When it comes to raising school aged children, many health conscious parents are dismayed with the choices their older children make when it comes to snacks and eating out. Kids are bombarded on a daily basis with advertisements glamorizing fast food, junk food, cereals, and dairy products, to name just a few. We want our children to live active and healthy lives, participating in sports and social events on a regular basis.
Along with these life experiences comes healthy and not-so-healthy food adventures. When our boys were growing up they were very active with team sports. Every weekend we enjoyed cheering them on in soccer, football, baseball, hockey, lacrosse, cross country, swimming, and track. I will never forget our oldest son’s first soccer game when he was just 6 years old. Parents of the players were each assigned a game during the season to bring snacks for the boys after the game. After running up and down the soccer field and working up a healthy appetite, the kids were presented with a large box of sugary doughnuts for their post-game “treat.”
We were a bit taken aback that anyone would think that this was a good idea, but more astounded with the message to young children that this is an appropriate food to eat any time, let alone after exercising. When it was our turn to bring the post-game snacks, we brought fresh strawberries and grapes for the kids to enjoy. These healthy snacks were met with just as much enthusiasm and were devoured by the hungry athletes.
Before our children are able to drive themselves around, we had quite a bit of control over the foods we provide, both inside and outside of our home. The key to raising children to live healthy and active lives is not so much in controlling their food choices as it is in educating them about the importance of making their own positive lifestyle decisions. Throughout their growing up years, our sons were learning about the Paleo Diet and the importance of good nutrition. Children learn by example, so we educated them as to why were eating certain foods and why non-Paleo foods are detrimental to their health, consistently gave them the information they would need as teens and young adults when making personal choices.
It is important in all aspects of life to allow our kids to make choices and experience the consequences, good or bad. This is especially true with nutritional decisions. Now that two of our kids are living on their own, and our youngest is in high school, we are thrilled to see that they enjoy an active and healthy lifestyle that includes eating mostly Paleo foods.
So, what can you do? Give your children the information and include Paleo meals on your menu. Teach your children to cook and prepare meals so that they will be able to care for their nutritional needs when they are no longer living under your roof. Bring your children to the grocery store and show them how to pick out organic produce and meats. Walk down the cereal aisle and let them read the ingredients, discussing the health implications for eating sugar, grains, and dairy. Model healthy attitudes, refraining from presenting food as a reward or punishment. Most importantly, allow them to make their own choices. There will be times when you will cringe at the foods they choose, but remember that you have established a strong foundation. Once your child experiences the after effects of downing a greasy hamburger, french fries, and soda, the probability of them returning to healthful habits is high.
Stay the course! Your mature, adult children will one day appreciate your efforts and pass them on to future generations.
All the Best,
Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed., Co-Author of The Paleo Diet Cookbook