Your transition to a Paleo lifestyle has been an easy and positive experience and you would like nothing better than your family to follow suit. They would obviously enjoy many similar benefits to those you have experienced, even if it requires drastically changing a lifetime of nutritional habits. You firmly believe that they too will view a Paleo lifestyle as the path to their wellness and will willingly sacrifice sugar, dairy, grains and legumes to get there.
Unfortunately, this is often not the case!
You might be finding your family increasingly resistant to the dietary changes you are working diligently to implement, and have them follow. They may begin to resent your unyielding, dictatorial, ways. This is not to say that in some families, abrupt transition can work, but in many, patience and compassion can go a long way too.
By switching your family to a paleo lifestyle, it becomes much easier to do all the cooking (and all the ordering in). In the long run it is much better for their health and well-being!
There are a few strategies you can begin to implement when embracing paleo as a family
Talk about it.
Explain the numerous benefits of eating paleo you, and others you know have been experiencing when eating this way. Share the knowledge you have and possibly bring in examples of how shifting to a better way of eating will impact how they are looking and feeling. Repeat the message over and over again; it will eventually sink in.
Teach by example.
Be a role model. Your children are learning by watching you making the right choices. When they see you continuously choose an unsweetened iced green tea over a sugar-sweetened, dairy-laden coffee-like drink, they will eventually begin to follow your lead.
A slower approach will get you better results, with a lot less drama and resistance. You could start by removing all the processed junk food, high in salt and refined sugar from your house. You can then begin to swap out some Standard American Diet foods for more nutritious Paleo versions (like cauliflower rice instead of the white parboiled type).
Make the most of your meals at home.
If your family is eating breakfast, dinner, and snacks at home or packed at home, the majority of what you and they eat is accounted for. Focus your energies on offering the best you can from there, and, especially in the beginning, let go of worrying about foods eaten elsewhere. Keep the kitchen stocked with whole, Paleo friendly foods and devoid of processed snacks. This makes it easy and simple to grab something nutritious and satisfying.
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Recreate your family favorites.
There are some healthier options out there that will replicate standard family favorites or comfort food with Paleo friendly ingredients. The online options for delicious Paleo recreations of almost anything is endless. Although not always in the ‘spirit’ of Paleo principles, these foods and recipes are perfect for transitioning to a more whole-foods based diet and will keep your household happy and satisfied.
Try spiralizing vegetables instead of noodles, use almond and coconut flours along with crushed nuts to crust chicken for chicken nuggets, make up a batch of sweet potato fries or try your hand at making meatza.
Break out of the standard definitions of each meal. Erasing unchallenged lines will help free you of dependence on boxed cereal and loaves of bread every morning. Eat chicken and broccoli for breakfast. Have eggs and bacon for dinner. Snack on crispy prosciutto and crunchy carrots (sweet and salty!) mid-morning. Skip the bread, and roll up some favorite vegetables, avocado, and Paleo friendly mayonnaise inside turkey slices any time of day.
Cook bigger batches so leftovers become convenience foods later and combat the oft-cited statement "I don't have time."
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Always have healthy snacks on hand.
When teenage hunger strikes, there is no stopping them from eating! Many have the daily ritual of making a beeline straight for the fridge as soon as they get back from school. If there is nothing available there, they may begin digging through the pantry and cupboards looking for anything to satiate. Keep healthy snacks on hand and visible on the top shelf of the refrigerator, increasing the likelihood they will reach for those. Good choices include cold chicken or sliced up meats, egg muffins, fruits, carrot and celery sticks, nut and see butters, some home-made dips or mayonnaise, avocado, beef jerky or even a few slices of bacon.
Be prepared to negotiate.
It is impossible to control everything your family is eating outside of the house, especially if you have older kids. Understand that this is perfectly okay. Your job is to ensure that the foods they are eating and drinking when at home are aligned with your Paleo choices. With time and some gentle reminders, you will slowly bring them on board the paleo train, for good.
After a while, the benefits of eating healthy, unprocessed, nutrient dense food will become evident for your family. Inevitably, your children will notice the difference between the school cafeteria food and the delicious and colorful meals they get at home; it tastes better and it makes them feel (and look) better!
Focus on the process.
Avoid asking for perfection. Transitioning to a Paleo lifestyle is a process: For most people, switching to a Paleo diet didn’t happen overnight. It can be a long process with some fumbles and mis-steps as you figure out how Paleo works best for you. You have been there yourself. Don’t despair or get angry if your children eat some pizza or popcorn over at a friend’s house. Get them back on track at home and continue to serve them fresh, nutrient-dense and wholesome paleo meals on a regular basis.
Under too much pressure about avoidance and choices, children risk becoming stressed about food choices and can develop issues around it for the long term. Embracing a new approach to food should be about feeling healthy and better, not stressed and paralyzed by limitations. Aim for mealtimes to foster happy family memories and enjoyment of great food.
It is also important to give encouragements and praises for good choices, especially with your children. Take the time to notice when your family members are demonstrating healthy food awareness and give them positive reinforcement.
You are most likely living amongst friends, family and neighbors who are not living within Paleo parameters, and that shouldn't cause undue stress for you or your children. Support your family in navigating splurges and indulgences and managing the consequences so they can decide for themselves which treats are worthwhile.
Encourage them to eat ahead of time if you know a party will have little to no Paleo choices. Most of the time children are too busy having fun at social gatherings to care about the food anyway. Have a conversation with people who are regularly part of your lives and ask them to respect and support your choices.
Transitioning your family to a Paleo diet may have its challenges but you know, from personal experience, that the benefits received far outweigh the toils of the journey.