11 Clever Ways to Help Your Family Go Paleo


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Are you transitioning your family to paleo? Trying to turn them into a paleo family? Are they coming along, or kicking and screaming?

I have two kids and one husband who sat at the same dinner table as me for fifteen months as non-paleos before I could say we were a paleo family.

I thought and thought about how to get them to eat the way I did. I had one sugar-addict boy, a wheat-and-dairy-addict boy and  this-is-the-way-I-like-it-I-don’t-need-to-change boy.

Over time, I got them there by brainstorming, negotiating, rule-setting and flexibility. And I learned there’s a lot of psychology that goes into this process. And many practical skills. Having the right recipes is just the start.

Here are 11 of my tips for having successful paleo mealtimes with your non-paleo family.

1. Take it slowly. Don’t rush. Be a tortoise, not a hare. You will create enormous resistance if you rush this too quickly so slow down, relax. It is important not to overwhelm yourself or your family. Your speed of transition should vary dependent upon the urgency of the threat non-paleo food presents. If you have a spouse whose life is threatened by his eating habits, just like you’d sprint from a tiger, you need to move quickly. Your spouse is more likely motivated to change too. But if there is nothing pressing, go slower. That way, you’ll increase your chances of success.

2. Choose one thing. Decide on one small change and do that. I decided to drop the starch with our evening meal. No-one noticed for a while. Whatever it is, change just that, nothing else. Get that down and move to the next step.

3. Transition to fruit for dessert. My family used to eat dessert every night. We did the eat-all-your-dinner-then-you-can-have-dessert thing with our kids. We always had something sweet to offer. It was expected. But now we rarely have desserts. To bridge the gap, I offered fruit a couple of nights a week. It helped that they already ate fruit at other times of day. There was some objection but nothing terrible. And gradually, I increased the fruit desserts and decreased the other puddings. Then I told them one night, there was no dessert. They were a little surprised but they got over it. We played a board game instead. And, again slowly, I increased the number of nights we had no dessert. And eventually, they just stopped asking. The whole process probably took 3 months. Your speed may vary depending on your circumstances.

4. Paleo-ize one meal at a time. If you’re working on making dinner paleo, keep lunch and breakfast the same. Even if they are sandwiches and sugary breakfast cereals. We need routine, the familiar to hold onto, especially when we are transitioning. It creates security. It’s why we need to put a few things about us immediately when we move house. Or have our bedtime rituals to prepare us for sleep. It took me a year to tackle school lunches and it did feel weird making sandwiches while I was reviewing paleo recipes for dinner but I kept the end goal in mind – to paleo-ize our whole lives over time.

5. Collect a dozen family favorite paleo menus. If you think about it, most families have a few favorite meals they all enjoy and they rotate them. Make your list and post it on your fridge. Take the thinking (which is the hard part) out of the daily grind.

6. Plan ahead. Use meal planners, shopping lists, prepare evening meals in the morning. Don’t wait until 5pm to decide what’s for dinner. Saving Dinner even has a paleo menu mailer and shopping list offering if you can’t do it yourself.

7. Buy several thermos. I’ve found these to be lifesaver to avoid the pull of sandwiches. Fill them with leftovers, meatballs, sausage. Easy, quick, portable. Make sure your kids can open them easily.

8. Make a meal you can all eat with some variations. Don’t cook 2 meals. You’ll get tired, frustrated and build walls between the paleo and non-paleo sections of the family. And remember, you are not a servant to your family. Or a short order cook. Granted, your family won’t be eating pizza anytime soon but tell them they can make it themselves or eat it outside the home if it’s that important. In the beginning, let them eat chicken casserole with a puff pastry biscuit. You just eat the casserole. Gradually as you work through the transition, drop the biscuit. Progress not perfection.

9. Be mindful of every grocery purchase you make. If you are still eating breakfast cereal, buy less sugary ones. If you are still eating bread, buy wholemeal or one made with no additives. Buy a healthier yoghurt. And eliminate the purchases you can that aren’t paleo. Keep moving in the right direction.

10. Keep an eye out for major resistance. If you hit a wall with your family, step it back a notch. My family refused for a long time to accept hamburgers without buns. They’d go out and buy them just in time for dinner. My husband would drive the kids to the store and they’d come back not only with buns but ones I would consider the worst kind – the ones whose ingredient list I didn’t care to look at. I let that go for quite a while. It wasn’t what I wanted but I felt I wanted to win the war not the battle, so I focused elsewhere and kept serving up hamburgers without buns. Eventually as paleo became more established in our house, they became less in thrall to wheat and stopped going to the store for buns. They happily eat burgers without them now.

11. Bet money on your family’s health. Six years ago, I made the switch to shopping at Wholefoods. I knew it was supposed to be expensive and money was tight at the time but I felt it was more important to get high fructose corn syrup, additives and other chemicals out of our diet and Wholefoods offered me the best chance of that. I felt that even if we spent more on groceries, we’d pay less in the long run on medical and therapist bills. The interesting thing is that I spent exactly the same money at Wholefoods for a weekly shop as I did at Safeway. For two reasons – I shopped much more carefully, planning meals and buying only what I needed. And I wasn’t stocking my shelves unnecessarily with two-, three- and four-fer deals which are almost never paleo foods. These kinds of deals are rarely found in Wholefoods.  I realize that not everyone can do this but I do urge you to spend as much as you can afford on your food. Save elsewhere if you can. Give food a high priority in your budget and buy the highest quality that you can afford.

Have you transitioned your family to paleo? Do you have any tips? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by 

Alison Golden writes on the topic of paleo over at Paleo/NonPaleo. She aims to share ideas, inspire and motivate readers by teaching them how to live paleo in a non-paleo world. She is also the author of the bestselling book, The Modern, No-Nonsense Guide to Paleo, a unique tool that gives the reader hundreds of strategies to navigate the learning process to successful paleo living.

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