When simplified, eating Paleo means the omission of legumes, grains, dairy and processed foods. You can imagine how challenging it is to get a child’s cooperation in the matter. I’m going to let you in on a little secret, in my home, it’s really no different. I would love it if my children were all Paleo, but sadly, that is not the case. Regardless, I do have an expectation that they fuel their bodies with good nutrition the majority of the time and stay very active.
While I would love nothing more than to have everyone in my home eat the same meal at dinner time, the struggle is REAL! I’ve discovered that their palates have and will continue to evolve, so I’ve lightened up a bit rather than creating more stress in playing drill sergeant. Having made it tougher than necessary on myself, I have learned over time that you cannot push a string. Change is a process and one that should involve patience. Consistency is a huge factor here, so don’t give up if your meal is not accepted, they profess to hate broccoli or refuse to eat bananas or anything with a peel. No, you must not cave! Studies have shown that it can take multiple times of introducing the very same fruit, veggie, etc. to finally have a child accept it. Therefore, persistence is imperative.
I regularly encourage my children to participate in the grocery shopping, preparation and cooking processes. Every so often there is a little glimmer of hope when I create a recipe taking an ordinary unhealthy kid food and sneakily twisting it into a much better version of itself. I definitely don’t score with every shot I take, but at least I know I’ve tried and continue to press on. I certainly didn’t eat this way growing up and I have learned to allow for flexibility within my children’s nutrition so long as they are active and willing to at least try some new things. I’ve discovered a few things that work for me in making mealtime more tolerable for all.
The process of shopping for meals together allows for teachable moments. If my child asks for something I don’t agree with nutritionally, I will offer another option and explain why. I teach them how to read labels and often they are surprised by just how much of the foods they crave are not real food at all! Explaining why one type of food may be better for our bodies than another is an opportunity to bond and learn together. Arming them with information is what allows them to make better choices when you are not around. That day will come and hopefully you’ve instilled healthy habits.
Encourage your children to help prepare dinner with you. Allowing them to get down and dirty in the kitchen is fun and provides them a feeling of accomplishment and pride. Learning through participation in the process can help them to have a healthy relationship with food. From learning proper food handling, preparing cuts of meat, seafood and poultry, to educating on portion sizes, this process can be invaluable to young creative minds. The memories that are made in the kitchen will last a lifetime so make it fun and they will develop a life long love for cooking.
Don’t provide too many options
Some may disagree with providing ANY other options, but I’m not a total stickler when it comes to mealtime. I’d much rather keep the peace than have to deal with a temper tantrum or meltdown of my own. If you wish to give just one additional option, I typically insist they at least taste a bite of what I’ve prepared before being entitled. After all, if you don’t know what it tastes like, how do you know you hate it? Pretty sure my own mother said that to me as a child!
Sneak it in!
As a last-ditch effort, hide fruits and veggies in a smoothie or sauce you are preparing. The taste of spinach, in particular, is quite neutral and practically disappears when pureed right into pizza sauce or smoothies. You can sit back and smirk when they eat it up!
You don’t want dinnertime to be a point of contention in your home, so try keeping the peace by accepting that things won’t always go according to plan. Feel confident in the decision to educate and promote good nutrition in your home and that will be half the battle. Getting frustrated only attaches negative feelings and association to a time of day that should be special for a family. Just realize that tomorrow is a new day and another opportunity to improve.
Grain Free/Paleo Chicken Nuggets
Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce
1lb diced chicken
2 whole eggs
1 c Almond Meal
1 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Black pepper
1 tsp. Onion powder
1 tsp. Garlic powder
1 tbsp. Italian Seasoning
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using 3 bowls, combine all of your dry ingredients in one, beat your eggs in another and place diced chicken in the last. Dunk the chicken pieces first in to the egg mixture and then thoroughly coat in the breading/seasoning mixture. Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Homemade Honey Mustard Sauce
½ cup yellow or Dijon mustard
3 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. organic honey or a bit of agave nectar
1-2 tbsp. Sriracha Hot Sauce (optional)
In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together until well blended