My Philosophy on Food…and why 100% Paleo isn’t for us

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I think I’ve mentioned before I grew up on the Standard American Diet (SAD). I ate sugar cereal for breakfast, junk food at lunch, and dessert every night. When I was in my teens, I skipped meals and just ate candy or donuts or cookies. Don’t get me wrong, my dad cooked a homemade dinner nearly every night, but being that my taste buds had made themselves comfy with the flavors of processed food, I rarely liked the delicious Indian food he set before me.

Fast forward about 30 years, until right before Superman’s diagnosis with Celiac disease. We had 5 kids and I thought I was doing a great job by giving them “healthy” cereals for breakfast, sandwiches at lunch, and lots of homemade baked goodies. I always bought “whole grain” and thought that by buying the regular goldfish crackers instead of those colored ones, I was one up on the rest of the world. Then, after Superman’s diagnosis and realization that going gluten-free for him wasn’t sufficient, I read “The Paleo Solution” by Robb Wolf. I decided we’d give it a go as a family, and after the first month, couldn’t believe the health improvements I saw in myself, as well as our kids. That was reason enough to continue with a pretty strict Paleo diet for about a year.

That was the healthiest year of our lives. As I’ve said before, our son’s allergies, asthma, and eczema disappeared. My joint pain was gone. Superman was actually starting to stabilize, and it was our first year not getting a flu shot, and we didn’t get sick. I think the kids maybe had one cold that winter, and it was just runny noses. It was amazing.

The second year was more about discovering what could work long term for our family. Obviously, we go to family functions, and there’s no one else on either side of our family who eats like we do. The kids go to birthday parties. We go to restaurants sometimes, and other times, we just. want. some. ice cream!

I slowly began to give the kids more responsibility in choosing their foods outside of our house. If we go to a family function, I usually tell them to pick what they want to eat. If we go to a restaurant, I point out to them what choices would be the best, but let them ultimately pick. I don’t want the kids to see me as a food nazi…I want them to make choices and then to realize that those choices will make a difference in how they feel. Plus, this way I don’t feel like a nagging mom all the time telling them “you can’t have that” or “sorry, honey, that’s not Paleo.” Yes, there were and are times where I make choices for them…they are children, after all. But at some point they will be grown up and living on their own, and will need to make educated choices for themselves, and I want them to be ready for that. It has been such a blessing to see our kids learn how to make healthy choices and to know why they are making that choice!

Initially, I would feel guilty if I veered from the “Paleo” guidelines, thinking I was doing something awful to my insides (or allowing the kids to harm themselves by ingesting grains). Then I realized there is no one diet that is perfect for everyone. There is no perfection. I do feel strongly about wheat, however, and we never (well, almost never) have it in our house. Every once in awhile the kids and I will indulge in a “real” pizza since there is just nothing like it, but wheat to me is something to be avoided. Mostly because it’s just not what it used to be. 

So, there you have it. I don’t like to label myself “Paleo” because I’m really not…I eat lots of absolutely delicious baked goods, and a true “Paleo” diet doesn’t consist of much of that. But I will say we eat mostly grain-free, with some indulgences now and then. Heck, a good batch of popcorn (organic, non-GMO of course!) is one of my all-time favorite treats. And that’s perfect for us. No guilt. No shame. And I don’t like to say I’m “Paleo” because if I do, any time I veer off the “path,” it is considered a failure. I just like to eat good, healthy, clean food as often as possible.

 

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Comments

  1. Lori Royalty says

    Thank you for this. I have been going through the same struggle for my hubby and I. Just this week, I came to the same realization – I need to cut myself some slack. It’s stressing me out trying to get it ALL perfect while still being cranky because I want REAL pancakes once in awhile.

    Glad I’m not the only one finding some peace with dropping the titles and just eating healthy.

  2. Tara Jungclaus says

    What a great explanation! Thank you for your emphasis on figuring out what would work “long term” for your family. Yup, there’s not one diet that’s right for everybody, but it sounds like you are really in tune with the balance you and your family need in the long run. Good job!!

  3. says

    I have long ago stopped trying to fit into a diet style. I have gone wheat free in the last couple of months and I am feeling wonderful. My hubby and I have lost weight and feel so much more energetic. Slowly I am incorporating this lifestyle into the whole family. No one in my family has Celiac disease or allergies but I have noticed that too much wheat will cause bloating and digestion issues on me and some of my kids. Nothing horrible, just uncomfortable. So yeah, wheat free is wonderful. Once a week we go to a Chinese restaurant and we have ice cream and some wheat coated meats but it’s once a week, so I don’t stress. I also still bake but now wheat free.. I like to use almond flour and I am really enjoying trying new vegan, raw and paleo recipes.

    So yeah, I don’t like to label myself. I try to eat as clean as possible but it’s ok if we go off for a meal once in a while. Like you I don’t want to be a nagging Mom, and I am using this opportunity to teach the kids to make good choices and the reasons behind why we choose to eat the way we do.

    I want to thank you for writing your blog. You have been an inspiration and encouragement to me. :)

  4. says

    After spending last night at the local fair and taking a few bites of my friend’s funnel cake, I needed to read this post! LOL! :-P Seriously, if you’re human and have young children, I think it’s really difficult to go fully Paleo 100%. A treat from time to time is okay I think, especially if I’m making it myself most of the time. Call it whatever label you want. I like your words and your blog name of clean eats. But yeah, a slice of pizza or popcorn (or funnel cake from the fair) once or twice a year – will it kill you? No way. Every day for years, yes of course or you’ll feel like crap. Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts and your great recipes and encouragement for us normal parents who aren’t super strict eaters or cross-fitters. We just want wants best most of the time!
    -Mandy
    Proud mom to two girls and wife to a wonderful husband

  5. Lindy says

    I LOVE this post. And I totally agree. I can’t be 100% Paleo for quite a few reasons, most of which are foods that are Paleo, but I still can’t eat. I really appreciate your honesty, and I’m glad I’m not the only one who felt guilty when I “veered off the path.” I try to eat clean, buy organic, grass-fed, etc. But I’m also on a tight budget. I’m still trying to find what works well for me, and mostly Paleo seems to be working for the moment.

    So glad you have found what works for the Landon family! :)

  6. Muriel says

    This is why you are my favorite source for gluten free recipes because you have the same approach as I. Growing up my parents were so strict about everything we ate that it just ended up becoming a huge issue of control. I always felt differnt and I said that when I had kids I was going to find a balance. You help me to do that and my family (including my kids) love all of your recipes!

    • says

      Muriel, thank you so much! It is so nice to hear encouraging words and to know that I’m not just doing this for nothing! lol I’m so glad you enjoy the recipes. Thanks again!!
      Shanti

  7. Lorraine says

    Great post. We struggle with the same issues. We don’t live in a gated paleo community, so my kids see people eating wheat and they just look at me and go, “Mom don’t they know it’s not good for them?”. I have managed to replace most of their favourites with grain free (we still do dairy) options, but for other kid’s birthdays they are allowed to eat whatever they want.

    They notice the difference in how they feel right away and end up asking for some meat or cheese at some point.

  8. Tina says

    Thanks for this post Shanti. I know I haven’t been in touch lately so wanted to give you an update and that will lead to why this post resonated with me. Since following your blog and thinking on all the information you provided, My family did our first Whole30 in January. It was the best decision I ever made. My daughter was able to get off all her allergy and asthma medicines, all my kids’ behaviors improved and I have since lost 45 pounds! (I also started your cross-fit at home which I’m sure contributed to the weight loss). From that point on, we pretty much followed a strict Paleo diet for a few months. However, there were several areas that we began to “cheat” in. I started making hummus on occasion, periodically purchased Ezekiel sprouted breads/tortillas, added in small amounts of grass-fed cheese/yogurt, steel-cut oats and bought organic popcorn kernels for treats. And each and every time I felt guilty. But at the same time, these small indulgences weren’t seeming to have any sort of negative effects on my family. But if we were going to eat some of these things then what was I going to call my way of eating? It really wasn’t Paleo even if the majority of our meals were typically considered Paleo. Then I read this post from Organic Eater: http://theorganiceater.wordpress.com/2012/09/06/hashtag-envy/
    and loved what she said:

    “…I just so resonated with this “low crap diet” thing! That broadly describes the way I try to live: low crap, real food, mostly organic and/or pesticide free, pastured animal products, traditional, and FOR ME it’s gotta be low sugar and grain because that stuff makes me FEEL like crap! So, I encourage you to find out what makes you feel like crap, and get that out of your life!! If you’re not sure, start with grains, dairy, fast food, processed foods, or sugar. Start eliminating one at a time and see how it goes. Experiment with your own low-crap diet and see what works for you…”

    I realized that I didn’t have to follow any one type of “diet”. I found what worked for us and now use her phrase “we are on a low crap diet”. :-) Then I read your post and it was just one more confirmation that we don’t have to be 100% anything when it comes to what we eat. We eat real, non-processed, low-crap foods majority of the times. Sometimes we cheat. But instead of beating myself up about it, I’m going to smile, enjoy the indulgence for what it is and keep going.

    Thank you for everything Shanti. You have been a catalyst in a huge lifestyle change for my family. Oh, and even though this has nothing to do with nutrition so to speak, you were also an inspiration in our decision to start homeschooling. So far, we LOVE it!

    • says

      Tina, thank you so much for this! Sometimes I wonder why the heck I’m doing what I’m doing, adding stress to my life with a blog, but messages like this give me the boost I need! I’m so glad you are enjoying homeschooling, and WOWEE, congratulations on losing 45 pounds!! That’s incredible!! I need to see an updated pic, now that you’re not on Facebook!! Thank you so much for checking in…I’ve wondered how you were doing, and am so glad to hear you are doing well!!

  9. says

    A great post, thank you. And we operate in a similar way, in that wheat is off limits 99% of the time (and we do have a place that makes a great, gluten-free pizza), but organic popcorn with butter is something we feel fine about eating, as is organic, cultured dairy. Everyone is different, and it is about finding out what works for you.

  10. says

    Thanks for reporting this on Twitter! I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule (sometimes it’s more like 70/30 but you get the picture) we are all human and need to do what’s best for us and our family. I think if you are sticking to a healthy diet 80% of the time, you are doing good!

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