Paleo Kids

DSC_0047So we plunged headlong into eating Paleo that Monday.  Surprisingly, for myself and Chris, it was not too difficult a transition.  We didn’t have any grains or dairy around to tempt us; we just ate what we had at home.  Plus, I had drawn up the detailed meal plan for the week which pretty much mapped out everything we would be eating and when we would be eating it.  Well, this is going better than I envisioned, I thought to myself.

Enter the children.  Children who have been used to bowls of cereal with milk and peanut butter toast for breakfast.  Children who voraciously ate string cheese and crackers and pretzels and popcorn for snacks.  Children whose favorite dinners involved fluffy pancakes or creamy macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the transition for these children was not going to be easy.

The kids ate the eggs I made for breakfast and snacked on fruit and veggies throughout the morning.  There was no shortage of questions asking when will we be able to eat crackers again and what’s wrong with cereal anyway and seriously can we just have some cheese, Mom?  It was a little discouraging, but I had to remind myself that this was a big change for them and that it would take time.

Also, I had to immediately google “helping kids transition to paleo” as everyone knows that Google has the answers to everything.  If that didn’t work, we were all going to run outside to the backyard and jump on the trampoline while I figured out what in the world we were going to do next.  Thankfully, Google pulled through.  With articles like this one on Paleo Leap and this one by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo, I quickly learned that it was advised NOT to take it all away at once but rather ease them into it a little at a time.  Oops.  I had already packed up all the non-Paleo food and given it away.  No, the little minions reminded me.  There’s still a bunch of string cheese from Costco in the fridge.  Well then, it was string cheeses all around and everyone looked a little relieved and dare I say it, happy.

Another helpful suggestion was to try to make their favorite foods, only Paleo-style.  Apparently there are recipes for Paleo chicken nuggets and Paleo pancakes and Paleo waffles and Paleo crackers and pretty much anything your child could ever want.  I immediately made a Pinterest board for all the recipes that sounded like my kids might actually eat them.  I decided to work on finding a good Paleo pancake recipe first.  We tried a few different recipes throughout the week, none of which were favorably received.  Finally, I tried Sarah Fragoso’s Paleo Pal Pancakes.  Although Gabi proclaimed them “still not as good as the ones you used to make”, all the kids enthusiastically ate theirs and asked for seconds.  That’s a win in my book.

And speaking of books, I found that recipe by googling “books about Paleo for kids” and discovering that Sarah Fragoso had written a children’s book about Paleo a few years ago called Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship.  A quick check at our local library later that day led to us bringing the book home as well as Sarah’s Paleo family cookbook.  The kids read and re-read the book.  They pored over the recipes in the back and begged to try several of them.  It was a cute way for them to learn a little more about the “whys” of eating Paleo.

Next,  I figured if they were helping me in the kitchen more, they might actually be more inclined to try the food we made.  I promised that there would be lots of knife action, and all the kids clamored to be the first to help.  We made a schedule – Gabi helps me Monday nights, David Tuesdays, Michael Wednesdays, and Hosanna Thursdays.  There is a lot of fervent vegetable chopping and meat sizzling going on around here.  I give them my meal plan but allow them to make some changes if they want (for example, switch out the carrots for green beans or mash the cauliflower instead of roasting it.)  Not only are they learning valuable kitchen skills (hello homeschooling!), but they are eager to try new things.

Each day, I saw a little more of the resistance fade away.  I’ve tried to make special treats too to make this whole thing a little easier.  One favorite is Kitchen Stewardship’s Easy Grain-free Coconut Muffins.  It’s easy to whip up a batch of these to take to Grandma’s or have with some fruit after dinner.  But the family’s favorite Paleo treat so far?  Grain-free chocolate chip cookie bars.  You can find the recipe here on Tasty Yummies.  They are incredibly fluffy, not too sweet, and just perfect for a tasty snack.

The last thing I did to help the kids embrace Paleo a little more was open the kitchen.  In our dining room, I have a long buffet table that holds baskets of bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and tomatoes.  In the cabinets, the kids can find containers full of cashews and almonds, a bag of pumpkin seeds, a bag of raisins, and some beef jerky.  In the fridge, I always have a dozen or so hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, leftover meat, nitrate-free lunch meat, grapes, and sometimes berries.  I told the kids with great fanfare that they would no longer have to ask me for a snack.  If they were hungry, they could help themselves to any of these foods at any time.  My oldest is especially happy about this change.  She really thinks about the choices she’s making, and just the other day I saw her put a banana back and choose carrot sticks instead while she worked on an art project.

So no more pouting.  We are a Paleo family!

The Starting Line

Our family had a new mission: start this Paleo lifestyle together and stick it out for thirty days at least to see if it would help our health and well-being.  (What’s Paleo?  Why are we embarking on this journey as a family?  Read this post to catch up.)

I knew that in order for this mission to work, we had to be organized and have a plan. We had to be fully committed.  We had to figure out how on earth we were going to get the kids on board with this. 🙂  So, for our first week of going Paleo, we decided to just focus on the food changes.  Proper sleep and exercise would come in time, but it would be too overwhelming to conquer it all at once.  I wrote out a detailed meal plan for the week, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  I tried to incorporate the leftovers of the previous night’s dinner into either breakfast or lunch the next day, as eating so much protein would definitely be expensive and I wanted to make sure we utilized every bit.  For example, Monday night’s dinner was hamburgers in lettuce wraps with roasted green beans. Then, Tuesday’s breakfast consisted of a fried egg over leftover hamburger with nuts and a little fruit.  After writing up the meal plan, I made a list of all the ingredients for a shopping list and added things like fish oil supplements and magnesium capsules.

I headed to Costco first to get the majority of the groceries we needed.  Due to financial constraints, we decided at this time to forgo grass-fed beef and just make do with the best meat we could afford.  After Costco, I went to Fred Meyer to get the remaining ingredients on my list.  Here’s a little breakdown of the foods I bought to start off our Paleo adventure.  The fruits I purchased were bananas, clementines, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. (We already had apples at home.)  The vegetables I chose were kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, onions, and spaghetti squash.  Proteins would be very important in this new diet; so 10 dozen eggs, lean ground beef, 10 pounds of chicken breasts, sirloin steak, nitrate-free applewood ham, and nitrate-free herbed turkey made their way into the cart.  For healthy fats, I bought macadamia nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, almonds, avocadoes, and pumpkin seeds.  Other items on the list were organic marinara sauce (from Costco). fish oil supplements, magnesium capsules, and salsa.  The total cost for all of this was $322.64.  Gulp!  I had to remind myself that a lot of the stuff I bought would last much longer than one week.  The olive oil and unrefined coconut oil was bought in bulk, as I knew we would use it frequently.  Of course, the supplements would last for quite a while.

When I got back home and put away and organized all the new groceries (hello, workout!), I faced the task of purging the pantry and fridge of non-Paleo foods.  Things like oatmeal, granola bars, and canned soups were boxed up to give to others.  I wanted to be sure that there was no way I could cave to the kids’ begging that was sure to come that week.  That night, we kicked off the week with a celebratory dinner of grilled steaks and tossed salad.  We briefly explained the coming changes to the kids and told them that they would be “mostly-paleo.”  For us, this meant that when the kids were invited to parties or friends’ homes or even out to eat at a restaurant, they would be able to eat whatever they wanted and not worry about it being Paleo.  Chris and I however were going to stick to eating strictly Paleo.

The last thing we did before going to bed that night was to measure and record our starting weights, waist size, and hip sizes.  Chris and I took pictures of each other as our “before” shots, hoping to document a very visible physical change.  Our Paleo journey had begun.

A Dinosaur of a Solution

bookimage(See yesterday’s post for the first part of this series)

My mother-in-law gave me The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf to read first.  I put it aside for a few days, reluctant to start reading what seemed to be a very scientific book.  Then a heat wave hit, and the kids wanted to be in the pool practically every second of the day.  I had to be out there with them; so The Paleo Solution became my poolside read.  I will admit that I skipped a few chapters here and there because they were too “sciency” (ha! new word!) and because I just didn’t want to focus that hard.  However, the rest of the book surprisingly made a lot of sense.  Basically, the Paleo lifestyle entails what the author believes our ancestors, or cavemen, followed.  Although I am a firm believer in God creating the universe and all that is in it, therefore denying the existence of “cavemen”, I do get the gist that this diet, or lifestyle, would have most likely been prevalent for Adam and Eve and subsequent generations after the fall of man.  A Paleo lifestyle consists of three components: food, fitness, and sleep.  When these three components are followed within Paleo guidelines, physical health should improve, weight will be lost, and athletic performance will be increased.  Here’s a closer look at these three components.

1.  Food.  Well, what food would have our early ancestors eaten?  Certainly nothing processed and nothing that would have taken too much effort to make.  From these concepts, the Paleo foods are derived:  an abundance of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, eggs, healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil, beef, chicken, bacon, pork, shrimp, and fish.  Foods not allowed on the Paleo diet are cereal grains, legumes such as beans and peanuts, refined sugars, dairy products, potatoes, processed foods, and vegetable oils.  Why would someone want to avoid grains, legumes, and dairy?  Well, I would encourage you to read Robb Wolf’s book yourself to get into all the technical terms; but to put it simply, these three groups of foods are really all in the same category.  They contain proteins that irritate the gut.  They can cause a lot of issues in people with automimmune diseases.  Because they damage the gut lining, your body does not absorb nutrients correctly.  Grains and dairy also affect the gall bladder, causing your body to misuse vitamins.  Basically, these foods strip down your gut lining and other organs, leaving you wide open for a host of diseases and even cancer.

2.  Fitness.  The first people to live on this earth did not sit at a desk staring at a computer all day.  Adam himself was cursed to a lifetime of working the fields by the sweat of his brow when he disobeyed God’s command in the garden of Eden.  People back in those days did a lot of running, carrying, building, digging, hunting, climbing, gathering, etc.  Daily exercise was a natural part of their lives.  And while many people today exercise to lose weight or stay fit, the truth is “If you do not exercise, you are broken.” (The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf, p. 145.) Basically, in order to be complete, a person following the Paleo lifestyle should do enough physical exercise to build some muscle, keep that muscle, and strengthen bones.  This exercise would not be cardiovascular in nature, but rather would focus on strength, mobility, flexibility, power, and endurance.  Thus the Paleo lifestyle emphasizes circuit training, also known as interval training.  Robb’s book offers a plethora of exercises to try, and there are many websites devoted to Paleo fitness and exercise as well.

3.  Sleep.  Again, going back to the first people on this earth, it is unlikely that any of them were “night-owls.”  You wouldn’t have found a person then that stayed up way into the wee morning hours working on a project and then rising early to a loud alarm clock, chugging coffee or some other source of caffeine to make it through the day.  No, these people went to bed when the sun went down and got up when the sun rose.  They didn’t need alarm clocks – their bodies were naturally well-rested and would give themselves a “wake-up call.”  Subscribers to the Paleo way of life make sure that they get a good amount of quality sleep every night (Wolf’s book suggests at least nine hours!) They get this sleep by sticking to a strict bedtime, making sure their bedroom is completely dark, and avoiding stimulants such as coffee in the afternoon and evening.

After reading Wolf’s book (and then going back later to wade through the more technical chapters), I was mostly convinced.  I still had some questions.  Won’t I be hungry a lot without grains and dairy to fill me up?  Is this some crazy diet that is actually going to mess with my body?  Won’t all that meat and produce be expensive?  So I hit the internet, found lots of information that settled my fears and misgivings, and encouraged me that this could be the solution our family was looking for.  (Here’s an easy post to read about the top five misgivings people have about Paleo).

Okay.  The husband and I discussed it at length and decided that we were going to give this Paleo thing a try for at least thirty days.  We planned on Monday, July 21, being the first day of this new lifestyle.

(My next post will detail how we planned to do Paleo as a family and the costs involved.)




The Search for a Solution

A little over a year ago, I blogged about my husband and I doing a juice fast that extended over a few weeks.  It was extremely helpful in clearing out all the toxins that had been building up in our bodies and in giving us a good jumpstart into a much healthier lifestyle.  And for a while we rode that healthy train, eagerly eating the fresh fruits and veggies that were so readily available in the summer and early fall months.  Come winter time, our motivation began to slide.  Exercise fell to the wayside in the cold rainy months of December and January, and the good eating habits quickly followed.  I soon found myself drinking sugary coffee drinks and soda on a regular basis again.  I put absolutely no thought into what was going into my body.  We frequented fast food places and indulged in desserts daily.

In May, Chris was informed by his job that he would traveling to China for ten days for a work convention.  He panicked, knowing that he had gained quite a bit a weight in the last few months.  Not wanting to be the “big guy” on the long plane flight there, he started making immediate changes to the way he ate.  He joined a gym and played racquetball a few times per week.  Inspired by his changes, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to find that I was heavier than I had ever been before.  I joined my husband in his efforts to eat healthier and exercise more.  After he returned from China, we went on another juice fast to hopefully help kickstart more weight loss.  Then we started watching pretty carefully what we were eating – whole grains, good dairy, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc.  Occasionally we allowed ourselves a “treat” by getting fast food or having a dish of ice cream.  I watched the scale and was frustrated that the pounds didn’t seem to budge.  Even worse, I was having daily digestive issues, exhaustion, and brain fatigue.  I couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing all these health problems when I was doing my best to eat better.

Something had to change.  But what?  I researched online and read health books.  Everything seemed to point in the direction I was already facing.  One day I poured out my frustrations to my mother-in-law.  She related to me that a few weeks ago she had gone to see a naturopathic doctor with her husband to help him with his physical ailments, some of which were the same as mine.  The doctor had put them both on a Paleo diet for fifteen days.  Within a few days of starting this new way of eating, they both felt so clear-headed and energetic.  As they progressed, physical issues like extreme tiredness and digestive problems resolved themselves, and the weight was just dropping off.  After the fifteen days were up, they continued eating a mostly-Paleo diet with very favorable results.  I was impressed, interested, and. . . skeptical.  How could not eating whole grains and dairy be healthy?  Wouldn’t there be missing nutrients and vitamins?  Wouldn’t you feel hungry all the time?

I guess I had a lot of questions.  And when you have a lot of questions, there is only one thing to do.  Find the answers!