6 Common Clean Eating for Kids Questions
We have eaten clean as a family since July 2017 and we get a lot of questions about it. If you aren’t familiar with how we started our journey, you can find that here.
Here are some of the questions I commonly get about clean eating as a family and how we approach answering them:
What clean snacks do you feed your kids?
First, we don’t do a lot of snacks. There is power in coming to meals hungry – food tastes better! So, for my school-aged kiddos that means one after school snack and then the kitchen is closed from 3:30-6pm (dinner). No snacks after dinner either. #meanmom. The only exception I would make for this is if my kiddos were still under 4, I would be open to a morning snack as well.
I save the prepackaged products for school lunches. A packed lunch is much harder to navigate than a kitchen with a fridge and microwave, so for school lunches I pull out all the stops. Things like go-go squeezes, fruit leathers, homemade Paleo muffins, 100% fruit juice fruit cups, jerky, etc., we use at lunch. But they are too expensive for us to eat for snacks as well #largefamilyproblems. See my complete clean eating lunchbox guide here.
So, snacks are simple:
- Fresh fruit (often nut butter and apples)
- Raw veggies
- Leftover Paleo pancakes/waffles/French toast re-toasted (they are good in the fridge for a week or toss them into the freezer in a single layer to create your own Eggos). See my paleo waffle recipe here.
- Easy protein like pepperoni or ham
- Homemade granola (recipes here and here)
- hummus & plantain chips
- quesadilla with cassava flour tortillas and So-delicious dairy-free cheese
- coconut yogurt.
I told one person this list the other day and they said, “Oh…I already do that!” Yup, it’s not rocket science, just whole foods.
Again, the key is being consistent. If this is consistently all you are offering, things can change. They don’t want any of it? Fine, dinner is not far off. Stick to your guns team – you can change your family’s eating habits!
Has clean eating changed your children’s behavior?
ABSOLUTELY. That has been the driving force to keep all this work up because it is work, planning and effort. But the changes made it 110% worth it. What changes? Well, this is the part where I start sounding like a bad infomercial, but I literally interviewed my children after a month and these are straight from them:
- I’m a lot less hungry all the time
- I get less stomachaches
- Graham screams less**
- I can control myself (from Graham, 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 challenging 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 difficult to parent, as well as his behavior affected our family dynamic. This lifestyle has pretty much eliminated all that. I was shocked at how CALM he became and found it fascinating that he appreciated the ability to be more in control and calm with his comment above that “I can control myself” from eating this way. Wow. And any time he has something outside of the clean parameters our family eats by, I can absolutely tell the difference. There is no question in my mind that food is making the difference for him. THAT result alone is worth every minute of work!
How does your family deal with eating clean outside the home?
I personally have kept my main focus on clean eating INSIDE our home. I control what’s coming into our house – as the adult with the car and the wallet, that is within my realm to control and something I feel I owe to my kids TO control.
I have NOT tried to control the outside social situations – meaning, at school if someone brings cupcakes for a birthday, it’s my kids’ choice whether or not they partake. These don’t happen often enough for me to be concerned or feel it is significantly detrimental to my kids’ progress. I do keep a supply of cleaner treat options at home. If they chose to pass on a clean treat somewhere out of the home, they know they can one of those when they get home. I have been shocked that, for the most part, all but one of my kids will do this routinely – pass on a treat in the moment because it has gluten/dairy/refined sugar in it and wait for the replacement at home. Why? Because they have had enough personal experiences with how these make them feel to intrinsically not want to eat them. I couldn’t give that to them – they had to learn for themselves.
Could I control those situations? Sure, or at least I could try. But I don’t want to restrict so hard they are driven to binging or have a constant power struggle. Plus, there is no way I can control every situation, they are not with me 24/7. I believe in teaching them correct principles and letting them govern themselves in that regard. My oldest (14) stays 100% compliant to the Paleo lifestyle. One of my others would eat a candy bar if you handed it to him. But, at least I am empowering their future with education, tools, and the reality of how “normal” and delicious clean eating can be.
As far as if your extended family members aren’t supportive…that’s hard. I **highly** encourage you to revisit Food Freedom Forever Chapter 11, which focuses on how to talk to others. I love that it starts out with a reminder that “Food isn’t just food. In our relationships, food is love, acceptance, bonding and comfort.” I don’t have the situation of local family members are constantly trying to give my kids treats.
I recommend, at minimum, making sure you know WHY this is important to you and your family and that those you love who will be feeding your kids as well have that communicated to them. It’s one thing to say “Clean eating is better.” and a whole other to say, “Since eating this way, Graham’s regular fits have become almost non-existent. You know how hard that was for us and I hope you will support us in not giving him the sugar that triggers those fits. It’s really making a difference.”
How do you handle holidays?
I LOVE holidays. Like, I am THAT mom who milks a holiday for all its memory-making, life-distracting worth. I get SO very into them. But they are so incredibly sugar laden. Why is that? Why do we celebrate holidays with so many sweets? I’m not against the idea of special foods (especially cultural) for holidays. I’m talking the sugar OVERLOAD. We all know it’s coming with Halloween, Christmas, Valentines. I’m a mother of five boys – it’s so easy to show our love and to celebrate with treats. I have done so, like most of America, for many past years.
The more I have acknowledged and dealt with head on my sugar addiction, the more I look at what I’m scripting for my kids. Not because it’s trendy, or because I’m judging YOU, but because I’ve spent SO MUCH EFFORT painfully trying to correct decades of MY sugar habits and I want my kids to not have to go through that.
So, last year and this year my kids were that kid bringing non-candy valentines to class. (Think oriental trading company type fare). It can be more time involved and sometimes more expensive than grabbing a box of candy Valentines from any store. This past year, actually, I was THRILLED to see these in the $1 section at Target. Premade, with cute toy frogs, stretchy monkeys, and mini coloring books (those ones are $3 per pack). I *might* have done a happy dance in the isle.
For Easter, they didn’t get candy in their baskets or plastic eggs. Instead, hunted for eggs with quarters and homemade family video game tokens they can turn in for 5 minutes of gaming. For younger kids, you can do fruit chews or small dried fruit, mini lara bars, stickers, playdough, puzzle pieces, tattoos, small stamps, blueberries, hair clips, etc. For baskets, think books, art supplies, hand sanitizer, bubbles, legos, sidewalk chalk, card games, water bottles (I’m not big on toys in their baskets either, but that’s always easy).
It’s not a comfortable thought and there will be some things you are ready for and some you aren’t – but I challenge you to look at what habits you are scripting for your children within holidays.
How do you celebrate birthdays/do birthday parties?
We used to always have a meal at our parties – Little Caesar’s pizzas, chips, soda, and cake. Pretty par for the course in kid party food.
But…how does that translate when you eat clean as a family? We have done several variations. For our Halloween party, we still served a meal, but did it paleo style. This meant making mini corndogs and funnel cakes from the Paleo Kids Cookbook as well as fruit, Chunky Monkey Muffins, and paleo compliant chips + corn tortilla chips (we are ok with some corn for our kids). It was successful and all the kids enjoyed it…but it was a lot of work and not the cheapest to make for 12-15 kids.
Since then, we have just stuck to party snacks and birthday cake, as there is no written party RULE that you must serve a meal at a party, especially a kids one. The snacks are usually fruit (my kids love forming into the kabobs!), often with the fruit dip from the Paleo Kids Cookbook, chips, Izze, and cake. If you haven’t heard of Izze, it’s been a huge help in celebrating with my kiddos while clean eating! It’s basically sparkling juice – just juice + sparkling water (*disclaimer – the Izze fusions are NOT as clean and we don’t use those). We have Izze at parties and on trips, not on the daily.
Let’s talk the cake – we often do a Simple Mills cake mix with Simple Mills frosting. Just as easy to buy and make as regular cake mixes and canned frosting, with SUCH better ingredients. We love the chocolate cake mix, but don’t recommend the vanilla. This is a case where we let good enough be good enough. Yes, there is some sugar in the frosting. But I can pronounce all the ingredients, there are less than 10 of them, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free, but I didn’t have to make it from scratch! This has been a happy middle ground for us on special occasions. My kid’s friends seem to enjoy the food and have never made any negative comments about it.
How often do you give your kids dessert?
I am a sugar addict and my kids eat clean/Paleo…so how often do I give my kids dessert?
Short answer – every Monday night for family night and a cookie once per week in their lunch box. Tonight it was homemade paleo chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches with SoDelicious coconut milk ice cream and a deluxe chocolate shell from Enjoy Life melted chocolate chips. It was amazing!
Could I take out all treats? Sure. But I’m not convinced that would improve their relationship with food. I’d rather show them how delicious clean options can be. And that treats don’t have to be a source of guilt or overindulgence.
I have worked hard, however to not overuse treats on holidays (as previously mentioned), traveling, or to soothe.Traveling is more about memories than car treats and restaurant treats (spoiler – my kids didn’t notice the lack of junk on our road trips). And if they get hurt or have a bad day, we don’t throw candy at that either (we used too).
I know this can all seem overwhelming. But, carefully decide the right path for your family and move forward. It won’t be perfect, but forward is a pace, and you can do this!