About six months ago, I decided to explore a new eating program, and I encouraged my husband Tom to join me. I had been reading about the “Primal Food Movement,” which is also referred to as “Paleo” eating, and I wanted to see if it would make a difference in our energy level and our overall health.
There wasn’t that much difference between The PureBalance 80/20 Food Guidelines and the Paleo program. Our diet consisted of eating lots of green vegetables; healthy fats; grass-fed, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef; free-range chicken, and wild caught fish. We also consumed limited amounts of sprouted or gluten-free grains; fruits, such as berries, and whole milk dairy products. The major change between “Paleo” and our eating program was the elimination of grains and legumes.
To tell you the truth, Tom and I already ate limited amounts of grains and legumes, so the difference we experienced wasn’t as noticeable as I had hoped. However, when I started preparing “Paleo” and gluten-free dinners for the entire family, I began to notice changes in our children’s health and behavior. And, even more important, the kids noticed the changes, too!
Since I began modifying our weeknight dinner menu, the Bayne kids have become more focused at school and more compliant at home when asked to do something. The tummy aches that used to plague them ceased. And best of all, they slept better.
Don’t get me wrong, my kids aren’t perfect and their diet isn’t “100 percent clean.” They still enjoy eating special lunches at school or eating pizza with friends on the weekends. But what I learned is that even a moderate change can make a tremendous difference in their overall health and well-being.
As a physician, I am acutely aware of the connection between diet, health and behavior. I’ve had parents seek my advice about how they can restore their child’s immune system or alleviate symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder or Hyperactivity without pharmaceutical drugs. Based on the results of my family’s experience, I am now even more firmly convinced that all health challenges begin and end with food, and even small changes can make a difference.
The Paleolithic Eating Program
There are numerous books and websites devoted to “Paleo” eating. Paleo is short for Paleolithic (as in our hunter-gatherer ancestors). The core principle of the Paleo program is eating real, whole food. This includes high-quality proteins, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.
What I love most about preparing dinners based on this program is the simplicity. When I say it’s simple, here are the basics:
- Eat lots of vegetables and limited amount of fruits
- Eat grass-fed meats, free-range chicken, wild-caught fish and seafood
- Choose healthy fats like avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, butter and ghee
- Eat raw nuts and seeds
- Avoid all processed, refined and modern foods
- Eliminate grains and legumes, especially gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley, and rye.
- Avoid dairy products or only consume whole fat dairy and/or fermented form
- Avoid all processed and refined sugars (Yes, this is difficult!)
When making Paleo eating a way of life, it also can lead to long-term health benefits for the entire family.
Why is this eating program so dramatically effective for children (and adults)?
When eating a diet high in processed foods or grains, neither the brain nor the body receive the nutrients necessary for normal function. Eating too many grains can lead to erratic spikes in blood sugar, causing a foggy brain, fatigue, and muscular weakness. Over time, this leads to inflammation (pain), and the potential to develop blood sugar imbalances, ranging from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) to hyperglycemia (diabetes). Hypoglycemic kids tend to do poorly in school; can be hyperactive; experience inordinate fatigue, and suffer from mood swings or outbursts of anger.
Are the Bayne Kids 100 percent onboard with the program? Believe me, like all children it’s hard to resist the pull of eating goodies with friends when away from home. But I have encouraged them to seek out gluten-free options whenever possible, which helps them develop responsible habits for what they’re eating, as well as become more aware of what they need to do for their own health and well-being.
A Plan of Action for Working or Busy Moms
I’m a working (and busy) mom, too. My children are involved in after-school activities and extracurricular sports. So I had to find an eating program that was going to fit my family’s lifestyle. In the beginning, the biggest challenge was what to feed them for breakfast. I decided that eating protein in the morning was essential. So breakfast in our household consists of a combination of the following options:
- Waffles or pancakes made from coconut flour or almond flour (I pre-make and freeze them)
- Banana bread made with coconut or almond flour
- Whole-milk or Greek yogurt with berries and nuts
- Smoothies made with whey protein and berries (organic and frozen)
In addition, all snacks are baked with either coconut or almond flour, I have completely eliminated regular flour from my pantry.
My children still love grains. When I serve them at home, our family only eats gluten-free grains: quinoa, brown or black rice, millet, amaranth, or steel-cut oats. The grains are always soaked overnight (sprouted) before cooking.
The keys to successfully making any change are information, organization and preparation. But rather than give you a checklist, I want to demonstrate the simplicity of making this lifestyle change during a free food preparation and cooking class.
Will you be the lucky winner?
Mark your calendar today for the free Paleo Food Preparation and Cooking Class on Wednesday March 5, 2014, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at PureBalance Natural Family Healthcare Center. This free class, which I will teach, is an introduction to the Paleo eating program, and will include details about getting started; a checklist for getting organized; a shopping list of what to buy; and directions for preparing a simple breakfast, lunch and dinner for people with limited time. You’ll also get to sample the yummy results and take home a few recipes.
One cooking class participant will be eligible to win a 7-day, Paleo dinner menu, which will be designed especially for your family. You must be present to win, and you’ll get to share your family’s story in next month’s newsletter.
Because space is limited, reservations are required. Learn how the simplest of changes can yield big results for your family’s health and well-being. Sign up today: (224) 521-1212.