If You Think Kids Can’t Make Big Diet Changes, Think Again!

A comment was posted this morning on an article I wrote back in April, Persuading Kids to Go Primal. The commenter’s experience with implementing a drastically different diet in her home is invaluable so I just had to make it more visible!

Here’s what Susan had to say:

Hi Danielle ~ I’m obviously not Peggy and here’s my other disclaimer: I’m not completely Primal (yet, getting there in baby steps though!). But I have had experience in dealing with a drastic change in my kid’s diets.

When they were about the same age as yours we found out they have celiac and are also intolerant of casein (milk protein). What a big shift that was for us — almost everything, except the fresh fruits & veggies, had to go. This included almost ALL of their favorites. At the time they loved pasta, bread, milk, and cheese — a very limited, carb-heavy diet (which I’ve since heard repeated by dozens of other parents about their kids. It’s like a little warning bell goes off in my head when I hear of kids that want to eat these foods almost exclusively).

It was a challenge but their health was at stake so we decided to go for it 100%. We took a weekend and completely cleaned out the pantry & fridge, removing all the offending foods. We didn’t keep any gluten or milk products in the house those first few weeks — we ate the same diet they did (and should have stuck with it then, too, but we didn’t know what we know now). So, just like that, one night they went to bed on a dinner of grilled cheese sandwiches, chicken noodle soup, and milk… and the next morning they were given a gluten and dairy free breakfast.

I’m not going to sugar coat it — the doing part was easy, just remove the bad foods and cook healthier meals… but the emotional part was hard. They pitched fits and we saw perhaps some of the worst behaviors, including some really spectacular tantrums, that we’d ever (and still have ever) seen from our kids. They cried, whined, begged, stomped, pouted, and actually threw sippy cups and plates of food because we refused to give in. I can honestly say it was hell for the first couple days and we had many emotional moments ourselves. But we knew we were doing the right thing and that kept us going through it.

Then on the third day it was a like a switch flipped — things were much calmer, the kids were pleasant, there were no tantrums and they actually took an interest in the new dishes we offered them. About ten days into it we noticed huge differences in both their physical health (my son went off all 6 of his allergy & asthma meds and my daughter stopped complaining of what had been almost daily stomach pains) and their mental/emotional well-being. They were not as irritable and tired, their focus and attention spans improved, and their moods were much more upbeat than before the diet change.

Now it’s eight years later and their diet is totally normal to them. A small part of it might be because they know there’s a documented medical reason they must eat this way, but the bigger part is that it’s just how they’ve grown up eating, and they know what makes them feel good and what doesn’t (we’ve had some accidental learning experiences with contamination).

I think it really helps to undertake such big changes when they’re young and can more easily rewire or develop good habits and eating patterns as they grow, but I also believe it’s possible to go healthier at any age.

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