Friends and family who know how restrictive my own diet is often wonder if I’m doing the same sort of thing for–or to–my family. Well, yes and no. Some members of my family are 100% carnivore, some could be defined as paleo, and ketosis is something we all experience on a daily basis, as healthy humans should. I don’t aim for ketosis anymore, as I did when I was trying to lose weight, it’s just a metabolic fact around here.
I know of a number of carnivore parents for whom that way of eating extends to the whole family, and I do firmly believe that children–and anyone else in the world–can thrive on nothing but meat. Not only does their health not suffer, I think it’s probably superior, if you can pull it off. If your family is very young and you just don’t eat plants much, that will be normal for your kids.
But my older kids were raised on quite a bit more variety, so to take all the extras out of their diets would cause quite a ruckus. And as much I like the simplicity and safety of the carnivore approach for myself, there’s no good reason that all plants should be eliminated unless you have some damage to your body that requires drastic measures. I believe we’re blessed with the ability to make full use of what the world has to offer, and many of the plants are good for food and medicine. The trouble starts when we over-process our foods, find ways to eat things that shouldn’t be eaten, and start messing around with our microbiomes, hormones, and immune systems through antibiotics, vaccinations, and plastics. Many of the things that our society thinks of as “progress” are truly toxic.
If someone is healthy (and that is increasingly rare in this world) he should simply avoid the things that cause damage and eat whatever real food he likes.
I have a few guiding principles for feeding my children:
- Whole foods only, except for special occasions when we will veer off into some home-made, but still processed foods like keto birthday cake, or maybe even a gluten-free sugary birthday cake. They’ll recover. It’s ok!
- No seed oils, ever, under any circumstances.
- Fats and carbs. Healthy people are made to get their energy from both fat and carbohydrates, so I allow my children both substrates. It’s not necessary to eat carbs the way it is fats, and we do prioritize fats. But there’s a sweet potato or an apple, for example, at least once or twice a day. There’s no good reason to restrict whole food carbohydrates in healthy people.
- Nose to tail. I don’t force any of the kids to eat organ meats, but they’re available several times a week. I encourage them to at least take a bite and see what they think. I do think organs and offal are superfoods, but they seem to only taste good when a person has a real need for the nutrients, so I leave that to the individual palate.
- Most vegetables and fruits should be cooked or fermented. There are a number of good reasons for this that I won’t bore anybody with for now.
- No wheat, and other grains are eaten only when unavoidable (corn and rice are, at present, on my “ok if we have to” list). Because of auto-immune problems with several of us, we have to adhere strictly to gluten-free eating.
- Carbs are on the low side when compared to most children’s diets. We have one or two whole-food starches per day.
- I don’t make my children eat their vegetables or finish everything on their plates. A person’s hunger is what should drive him to eat, not guilt over “waste” or insulting the cook, or whatever. If you don’t need the food, it’s a waste to eat it! This is one thing that I’ve flubbed in the past. I insisted that none of my children will be picky eaters, and they’ll eat some of everything that’s offered. Now I think that’s ridiculous. One of my “picky eaters” turned out to have IBS, and needs a 95% carnivore diet to control it. I was harming him by making him eat foods that he knew didn’t agree with him. A child absolutely should be in control of how much and which foods they eat, provided that the foods on offer are real food. My job is to make sure that my kids have a healthy range of foods to chose from, and let them learn to listen to their bodies. Compared to the standard American diet, I offer a much smaller array of choices, but they are learning to make good choices, and not learning emotionally or socially-driven eating behaviors.
- Meat and eggs are the main thing, and sometimes the only thing. Many of the meals are 100% carnivore.
- No snacking. Who has time for grazing, anyway? If you’re feeding children appropriately at the meal, they can go a very long time without needing to fill up again.
- Foods that cause noticeable symptoms are avoided, even if the symptoms are supposedly harmless. For instance, most beans bloat my littlest one’s belly up to a ridiculous size, so we limit beans and legumes to lentils and chickpeas, which don’t do that for some reason. Some of us can have dairy, and some can’t. One child gets excruciating stomach pain from white potatoes, so he skips those if they’re offered.
- No stressing about perfect eating. It’s the pattern, what was eaten over the course of the day or week or month, that matters, and not the single food item. If we went to a birthday party and ate ice cream, then we just thank the Lord that we had a chance to hang out with our friends. If poor choices become habitual, poor outcomes are sure to follow, so we make sure that these kinds of things are far from our daily routine, but an occasional deviation is not a big deal.
When I type it out like this, it seems like a lot of rules, and probably looks at first blush to be a very difficult way to eat. And, to be honest, when we’re traveling or visiting others, it does present some challenges. At home, though, I spend less time in the kitchen than I used to, not more. I don’t often do more than add salt and pepper to some meat and veg, and then throw it all in the oven or crock pot, so its not at all time-consuming the way it used to be. It’s really a very simple and satisfying way to eat.
But it is thought-consuming. It takes a good bit of research to decide who in the nutrition world is making the most sense right now. So many opinions are out there, and I have to figure out what works best for our situation. I am emphasizing physical health in a way that my parents certainly didn’t. They didn’t have the information I have, and our food environment wasn’t yet as toxic as it is today. Health extends far beyond food, of course, but we can talk about the other stuff some other time.
Everybody has reasons for eating what they do. I’d like to know what you guys are doing and why, if you don’t mind leaving comments.
Do any of our food “rules” seem overly restrictive to you? Too permissive?