How do you get the whole family to participate in the magic that is paleo?
If you’ve been a follower of the paleo diet or in fact have tried any other way of eating for any length of time, you have more than likely come across some sort of friction between your family and yourself when it comes to dietary choices.
Most of the time this friction will occur where your choices in food is out of the ordinary. No bread, pasta or sugar in your food will probably get some sort of response from most people who eat according to a western style diet. Some people will worry about you not getting enough carbohydrates, or that your fat intake is going to destroy your waistline, or that your cholesterol is going to turn your heart nuclear.
None of these worries are founded in proper wisdom, and whether you like it or not it will become your responsibility to educate those you care about on the troubles of eating high carbohydrate diets based heavily in grains.
Don’t worry too much though, you don’t have to take the responsibility as seriously as you may imagine. It is more a guiding hand sort of responsibility than ruling with an iron fist. At the end of the day, it is each person’s responsibility to make the right decisions when it comes to what you eat, how you exercise and how you view and embrace health.
Making a game of food buying
Why not take the kids to the store and make a game of the actual food buying process?
This time is a good place to teach your children, no matter the age, what healthy food looks, smells and feels like. Let them touch the fruits and vegetables on display and decide which ones are their favourites. Avoid the aisles that are psychologically designed to feed into what a child is exposed to. Giant, happy, friendly cartoon characters punting sugary, basically poisonous breakfast cereals which are void of any nutritional value. These foods are designed to get a child to eat them, get addicted to them, and ultimately contribute to that child’s understanding of what makes up basic nutrition.
This is wrong to me. I think that if there were no breakfast cereals available people would instantly be healthier.
A simple way of getting the little people to buy into the food buying game is to allow them some freedom to learn what they like. Allow them to choose one food that will go towards making dinner, for example. Try and keep to the healthy areas, and encourage them to make better decisions. Allow them to choose whatever they like, but if they make an obviously bad choice, say, bread rolls smothered in cheese, guide their focus to something more nutritious. Sweet potatoes perhaps.
Feed their senses
This step is not only limited to the little members of your family, but the old too. Farmers markets are much more vibrant and colourful than a supermarket, and give a more “real” representation of what good food actually is. Wether its hand selecting vegetables or asking for specific cuts of meat, the experience is engaging and attractive.
Make it a mission
Outlining goals for a shopping trip keeps kids engaged and lets them take responsibility for what they eat, and consequently you eat too. Allow your kids to choose foods based on requirements you need. “Two green vegetables and some meat please!”
Let them go out and find what they think would work well together and make dinner with what they bring back. It is a fun, simple and very rewarding experience not to mention it totally changes the shopping experience for the little guys.
But don’t be militaristic
Remember that all of this is about having fun, spending time together and bonding. The beauty here is that you are instilling in your kids vital good nutrition making skills from an early age. It’s all about future proofing their health. Why not start on day one by associating pleasure with healthy foods.
Let everyone in the family contribute to dinner in simple ways. Don’t assign overly complicated tasks to people when they obviously aren’t interested in doing them. Fortunately, being paleo means not many peeling of vegetable jobs will be passed around like a hot potato. Keep the mood light and make it a family event rather than a chore.
This level of participation may only work for preparation, as certain dishes need only require one chef.
Let everyone eat with their hands. This obviously works best if the food is actually hand friendly. Ribs, broccoli and chicken wings are great primal eating foods that carry with them a simple primal eating experience. Broccoli snaps in your mouth and the eating of ribs requires the use of some of your oldest teeth, the canines. If kids are involved who aren’t ready for this sort of eating, pre-prepare the food for their consumption and sit with them when you both eat the same food with your hands. There is no reason why the little ones can’t eat what the big ones are eating.
To me this is hugely important. I’d love to experiment with removing a level of “difference” between how kids and adults eat and see what sort of dynamic is would create between a family unit.
It’s all about the fun
Foraging, preparing and eating foods in as real a way as possible will help ingrain some really great food principles in young ones, but I’ve found that even older people are ready to reexplore the food and nutrition parts of their lives. We are all human, and we all want to experience new and old things everyday.
Preparing food in the ways mentioned above is also a great way to help people understand just what goes into a tasty, healthy dish. What does fat do to a meal? How does it change the flavour of a dish? What does it do to the texture of a meal?
Which fats are healthy?
This sort of learning experience happens naturally when the meals are simple and easy to see. What I mean is that with many western diet dishes such as pasta based meals the foods incorporated all sort of blend into one “food”. With a primal approach to the selection, preparation and cooking of foods, most foods retain their original form. This makes it clear that each food has its place and can open the door for explaining the nutritional differences between meat and vegetables for example.
Andrew The Caveman