My 5 Concerns About Raising A Paleo Child

babyAs a 34-year-old childless, married woman, I’ve been doing a lot of baby contemplation lately. My husband, who’s 7 years younger than I am, has been surprisingly accepting of my wanderings into kid land. After all, when I was 27, the last thing I wanted to talk about was having a kid, much less the sometimes horrifying details of raising one. How will we keep the kid safe? How much TV should he/she watch? What about the disturbing number of mentally and physically unhealthy children our kid will grow up with? And how will we survive without our precious sleep? And on and on.

It’s pretty much been decided that we will try to make a baby in the next 2 or 3 years, but we have plenty of hesitations about raising a child in our current society for obvious reasons.

But this week, while hanging out with our non-Paleo cousins who have little kids, we really started delving into the “How are we going to raise our kid Paleo in a non-Paleo world?” conundrum. 

This post is partly a way for me to work through that question in my mind and partly a plea for your parental wisdom. If you have kids and they eat Paleo, please let me know how it’s going for you in the comments. Show me the way!

Now, here are my 5 top concerns.
(I’ll be referring to our potential future child as a “he” below for simplicity’s sake.)

1. Will our kid resent us for imposing these very different dietary rules?

At a certain point – like when the kid starts going to school – he’ll be exposed to foods we wouldn’t feed him. At that point, he may get a taste of mac ‘n’ cheese and gummy worms and never want a vegetable again, and hate us for putting veggies and eggs in front of him for breakfast every morning. I think back to Michelle Tam’s ( story about her littlest son, who had a hard time going Paleo. Her husband ( told him, “If you’re going to live here, you need to eat the foods we eat.” So her little 4-year old said, “Fine, then I’m leaving,” and walked out the front door. He eventually got on board with their diet, but still… that’s a pretty fierce objection from such a little boy.

2. How will we deal with our kid eating at friends’ houses and school?

I think this one depends on how our kid reacts to grains, dairy, vegetable oils, etc., but I don’t imagine this will be a simple cut and dry situation. Birthday parties, school-provided snacks, school lunches, sleepovers, play dates, etc will all need to be discussed with teachers and other parents, who will undoubtedly be non-Paleo and think we’re weird. We’ll need to provide alternative foods for our kid all the time, instead of letting someone else feed him ever, and always have foods on hand for our kid to take with him.

That all sounds like a slight pain in the butt, but I’m totally fine with it. We do it for ourselves now anyway, so we’re used to always having foods ready to go. The thing I’m worried about is…

3. Will our kid get made fun of?

I mean, all kids get made fun of, but will ours be ostracized because he can’t have a cupcake? I guess he’ll just be like the kid who can’t have nuts, which is a LOT of kids now. Or the kid who can’t have gluten. Are there a lot of kids in schools now who are on special diets? Help me out here. Do we need to home school? This has actually crossed my mind…

4. How often will we let our kid eat non-Paleo foods?

I know there will be some times when our kid eats non-Paleo foods. It’s going to happen. I’m just hoping to avoid it as much as possible. I’d actually be curious to see how our kid reacts to non-Paleo foods so I know how anal we really need to be. My husband’s and my parents are thankfully all on board with Paleo, or are at least very familiar with it. I just asked my mom today if she’d have a problem with not giving our kid non-Paleo foods and she seemed offended I’d even asked her. I know some people are not so lucky, which sucks.

Anyway, I don’t think our kid will eat non-Paleo foods often at all until the eating situation is out of our control. Considering that the first time I got drunk with my friends was at age 12 (sorry, Mom) and no parent ever knew about it, there will surely be a time when our child starts making terrible decisions for himself. I’m counting on our ability to communicate with and educate our kid so that he may make informed, good decisions about what he eats on his own. (Could I possibly sound more like a person who does NOT have a kid? :)

Of course it’s easier for a child to choose to stay away from a food when he knows it’s going to make him feel awful. I don’t want our kid to have heinous reactions to gluten, etc., but I also know that it’ll be easier to teach him what not to eat if he does have symptoms (as many of us do). We’ll just have to see what hand we’re dealt.

5. What happens when the kid is old enough to be on his own and we have no more control over what he eats?

As every parent must do, I guess we’ll just have to let go and hope for the best? Dear God, please let our child be a rational human being with some sense of self preservation…


Anyone have any thoughts on this?



  1. You know who has excellent insight on this? Vegan parents. They’ve been dealing with these very same questions for a lot longer than Paleo parents. You should check them out on the internet. Some are very strict, other are not. And I think that’s what it boils down to.

    I was a vegan for 3 years (vegetarian for 15). My rule was “vegan in my house”. My parents thought I was silly for being vegan, and tried to undermine me for my lifestyle choice. But they also tried to undermine my parenting choices, so that was their way. I knew I could never change them. I also knew that this was the reality of the world. So “vegan in my house” was how I raised my daughter. She was sent to school with vegan food. The daycare was informed that she was vegan. And they accommodated. The rest of it, I let slide. So, if my cousin took my daughter for ice cream, I let it happen. My cousin didn’t see my daughter very often. To me, it was more important that they build a relationship, than that their experience had to be vegan.

    I’ll tell you what. You’re child is going to rebel against anything that is forced upon them. Kids run away all the time. When I was little I packed my bags at least three times. My granddaughter hates anything green, and my daughter has never fed her junk food. So go figure. Kids are complicated. You can’t nail them down when they’re trying to figure out the world around them. All you can do, is build some structure around them. You can lay down the house rules. Make sure you can explain them to a 2 year old, a 4 year old and a 7 year old, so that they can understand them. And make sure that you and your husband agree on them, so you can back each other up! (can’t stress that last part enough!! kids can sense when parents don’t agree and will leverage it to their advantage.)

    There you go. My $0.02.
    Good luck… and don’t stress too much about it. We parents learn an awful lot from our kids in their first years. They are pretty good teachers.

    1. Thank you, Denise! I was thinking the same thing about vegans, kosher families, and vegetarians – that they go through this same thing.

  2. Neely,

    As a non-parent, who someday wants to be a parent, I’ve shared in your thoughts/concerns. I just posted your blog query on my Facebook page and am receiving many insightful comments from paleo-parents, non-paleo parents and teachers.

    One teacher said she has a student who comes from a paleo home, “when it comes to birthday treats she can have a bite or two and then she throws the rest away. The other students have never commented and the student is totally fine with it. Some of the other kids end up throwing most of the treat away too so it’s not a big deal. I think moderation is key, you don’t want to totally deprive them, then they won’t know what to do once given the opportunity to eat junk.”

    Another paleo parent said, “I don’t enforce Paleo on my kids, but they eat this way frequently without even knowing it. I just try to teach good eating habbits and they have to eat what everybody else at the table is eating, to a reasonable extent. Both kids eat grain snacks throughout the day which I’m cool with to an extent. I’m not cool with his preschool giving the kids butter on a flour tortilla as a snack! They call this “balanced” somehow. I will totally be packing his lunch when he starts Kindergarden and because it’s food he’s used to, I’m just hoping he prefers it… all the while me cheering his healthy choices on.”

    That made me think to my own school days, where my mom packed my lunch (non-paleo, but “balanced”) everyday. She had two thoughts about this 1. cafeteria food isn’t healthy 2. the cost adds up over time. A few times a month, I was allowed to buy my lunch, but typically gravitated toward the salad & potato bars instead of the fried food line because I was raised with home cooked meals and generally healthy living.

    Hearing all this from my friends helped me. Hope it does the same for you!

  3. I love this post! My husband and I are both coming up on 25, so not quite ready for little ones yet, but these SAME thoughts have crossed my mind. Like you, I can see it being fairly simple to keep them Paleo up until they enter school… but then what? As someone who is familiar with the education world, there are non-Paleo foods everywhere! As a child in school, I can remember being given candy “just because” or for doing really great on an assignment… candy!?!? Seriously?! And the mom who sends in cupcakes with their son/daughter for their birthday. I’ll admit, pre Paleo, that would have been me too… but now… there’s no way. But what do I do… I could send an individual cupcake in their lunchbox for them to enjoy while the rest of the class eats the “normal” treats. But would that make my child feel different? I guess it depends on his/her relationship with food and what you have taught them about food up until that point. I think I could go on and on and on thinking like this! Thanks for bringing up such an important topic! :)

  4. Really, you could pretty much take Paleo out of these questions and these are the same concerns most parents have. Will my child resent me? What is it like to let my child go and make his own decisions? Will he be teased? How strict of a parent to I want/need to be? Will he turn out ok in the end? You will have to answer all these questions and more, and about much more than just paleo, after you have kids.

    Will your kid resent you? If your parents and in-laws are on board, the first child will be very easy up until age 3 or 4, when they start going to friends birthday parties and are mature enough to care about not being allowed certain foods that they now know are delicious. The 2nd and more the third kid can be harder because they see what their siblings eat and if you are making exceptions for the siblings, the baby will catch on a lot sooner. My kids are still young (2,6 & 8) but I don’t think they’re on the road to resentment. They definitely like crap food, and eat it when they can, but I do my best not to freak out and simply educate them when the opportunities arise. We prepare almost exclusively healthy food at home and I try to keep an ongoing conversation about foods and our bodies and what nutritious means. Homeschooling would help control the eating probably and there are a host of other, non-food, reasons why homeschooling is probably a good idea. (on a side note, I wish that I had been able to consider that I might have wanted to stay home with my kids before we got pregnant. Now, I work full time and cutting a family income in half is not so simple…It is good that you are considering all this now! I wish I had!)

    If you are in a community of like minded people, then there is not as much to worry about with going to friends houses. But even in a health minded community, you still have so many people who are a believer in “kids” foods: mac and cheese, gold fish, jello, fruit snacks, etc. I do my very best to allow anything and then take a very deep breath and think of the case study in Nutrition and Physical Degeneration where Dr. Price feeds the children just one super nutritious meal a day at lunchtime and all the kids health improved and their cavities healed and they behaved better in school. And then I give them a scoop of butter, fermented cod liver oil, liver and beet greens for dinner with bone broth. :)

    I send my kids to school with a sweet potato pancake almond butter and jelly sandwich. Her friends ask for the recipe because it is so good! Your kid will be teased, about food or something else. Its just the way it goes.

    How often will we let our kids eat paleo? This is a personal decision made between you and your husband. I think you are right, that you are incredibly lucky that your immediate and some extended family are on board. This will make your life so so much easier. And you’re also right, it will depend on your kid’s sensitivities to foods as well.

    Your last question made me smile. We all want so much for our children, but in the end, they are their own people and have to make their own decisions. The more you can let go and be ok with that, whatever their choices may be, the happier you will be. It helps for me to look back at my life, at all the poor choices I made, and consider how happy I am right now and how I wouldn’t be all that I am today if I hadn’t been allowed to make all those mistakes.

    At the root of it, all parents struggle with how much to control and how much to let go of their kids. Ultimately, I suppose it should be a gradual process of being practically the same person before the baby is born, to being 2 completely separate individuals, hopefully still bonded by love.

    My final note, and something that I work on daily, is this: in the midst of being a parent, which is tiring and mind numbing at times, make room for the love that you have for your kids to shine through. I think as long as they KNOW you love them, so much else can be forgiven and forgotten.

  5. Possibly a cop-out, but “just do the best you can.”
    Having seen Sarah Fragoso navigate this for 6+ years, my sister-in-law for nearly 5, and now Nicki, Zoe and I for 9 months. the eating over at other folks can certainly get a bit hairball, but not impossible to navigate.

    I think you need to stay adaptable and as much as possible “mellow.” When Zoe was ready to start doing some solid foods the ONLY thing she would take initially was goat yogurt. We needed to do some solids, she was not stoked on any other offering, so we gave that a shot and she seems to do great with that. Now she is doing sweet potatoes, fruit, ground beef and of course, bacon.

  6. Hi Neely,
    Thanks for the post. Though I’m not in any place to start a family currently, I’ve had these same thoughts about IF I did have kids, would they be paleo. I’ve had all the same questions you had. My sister has two little guys and though she’s vegetarian, she feeds them meat to make sure they’re getting all the nutrients they can as they develop. I know I would want to give my kids the best chance at growing up healthy as possible and to me, that means modified paleo… or eat real food, as I call it. I think there are so many great paleo/primal recipes now that the kids wouldn’t feel deprived or too different from their peers. I mean, what kid wouldn’t want my (modified from Elana’s pantry) almond butter blondies! From watching my sister and my friends with their kids, I also know that even if you have a plan, many days are simply survival, and making things work. I guess I’d plan on mostly paleo, and see what happens!

  7. We’re in the same boat as yall too. I’m scared just thinking about it and I’m hoping that creating a network of folks who are dealing with the same thing will help us all get through it together. I only WISH my Mom had instilled some good eating habits on me when I was a kid. I am 27 and having a heck of a time overcoming that. I like what the other commenters said about the fact that you can remove “paleo” from the equation and as a parent, still need to ponder these questions. I think doing it in a gentle way is best but think about how blessed yall are to have this knowledge under your belt before even having a kid. I feel for the parents who are switch kids off a typical diet back to a whole foods diet. That is rough!

  8. Well said Meesha! I have one more idea to add in the mix. My friend’s daughter is allergic to gluten, so for birthday parties she brings her own gluten free cupcake for her daughter to eat. I thought that was a good idea.

    We let the kids slide at birthday parties, it’s hard to say no they can’t have candy when there’s the fun of a pinata going on and goodie bags given out. I will decline to attend some of the parties and I pretty much confiscate the candy after the party is over. The sugar overload is too much for our kids and they end up having a terrible attitude the next day. For Halloween, we let them participate in activities and then trade them the bad candy for healthy treats, and they are fine with that. I’ve been talking about what makes food healthy to them for so long that they know the difference between healthy treats and unhealthy treats. My son even asked me the other day while eating something, “Does this have sugar in it mom?” “Um yes,” and I proceeded to show him on the label where he can read how much sugar is in it and we measured out what that much sugar would look like poured onto our scale. He’s 7 so he can grasp this concept finally. As Meesha said it’s easier for homeschooled kids. My kids are homeschooled so we are the biggest influence in our kids lives. But, the temptation for sweets and grains is still huge and everywhere, my daughter is 4 and constantly asks me for sweets. We can’t control everything our kids do but we can educate them and that’s the most powerful tool. It’s a looooong, tedious path of putting good habits into them. I’m definitely not the best at it, but I think being consistent with your beliefs in a loving way as Meesha said is the best we can do.

    Kids are awesome! I highly recommend it sooner than later. ;)

  9. I have a 4-year old son and a 15 month old daughter. My husband & I switched to the Paleo lifestyle a little over 6 months ago. The question of what to feed our kids is a tough one, and to be totally honest, it’s the one thing my husband and I fight about the most. I’m more concerned for my kids health than I am for my own, however, my husband is more concerned about them being the “weird kids” or missing out on what he considers important childhood experiences (ie. cake, ice cream, candy). We’ve had to compromise. I only cook and serve Paleo at home, and I just cringe and look the other way when he buys my son the occasional treat out. 

    As for my son’s reaction to the Paleo change, it’s been a tough one. He was used to lots of pasta, rice and especially peanut butter sandwiches. He is finally warming up to a lot of our new dishes and has recently been declaring at dinner “this is my favorite!”, that is always a serious hallelulia moment. To ease him into it a bit, I still let him have the occasional cashew butter sandwich on gluten-free bread and he brings gluten-free crackers to preschool. I don’t believe we’ll have that issue with my daughter however, because she’s only known Paleo. That will luckily be the same for you. 

    When it comes to school, I told his teachers that he is allergic to gluten and dairy and this keeps them from giving him anything containing those. There are so many kids out their now that have special food needs or allergies that they didn’t even bat an eye when I told them. They asked how severe it was and I told them it causes digestive and behavioral problems and that was the end of it. I send him to school with gluten-free crackers or pretzels (not ideal, but it will have to do for now), hardboiled eggs for him to have instead of cheese and Paleo banana muffins for when the other kids have muffins/bread treats. They also let me know when a parent will be bringing birthday cupcakes and I send along his favorite chocolate chip pumpkin muffins. I asked his teacher the other day if he gets upset that he doesn’t get to eat what the other kids are having and she told me it’s quite the opposite. The other kids are usually wanting whatever special treat my son is having. Imagine that!

    I have tested all foods on my daughter, like rice cereal, oatmeal, wheat cereal, and peanuts. But only to check for allergies. How crazy is it that the recommended first food for babies is rice cereal?! My son ate that every day from 6 months old until I switched him to oatmeal which he ate every day until he was about 3. And I wondered why he got sick all the time! My daughter, on the other hand, eats strictly Paleo and she’s only been sick twice…ever. That’s saying a lot for a baby who puts EVERYTHING in her mouth and has an older brother who goes to a germ filled preschool. 

    I think you are right on the money by saying “I’m counting on our ability to communicate with and educate our kid so that he may make informed, good decisions about what he eats on his own.” I believe that pretty much sums up the objective of parenting. Raising responsible, well informed kids/adults who will become productive members of society. When my son eats non-Paleo items I ask him to pay attention to how his tummy feels. He’s too young to understand the connection now, but I will continue to talk to him about it so that as he gets older he can make his own choices. And hopefully they will be good ones.

    When you have kids, you will learn that you end up having to say no to A LOT of things, but it’s usually for the safety and well being of your kids. No, don’t play with the power cord. No, don’t bang your blocks on the glass door. No, don’t run into the street. These are all things we say no to, to protect our kids and I feel like saying no to food that we know will hurt them (while offering healthy alternatives) is extremely important. 

    One final note, I told my husband the other day after talking to a mom who had switched herself to Paleo, but not her kids, “I don’t understand how so many Paleo parents can change the way they eat because they know how bad those other foods are for them, but they don’t want to do the same for their kids. Usually because they say it’s too hard.” He told me that he thinks kids are more resistant to the bad things we put in our bodies and it doesn’t affect them as much. I feel it’s quite the opposite. I think it’s important to keep them clean for as long as you can while their little bodies are developing. Start them off with good habits that will hopefully last a lifetime. 

  10. My insights from raising a passel of kids while I was a vegetarian…

    1. Will our kid resent us for imposing these very different dietary rules?

    Sure. So? As long as you are providing the food they eat, YOU have the obligation to feed them in as healthy a manner as you are able. The healthier the diet – the healthier the child, regardless of whether they resent it or not.

    2. How will we deal with our kid eating at friends’ houses and school?

    Partially by considering such events as their ‘20%’, and partially by stacking the deck by feeding them a large meal before such events. Eating Paleo is not a prison sentence – it is far more important to teach the kids proper nutrition so that it will stick as adults, and them provide as healthy a diet as circumstances allow.

    3. Will our kid get made fun of?

    They will – again, so? If you provide lunches that the other kids envy, the teasing will be minimal. They’re gonna swap the chicken breast for a cupcake anyway… ;)

    4. How often will we let our kid eat non-Paleo foods?

    Let them? You won’t be able to stop them unless they’re locked up. Keep a strict ‘kosher’ house, minimize outside eating opportunities – and then consider those opportunities the 20% of 80/20.

    5. What happens when the kid is old enough to be on his own and we have no more control over what he eats?

    You mean when they are adults? They’ll eat however they please – a phase where they’ll go apesh*t and do everything you tried to avoid. Then they’ll settle down and remember how to eat healthily like mom and dad do. At least that’s how it’s working out in my family. My college-age daughter decided she wanted to exist on nothing but mac n cheese and ramen. Now she’s got a fiancee who’s into juicing, and suddenly her house is full of fruit and veggies and she’s asking us for ways to prepare them other than juicing.

  11. Life without risk is no life at all. You work hard and you do the best you can. As a long time mom I know that no matter what you do, they will find something to resent you for at some point. You know they will be great, beautiful and brilliant kids.

  12. I am a 34 year old mother of a 14 year old, 5.5 year old and 20 month old who do not like being Paleo. The kids and I started 2-3 years ago after seeing my husband’s health/allergies improve. Unfortunately? we are grain/sugar addicts (coconut and almond flour don’t cut it). We get sick of eggs and sweet potatoes, love fruit, raw/full fat dairy and corn chips/tortillas). I decided to give it a go after growing up with stomach/monthly cycle problems, seeing our oldest have problems with asthma/skin issues, and our middle and youngest children have stomach/skin issues. I believe eating more fat/protein helps my blood sugar drops, but have a hard time with cravings and our children are constantly begging to eat what the other kids eat (school food/soda/etc). I envy parents who say that their children don’t want those things. Our children have never been teased for what they eat. Our oldest was actually the envy of some kids at school when he brought grass fed steak.

  13. We are a mostly-paleo household (started about 18-24 months ago), with four kids, ages 4 to 12. At home, I offer paleo options almost exclusively at home, but my kids are free to make their own choices at school, at friends, when we eat out. My son (age 7) was diagnosed with pediatric migraine a few years ago, which we’ve chosen to manage through diet and lifestyle choices rather than meds. He has some pretty clear food triggers, mainly food dyes and MSG. This has given us a good opportunity to talk about how we all feel after eating certain foods, and I am always so happy when he (or his sisters) tell me about the good choices they’ve made when they’re out of the house. Of course, they all choose candy, cake, etc often, but they don’t usually eat as much as their friends do and try to balance it with better choices.
    My oldest daughter says her friends call refer to me as a “health-a-holic” in a funny, teasing way. But in the same conversation a few of them said they wished their parents were healthier, so I take that as a compliment. She says she doesn’t mind that her lunch doesn’t resemble her friends’ lunches, though that could change.
    As with a lot of parenting, you’ve got to choose your battles……and trying to force paleo compliance at all times just isn’t a hill to die on for me. Now that I’ve got girls entering the “tween” years I really don’t want to make food an issue more than it already is.
    Lately my husband and I are trying to navigate educating our kids (especially the older girls) about making good food choices without causing an obsessive atmosphere. It’s hard…..but I think we’re doing well so far, talking about food when it comes up naturally, but not making it a constant conversation. We try to stress good health, feeling well, having energy, etc and not focus on weight.
    Parenting is hard on so many levels…..of course you know that. As with anything we teach our kids (politics, religion, etc), there’s always the likelihood they’ll rebel at some point. I take deep breaths and try not to react too strongly when my kids tell me they had a gatorade and doritos for snack at a friends’ after school….then load them up with a great paleo dinner to make up for it :)

  14. We have two kids – one is 3 and one is almost 7 months. We put our 3 year old on a Paleo-like diet (GAPS) the week he turned 2 and have now transitioned to mainly Paleo. He goes to daycare so every day he faces situations where kids eat things that he cannot have and he has yet to complain about it. We tell him that “eating that will make your tummy hurt” so he knows to avoid it. He just has accepted that he cannot have certain things. When we go to events such as birthday parties, etc we bring a Paleo-ized version of a cupcake or cookie for him. Same thing for daycare – he has a stash of coconut oil “chocolates” that the teachers break out for him if they give all the other kids some sort of treat. We have found that as long as he gets SOMETHING he is fine. (And his teachers have no qualms about making exceptions for him as they notice he is the best behaved kid in the class due to his lack of sugar and food additives!)

    As for whether he gets made fun of, he’s too little yet to get that now I think. But we have found that there are so many other kids in his situation that need some alternative food for some reason or another. So when we do go to those birthday parties and bring our own cupcakes, several other kids are doing the same. Or parents are being really great about asking us ahead of time “What can he have?” and making sure that fruit or olives or some other Paleo-friendly treat is available for everyone. So the awareness is there, which is great. (And we have noticed that if parents aren’t aware they typically ask, “Why is he on this?” and then wind up asking so many questions because they think their child should maybe be on it too!)

    We also make sure we try to include him in cooking activities as much as possible so that he is excited about eating the things he helped create. It definitely works and we hope he’ll continue to help out and build an understanding that food we eat is made from ingredients we recognize (like from our garden) and that we use those to make meals and not buy stuff to eat from a box.

    We do cheat every so often and let him have french fries when we are out at a restaurant. We know they are definitely bad side of cheats but he’s also a kid and we want him to live this way as a lifestyle and not as a strict diet. So if that’s what it takes to keep him happy every so often, then so be it. There are far worse ways he could eat on a regular basis so having rancid vegetable-oil fried bits of starch once every few weeks is a indulgence I’m willing to let him have as long as he eats well the other 99% of the time.

    Having a copy of Sarah Fragoso’s book Paleo Pals doesn’t hurt either. It’s a fun kid’s book that makes Paleo eating exciting since who doesn’t want to be a superhero?

    I just think starting kids off as early as possible is the easiest way. That way they don’t know any differently and just accept that this is the way it is. Read the book French Kids Eat Everything since that gives a great synopsis of how the French get their children to try and enjoy all kinds of things and then use those techniques with your own children. It’s all an experiment to me to see what works and doesn’t but it’s really not hard. We shall see how it progresses as he gets older but we just have to have faith that we are giving him the foundation for good health now.

  15. 80/20 rule applies to kids as well. Pack their lunches. Involve them with food decisions and preparations. Have an abundance and a variety of good food available at all times. Set a good example. Explain why we need to eat this way and how harmful it is to eat SAD. Guide them, ultimately they will know what’s good for themselves.

  16. Thank you so much for this post; I’ve been asking the exact same questions recently. I am 80/20 paleo and my husband is 80/20 slow carb and if we had kids, I would want to raise them to eat the way we eat. My biggest concern would be finding a paleo nanny (we’re yuppies, sorry) and minimizing bad influences, esp my MIL who has a pretty messy relationship with food and would slip the kids “treats” all the time. At the same time, we’re super lucky to live in NYC where we have tons of great restaurant options that don’t have kids menus filled with garbage and I’m sure half the kids in whatever school we’d send them to would have some sort of diet restriction (kosher, etc).

    I wonder if there are some lessons to be taken from the way parents teach their kids that cigarettes are bad for them — I think high fructose corn syrup is just as bad for you as tobacco. Teaching them to say no, resist peer pressure, etc.

  17. I have a 3.5 year old. He started off very paleo by being exclusively breastmilk fed, then gradually transitioned to food. He had a great appetite until he was about 2 when his pickiness started and as he was able to control more free will over his food choices. I have 2 stepdaughters, and a non-paleo husband, non-paleo mother-in-law living with us, and a non-paleo sister-in-law who is at our house a few times per week.

    It is impossible for me to enforce all paleo and often frustrating when trying to have good food choices when exposed to so much more. And even more so not wanting to appear overbearing. He is a small framed kid as I was–only scratching the surface of 30 lbs.

    He used to be the only kid who brought his lunch to school. A few months ago after he turned three, he told me he didn’t want to bring his lunch anymore; he wanted to eat “school lunch.” Of course–it’s full of junk, but at a certain point you need to let go.

    I had a lot of ideas in my head on how things were going to be before I became a parent. But like many parenting realities, you have to pick your battles and adjust to your own reality. I am not a Paleo author like Sarah Fragoso. I’m just a regular mom who works and does not live in a paleo bubble. I offer a great example to my child, we are gradually talking about food that makes you “strong” (though sometimes he turns this around and tells me he doesn’t want to be strong or fast when he wants M&M’s). I try to make less worse choices when he does have junk. And he eats an okay amount of nutrient dense food.

    It all seems a lot easier before being a parent. The temperament of your child, the people who surround him or her, and your priorities as a parent all come into play when faced with these things.

  18. Our baby will be here in a few months (eek!) and we have been having these same discussions. We plan on feeding out child real food and anyone who watches the baby will have to be on board with that. We both realize that once they are in school, going to parties, etc. we won’t have complete control and that is just something we have to accept. I think if we tried to be in complete control all of the time we would drive ourselves crazy.

    When they are old enough to understand, we will try to explain to them the difference between real food and fake, chemical food and how they both affect your body and hope for the best. And maybe their bellies will feel so yucky after eating birthday cake that they will never want to eat it again (wishful thinking, I’m sure). :)

  19. These are all great questions! I have 4 kids that I am raising Paleo. My oldest is 7, so I haven’t hit the resentment phase yet, but I can try and help with some of the other questions. We have decided to try and let our kids decide what to eat when they go to a friends house. Do they always make a Paleo decision? No, but they also learn about how their body reacts to certain foods and it is a much more effective way of teaching them, rather than just telling them that certain foods don’t digest we’ll in their tummies- which we believe will lead to resentment and rebellion later on. Obviously, you can’t do this with a 2 year old, but older children “get it”. A few months ago, my 5 year old went to a birthday party where they served pizza. He had a slice or two, and that night he spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom and was also very thirsty due to the sodium. He made the connection. None of us want to intentionally make our children sick, but it is effective and let’s them make the decision to eat healthy on their own. I control what I can and I know that the majority of what my kids eat is nutritional, non-processed food. As far as being made fun of? We haven’t run across that yet. Most kids are either amazed, envious, or just plain curious about my kids school lunches. My daughter has taken everything from turkey roll ups to venison steak to chili to baby back ribs to school in her thermos! She loves being different from all the other kids and their Lunchables! Best of luck. For more info on raising kids Paleo- check out my blog (especially the Feeding Kids Paleo page)

  20. I am fairly new to the paleo lifestyle, but have 40 years of experience in trying to find a healthy balance in my own eating, and have a 9 year old son. As far as being exposed to other foods in school and other places, here is an example of the way it’s always gone with us. I love vegetables and fruits, so they are always in my house. I am a very adventurous eater and cook, and I wanted my son to be the same. It was a challenge because his father is an extremely picky eater. I started immediately by making my own baby food and added a new food each week to his repertoire. The one and only thing he did not like in the beginning was avocado (he loves it now, though). By the time he was of school age, and even before when he started occasionally staying with a sitter during the day, I feel like his food habits were already established. I’m not going to say he never had any fast food or unhealthy foods before that, he did, but it was rare and never kept in the house, so it wasn’t anything he asked for or established eating habits around. When he was in 1st grade someone at school brought a Twinkie for lunch. My son came home asking to try one. This was the first time he had ever really asked for something that I hadn’t ever offered him before. So, I took a bit to think about it and decided that I trusted the way I had raised him until then and I did not want to make a big deal out of it, because I think that would just make him want it more. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and buy a package of Twinkies. This was really a huge deal for me and I was super nervous that it would backfire and he would feel resentful at having lived so long (6 years) deprived of this ambrosia that other people were eating for lunch (really?! For lunch?!…yes, really). He took a bite…took another bite…and declared that it tasted like a sponge. He did finish that one Twinkie, but didn’t ask for the other one in the twin-pack, and has never again asked for a Twinkie or any of it’s Little Debbie cousins, etc. My point is that I believe in leading a healthy lifestyle and I believe in the paleo way of eating, but we have to prepare our kids for the real world, and part of that is functioning in a world where Twinkies exist. Don’t make a big deal out of things and your kids won’t either, and trust yourself and the investment your making in this future generation and relax a bit if they are curious about something.

  21. My mother instilled VERY HEALTHY HABITS on me at a very young age and at first I ignored her and rebelled by sneaking junk into the house or spending tons of time at my friend’s houses eating the entire contents of their kitchens… But now I am 100% healthy, paleo/prinal and loving life! No need for that junky crud, I am all about salmon, spinach, etc! :) I feel like, in the end, you need to let your kids make their decisions.

  22. My two cents as the 27 year old single father of a four year old girl:

    (I appologize in advance for any redundancy, as I have not read any of the other comments)

    1. Will our kid resent us for imposing these very different dietary rules?

    People in general tend to resist imposed restrictions. That said, focusing on educating and conveying the underlying values on which you base your lifestyle would likely increase the odds of your child deciding to assimilate said values into his/her personal identity.

    2. How will we deal with our kid eating at friends’ houses and school?

    For this, you will need the child’s cooperation, which might be gained by the above mentioned techniques. What did riles mean to you as a kid? If you were anything like me, they meant, “Do not, under any circumstances, get caught doing ….” Now, as a young adult, I have tested the theories of my parents, and have chosen to discard most of the preverbial bathwater, while saving the baby.

    3. Will our kid get made fun of?

    That one seem’s rhetorical, since you answered it quite well yourself. To expand, people criticize that which they fear, and they fear that which they do not understand. The “losers” do odd things, but so do the trend setters; the main differences are the responses to the questions that their actions generate. Have you seen some of the recent fashion trends? Do you know why I didn’t see popped collars, faux-hawks, and skinny jeans in my high school? Because those kids got stuffed in lockers.

    “So I hear that your mommy and daddy don’t give you cupcakes, Cupcake…”

    “Why would anyone in their right mind actually choose to eat one of those poisonous, genetically modified, “sugar” coated death cakes?” My “mommy and daddy” have taught me a lot, including the axiom, ‘you are what you eat,’ Cupcake!” **At this point the kid should probably either swing or duck.

    4. How often will we let our kid eat non-Paleo foods?
    5. What happens when the kid is old enough to be on his own and we have no more control over what he eats?

    These two go hand in hand.
    1. Educate your child
    2. LISTEN to his/her feedback,
    3. Communicate your reasons for adopting this lifestyle (“Because I said so” translates roughly to “Because…I have no damn idea,” and, “While your under my roof…” means, “Until you’re 18.” Remember that in the end this MUST be their CHOICE, and that respect goes both ways.
    4. TRUST yourself to do a fantastic job raising your child, and trust your child to do the right thing after you have done your part.

    In conclusion, I teach my child by example, and she chooses to follow me out of respect (for the most part.) I also realized that, at her age, she in incapable of making wise decisions, and will sometime rebel for the sake of rebelling. I choose my battles, but we do occasionally have this dialog:
    Me “Baby how old are you?”
    Her “Four, Daddy!”
    Me “Then you have 14 more years before you get a vote.”

    Best of Luck,

  23. As said in many other comments – same questions every parent (or future-parent) has. Will they be made fun of? Maybe – or perhaps your kid will be the educator for all things Paleo to his friends? How cool would that be? :)

    As a mom with an 8 y/o son with a life-threatening peanut allergy, I can assure you that social gatherings are tough – very tough – but you make it through it one event at a time. You want your child to have the same experiences as the rest of the kids (and you remember growing up) so you do what is necessary.

    Best of luck…

  24. Great post! I don’t have kids yet, either, and I find myself thinking of the same things. I’ve already considered home schooling for this very reason, but is that getting a little too controlling?? Too bad there isn’t a Paleo school somewhere ;)

  25. I have three children, all under the age of six. The oldest starts K in the up coming fall. We’ve been officially paleo since Sept 2012 but we had been following WAPF for a solid three years prior to paleo so the adjustment, for my children, was rather unremarkable.

    Nursing is key, to be honest. You can teach formula babies god eating habits, but it takes A LOT more work. If you nurse, your baby first learns to self regulate. They get the amount they need, when they need it. Babies have an extremely nuanced understanding of their food. :-) The second thing nursing accomplishes is that some of the proteins and flavors from what you eat filter into your milk. Baby has a pretty good idea of what the normal foods in your ecology, your home, are, just from nursing.

    Next, what’s come to be known as “baby led solids” otherwise known as “don’t force your baby to eat rice cereal and/or purees at 4 months of age.” You’re allowing the habit of self regulation to continue, rather than you, the parent, deciding what and when and how much baby should have. Healthy eating habits really do start in infancy and how we feed, or allow our babies to feed themselves. All of my kids naturally sought out “adult” solid foods at between 7 and 8 months of age. My oldest literally grabbed a piece of homemade bread out of my hand. Middle child scooted across the floor to the grocery bags, rolled out a nectarine, sat up, and started eating it like a squirrel. Youngest child demanded chicken liver pate (made with coconut oil) as her very first solid food. The pictures of her with liver all over her face are delightful. So far, I have thus avoided the curse of the picky eater. I expect this will change next fall when my son finds out about lunchables and the school lunch line.

    My kids were never going to have an easy time of it, food wise, in social settings. We’re Jewish. We keep kosher. On top of kosher, we’re WAPF/paleo. I am the primary shopper and cook of the family so at home, what I say goes. If you don’t like your breakfast, you can wait until a snack is served, and so on. Children will not whither waiting until the next food appears. :-)

    When we are out, my 3 and 5 year olds are not forced to comply with most of our dietary guidelines (they absolutely cannot have pork or shellfish; only restrictions while out). They can have milk with a hamburger (kosher says no mixing of meat and milk) and have the bun on their burgers, if that’s what they want. Me, I’ll have tea or water and order my burger protein style. :-) My 3 year old daughter wants to be just like me so she will sometimes copy my food choices but I do not force her or her brother to do so. If they want to, it’s because they decided. Assuming a child is neurologically and medically average, food should never, ever be a battle ground. Children want to be able to control things. Clothing and food are the two things I do not control. If 3 year old girl child wants to wear her pink fluffy sparkly tutu out on a day when we’re running a dozen errands, I am not going to stop her. I cringe just typing that sentence (I hate pink, fluffy, and sparkly, LOL) but it’s her decision and it is not going to hurt her, or me, for her to wear it. A burger on the bun, once or twice a month, is not going to hurt her, or me, either.

    When you have children, you learn to give up control. That starts with childbirth, quite honestly. The easiest, calmest births happen when you surrender to the process and accept that you cannot control how, when, or even where (3 year old girl child was an oops at home birth complete with 6 EMT’s). As your children grow, they develop distinct personalities and determination to control anything that they can directly influence – clothes, the day’s activities, what book to read before bed, the food on their plates. Parenting is about figuring out a way to let your children learn to make their decisions, while always presenting at least one or two options you really, really want them to pick from. :-) The more often they can control age appropriate actions, the better they become, as they grow up, at making consistent good decisions that will make you proud.

  26. Relax. Kids eat what they can get their hands on, and that’s what they develop a preference for. They also naturally crave sweet tastes and avoid bitter ones. Breastfeed for as long as you find practical and comfortable. When weaning them: know that they will prefer sweet potato mash or banana more than pureed spinach. A taste for bitter veggies (particularly cruciferous veg) comes later developmentally.
    At school: yes they will swap lunches and eat what other kids do when they have sleepovers. Personally… I think this is fine: after all, would you specially pull out sugarpuffs for a visitor in your house or would you expect a guest to try the veggie omelette on the table? In this case, my opinion is that being polite and respectful to your hosts is more important than one meal. But that’s down to how you weigh up your values as a family.
    Past that…. well, was the worst thing you did at 14 to eat cake?

  27. I’m very green when it comes to Paleo. I haven’t made the switch 100%, but my daughter will be turning a year old next month and I very much want to raise a paleo baby. I’m taking the steps to slowly eliminate non-paleo foods from my household, one food at a time since my hubby is still unsure about the whole thing.

    When I think about the paleo lifestyle and my daughter, I equate it to religion. We’re an atheist family and it would kill me if my daughter “found Jesus” or whatever, but it’s not the end of the world. Just as if she grows up and “finds wheat” it won’t be the end of the world. I will still love her and invite her over for a paleo dinner.

    As far as all sinful non-paleo foods out there to discover… I’m going to let her discover it in her own way. I’m going to let her eat birthday cake at her friend’s party. I’m going to let her eat junk food on Halloween. I’m going to let her buy whatever treats she desires from the school bake sale at Christmas. I will never buy her those things and I will never keep it in the house, but to flat out forbid it for life goes against my atheist views. I want her to have a brain, think critically, ask questions, do research, and come to an honest conclusion herself.

    After eating a boatload of pasta, garlic bead, and cake, and feeling like crap, maybe she’ll realize mom was right all along.

  28. I am so glad to stumble upon this post. I have been on the verge of going Paleo for a while now and even my ob-gyn recommended it this past week. Hearing an MD recommend it was the push I needed. But I don’t even have kids and but I may one day and these type of thoughts plague me. Or not even just for kids, but for myself…I doubt my husband will ever go fully Paleo, although I do our cooking, so in our house he will. But if you have a potluck at work, or are invited to a BBQ or spend the day at the water-park in the summer, want to go to the movies one weekend…I can think of dozens of scenarios where you’re not likely to find a Paleo option. Sure, going out to dinner you can always order a grilled steak, fish or chicken and steamed veggies or salad, but that is the stuff I eat at home anyhow, so its not special.

    I do think I would feel healthier adopting to a Paleo lifestyle, but I think its going to make my social life much more difficult. Is anyone Paleo like 80% of the time? Or Paleo during the week but not on weekends if they are out? I think balance is key. If I ever have kids, there is no way I am going to convince my Mom or DH’s mom to cook Paleo…they both rely on convenience foods and sugar. Or even with kids at school…every single day there would be an opportunity to eat non-Paleo stuff (trade snacks or lunch items, etc).

    These are the issues I am wrestling with. As I have 2 Paleo books on the way to me because I do think I want to adopt the lifestyle for weight loss (and keeping it off). But in a non-Paleo world, I think its going to be very tricky.

    1. Hi Angela,

      I can tell you that Paleo is very practical and livable in the real world! I have been Paleo for more than a decade now. There are many approached to take, and you can certainly customize it your lifestyle. Many people are Paleo 80% of the time, and that works for them. Our meal plan also offers a flex meal where you can eat whatever you want.

      When it comes to Paleo and social life, it hasn’t hampered mine at all! I just take a dish or two of Paleo friendly items to parties or social events, and frankly, they’re usually so popular that people ask for the recipes and then the next get together usually has several Paleo dishes. I’ve cooked completely Paleo holiday meals and non-Paleo people had no idea that it was actually Paleo food. Basically, it comes down to your level of desire and determination.

      Also, I have a child, and he is completely Paleo. It works very well. I didn’t ask my family members whether they were OK with what my child eats; my husband and I decided we are eating Paleo, and our family members work with our food parameters. Again, it comes down to your level of desire and determination.

      If you have any other questions, feel free to email me at or leave another comment here. :)

Leave a Reply