is to let them play with the food at early age. Try to let them choose vegetables and fruits at the supermarket. Children want to eat food that the recognize and have experience with.

    John wrote on May 24th, 2013
  36. My boys are great at eating new foods most of the time. The key to their dislike is always texture. Guacamole? Must be pureed smooth. NO LUMPS! Salsa? Must be more like spaghetti sauce. But they love ground beef of any kind, so tacos, sloppy joes and spaghetti sauce are a monthly must on our menu. They don’t know about the hidden ingredients like extra pureed vegetables yet, but we do try to be transparent at the table if they ask. Honesty has worked on more than occasion.

    Jess wrote on May 24th, 2013
  37. My husband and I have only been primal for a month. Our kids (age 8 and 10) diet is still mostly conventional. Both have been picky eaters who gladly refuse to eat rather than try something new for all their lives. Luckily though they’ve always liked vegetables and fruit and neither likes carbonated soft drinks. So what we’ve done is make gradual changes in their diets. Dinner time is the main change, where we usually serve them similar versions of primal fare we are having. They don’t like sauces or spices, so their meat is served plain. Breakfast has changed somewhat for them too – we eat mostly eggs, fruit, and yogurt and they usually have the fruit too and occasionally the eggs, but still eat cereal or toast some days. Lunch is still SAD – PB&J or bagels with fruit and nuts. They are gradually becoming more interested in the primal diet. My son “invented” primal ice cream – banana, milk, and ice in the blender, then freeze it. For them I think this is the best approach – very gradual and letting them have input into what they are eating.

    Colleen wrote on May 24th, 2013
  38. I make ONE meal. We have 5 kids. I cannot be making a multitude of different items for them. I will take suggestions and try to put this into the meal rotation. I try to make at least 2-3 veggie sides plus the main meal. If the kids complain they don’t eat. We send them away from the table and tell them they are not invited back until they apologize for the comment. Once at the table they can eat or not, but when they finally get hungry enough they MUST eat the meal they refused to eat. before any other food is given. no exceptions. We do not waste food. I have had some of the kids hold out 24-48 hrs out of stubbornness, but then they always eat what was served. Some may think it is harsh, but it works. They will be thankful for the food we have or be hungry. their decision.

    laura wrote on May 24th, 2013
  39. We have always operated on the thesis:
    There are very few children that volontarily starve themselves to death before eating broccoli (or whatever). They will not wither down and die if they don´t eat what´s for dinner tonight. You either eat the food in front of you or not. Chances are that they will have worked up a healthy appetite by the next time food is set on the table and will be far less fussy then.

    That is, after all, how the other 90% or so of the worlds children get to grow up and close to 100% if we look back in time. :-) The choice is usually not “This food or something else you like better and you get if you nag/scream/behave deplorably.” but rather “This food or no food.”

    Of course we never cooked meals we knew they would hate just to be mean but we were fairly strict in not offering alternatives, or snacks.
    It´s worked fine. They are still alive and healthy.

    Elena wrote on May 24th, 2013

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