Clean eating, kid-style

Kristin is fairly happy with her son's diet, but definitely thinks there's room for improvement

A Paleo-friendly burger

I wheel the cart past the juices and toward the avocado pile, surveying the bumpy green fruit and eyeballing one nearby; it’s the perfect deep green that indicates sliceability and deliciousness. I drop it in the front of my cart next to the green onions, kale, bananas, and box of mandarin oranges and navigate to the back of the store. The way we eat dictates that we never really need to go down the centre aisles.

My six-year-old lags behind, eyeing the rows of sugary cereal piled high and manically bright on the back shelves. “And after this, I can get a treat, right Mom?”

“One. One treat”

In exchange for a pain-free shopping experience, I have negotiated a reward at the end of the of our Safeway excursion. I would like to say that the eating habits of my husband and I have formed a deep lust in our boy for celery and unsalted almonds, but I watch as his sweatpanted legs bolt toward the refrigerator section. He pulls out a neon cardboard box.

“Can I have this as my treat?” he asks, waving it in the air.  It’s red, yellow and nauseating. His eyes are wary. He already knows what I am going to say.

“Nolan, that’s the most disgusting thing in the store.”

“It has juice!” he protests.

“It has utter crap.” I take it out of his hand and flip the label. Sugar and calories through the roof: more than the recommended daily sodium intake for a full adult. This is the stuff my son watches other kids eat at school, the junk he mournfully wishes I would pack instead of sliced apples and little salad bowls.

I observe the package in my hand before replacing it back alongside its processed counterparts. The meat is gelatinous and beige. The crackers glisten with salt. No wonder our kids are hyperactive, obese, learning deficient, hyperactive. No wonder.

“I’d rather you eat a chocolate bar than that,” I tell him as he hangs his head dejectedly.

I am relieved when he chooses a pack of gum at the checkout line 15 minutes later. Lunchables-avoidance successfully completed, though it would have validated some pretty mad parenting skills if he’d chosen a ripe mango instead.

At home, our cupboards are filled with herbs, spices, almond flour, and cans of low-fat coconut milk. Rather than bread and butter, our staples include extra virgin olive oil, spaghetti squash, and apples. Our fridge hosts organic, locally sourced meat and a lot of vegetables. And, OK, the occasional Yop.

One of the most common questions I receive is what we feed Nolan in our house, as we’re fairly dedicated followers of the Paleo Diet. Since we mostly shun bread, salt, processed food and sweets, what can we possibly eat that a six-year-old will eat?

The answer is complicated, and a bit humbling.

Many nights you can find my husband and I eating salad with grapes, almonds, cajun chicken breast and olive oil and our son shovelling mac and cheese into his mouth with joy (Annie’s brand though, no violent orange cheese sauce allowed.) He does enjoy salads though, and if you ask him what he’d like for dinner, he will just as often say grilled salmon and salad as he will pepperoni pizza. We try to feed him a healthy balance, and I believe he eats better than most kids his age, but there is still vast room for improvement.  

And we want to improve, because we’ve experienced first hand the amazing mental and physical transformation that happens when you cut gluten, dairy and processed foods from your diet.
 
I saw my ab muscles for the first time, watched my cellulite disappear, and said goodbye to my migraines and eye bags. Corey leaned out even more, started sleeping better, and got rid of a bunch of digestive issues. Mentally, we started feeling sharper. I’m still amazed that there are a million diet books on the shelves, when the simplest, easiest one out there is the one that actually seems to work.

We want Nolan to live his best life, too, and are making efforts to wean the dairy and mac and cheese altogether in our home.

Some days, like today, he’ll eat totally Paleo alongside us.

Here’s a sample of a kid-friendly Paleo food day:

Breakfast
Scrambled eggs with homemade ketchup.
Sliced mango, kiwifruit or orange
 
Lunch
Salad with sliced apples, grapes, cashews and tomatoes with tuna
Apple
Date bar with nuts
Water or fruit smoothie
 
Dinner
Spaghetti with meatballs (made with spaghetti squash for noodles, homemade tomato sauce, and organic, grass-fed, locally raised beef if you want the meat.

Other kid-friendly Paleo meals include lettuce wraps, “tacos” made with a wrap fashioned of almond flour, eggs, and flax seed, kebabs with fresh fruit and veggies, and “ice cream,” which is actually just frozen fruit and a bit of agave nectar swirled in the food processor.
 
If you’re interested in learning more about the Paleo diet (which isn’t really a diet, but a sustainable lifestyle), here are some great links:
 
Background: Robbwolf.com
All around great food blog:  Everyday Paleo
Recipes and info: Mark’s Daily Apple
All around great Paleo blog of my friend Andre Anna. Life As a Plate