Find Out If the Paleo Diet Is Right For Your Kids
The exclusions can be hard to handle, especially for kids. But the good news is, paleo can grow on kids. One of the best ways to encourage kids to buy into any diet is to get them in the kitchen cooking with you. Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry, the wife and husband duo who call themselves the Paleo Parents, have created a cookbook to help families go paleo together, Eat Like a Dinosaur: Recipe & Guidebook for Gluten-free Kids. We asked Stacy and Mathew about their own family’s experience going paleo, how they worked with their children to accept the diet, and how their book helps families in transition.
BOYT: What kinds of issues was your family having before you went paleo? In what ways has the paleo lifestyle affected your family?
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry: First of all, before we began changing our eating habits, together we weighed 560 pounds. Now, we weight less than 360. While this was the most obvious change, it wasn’t the most important one to us. Suddenly, we went from being listless couch potatoes battling depression to jumping off the couch and going out to play with the kids.
For the boys, Cole had serious self-control issues that nearly got him expelled from preschool. He also had asthma that required a daily inhaler. Finian was showing signs of ADHD. Both of these issues turned completely around and now Cole gets good behavior awards and Finian will sit and listen to stories for hours. Both boys also had mysterious rashes and skin reactions that disappeared..
BOYT: Can you tell us a little about Eat Like a Dinosaur? Why did you decide to write it?
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry: After we converted our family, all our old cookbooks could not be used anymore. The boys loved to cook with us, though, so we decided the only way we were going to get our kids a paleo kids’ cookbook was to write one ourselves.
We wrote the book to be used by parents and kids alike as a tool for converting to a real, whole food diet. The first chapter covers the how-to for parents. The rest of the book is aimed at kids. We start with a picture story from the perspective of our oldest son, Cole. Then all the recipes are aimed for children. We mark every recipe with steps that children can assist with. We focused on foods that kids would enjoy but might be missing. We also include projects that we hope can be fun to do together as a family.
BOYT: How has the paleo lifestyle affected your three young sons?
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry: Our older children seemed to be on the same bad health path as us. Both were heading off in the obese end of the BMI chart and experienced several minor health issues. All of that is resolved now!
Meanwhile, the paleo diet has made Wesley the happiest baby you’ve ever seen. He’s always slept through the night, never had colic, never even had a diaper rash! We attribute much of this to the fact that he’s never been exposed to any of the gut irritants that most children are. Whether it’s through formula or breast milk, infants are ingesting dairy, soy and grain products every time they eat in most cases. Just think about the sleep parents could gain! Just think of the hair they could keep themselves from tearing out!
There were some issues in the beginning with our kids, particularly Cole, the eldest. What kid, particularly one that is just starting elementary school, wants to feel different or unable to participate? We told him to give our way a try for two weeks and to see if he felt better. He was immediately able to notice a difference and decided he would trust us with this!
BOYT: There seems to be this general belief that getting kids to eat paleo is next to impossible. Why is that?
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry: When you start this journey, you’re giving up two things, really. First, you’re asking your children to give up the bluntly tasty foods that are filled with sugar, salt, flavor chemicals in favor of foods that, while healthy, they are not conditioned to eating. It is certainly difficult to replace potato chips with Brussels sprouts! Some parents, especially ones with picky eaters, can’t imagine their kids making that trade.
The other thing lost is convenience. I can’t buy the goldfish crackers as a snack for my kids or the cookies or juice boxes or any of the other foods of convenience that so many children eat. When you make most of your food in your own kitchen, there are very few quick fixes. But I can’t in good conscience allow my children to eat a bag of crackers or fruit snacks when I know that I can do better for them. It is unfortunate that today’s parent is so harried and busy that giving up the convenience of these easy foods seems so hard.
BOYT: What was the hardest part of going paleo for your kids?
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry: I completely understand why it’s hard for parents to imagine changing their kids’ diets because Cole had his own set of issues. He wanted to buy lunch at school at first because all his friends were. He would often beg for pizza (one of the most anti-paleo foods out there, really). He wanted bread for sandwiches and the same fruit snacks and yogurt and juice boxes his friends had. Each of these was it’s own unique issue. We were willing to ease his transition. He got rice bread sandwiches, homemade fruit leathers, and coconut milk yogurt to try to make his lunch look like his friends. These days, he’s gotten so used to the way we eat that he asked for hard boiled eggs with a salad for lunch today!
BOYT: What are your kids’ absolutely favorite paleo dishes? Can you share one of the recipes with us?
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry: The kids love to eat our meatloaf cupcakes or our ground meat skewers (called Rat on a Stick in the book!) or our Pumpkin Puck muffins. Cole loves our Raspberry Dressing on his salads and Finian loves to put Mock-a-Mole on his 50/50 Bacon Burgers. Wesley will eat anything!
Here are a couple recipes we love from our site:
BOYT:What advice or encouragement would you like to give parents who are thinking about going paleo or have just embarked on the change?
Stacy Toth and Mathew McCarry: The beginning may be tough. Your children have eaten one way for all of their lives and will likely resist when you ask them to change for reasons they cannot understand. But, as we are on the other side of that change, we can tell you it will be worth it! We’ve never seen our children as happy, as healthy, and as active as they are right now. When your children come home beaming and proud of themselves as their school work, activity, and well being are all improved, you’ll know you did the right thing for them!
About Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry
Stacy Toth and Matthew McCarry used to be just like so many typical Americans: out of shape, overweight, suffering from numerous health issues from depression to allergies to digestive problems to simply skin blemishes. Their young sons, too, had their own issues, including ADHD and behavior problems, asthma, excema, and steadily increasing weight. After the birth of their third son, they decided to do something about it.
What they decided to do was change the foods they were eating to real, whole foods and toss out all the boxed and frozen, processed foods from their house and to embark on a new nutrition plan. Soon, they found themselves 200 pounds lighter with boundless energy, and all the tiny health problems that most people simply tolerate resolved. Their children equally experienced tremendous health improvements.