A special interview with Sarah Fragoso, by Whole9’s own Robin Strathdee
If you’ve spent much time in the Paleosphere, you’ve likely come across at least one arm of the Everyday Paleo empire which includes a wildly popular website and blog; a lifestyle and cookbook; the EP Life Fit fitness community; and the new children’s book Paleo Pals: Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship.
Raising Paleo Kiddos
In Paleo Pals, super heroes Piper, Phoenix and Parker pay a visit to a boy named Jimmy who’s not quite sure how he feels about making the dietary shift. The super siblings take Jimmy on an adventure – in their carrot-shaped rocket ship – and show him just how delicious real food can be. This book gives parents a tool they can use when transitioning their family to a diet of Good Food, and it captures kids attention with colorful illustrations and kid-centered recipes.
As a mom myself, I love to hear other parents tips’ and tricks for transitioning to, and maintaining, a diet of real food. And, what better mom to sit down with than Sarah?! During our Q&A, I asked what I thought potentially paleo parents would want to know. Here’s what Sarah had to say:
Robin: You’ve successfully transitioned a houseful of boys, of various ages, to the paleo lifestyle. What would you consider the keys to your success?
Sarah: By making the transition FUN! Try to focus on the positive, rather than making it obvious that you are taking away some familiar foods. I encouraged my kids to help me in the kitchen, brought them with me to the farmer’s markets and grocery stores, and let them help me pick out paleo meals that we would make throughout the week. We talked honestly about how eating paleo foods would help us all feel better and answered questions that would come up along the way. I think modeling a positive attitude and as parents making healthy lifestyle choices that your kids can see is imperative in having a successful transition to living a paleo lifestyle. Finally, getting rid of all the food that caused food battles was huge. My kids can pick whatever they want to eat in our house because they only have good choices. When children can choose what they want, there is no struggle – and that’s so empowering for both parents and kiddos!
Robin: How did you work to incorporate those principles into your new book, Paleo Pals?
Sarah: In Paleo Pals the superheroes take a little boy named Jimmy on a journey, showing him where real food comes from, how eating paleo can make you feel great, and how Jimmy can help prepare delicious food and be a big help to his parents! I tried to not be too serious while getting kids excited about living a healthier lifestyle. In reality, kids just want to have fun and play (and that’s how they learn), so the point of the story was so simply provide a fun outlet for little ones to relate to. Most literature out there for kids and nutrition is based on the food pyramid, so my hope was that kids already eating paleo would have a book that they could relate to – and for kids starting to eat paleo, they would have a reason to feel connected and excited about the changes their family might be making.
Frequently Asked Kiddo Questions
We have a lot of first (and second, and third) time Whole30‘ers who would like to involve their entire family in the switch to paleo, but they generally have a few concerns. How would you answer these common questions from potentially paleo parents:
Robin: My kid loves pb & j sandwiches and hates vegetables. How can I be sure they’re getting enough to eat if I take away their staple foods?
Sarah: Your kid loves sandwiches and hates vegetables simply because he or she hasn’t had the opportunity to try anything different! As parents we get so wrapped in how much our kids are eating that we forget the importance of WHAT they are eating. When you clear out the house of gut irritating grains, dairy and legumes, your child is sure to get more nutrition gram for gram from the paleo foods he or she does like to eat! Robb Wolf has a great article about nutrient density of paleo foods as compared to neolithic foods. If your child eats a plate of chicken, sweet potatoes roasted in coconut oil, and some broccoli or kale chips, he or she is getting way more nutrients, and will be able to better absorb those nutrients than if he or she ate a bowl of fortified sugary cereal that irritates the gut lining and inhibits nutrient absorption.
Robin: And what do I do when they throw a fit and refuse to eat what I cook?
Sarah: When your kids throw a fit and refuse to eat what you cook, IGNORE IT!! Kids will not starve themselves. If you try to make it fun, ask your kids to get involved, focus less on the foods you are taking away and focus more on other aspects of life, you will be successful – it just doesn’t always happen overnight. Kids, especially younger ones, are easily distracted. Plan a fun activity to do together after dinner and keep that the focus of conversation. Sit down to dinner and do not comment on how much OR how little your child eats. The less you pay attention, the more normal your new routine will become.
Your kids WILL eat, I promise, but it’s super important to be consistent. Do not give in to temper tantrums over food! Kids are smart – and every time you cave, this reinforces their behavior. They’ll keep up the whining because they know it works! Have only healthy foods in your house and for snacks, let them choose what they want. To this day I am amazed when I see my kids chowing down on carrots, jicama, guacamole, and beef jerky or taking big bites of cabbage and chicken. Kids will eat real food if we are patient, consistent, and let things unravel naturally.
Robin: Just for the fun of it, could you tell us a story of a “food tantrum” one of your kids has had?
Sarah: I’m going to be honest, my kids have never had a full blown tantrum over food POST-paleo. Since we started paleo, I have let my kids make their own choices outside of our house, and the baby (who is now 4) has grown up eating paleo. (He has known to ask since he could talk, “Does this have gluten in it?”) My kids used to choose the non-paleo items outside of our home, but now, for the most part stay away from the foods that they know are not good for us. Not to say that we never have treats or go out for ice cream… but they all know to make sure whatever we eat when eating out does not have gluten and they ask for what they need and what they know makes them feel good.
My kids USED to throw more tantrums when we were not eating paleo because they would beg for ice cream when we had it in the house and would freak out when I wouldn’t let them have more of it. Now that we no longer have those food options, the tantrums over food have stopped.
Robin: What about school – how do you and your (older) kids address the differences between their school lunches and what other kids bring/what the cafeteria serves? Do/did your kids ever struggle with feeling like the odd ones out? How do you handle the treats and food-based rewards (like candy) that come into the kids’ classrooms – do you discuss that before hand with the teacher or are your kids free to choose whether they have them or not?
Sarah: My oldest who is 16 wrote an amazing blog post about his own personal experience which you can read here. With Jaden, my 8 year old, he packs his lunch in a cool Planet Box lunch box and he is proud of what he brings to school. In fact, he often tells me that his friends always want to try his “exotic” lunches.
Teach your children to be confident in who they are and not ashamed of the choices that they make. We do not want to raise kids who are neurotic about food, so I trust my kids to make their own choices about what they eat outside of my house just like I trust them to make other decisions. When we give our kids the confidence and ability to make their own decisions based on what we teach them at home, you’ll be amazed at the end result. It might not happen overnight but kids, if we let them be, are naturally in tune with their bodies and will honor what does and does not feel good! Today, the majority of the time, my kids say no to foods that give them tummy aches or that make them cranky. Jaden’s teacher this year told me how amazed she was at Jaden’s ability to evaluate what’s offered to him and decide if he wants to eat it or not.
Robin: For those parents hoping to transition older kids, how would you explain the reasoning for the switch to paleo?
Sarah: For older kids, I would be honest with them about why you are switching to paleo. Kids are smart and they pay attention. My kids were able to visibly notice that mom and dad were getting healthier, that mom was able to be more active, was more cheerful, no longer sick, and full of energy – and that sort of thing is contagious! Approach this journey with joy and your kids will follow suit no matter what the age. So much of making a successful positive change has to do with attitude and how you approach the transition.
Eating healthier is a good thing, so explain it in such a way that sheds light on all the wonderful things that you will be accomplishing together as a family. Make the focus more on overall lifestyle and not just food. Start being more active together, exercise together, take walks, start a new hobby as a family, go hiking, watch less TV; all positive changes that create good memories and promote family bonding and make it less about “no more pasta!”
Robin: We know that making the switch to paleo is easier (and easier to maintain) if the entire family is on board. What are some of the ways you suggest getting the entire family involved in the process?
Sarah: Focus on yourself if no one else is interested, and do not nag. Once your significant other sees you becoming healthier, he or she will usually want to get involved too. Suggest to the family that you want to do this thing together, but be positive about it. Create a family challenge – 30 days of eating paleo – and take a fun trip at the end of those 30 days to celebrate and plan for the next 30. Chronicle your journey together and make it a family project rather than something you all HAVE to do. Giving kids responsibilities makes them feel needed and important, so designate older kids jobs such as planning dinner one night a week or setting the table, helping to clean up, or cooking- and praise them for helping and let them know how much their help is appreciated!
Make Your Kids Paleo Pals
Thanks so much to Sarah for taking time out of her incredibly busy schedule to share her passion with us and for her commitment to furthering the idea of a real food diet within the context of a busy family.
For more from Sarah, check out the blog that started it all: EverydayPaleo.com. If you’ve got kids in your life (or just like reading books with great pictures), you can preview and purchase Paleo Pals on Amazon.com. You can also look forward to the Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook , due out in July!
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My husband and I did a Whole30 in January and have been eating Paleo since then. My 16 year old daughter enjoyed the dinners I cooked, but ate her standard breakfast of toast and a smoothie, sandwiches for lunch, and whatever snacks and sweets were available at friends’ houses. A couple weeks ago she announced that she wanted to do a Whole30. She is 2 1/2 weeks in and is doing great. She’s enjoying all the delicious foods she’s eating but is struggling with making sure to have paleo compliant snacks available when she hangs out with friends. I know she’ll enjoy this article. It will be helpful for her going forward to determine how she approaches life after Whole30.
I absolutely love the Everyday Paleo cookbook, I highly recommed it! I have a 12 year old daughter and a 10 year old son, my son is more like me, so his transition has been very easy but my daughter is a little harder to bring on board. However, the other day she asked “when are we all going to be eating the same and more paleo type foods”? and my reply was…. we already are ;)
I slowly took questionable food out and added paleo type foods and she didn’t really notice!!
Great article with great suggestions, thank you!
It’s not easy but our experiences are quite similar, you just have to have more patience than your kids which is easier said than done; they’re quite adept at wearing you down and have perfected the divide and conquer (Mom v Dad) approach.
We have two boys, so the distraction was fire- we grilled, cooked over the fire pit, built a smoker and the more they became invested in the activity, the more they didn’t even notice the food, or lack of the bad stuff. And when Mom wasn’t around, we’d go straight from the fire to the chopping block and eat with our hands (added bonus- no dishes!). A little fun goes a long way.
Our kids lunches are “required” viewing by the teachers/supervisors, they come by every day to check out what’s in their lunch boxes and this makes the boys feel great!
Beware- you may find you’re grooming little foodies. I brought home Gouda cheese and my six year old dead-panned- “Is it smoked?”.