My 9-year-old daughter Amber is gluten-free, casein-free, soy-free, and most of the time, paleo. She is autoimmune to gluten and casein, the rest we avoid for overall health. A lot of folks think that this kind of thing must be hard for a kid, or that kids won’t go along with it. Let’s ask Amber what it’s really like!
What are some of your favorite foods?
I like ham, broccoli, homemade whipped coconut cream with strawberries (or, any berries!), salami, steak, raw ground beef with lacto-fermented kimchi, carrots, chili with organ meat (especially heart), apples, kombucha, fermented sauerkraut, avocados, tuna with homemade mayo on lettuce, sushi…
How do you feel when other kids are eating things that you can’t eat?
Well, as long as I have something that I like, I don’t really care if other kids are eating something different.
Have you ever felt embarrassed or left out because other kids had some food you didn’t?
No. There’s always something good to eat!
(I would have asked her, what did you do about it? But she couldn’t think of a single time she felt this way. I can remember one time that I felt this way on her behalf, at a garden party we’d dropped in on unprepared. There was lots of cake and ice cream and people kept offering it to her, and she kept saying no. She really didn’t much care actually, but I promised her that when we got home, I’d make her something great, because I felt bad about it.
In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have felt so upset! Anyway, all kids feel that way sometimes, regardless of what they eat.)
Have kids ever made fun of you because of what you eat, or don’t eat?
But if somebody did, I’d say, “just because we’re different doesn’t mean that you have to make fun of me”.
Is there anything you wish you could eat, or that you would like to try but can’t?
Well, I always get over that by asking other people how it tastes. Though, sometimes I do want to try it. Bread in particular, maybe milk. Maybe some of those fancy cakes at WholeFoods. Definitely NOT cheese, though. Gross.
You’ve almost never accidentally eaten gluten or casein, but what happens when you slip and eat a bunch of sugar? How does it feel and what do you do to recover and get back on track?
I get a bellyache. It’s kind of good to get the bellyache, because then I know that I really can’t eat that way. I drink some peppermint tea and try to be calm.
We get back on track as a family, and help keep each other honest.
Are there any treats you like that are also good for you, or that fit in with your paleo eating habits?
Yes! Berries with home-made coconut whipped cream, which doesn’t have any sugar at all! Caveman Pumpkin Muffins, which are just pumpkin, almonds, and lots of eggs, with raisins. Caveman Cake! And apples with almond butter, or good pepperoni with almond butter. Bacon dates!
Are there any special treats that are not paleo, but that you like to have for special occasions?
Oh yes! Coconut milk ice cream, dark chocolate, Udi’s bagles with jam…
What do you think when you see kids eating a lot of candy or goldfish crackers or whatever?
I think they’re not going to be healthy. If they’re my friends, I try to talk to them about eating healthier.
Why do you think grown-ups think that kids won’t be able to eat healthy?
Well, most of those parents have children who are addicted to sugar. I was once addicted to sugar, but it wasn’t actually too hard to shrug it off. We just got rid of all of it and didn’t buy anymore, and then there wasn’t any to eat.
What advice would you give to parents who want their kids to eat better, but think that they won’t do it?
I think they should try it. You can try it out today, and see how it goes. I think it could go well!
If your kid complains, tell them not to be a wimp. But I think your kids probably won’t complain as much as you think. You should eat the same foods you want your kids to eat. And you should definitely explain to your kids why it’s so important!
What advice would you give to kids who want to change their eating habits in order to get healthier?
Stop eating sugar, wheat, dairy, and go paleo.
If they think it’s hard, just keep on doing it and don’t be a brat or a wimp or lazy! It’s important to be healthy so that you don’t end up sick all the time, so don’t complain, just do it! The junk that you gave up isn’t really food anyway, so be happy about the delicious things you do get to eat and don’t think about what you can’t eat.
Well, there you have it!
Some of her answers surprised me, especially all the “don’t be a wimp”! But actually, I think that’s her way of talking about self-discipline, and really, we all need more of that! Lessons from our children…