Many people have adopted a Paleo way of eating, either for successful sustained weight loss or just because they feel better on it. The idea is to eat like our Paleolithic ancestors, with lots of protein, no processed foods and a limited amount of grains like wheat. A well-thought-out Paleo diet is not restrictive and advocates a wide range of foods, including: fish; lean, fatty, but unprocessed meats; non-starchy vegetables; starchy plants like potatoes and sweet potatoes; nuts and seeds (including quinoa: a seed which cooks like grain). Where tolerated, Paleo followers often add full-fat dairy and dark chocolate back into their diets, but is this a good diet for our children?
Children have high nutritional needs but small stomachs, so food should be nourishing. The British average diet focuses on energy-dense, carbohydrate-based foods at the expense of proteins, good fats, micro and phytonutrients. Whilst children can be very active and have high energy needs for growth, processed carbohydrates such as cereals, pasta and bread, which typically bulk up a child’s diet, are not necessarily the best sources of energy.
If you want to consider a Paleo diet for your child there are plenty of other carbohydrate options in nature including sweet potatoes, root vegetables like squash, potatoes, bananas and other fruits. If you are concerned about meeting your child’s energy demands occasional gluten-free grains like wholegrain rice, buckwheat or gluten-free oats can be a good compromise to the Paleo way.
Ensuring our children get enough healthy fats is also important. Low fat is no longer considered a healthy recommendation and evidence is mounting that cholesterol is beneficial to our health. Our brains are made up of fats and our children especially need good fats from foods such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, coconut milk, yoghurt, kefir, coconut oil, olive oil and avocados.
Lean poultry, fish and eggs are good protein sources along with occasional grass-fed meat. Encourage them to eat greens, dairy (if you ‘do’) dairy) and organ meat. Get plenty of sunshine for vitamin D.
By incorporating wholefoods we leave little space for processed junk!
Given that chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease don’t happen overnight, limiting junk and fostering a love of Paleo tastes early, is likely to be a good thing.