In July 2017 my family made a drastic change that has really shaped our life since. We cut gluten, dairy, and refined sugar out of our lives (we say we eat “paleo-ish”). After eating that way for several years myself, with my husband, I knew the importance of eating focused on whole, unprocessed foods and had such a strong personal conviction that it made me my best self. Despite that, I hadn’t extended those habits to my children.
I stopped waiting for the “right” time
It sounded so daunting, especially x5. However, I was BLOWN AWAY by my Whole30 experiments and how much changing my food changed my health (acne, mood, energy, sleep, seasonal allergies, cravings) and wanted better for my boys. But, they were picky and raised on goldfish and packaged food with a lot of added sugar – this wasn’t going to be easy. I waited for the “right” time. Finally, I just dove in. It was far from the right time – we were traveling for half of July. But, it was time to stop empowering my excuses.
We had a family council about it
My kids and I had had previous discussions about why mom and dad personall didn’t eat gluten/dairy/sugar. We touched upon those topics again, how it had made us better – inside and out – and how we wanted that for them. We told them we were going to try it for 30 days and just see what happened. You might think that time frame was to warm up the kids. It wasn’t. It was to make me feel like this was manageable. To not be overwhelmed by the unknown of how I would keep up the food volume needed for this crew. To not be overwhelmed by the idea of making so many things in the kitchen and then having to do alllll the dishes. Or the fear that my kids wouldn’t eat, or that they would complain every time they did. I wasn’t sure I had it in me, but I knew I had to do this – they deserved this.
Involved them from the start
This wasn’t just my journey, it was ours. Once my boys had a decent grip on why we were doing this, I told them it was important to me that they have food options and still enjoyed their food. So, we started making a list. We made lists of breakfast and lunch options (dinners wouldn’t change much, I already had been making clean meals for the family). This was our first rough schedule of food options. Keep in mind all references to like waffles, muffins, etc. are to paleo ones we make.
Then we pulled out my cookbooks and Pinterest (my boys love Pinterest – the visual nature of it really engages kids) and starting finding recipes they thought sounded good. I did struggle a bit to find cookbooks that were family-friendly and EASY. Which, ended up being a driving force for my cookbook Whole Food for Your Family which can be a fantastic resource to you as you start this journey!
My determination to give them options and include them in the process paid off, as after the 30 days, they told me they felt like they had more options for food, not less. Apparently, repetition of PB&J and cereal and milk previously set me up well for that?! Ha!
Help them see the victories, figure out their WHY
Day 30 kinda came and went without much notice. My kids had found a new rhythm and weren’t chomping at the bit to stop. But, I decided eventually, around day 40 to take inventory on this family experiment. I pulled each boy aside privately and asked for their honest feedback on how it all went. Their responses blew me away:
- I’m a lot less hungry all the time
- I get less stomachaches
- My brother screams less**
- I can control myself (from my 7 year old, the one referenced above)
- I’m happier and my brothers are kinder
- I sleep better
- I like all the cool new foods
- My skin looks so good (13 year old’s face cleared up entirely)
**My 7 year old was a spirited kiddo who was very loud – lots of over the top emotions fits, and screams. It was exhausting and humbling to be his parent, as he was always very “spirited” and challenging to parent, as well as affected our family dynamic. This lifestyle has pretty much eliminated all that and THAT result alone is worth every minute of work!
No one asked to go back. Every once in a while the kids will see something we used to eat and mention how they kind of miss it. And I will say, “Yeah, I miss some foods too. But, how they make me feel is not worth it.” My kids will usually nod and agree.
I’ve been amazed at how this is our new normal. Remember, YOU decide what’s normal for you and your family. And it CAN be redefined!
What is your family perspective on foods offered outside your home? Do your kids eat non-paleo snacks at friends’ houses and other social gatherings?
Also! Do your kids all prep their own breakfasts and lunches?
Great questions! You can find the answers to how we handle food outside the home on this blog post:
I make breakfast 3ish times a week. The rest is leftovers and a smoothie day. Their lunches they prep on their own and you can get ideas of what that looks like here:
I wish I could transition my family. My husband and 10yr are the most difficult. Son is very picky but I know if I could get him transition it could help him as he’s ADHD and autistic. My husband may be on the same curve as my son, course back in the day there was not as many resources as we have now, but I have made some keto/paleo friendly foods for his dinner at work. It’s small steps but figured it’s a start. My son is the most challenging though.
Small steps matter and I know it can be a hard process, especially as you try to get on the same page as your husband. Keep at it – you are amazing for all you do to nourish your family!
I want to do this for my family and myself… I have 4 kids 22, 18, 5, 2, a hubby…. They are all addicted to sugar and processed quick foods … Any suggestions for the younger kiddos?
I hear you, my kids came from the standard American diet, which can feel really intimidating! For us it worked to do the transition all at once as a 30 day experiment, but you could also play around with a slower roll approach. As foods run out in your house, maybe swap them out with other options – so, once the goldfish are out, maybe you bring in a variety of salted nuts and fresh fruit or even some of my Paleo muffins and snacks. For those youngers especially, it’s hard to put it in their mouth if it’s not in the house! Be persistent and patient – I know it feels overwhelming but you can do this!
Love this!! Thinking it’s about time to make the leap myself with the three boys. (Two more are in college, so I cook for 5 now instead of 7.)
I’m so happy it’s helpful and love that you are a boy mom too! I hemmed and hawed for a long time, thinking it was just “too hard” but really, I just needed to dive in and DO THE THING. It wasn’t perfect, but we learned and adjusted and found a happy place for us to land. Hope you will to – you can do this!