A different perspective: nutrition from a 9 year old.

My guest blogger today is my daughter Michelle. As many other children, she has been on the receiving end of the well-meaning advice by her mother to eat her greens, then a conscientious change from white bread to wholegrain, cereal bars to school, “don’t eat that chicken skin” and many others in her 9 years. Over the last year we have managed to turn it 180 degrees and finally indulge her love of red meat, ribs, eggs and sausages. Along the way we have discovered that wheat, even in a tiny amount, triggers her eczema. This has been both a curse and a blessing. A curse because we realised that even a piece of battered salt and pepper squid can set off the dreaded red spots (funnily enough, even gluten-free products given to her by the well-meaning family members cause a breakout). A blessing because it gave Michelle extra motivation to avoid processed food.

I know I might have been a bit harsh on parents in one of my previous posts. Saying “no” to junk food has never come difficult to me. But I was little prepared for the onslaught of wheat-, sugar-, preservatives-, colours- and refined-carb industrial-strength garbage called “kids food” and the incredible temptations faced by Michelle every day. I know that she feels different. And sometimes being different is a lonely place to be, especially coming up to your teenage years. I did not want to medicalise this into a “condition”: you can’t eat wheat because you are allergic. I wanted to teach her that all these kids around might not have her skin but shouldn’t be eating what they are eating anyway. In an attempt to show her that there are other children out there who believe in eating real food that doesn’t come in a box I introduced her to Paleo Parents website. Reading the stories of Cole, Finian and Wesley was eye-opening for Michelle. I recommended that she should write down her experiences and her thoughts and maybe it will make it easier for another child (or adult) to say “No, thanks” to the sugar-in-the-box cereal in the morning or a sugar-in-a wrap snack bar.

So without further ado, here is Michelle:

Before I changed my diet I believed the government which was encouraging the point that wholegrain is best. Now I know otherwise and so does my family.

Nowadays when I go to school I notice a lot more about what my fellow students eat. Everywhere there are children stuffing themselves with chips, cookies, cake and donuts. The healthy options for lunch are a sandwich, a wrap, a bagel or some sort of batter. All my friends ask why I don’t eat like them and they offer some of their food to me because they think I’m missing out. Other children who follow the same diet as I do know how hard it is to skip the temptations, even my parents do.

After I changed my diet I noticed that an average child’s daily meals consist of:

Breakfast: Toast, pancakes or cereal, sometimes sprinkled with malt or sugar

Morning Tea: Packet of chips, brownie, donuts or any other sugar treat with one serving of fruit

Lunch: A sandwich, wrap or bagel/bun with sometimes a chicken schnitzel, low-fat yoghurt, serving of fruit or veg and some more chocolate and lollies

Afternoon tea: cake, biscuits and fruit

Dinner: Pasta, pizza, chicken nuggets, garlic bread with soup

Desserts: Waffles, ice-cream, chocolate and milk

As you can see every meal has at least one serving of wheat or sugar in it. Every day I go to school I yearn to say to my friends: “You shouldn’t eat that, it’s unhealthy”. But I know I can’t do that because nobody will believe me. It is difficult for a child like me to explain the matter that big.

I like the way I eat now because I don’t get “sugar crashes” anymore. I don’t get tired and have naps after school like I used to. I find that when I used to have wheat I was always hungry. Eating cereal for breakfast made me starving before recess, and then lunch. Now eggs and sausage make me full for hours. I also like that I get to try things I would never have tried before which I never thought I’d like.  I even tried chicken hearts once. The other day I tried baby octopus and it is now my #2 dish after osso bucco. I bring prosciutto to school and dare my friends to try it. If I had never changed my diet I would not be enjoying such great food.

We took some photos for you of my average day diet. Hope you like it.

Here is my breakfast.

And my lunch box.

And my dinner.

I also love to have a few squares of 85% cocoa chocolate for dessert.

I hope this helps some children and their parents to make better food choices.

Being active comes naturally if you are well nourished

I do too. Please feel free to share your journey across the muddy water of nutrition, conventional advice and real food in comments. Michelle and I would love to hear yours or your children’s story.

 

 

 

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46 thoughts on “A different perspective: nutrition from a 9 year old.

  1. Thanks Michelle for sharing your view, it’s great to see a “kid” understand her body, way to go. I am transitioning my 6 yr old daughter to Paleo and I hope she “gets” that it makes her feel better soon. It is early days but she still asks for toast (which I’m being 100% strict on for 30 days), but absolutely loves her “meat on bones” and sausages, bacon and eggs, so it hasn’t been too hard.

    • Michelle:
      Thanks Lisa. Good luck with your daughter. You can try giving her some of her favourite meat. That’s how I became a carnivore :)

  2. Good on you, Michelle, for sharing your experience with everyone! There’s quite a comment thread building over at The Primal Parent regarding other adults undermining a parent’s food choices. Many have also obliged me in sharing the symptoms they see in their kids when they’ve had grains, dairy or general processed crap – these are things I see in other children all the time, and am starting to see in my own child now that she eats 2 meals in daycare 5 days a week. It’s fantastic that you can see some of them in yourself now, Michelle, and you know what you have to do to avoid them. That’s called grown up!

    http://theprimalparent.com/2011/09/09/shared-custody-family-battles/

    • M:
      Thank you Lauren. My family has helped me to understand that wheat and sugar is bad for you. Now when I eat eggs, sausages and bacon for breakfast I feel much better. Maybe you could give your child nutritious food to bring to daycare.

  3. Cole says he loves your handstand and wonders what the little white things are in your lunch. Thanks for being a Paleo kid blogger too, Michelle!

    • M:
      Hi Stacy and Cole. The white little things in my lunch are pickled onions and they are delicious. You can start practicing handstands on the wall first. Thanks for reading my post. :)

  4. Thank you, Michelle, for writing such a great blog! You are a very, very clever girl and the difficult choices you are making now are setting you up for a fabulous life with great health later on.

    Good on you for sharing your delicious food with your friends at school and educating them a little about the wonderful things you can eat and how good they make you feel.

    Best of luck with your healthy eating and I hope we get to read some more of your blogs.

  5. This is brilliant Michelle. I work in a school and it really amazes me all the processed junk that kids eat; exactly as you outlined above. I bet your teacher loves having such a wide awake and zappy girl in her class.

  6. Well Done Michelle!!! =D I hope we people will get a chance to read a few more of your words over the time.

  7. Hi Michelle. My lunch box looks just like yours and I eat healthy food like you. Sometimes my friends at school think its yuck when I have a boiled egg for lunch, but I think it’s yummy and I know that I am going to grow up to be strong and healthy.

    Ryan (6)

    • M:
      Well done Ryan! My friends think that about my food too. But I know that my food is healthier than theirs and so is yours. Keep up the great work ;)

  8. “I did not want to medicalise this into a “condition”: you can’t eat wheat because you are allergic. I wanted to teach her that all these kids around might not have her skin but shouldn’t be eating what they are eating anyway.”

    At what age did you have this discussion? I have been leery of being completely open with my kids about how I think gluten is a problem for many, many people. When they were 4 and 6 and we visited family, and they saw that a red-colored, flavored soda pop was in their 3-year old cousin’s sippy cup, they were appalled and made it obvious. I have been clear with them on my opinion of soda pop for all people, especially children, and it made for a tad bit of family awkwardness.

    Had any problems like this, or have any advice?

    • Hi Tanya, it’s a difficult question. On the one hand it is very tempting to say: you have an allergy/sensitivity. Saying “my daughter is celiac” is so much more socially acceptable. But then you run the risk of your child feeling like a patient. I didn’t want her to develop hypochondria about her food. Michelle was 8 when we started talking about food in this way. Admittedly she is very mature for her age. I tell her that I feel her frustration about other people, especially loved ones, eating “unhealthy food”. I also teach her that this is the reason why I do what I do: becoming a doctor to help people and writing a blog. She now has enough confidence to just say: “no, thanks” when offered a biscuit. If asked why not, she can say: “I don’t like this type of food”. And when a child firmly says: “I don’t think this food is healthy”, people may laugh but they listen. Good luck. I find family awkward moment open opportunities for difficult conversations.

  9. Michelle,

    My daughter is five and a half. She’s been eating this way since I was pregnant with her. Now that’s she’s old enough to get what’s going on, she has learned to accept that EVERY SINGLE OTHER KID at school is not like her. She knows that her knowledge of food is way bigger than anything she could explain in a few words or in a few minutes at the table at lunch. So she doesn’t even bother. She is amazing at accepting kids for who they are and just reveling, privately, in her own joy. Dealing with the diet of other kids, their attitudes, and the problems that you can see so clearly is going to be a huge challenge but be strong and tolerant. You are alone in this but that’s ok. There’s more to life than food!

    Good job girl. You are so smart and tough!

    • M:
      Peggy, it’s good your daughter is eating well at such a young age. I only started eating the Paleo diet earlier this year. And all my friends still ask me why I don’t eat like them. I’m glad your daughter knows how to skip the temptation because I still give in sometimes. Thank you for your support.

  10. Michelle, keep up the good habits and know you’ll live a long, healthy life, and that we’re all pulling for you!

    I have two daughters, one is 6 the other is 3. The 3 year old loves her primal food, but the 6 year old is a carbovore with a huge preference for wheat in all of its manifestations. We’ve been transitioning her over to safe starches such as white rice, potato, sweet potato, and squash, and so far she seems to accept this switch. It’s such a shame kids have to feel so isolated and alone just because they eat real food and avoid processed food. It is a sad statement on our society. All of the wonderful, tireless bloggers like your mom are helping to turn the tide. I’m trying to do my part with the Ancestral Health Symposium. I hope you’ll be able to attend with your mom next year. Demand that she bring you along so you can speak up to the rest of us!

    • M:
      Thanks Aaron. I used to be a carbovore too. Good work. Hope your 6-yr old daughter gets the hang of it. Sorry Mum won’t let me come to the States next year. Maybe in a couple of years!

  11. Thank you all. I’m pretty overwhelmed with all the messages that I have received since publishing this a few hours ago. Michelle is at school at the moment and she still has no idea of their numbers of comments, tweets and messages waiting for her. She will be very excited to read them all and answer as many as possible.

  12. Wow! I am so impressed. I worry about making my kids feel excluded and different, because they don’t eat goldfish and waffles and oreos. We had a HUGE moment last week when my 6-year-old told me she didn’t want to eat goldfish for snack at school because she thinks they make her tummy hurt. Michelle’s story is so morale-boosting for me!

    And that lunchbox looks fabulous!

    • Hi Anne, we can’t expect to have our children the same level of awareness as we do. Most adults around us don’t have it. You can’t help but be proud of them when they start listening to their bodies and recognizing cues. Persistence (gentle) pays off.

  13. My son is 18 now. While he was growing, I just tried to minimize the amount of junk food he was exposed to by not keeping it at home. I didn’t practice paleo back then, but our family policy of not snacking, limiting sugar, eating home-cooked meals worked just fine. He is the only one among the boys who grew with him who doesn’t have some amount of fat around his middle. We had some awkward moment during his childhood when my son’s friends asked for a snack or a drink of soda while visiting our house. It was amazing how those children were hungry all the time. Most of people in our neighborhood just keep a second refrigerator in a garage staffed with sodas and snacks for children to grab quickly while playing outside. Garages are usually open at daytime if somebody is at home.
    Now my son feels not deprived or different, but choosy and picky about his food. He thinks he had a privilege to be raised in a family with the right attitude about food.It is his second year of college now and he started to cook his own food. During his first year it was mandatory in the university he is attending to buy a meal plan for a freshman. It is amazing, but self-cooked food (even when meats and butter are from grass-fed animals) costs twice less than cafeteria food of fast-food. Hawing eczema is not a treat, Everybody in my family has it and we keep it under control by our life-style, so we have a good motivation to live healthy. Additional bonus – my son found out from a personal experience that he couldn’t drink an alcohol without causing an eczema flare.

    • “Hungry all the time” is a good description, Galina. That’s what I see when I go to birthday parties with Michelle. These kids just can’t stop eating. It’s awesome that your son recognizes that. To be honest, I’m a little worried about the teenage years and the inevitable rebellion. Eczema from alcohol is a blessing in disguise :)

  14. Thank you Michelle ! It’s very interesting to have your point of view. My kids are 10 and 6, i eat primal since a few weeks, and wait to master thing to tell my kids about it. But when they see me eating, they ask for the same.
    for exemple, before, my son (10) ate milk and toast as a breackfast. now, he asks for a steack !! (not a classic breackfast here in France ! ). and when i tell him ” put some butter on it “, he feels like he is in paradise !
    this morning, my daughter has eaten an egg and a peach.
    i am a day care mother and when i watch the little kids while eating, you can be sure that they all go for the meat first !!!

  15. I almost wish wheat made my kids sick, because it is very hard trying to keep them on a Paleo diet as teenagers. They seem to be able to eat non paleo food, and feel just the same.
    So they see their Mum as being just a little bit strange when what she says is different from the teacher at school that teaches them their nutrition classes. My daughter who is 15 will mostly not eat wheat and dairy because her skin is better for it, but if offered pizza, or cake, she will eat it.

    Given all the pressures and conflicting advice, my kids (13 and 15) are not as paleo as I would like them to be, all I can do is teach them and provide good food and hope for the best!

    • Hi Julianne, I can only imagine how frustrating it can be. But your children are also of the age when their parents opinions (unfortunately) matter less and their peers’ matter more. They’ll come around. A little bit Paleo is still miles ahead of SAD.

    • My 12 yr old is getting conflicting nutrition advice in school and he always asks me if it is right. Luckily he believes me in regards to nutrition. He doesn’t question the teachers or challenge them just waits when he comes home and asks me. In cooking class he told me they are using margarine!!! It does anger me that other kids will take everything teachers say about nutrition as the absolute fact!

  16. Hi Michelle,
    I just wanted to give my thanks for your post, you have really helped me to refocus my own diet. I’ve been eating the same way as you for five months now after probably 10 years of stomach issues caused by junk foods that made me quite miserable.
    I love eating this way now and don’t ever want to change. In the last few weeks though I’ve been really struggling with pressure from other people wanting me to eat the same as them and ‘fit in’ and it’s made me feel terrible both physically and mentally. But you’ve reminded me why I’m doing this in the first place and I shouldn’t let others influence my choices, because in the end I’m the one who suffers. No-one needs junk to be happy as you clearly show :)
    Looking forward to your next guest post!

    • M:
      Hi Karen. It’s hard for me at school too. My friends always offer me treats and tempting me. But I say no because I don’t want to have the eczema and sugar crashes. I went to a birthday party yesterday and didn’t have anything with wheat. I had some meatballs on a stick and the inside of a quiche. All the girls were eating pastries and they were hungry and asking for more. But I had some orange juice and an ice-block. When I came home Mum said I was very teary. Then we had some roast beef for dinner and my good mood came back. You have to be tough and even when other people tell you to eat that stuff. Good luck! :))

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  19. Such an interesting post, especially coming from a 9-year-old. She sounds very clever. But I had to react when reading about the food kids eat! I just found this page trough tumblr and therefor I haven’t read anything else on this page (yet) but I am guessing you are from USA or England (because of the English and because of the tea’s). But I am shocked to read that this is what kids are eating in your country! I am lucky enough to come from Sweden and ever since I was a child (20 years ago) the diet of children has been very important here. We get brought up with healthy food even in school, the lunches served here (yes we don’t have to bring out own food and I realize how lucky we are, I just want to show how it can look in another country) are healthy and with salads and vegetables, we learn about the food-plate and to always at every meal make sure we get enough protein, carbs etc. We learn to stay away from sweets etc, a treat may be given on Saturdays which are the “candy-day” The day in the week most people eat a bit of candy, especially children usually don’t get treats the rest of the week (of course this varies but I am speaking of a general picture here in Sweden). Early on in a childs life a dietist is consulted regularly during it’s first years, later school takes over that role and helps to teach them the value of healthy food and an active lifestyle. When I was a child we would have gym-class once a week, now during the last 5-10 years it is in most school once a day. Also at home the children eat healthy thanks to their parents being educated as well since they were young. Like I said of course we have familys that eat unhealthy here too, as in every country. But I am happy to say that here the government and the school system and the medical system ALL take great importance in educating children to the right diet and make sure they keep it, we teach them how important it is to have a healthy lifestyle already before they can walk and talk.

    I don’t mean to be negative about your country, not at all, I just wanted to tell about a different life and culture in my country. I hope you liked my little “essay”.

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