A few days ago I wrote my version of a Mums’ Guide to Paleo Part 1: To sum up:
Some bits I like – less or zero sugar, fewer carbs on your plate and more veggies; good protein, lots of nuts and lots of good fats.
Some bits I don’t like so much: I don’t believe all carbs are the same and I don’t believe they’re all evil. I also don’t think processed meats like deli meats, bacon and sausages are even remotely healthy or good for us, whilst a lot of paleos seem to love them. I think meat is truly good for us when its organically raised and prepared without added nitrites and colourings and hormones or preservatives. Fish and eggs – love them – we’re agreed there. Beans and lentils and chickpeas… I get the theory, but I like them and so do my kids and I don’t complain when my 5 years old devours a chickpea, pear and beetroot salad, or he likes homemade daal with his chicken curry. I give him a second helping and a big kiss.
So this is my entirely subjective guide for Mums like me who would like to pick and choose their Paleo thankyou-very-much ;)
To go (a little bit) Paleo we need to drastically reduce the amount of sugar and grains we eat. We have established that carbs shouldn’t be the biggest potion on our plate. Vegetables should be, followed by protein. But given you may have kids who like pasta with like, NOTHING on it… Where do you go from here?
First off, kids don’t need ‘kids food’. Stuff that has been manufactured or packaged in whatever way to appeal to them. Because almost without exception (I can’t think of an exception at all actually) this will be processed crap. At the very least it will be a dumbed down, probably highly sugared and salted version of food that bears no resemblance to anything that walked, swam or grew.
Children are pretty capable of choosing and enjoying real food – so I’m all in favour of not patronising or pandering with food that’s orange, got cartoon charters on the package or has the nerve to try to persuade perfectly intelligent parents that a sugar coated, processed, nutrient-devoid refined grain counts as a healthy breakfast. Its all about what we OFFER them. Be strong Mama. The kid won’t starve without a treat cupboard or chocolate cereal. He’ll make your life a veritable Hell for a couple of days when you tell him you won’t be buying it anymore. But I promise he won’t starve.
Shifting the Vegetables:Grains Ratio in favour of the Veggies
Lets start with cutting back on the proportion of carbs on the plate or in the meal. Not cutting out necessarily – remember this is the ‘Get Real’ version! When we feed our kids a plate of pasta, potato or bread, plus a protein, plus veggies – we all know what gets eaten first. In fact, give most kids a bread basket or a pile of pasta on the plate and that’ll be their meal if you let it. We have to take control here… So an easy place to start for ALL of us to cut back on the carb loading and being too full to eat anything else – remember kids’ tummies are not big – is to limit the availability. Extra bread and ladles of pasta are totally unnecessary additions to a meal. Don’t offer them.
Vegetables. One really good way of getting kids to eat more vegetables is to offer them first – when they’re hungry, preferably with something to dunk them in like melted butter or natural yoghurt with finely chopped cucumber and mint in it (Tzatziki – kinda… add a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh crushed garlic if you fancy). Slice red bell peppers, carrots, broccoli florets, cauliflower – any vegetables into kids’ size bites and let them dunk and crunch.
Instead of lots of pasta with a light coating of sauce – make it quinoa or spelt pasta instead and make the sauce the star of the show – if your kids like vegetables – make it chunky – if they’re fussy – blitz the vegetables but make it thick and filling.
Be aware of quite how much refined wheat (pasta, cereal and bread mainly) is in your diet – and do try and cut this out or down – try some alternatives: Wild rice, quinoa or polenta, spelt, amaranth, flax… pick up some grains you’ve never tried before… and keep the portion size smaller than the veggies on your plate!
Sweet potatoes are more digestible than white potatoes and most kids love them – cut them like chunky fries and roast them in hot coconut oil. In fact you can turn any root vegetables into a tasty bowl of fries!
Make sure there’s always protein on yours and your kids plate – don’t underestimate the humble egg! Scrambled eggs with grilled tomatoes, omelette or frittata full of chopped vegetables (with lots of ketchup!), boiled eggs with asparagus or whole grain spelt toast to dunk in. Fish pie; salmon and broccoli with soy sauce; chicken drumsticks; chicken with homemade satay sauce; cold chicken and mango salad; some grilled steak; meatballs made with minced lamb or beef… and of course, my not-paleo-at-all chickpeas, lentils or good old baked beans.
Nuts. Assuming you’re not allergic to them (in which case, don’t eat them…) nuts are a fabulous source of protein – and make a great snack for you and your kids. Nuts are GOOD for you. (Even the hard core Paleos agree on that one. Oh except peanuts. I think. I’m sure someone will correct me ;)) Roast pecans or cashews for a few minutes on a baking tray drizzled with homey + a little sea salt… add chilli flakes just to yours if your kids don’t do spicy – delicious!
You and your kids need lots of fats. But they have to be the good ones. The bad ones (the fake ones) are evil, evil, evil. That’s the hydrogenated / trans / anything else scientific sounding or unprounce-able and weird fats. If a factory had to make your fat – its not a good fat. The good ones – eat in abundance! Coconut oil (we LOVE coconut oil here), good cold pressed olive oil (don’t heat it), avocados, seeds, oily fish and a good fish oil supplement for good measure… Eat fat but make it the GOOD stuff. Oh and butter is FINE. If you’re trying to lose weight, then go easy Tiger. But butter is a real, natural food that your body recognises and can use. Make it organic / grass fed where you can.
Keeping It Real and Enjoying Food
Since I’m here talking about food, I’d like to add a little about our souls as well as our bodies. I love eating. I love spicy food, hot food, comfort food, salty food, food with friends, food in restaurants, and home cooked food. I love Italian food, Indian food and French food and Asian food (actually I like most peoples food). I want to sit in a restaurant and choose what I really, really fancy eating right there in that moment without over-intellectualising it. I love REAL FOOD and I believe it is UNhealthy to be obsessed with food. Whether obsessed with sugary foods, obsessed with calories, obsessed with organic or obsessed with paleo – I’m not sure any of those obsessions are very good for our soul, or our bodies. I like the way great food can make me feel, and I personally believe that how we feel is incredibly important. So that’s why I like to take my version of food rules and well, soften them a little.
Junk food, fake food, processed food – tastes like crap and makes me feel like crap. Probably because it is… you know… crap. So I don’t eat it and I don’t give it to my kids – not because I’m being ‘good’ or virtuous or disciplined, but because I want food to feel good as well as do me good.
MUTU Food is about EATING MINDFULLY – that means KNOWING what’s in your food and where it came from, and CARING what’s in it it and where it came from. Don’t eat mindLESSly, don’t eat more than you need or really want, don’t binge and don’t expect your body your body to look or feel good when you feed it crap.
You can go the whole Paleo nine yards if you want to – I don’t think its an unhealthy choice at all to lose the gluten, the refined grains, the sugar in in all its forms from your diet… Or you can take the MUTU Food version and take the rules that make sense to you and ditch the ones that don’t…+ then chill out and eat some food.
OK, now I’ll take cover. The cavemen are coming for me.