Hello Dr. Cordain and Team,
I am a passionate Paleo follower and advocate this healthy way of eating to anyone who will listen. My question is in regards to my children aged 2 and a half and 3 and a half. Are there any special considerations that need to be made for small children?
My children love to eat meat, chicken, fish, and a large amount of fresh fruit and vegetables which is awesome. They eat small amounts of walnuts and pecans (cut up very small and eaten under supervision), I cook with extra virgin coconut oil, and they have a small cup of coconut water with dinner (only water other than that). We have not had wheat/gluten for 2 years, have stopped using gluten-free grains and use almond meal for special occasions. I have recently weaned my 2 and a half year old and have stopped giving my children organic milk after reading your book, though I occasionally use mozzarella and Parmesan when I make pizza for my husband and children. I want my children to have the best possible nutrition and I am a mum so I worry naturally, but any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Lorrie Cordain’s Response:
Thanks so much for sharing Paleo with your friends and family. We are passionate about the numerous health benefits of The Paleo Diet and believe that it is people like you who are helping to spread the word, which in turn improves the health of so many people worldwide.
Your question is important, and one that we receive often from conscientious parents just like you, who are interested in making sure their children are getting all the nutritional requirements they need to begin and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Our recommendation is that the optimal time to begin introducing children to The Paleo Diet is at the time they are weaned and begin eating solid foods. When our 3 boys entered this stage of development, we used a blender or food processor to make a Paleo version of the organic, grass fed meats, and healthy fruits, and veggies we had cooked for our family meals. We found “baby food” very simple to prepare, and our children enjoyed these foods, developing their own personal tastes for a variety of dishes.
Once children reach the age of 2-3, like your children, they have grown enough teeth to be able to enjoy the same, delicious foods you prepare for the grown-ups in the family. Be sure that foods are well cooked and cut into very small pieces, as children this age can easily choke. Most pediatricians caution parents against feeding their children foods such as grapes and large pieces of meat, so use common sense when presenting foods that could cause problems. Bananas, peaches, mango, and avocado are good fresh foods that can be cut in to small pieces and eaten without cooking.
As children continue to grow, they are able to eat raw fruits, veggies and dense meats. Introduce new Paleo foods gradually and avoid forcing any foods that your child indicates he or she is not ready for. Parental attitudes about food are very important when raising healthy children. Food should never be presented as a reward or punishment and children should not be forced to continue eating when they are feeling full. We have been very mindful of this while raising our children and make consistent efforts to make our family meals a time of coming together to enjoy healthy foods. It is important to make every effort to gather daily as a family to share our lives over a delicious Paleo meal!
Over the years, many friends and family have asked us how to ensure that their children eat Paleo foods at all times, whether they are at school, visiting friends, or attending social functions. It may surprise you that we have never been quite this vigilant and strict with our children’s food choices. We feel that it is our responsibility to continually educate, provide, and model for our children the importance of eating a Paleo Diet. Equally important, we have shared the scientific principles that guide The Paleo Diet concepts and the positive impact this lifestyle will have on their health throughout their lives. We want our kids to make educated decisions and understand the implications for their choices. All of them have enjoyed the occasional pizza birthday party with friends, a fast food hamburger with fries, or a sweet snack. Because they have been given the information they need, each has made the personal decision to choose mainly healthy, Paleo foods as their dietary lifestyle of choice. Too many kids leave home for the first time and go overboard on the choice to eat all the forbidden foods which are suddenly unrestricted and readily available. Hence the infamous “Freshman 15!” With 2 children in college and one in high school, we find that guiding their food choices throughout their growing up years, and allowing the occasional treat has led them to make very healthy choices on their own. This is a gift you can give your children to take with them as they head down the road for a lifetime of health and longevity. Best of luck to you and your children!
All the best,
Lorrie Cordain, M.Ed.
The Paleo Diet Team