There’s no good reason a sane person would change the way their entire family ate over the space of a week….is there?
Well yes actually there is. It’s the health of our small man, and in particular his gut health. At the start of the last school term we were desperate. Our son’s behaviour had deteriorated to the point where I wondered if he had been taken over by an alien. The family was held hostage to his moods and the sanctuary of our home was now an emotional war zone. Not fun. Over the following week a whole lot of small miracles happened. I found the GAPs diet and a fabulous nutritionist. We also realised that our boy most likely has a leaky gut and a whole lot of symptoms pointed towards a physical/ emotional disorder that was in turn, linked to leaky gut.
We now had hope and I bet all you Mums know how that feels. We will end up doing the GAPs diet but moving to a Paleo diet first was recommended as a stepping stone. A Paleo lifestyle would help to start healing his gut and we would all benefit. We have done this as a whole family and the children have learnt a new word: solidarity.
What is the Paleo diet?
The Paleo diet is all about eating the types of foods our ancestors ate- nutrient dense, whole foods which are free from additives, preservatives and most modern processing. Paleo also removes dairy, refined sugar and grains from the diet. The idea is to give you body & brain the nutrients it needs. And (the kicker for us) it helps to heal the gut.
The gut is incredibly important. It’s now called the “second brain” and does so much more than just digest food. When your gut is healthy and working as it should your immune system is rocking, your body is well nourished and you are emotionally healthy. Win, win, win.
How to start the Palo diet…
You have to really want it. And then commit to doing this with everything you have. It’s tough but the rewards are incredible. I recommend doing it with support, like a great nutritionist. Or find a Facebook group to join- there are tons out there that focus on a Paleo lifestyle. Explaining what you are doing to the children is well worth it. I used the analogy of a good army (beneficial gut bacteria) and a bad army (bad gut bacteria/ candida)- this worked well for my son. I explained that the bad army was in charge and not letting his body have the fuel it needed. So the good army was small and weak as it had no supplies. We were going to feed the good army by making sure it got lots of greens & probiotic foods which would build up it’s strength. This would help it win the battle and defeat the bad army.
The first thing I did was go through the pantry and find everything that was processed, had gluten in it or was filled with sugar. There is a LOT. I tossed out or gave away a large portion of the pantry.
My recommendation when starting out is to substitute. Instead of trying to reinvent every meal, find substitutes for what you already serve the family. For example: bread. A staple in our house. So instead of trying to find immediate substitutes for toast and sandwiches I made or bought Paleo bread. After realising that the recipe I had needed 12 eggs I have ended up buying the bread, we have cut back but my daughter loves toast in the morning so she gets it. She has to eat a small plate of spinach leaves first now, but she still gets her beloved toast.
In the beginning I wasn’t worried about getting loads of veggies into the children. They were NOT veggie eaters so rather than fight on two fronts- cutting out sugar, grains & dairy as well as introducing veggies, I chose to let the veggies go. They ate a lot of protein initially and that was fine. There will be detox & die off once you cut out sugar, grain and dairy if your child is like my son. Interestingly the biggest detox was coming off dairy- he was a little unwell for a day or so and then bounced back. His gut health is/ was quite unbalanced so we expected some detox reactions.
Dinner is the easiest meal to start with- it’s protein and veggies. Kumura (sweet potato) makes a great substitute for potato. After eating kumura for a week or so there was a revolt by the children and so we introduced veggies at that point. They were happy to move away from kumura and embraced veggies.
Breakfast is also relatively easy- scrambled eggs and bacon or sausage are a filling and satisfying breakfast. I make a smoothie with banana, coconut meat, frozen berries, kale leaves & almond milk which almost everyone loves. My daughter won’t touch it so eats her little plate of raw spinach leaves as her greens. Being flexible and serving the children what they like, has helped us a lot.
Lunch was the hardest meal for us because of school and lunchboxes. We bit the bullet and invested in bento style stainless steel lunch boxes and they have been well worth the initial cost. We try and add greens but the bulk of the lunch boxes are still meat and fruit. It’s a work in progress! If you can start baking- there are tons of recipes out there. Having biscuits and cake and slices that the children can eat will help a LOT when you face school picnics, birthday parties or family get togethers. Your children can enjoy treats and celebrate with food while their gut health is not compromised.
I can’t recommend getting a couple of cookbooks highly enough. They will make this all so much easier. Book Depository have a whole lot or even your local library. Here are some of the ones I love and use again and again:
Fast Food for Busy Familes by Pete Evans (I want ALL is his books, I follow him on FB and IG- he makes a Paleo diet so do-able)
NomNom paleo by Michelle Tam and Henry Fong
The Unbakery by Megan May (not strictly paleo- this is raw vegan but so yum and so good)
Paleo Sweets and Treats by Heather Connell
So. How is it going for us?
We have been doing a Paleo diet for about 9 weeks now. Our boy is calmer and happier. He is more reasonable. SO GOOD. We are working hard and there’s a whole lot more we do which I will outline another time but we have seen massive improvements. He can also take different tastes and textures now and will happily eat celery, raw broccoli and spinach. This is huge and his gut health is on the mend.
It is hard and there will be times you are over it- mainly in the evening when you would kill for just a small packet of potato crisps…. But pushing through is so worth it- the rewards are massive, I promise x