The paleo diet is based on the eating habits of our Paleolithic ancestors who lived between 2.6-million and 12,000 years ago. By focusing on healthy whole foods like meat, seafood, nuts, eggs, seeds, fruits and vegetables and avoiding added sugars and processed foods, the paleo diet contributes to weight loss and decreased risk of a variety of health problems. Its followers love it, and so do we; many of our high-performance natural supplements are paleo-friendly, and it’s where we got our name.
SUNY-New Paltz historian Hamilton Stapell has estimated that between one and three million Americans adhere to the paleo diet, a number which certainly includes full family units. But is ‘living paleo’ safe for children? Most studies on the effects of the diet have focused on adult results – in this article, we’ll provide information to help you decide whether paleo is right for your family.
Children’s bodies are developing, which means they have vastly different nutritional requirements than adults. Children need plenty of fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to promote healthy brain growth, and lots of calcium to support bone development. They also need enough complex carbs to keep them moving throughout their busy, frenetic days.
Because the paleo diet eliminates certain grains and legumes, some health experts believe its nutritional value to children is limited.
“Many of the foods eliminated on a paleo diet provide nutrients children need, including carbohydrates, which are the body’s primary energy source; calcium, which is important for bone growth and development; folate, needed for cell growth and development and found in whole grains; and fiber, which is important for bowel regularity, which can be an issue for many children,” culinary nutrition expert Jessica Levinson told EatingWell.
While Levinson’s concerns may apply to low-carb, high-fat paleo diets, the broad spectrum of paleo-friendly foods offers ample opportunity for the consumption of carbs and nutrients: leafy green vegetables like kale are packed with fiber and calcium; potatoes, sweet potatoes, and plantains are brimming with useful carbs; and bone-in fish are another excellent source of calcium. A paleo diet anchored by fresh fruit and vegetables and supplemented by animal protein and healthy fats delivers all the nutritional value a child could need. You can also add paleo-compatible, high-performance natural supplements to your diet.
Though adults and children have different nutritional requirements, children are increasingly facing health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, and elevated blood pressure that were once unique to adults. Unhealthy diets are a primary cause of these illnesses: in the United States, the average child consumes three times more sugar than the recommended daily limit and exceeds the daily recommended sodium intake by about 1,000 mg. By introducing a carb-rich paleo diet that restricts added sugar and processed foods, parents can reverse these trends without sacrificing kids’ access to vital nutrients.
“There’s no risk in general from restricted diets,” Dr. Colin Michie, Chair of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s Nutrition Committee, told The Telegraph in 2015. “We know this from a large number of children with food allergies on prescribed restricted diets, and they do well. Humans are very adaptable.”
Once you’re comfortable with the concept of a child-friendly paleo diet, you’ll have to sell the idea to your family. This can prove challenging, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
Introduce your children to the paleo lifestyle as early as possible and invite them to participate in it fully. Mealtimes should be family affairs – get your kids to assist with food preparation and eat your meals together; children learn by example, and if they see you enjoying your food they’ll be more likely to follow suit.
It’s also important to be flexible. The paleo lifestyle shouldn’t be a punishment and it shouldn’t limit children’s social capacities. They should be free to enjoy cake at friends’ birthday parties and seasonal delicacies during the holidays. Celebrate academic and athletic accomplishments with ice cream or pizza – sugary and processed foods should be seen as treats on special occasions, not dietary staples.
Sticking to a family-sized paleo diet requires planning, preparation, and time, which is always at a premium in households with children. High-performance natural supplements like our paleo-compatible Plant Protein are an excellent source of proteins and amino acids for the family on the go.
At Paleoethics, we aim to support our customers’ health and fitness goals. Our high-performance natural supplements are the perfect complement to vegan and paleo lifestyles – to learn more, feel free to contact us today.