Paleo Parenting Update

It’s been seven solid months since we dramatically changed the way that the Wells family eats, from a primarily grain-based diet (cereal for breakfast, sandwiches at lunch, pasta/rice at dinner) to a more fruit, vegetable, nuts, seeds, and meat focused diet, with an emphasis on food that is not processed or packaged.  If it comes in a package, we can read the name of the ingredients on the package and know where it’s coming from.  It’s called “Paleo” because it’s supposed to be closer to what our pre-packaged, pre-GMO ancestors ate.  It isn’t so much a diet or weight-loss strategy as it is an attempt at living healthier lifestyles.

We kickstarted our food change by following a detox-type diet for 30 days – the Whole30 Program – which we found out about through one of our friends.  The Whole9Life is a cool concept worth reading about, too.

BW and I knew, based off of the positive impact it has had on us, we would keep on eating this way as much as possible, with the occasional cheat and indulgence, but it seemed almost too much to ask to get the kids to skip peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cereal, mac and cheese, and pizza, their four main food groups.

We started with breakfast because that was easiest.  They like eggs well enough, and when we discovered paleo pancakes, well, breakfast became a piece of cake… er… paleo pancake.  Throw in some bacon or sausage frequently and the kids are set for breakfast.  The default bowl of cereal is history.  Henry, our squishy Paleo baby, typically eats scrambled eggs with turkey, kale, or spinach in ’em and a banana.  The older kids almost always have eggs and meat, and if they are still hungry maybe a banana or an apple. 

Dinners were the second beast.  Our kids (except the Paleo prince) balked at all things vegetable for quite a while, unless it was broccoli (with cheese), carrots (coated with honey), or potatoes (with sour cream, cheese, deep fried, or french fried).  They whined.  They sometimes cried.  They sometimes didn’t finish their food.

Just the other day I marveled at our three children at dinner.  On their plates: grilled chicken, roasted carrots (no honey), steamed broccoli (no cheese), and a cucumber/tomato salad.  There were no complaints, no pouting, no whining, just eating.  And asking for more!  It was amazing. 

I never thought we’d get to the point where they would stop asking for candy and sweets as a snack or begging for the gut bomb foods that dominated their lives before, but here we are.

Lunch has been slower going, but I think we’re just about there.  Lydia seems to have a more sensitive stomach than Elvis, and white bread especially seems to give her a belly ache.  She gets this now, and so she’s suggested a few things for her lunch.  Instead of packing a PBJ sandwich, Lydia usually gets something with peanut butter – either celery or sliced apples – or if no peanut butter, a couple of slices of turkey, plus a couple of other add-ons: grapes, banana, raisins, greek yogurt, sweet potato chips, carrots, etc.  We try to pack her stuff we know she’ll eat or let her pick out what she wants us to pack.  It seems to be working out well.

It might just be that Elvis is getting older and maturing, but I also think that his diet changes have affected his behavior and his ability to pay attention and listen at school.  Since school started he has “stayed on green” every day.  This is a big change from last year.  In fact, last week he OPTED OUT of the “good listener treat” that is given at the end of each week to the kids who stayed on green all week long.  As a reward, he had a “banana sundae” for lunch – banana with peanut butter, plus strawberries and blueberries and some honey.  He was one happy little man.

I am really proud of my kids and the choices they are making.  It seems to be true that the more we incorporate healthy lifestyle choices into our family, the more they seem to get it.  We aren’t psycho about it (I am going to order a pizza tonight, after all), but we want them to understand that, like everything else in life, we have a choice — whether to eat healthy and feel good, or whether to eat something that tastes good but might make us feel icky later, and knowing that, to indulge or abstain.  Sometimes we indulge and love it (fair food!), and sometimes we choose to skip junk and wait for the good fuel.

So far, so good.

Here are some foods that we eat a lot and places that we refer to frequently for recipes:

Sweet potato fries
Paleo pancakes
Roasted carrots ( – love her stuff)
Roasted chicken
Baked sweet potatoes
Grilled anything
Steamed broccoli
Guacamole (awesome with the sweet potato fries)
Avocado salad
Avocados straight-up
Lots of salads with veggies and chicken or turkey on top
Roasted butternut squash mmmmm
Kale chips
Sauteed spinach or kale
Sauteed peppers and onions
Sauteed apples or homemade applesauce mmmmm

and more, of course.  Usually I just google “Paleo +” whatever I am wanting to cook in order to find quick and easy meal solutions with what I have on hand.  The greatest thing about eating this way is that most of the food prep is quick and simple food prep that brings out the natural flavors in foods.  The trick is to find the things that you can return to over and over again — for us, sweet potatoes are a must on our shopping list, and so are bananas and eggs — figuring out what staples are going to replace your defaults from before really helps when dinnertime rolls around.

We love eating this way, and not just because we feel (and look) so much better, but because food actually tastes good this way.  Once you’ve killed your need to add sugar to everything, suddenly your tastebuds can actually taste the natural sweetness in foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, and so on.  And they are way more delicious and satisfying than any added sweetener.  We also have the added benefit of knowing exactly what it is we are ingesting.

We’ll keep working on the lunches and let you know what we come up with.  There’s a few websites that have been referred to me recently with some lunch options for kids that I’m excited to look into more – Paleo Parenting, Eat Like a Dinosaur, and NomNomPaleo all have some great lunch suggestions. 

Feel good and enjoy food! 🙂

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

3 thoughts on “Paleo Parenting Update

  1. I am so glad that this has made such an impact on your life, as well as BW and the kids! And that you are sharing how it is going! Little changes make big differences. Have you tried spaghetti squash yet? It really is a good substitute for pasta (but it is not exactly the same, so don't be disappointed!). Keep it up!


  2. Hm . . . this sounds really interesting. My husband would never go for some of this stuff (i tried roasted vegetables tonight and the butternut squash got the thumbs down)but I have gotten good at making enough to please both of us. And who can go wrong with sweet potatoes and grilled chicken? Thanks for posting your list of go-to items!


  3. This sounds really interesting. And I've been contemplating this simpler diet for awhile, but I had the same fear about the kids. I have a boy who insists he didn't have lunch if he didn't have pb&j. I'd love to hear more on your journey!


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