Paleo baby babies SAD diet nutrition pregnancy pregnant-min

Paleo Babies v SAD Babies

I went to a first birthday party at the weekend, which was, as you might imagine, crowded with babies, toddlers and small children.  It was actually quite hard to work out which baby went with which grown-up – I’m sure lots of the other guests were probably thinking some belonged to me too!

I've not been around children much since I found Paleo, but knew the whole junk food thing was likely to be an issue with small children.  However, what I saw, was very different to what I was expecting.  And sadly, not in a good way.

I expected to see babies picking food up from the floor and putting it in their mouth.  I expected to see toddlers demanding brightly coloured and attractively presented party food.  I expected to see some children being given junk food and some children being given real food.

What I saw was far more upsetting.

The infants were interested in gaining possession of the squeaky giraffe.  Opening the door.  Closing the door.  Opening the door.  Closing the door.  Sliding on the wooden floor.  My car keys.  Trying to reach the toy at the very bottom of the toy box.  They were not interested in the party food.  A few of the babies were interested in the shiny colourful chip packets, but not the contents.

The-Hand-That-Feeds-paleo babies SAD baby

The parents however, continually gave the small children chips and biscuits and sweets.  The children didn't ask – the parents just gave.  The parents genuinely seemed to think they were being kind, giving the children something nice at a party.  When given this food the children stopped their exploring, ate the food – clearly enjoying it (it’s designed to taste good after all) – and either resumed their playing, or indicated they wanted more.  Hardly surprising once they’d been given that first taste.

What I was most shocked about was seeing parents giving party “food” to other people’s small children.  In fact, this seemed to happen before they gave the food to their own child.  It seemed to be done as an act of good manners, much like opening the door for someone instead of going through it yourself, first.  I didn't once see a parent ask another parent if it would be ok to offer the toddler some (soy!) chips.  I didn't see any parents looking concerned that someone else was giving their child party “food” either.

I would have loved to have seen the blood sugar levels of these babies throughout the party.  Lots of the babies started to get tired and irritable towards the end of the party, which seemed expected and normal by the parents.  I can’t help wondering how much of this was “normal” and how much was impacted by the huge (especially relative to their small size) sugar rush they’d been fed.  Do strict Paleo-fed babies get over-tired as regularly, I wonder?

One mother decided her baby was teething and needed to chew on a breadstick to help, offering breadsticks to any other babies who might have the same complaint.  I'm quite sure our ancestors got through cutting teeth without the need for bread; wouldn't bones be something more effective to chew on in this situation?  Surely giving a teething baby bread, just creates other problems?

I realise when you have children you can’t control what other parents do.  But I thought you’d be in complete control of what your own child ate.  Are you supposed to make a speech at the start of a party, expressly forbidding any well-meaning friends from feeding your child?  Should you hand out cards to everyone with these rules?  Does someone sell baby-grows with the slogan “Don't Feed Me!  I'm Paleo”?

Paleo baby babies SAD diet nutrition pregnancy pregnant-min

I imagine it’s could be hard to explain to other parents why you don’t want your child to eat grains, sugars, dairy and processed foods.  Particularly when talking to parent who feeds their child a CW “healthy” diet of organic whole grains and low fat foods.  I’d hate to be perceived to be criticising other parents – though I guess this is exactly what I am doing in this post!  Perhaps I would take the cowardly way out and pretend my child had severe allergies to gluten and dairy.  People often seem to be a lot more sympathetic about allergies than they are about choosing to omit certain “food” groups.

I think my main issue is that at such a young age children are completely dependent on their parents for their nutritional requirements.  It’s also, I’d imagine, the most crucial stage in their development.  I just wish more parents would understand that their baby has no requirement for grains or processed foods.  They've never had them before – they don’t know what they taste like – they certainly don’t crave chips!  Once a child is old enough to think logically for themselves I think a degree of responsibility can pass over to them for their nutrition.  But this certainly doesn't happen before they can run – or even walk!

I can’t remember if it was Sarah Fragoso or Chrissy Gower speaking at the Ancestral Health Symposium last year about their children and eating Paleo.  One of the was describing how her child had been strictly Paleo since birth and the lady at the check-out had commented on her surprise that the child was not asking for candy.  She replied that her child didn't know what it was, having never had it before.  This really got me thinking, if you don’t know what something is, you won’t miss it – or need it.  I think there is an argument to let older children try SAD food, but when the child is so young they can’t even speak or walk, I absolutely think these foods should be strictly absent from their diet.

Anyway, I don’t have children.  What would I know?  Perhaps when I do I’ll realise how completely impractical and ridiculous my nutrition ideas are and start buying bulk packs of bread sticks and cereal with pictures of cartoon characters on the box.  I kind of doubt it though.

I’d love to hear your comments on this.  If you have small children, how do you deal with other parents?  Is it common for other well meaning adults to feed your child?

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22 replies
  1. Megan B
    Megan B says:

    Thanks for taking up the subject. I am paleo now after being diagnosed with dairy and wheat allergies. Since then my husband and I have made the decision that when we have kids they will eat non-processed dairy free, gluten free food and maintain a paleo lifestyle. Its not easy and I have had to be on a uphill battle. My family doesn’t understand and will tell me something is dairy free, watch me eat it, and then only admit that there was butter in it after I have gotten sick. While my allergist and doctors can’t explain why I developed these allergies, I feel that it was the constant exposure of these foods in my life over the past 25+ years which is why my children will eat what I give them until they are of an age to choose for themselves. I know this will be a problem with family and friends and I will just have to watch my children like a hawk to make sure I am giving them the best start possible and hopefully avoid all nasty food allergies as I have.

    • PaleoGirl
      PaleoGirl says:

      That’s so frustrating Megan, to be told something is fine for you to eat, when in reality it just isn’t! But it’s good you know what causes the problems – I guess you’ll just have to start taking your own food to family events?

      I think you’re right – you would need to watch your children like a hawk – hard work, I’m sure, but so worth it.

  2. Wen
    Wen says:

    Great article!
    The thought of people feeding kids other than their own without first asking the parent/s is scary. Maybe the parents handing out the food to kids were following some deep seated drive to share the communal food.
    When my girls were small I wasn’t Paleo but definitely followed limited processed foods, little sweets, no desserts, etc. Now both are adult and one, like me follows a more Paleo style way of living. It just makes perfect sense.

    • PaleoGirl
      PaleoGirl says:

      Thanks Wen! That’s a really good point, I hadn’t thought about the communal food aspect, but that makes a lot of sense.

      It really is a scary thought to have people feeding other people’s babies! That’s great one of your children eats a more natural diet – you really can’t argue against it, can you?

  3. PrimalGirl
    PrimalGirl says:

    This post really resonated with me. I have three year old twin Paleo boys and the answer to your questions are:
    1. We can’t take them to parties. They are SO interested in the food that we spend the entire time “hovering” to make sure they don’t eat any. It’s exhausting. There is crap food EVERYWHERE. Nothing is safe, you would think these parents would put out some [expletive deleted] fruit. We figured we will wait until they are five or so and have some (ha) self-control, or at least we can explain to them that the food will make them sick. I don’t think they’re missing anything yet. The parties for kids over here are gluten-filled Red 40 bombs full of fat, apathetic parents who look at us like we’re freaks and don’t talk to us anyway.
    2. I wouldn’t say feigning an allergy is the “cowardly” way. For me, it is the practical way. I don’t always have the time, or even WANT, to delve into the whole “Gluten is bad, bacon is rad,” mantra. It’s really time consuming and pointless when the person you’re talking to thinks you’re a nutter. I’ve stopped trying to change the world at parties and the super market and have stuck to my blog. If someone is interested, I give them my blog address. Besides, my kids DO have an allergy to wheat, dairy and nightshades. I am allergic to wheat. My husband can’t eat wheat or beans. We’re a nutritional mess from a SAD POV.
    3. We have to pack our children’s breakfast, drinks, lunch and snacks for the daycare that they attend. The staff there is all on high alert, but ONLY because we got official documentation from our doctor concerning the allergies. When we mentioned we ate a Paleo diet, they told us we weren’t even allowed to bring in our own food unless it was a special needs case confirmed by a doctor. After all, their USDA approved diet of pretzels, cupcakes, crackers, pasta and bread contains all the nutrients growing children need, right? I hate to tell you this, but children in school over here eat like those kids at your party EVERY DAY. My kids ate this diet for TWO weeks. That was as long as we could take. They were broken out in eczema, with snotty noses and coughs and the brattiest, biting-hitting-throwing, tantrum-throwingest little shits (who refused to nap, but crashed out instead) I’ve ever seen within TWO DAYS. Complete behavior change. Once they were back on a Paleo diet, they mellowed back out to the loving, gentle children I had given birth to. Two days. That’s all it took for a change to occur.
    4. When the school has a special event, I make Primal-friendly cupcakes or treats and bring them in so my kids don’t feel deprived. I’ve tried that at birthday parties but there is just too much other crap around and no other parents seem to care.

    • PaleoGirl
      PaleoGirl says:

      Thanks PrimalGirl!

      I’d feared that was the answer – that avoiding parties was the best option with very young children. Perhaps when it’s your children’s turn to take their children to parties things will have changed?! Lets hope so.

      I’m glad to hear you tell people you have an allergy too – agreed sometimes it’s just not worth explaining what you do and why.

      Thank goodness you got official documentation from your doctor! The thought that some poor parents might not be able to get such documentation is a scary one.

      That’s a good idea making your own food for school events – I bet the other children always want some!

  4. Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe
    Jenna Carodiskey-Wiebe says:

    I discovered Paleo last year,when my youngest was 8, and since my husband is very much not on board they’re still eating grains and dairy. (But, they have only ever had real food, so no Cap’n Crunch!) So I can’t speak to that. BUT: Sunday when I went to pick up my now 9 year old from Sunday school, they were making buildings out of (cheap) graham crackers, marshmallow fluff and Twizzlers. I verbally asked and then wrote a note to his teachers asking that he NOT be fed HFCS or food dyes. (Not surprisingly, he was sick later).

    • PaleoGirl
      PaleoGirl says:

      Hi Jenna – oh no! You must have been horrified to walk in to find that! I hope they stick to your requests from now on…

  5. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I’m a primal mama of 3 kids, ranging from 21 months to 8 years. While i’ve only been primal for under 2 years, we have been dealing with food allergies since my eldest was only 1 1/2. Since he has been verbal, he has been advocating for his diet, even going as far as to tell a babysitter (at 2 1/2) that he couldn’t have a particular bread because it had milk in it (she then read the ingredients and discovered he was right). So if the kids are verbal and believe in complying, then it’s not quite as difficult. If you’re making kids eat a certain way despite their wishes, a healthy diet can be quite difficult in social situations due to the ubiquity of quasi-foods.
    It’s probably a bit easier for me because most of my friends and relatives have their own special diets, or at least sympathetic enough to ask my permission about what they eat. Still, it’s absolutely amazing how common it is for “friendly” strangers to offer the kids random crap, ranging from suckers, tootsie rolls, and “healthy” animal crackers.

    My younger two are in a childcare center for 9 hours/week which overlap the lunch hour, and the center has a rule that you cannot bring food for your children unless you have a doctor’s note. I’d push the issue, but I can imagine how it will play out as my wishes vs. my kids and the staff wishes, so i’m just rolling with it.

    My oldest packs a lunch for himself everyday and brings it to school. Sometimes he complains because I “only” let him bring one treat (usually a homemade GF baked good, or a piece of organic candy) whereas most of his friends get several treats in their lunch bags. Eventually he’s going to have to make his own choices about these things, hopefully he won’t make poor choices for too long.

    • PaleoGirl
      PaleoGirl says:

      I find it incredible Rachel, that you can’t specify what you want your own child to eat in daycare! I wonder if your doctor (or a Paleo friendly doctor) would be prepared to write you such a note?

      That’s fantastic your 2 1/2 year old already seems to be taking responsibility for his diet – long may that continue!

  6. Rowena
    Rowena says:

    Hi there,
    Interesting point that the kids weren’t interested in the food until it was ‘offered’ Looks like the 334th generation still needs to be inculcated into eating that stuff.
    I have to admit that I am a former offender though. I remember being confronted by a vegetarian parent about some food I was offering his child at a party (luckily it wasn’t meat!) and have to confess I did think he was a weirdo – my bad entirely! I did go home and think about it and apologised to him the next day. But, it just seemed so natural at the time to make sure all the kids were getting enough to eat, and felt included.
    I guess its a clash of paradigms we are banging up against – Food = social activity V Food = health. Sadly paradigms don’t facilitate communication, so explaining things makes little difference!

  7. jillm
    jillm says:

    Hello. My grandson had two birthday parties. One for his little friends and the next day another for his relatives. When I was young we had a party once every five years.

  8. Christie
    Christie says:

    Hi, I only recently discovered your website, so this is a bit late but… great post! I have a 2-year-old son, and I’m trying to keep him on a Primal diet, but it’s SO HARD!!

    I work part time, and the babysitting duties are shared between my mum, my mother-in-law and one day a week in daycare. My mum is pretty good at trying to follow my wishes (although sometimes she seems to randomly “forget” that there is pasta in lasagne etc), but my mother-in-law thinks it’s all hogwash. At the moment I’m just biting my tongue when she tells me she fed him Weet-bix for breakfast and jam sandwiches for lunch… no wonder he doesn’t nap at her place! Thankfully she usually only has him once a fortnight, so hopefully it won’t do too much damage. When it comes to daycare, I make sure he eats a proper breakfast before he goes, then just hope for the best. I think lunch is usually some sort of cooked meat dish with rice or pasta, and afternoon tea can be anything from fruit to cake or biscuits. Not great, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to lie and tell them he has an allergy… and it’s probably a bit late now. Sigh. I wish I knew how to handle these things better.

    As for parties – I usually allow my son to eat a little bit of the “treat foods” if he asks for them, but I definitely don’t offer them. I haven’t noticed others doing so. Most of the mums I know are pretty good about asking before offering food – I guess because so many kids have allergies these days.

    Yesterday at mums’ group some of the toddlers were asking for biscuits, so the hosting mum handed them out. She did ask me if it was ok, but my son looked keen and I didn’t have the heart to say no when all the kids were having them. So I said “just one”. I have to say I was so proud when he inspected the biscuit, licked it, decided it wasn’t food, handed it to me, and reached for the watermelon instead 😀

  9. PaleoGirl
    PaleoGirl says:

    That must be so frustrating Christie – but I can imagine how pleased you were when your son rejected the biscuit!

  10. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Most of our friends are aware of dietary needs. We have been gluten and dairy free for four years before switching to paleo. At any party we attend the host will ask what food they could prepare for them or I let them know I will be bringing some treats that are acceptable so they don’t have to try and incorporate more into their busy schedule. My children are often offered food from people who are not aware but know to check with me first. Usually when we attend a party when the food comes out I ensure that my children know which foods they can eat. This is usually only a problem when we are not prepared or spontaneously get invited somewhere. Just like packing a nappy bag to always have in the car we try to have a snack bag in case we are caught out.

  11. Sona
    Sona says:

    Great article! I have an 8 year old and my family have been paleo for a little over a year now. The first few months were difficult, esp with parties and shared lunches at school and playdates. Our approach was: give him a short pep talk before the event and then let him make his own choices at the party or playdate (in essence relying on the old 80:20 rule). Denial just seemed harsh and we didn’t his food choice to be too prescriptive. At first we didn’t think he was taking much notice of this advice but just in the last few months, he’s stayed away from chips, sweets and cakes – and just have a slice of pizza/fried chicken and some chocolate instead. Not perfect but better than nothing. We discuss paleo food options at mealtimes so he knows what’s on and what’s off — and more importantly, why. The best thing that’s happened: his best friend (and their parents) are heading for a paleo lifestyle too.

  12. Shelley
    Shelley says:

    I totally agree it is completely over the top. We started paleo when our oldest boy was diagnosed with a rare epilepsy disorder. Despite now being seizure free we continue because it makes sense. Our middle boy is dairy intolerant also. When we attend family events it is always commented on that we are too fussy and a bit of crap won’t hurt them. It never ceases to amaze me how negligent people are about their own health.

  13. Rebecca
    Rebecca says:

    A tough stand for someone who doesn’t have a child. I can say this. Me and my son have been paleo since he was 18mths. We were very strict. I set rules and didn’t allow him to eat the birthday food, we took our own. You know what that got us….. fewer and fewer birthday invites. Fewer playdates and sleepovers. Less invitations to dinner. So yes we ate paleo, but we lost the ever important social connection. It was too stressful for other people to have us around with all our food rules.
    So now, he can eat whatever at birthdays and at friends houses. And you know, when he does he grabs just a wee serve of the junk food and often leaves most of it on the plate.


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