Plain Food

Healthy kids.

One of my teenagers recently told me of a conversation with his coworker. He was talking about our family’s food habits, and told her that I often serve plain, crumbled ground beef with no seasonings.

“That’s child abuse!”

Now, first of all, it’s not like I’m forbidding my children the use of all seasonings. Salt and butter they have in abundance, and they can usually have salsa, sour cream, worcestershire sauce, or several other condiments they like. But we do eat a fair amount of undressed, un-sauced food, and I do this very intentionally. It is not out of laziness, or meanness, or even because I’m a bad cook. I serve most of our food unadorned out of a sincere belief that this will teach my children to have a healthy relationship with food.

When I first started eating a ketogenic diet, I went into it with the mindset that this diet was just for me, because of my particular health problems. I was still stuck in my old way of thinking, brought on by frequent contact with Western medicine, that my problems were genetic, irreversible, and unique to me, so I didn’t feel that there was a need to drag my perfectly healthy (or so I thought) children along for the ride. I was just trying to keep my blood sugar under control, not change the world.

I continued to make the family’s usual “healthy” foods and just made a little something different for myself. But as I delved more into the topic, and especially as I began to go fully carnivore, the realization set in that sugar wasn’t even the main reason I shouldn’t be eating plants. I began to understand that the principles I was applying to my own health could and should be applied to the health of every human being. I had thought at first that keto/carnivore was going to be just a me thing, but I saw after several months that I didn’t just look better. Not only did I have better blood-glucose levels, but all kinds of health problems had become faint memories, rather than daily realities.

Joint pain, brain fog, anxiety, social phobia, trichotillomania, hidradenitis supprativa, asthma, eczema, seasonal allergies, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff I’ve just plain forgotten were all GONE. (I still sneeze a little during ragweed season.)

Having realized that, I began to accept that my children were also having some of the same problems I was, and likely for the same reasons. Were they really doing fine, as I’d thought? One of my children had the trifecta of allergies, asthma, and eczema, as well as the disturbing beginnings of an OCD (brought on by a viral infection). Another had been showing symptoms of IBS for at least a year. We had already discovered long ago that still another child loses all symptoms and behaviors of autism as long as we don’t include grains and dairy in that child’s diet. What else might I be able to do for them with an appropriate diet?

Seeing all of this, I couldn’t any longer keep my children on even a “healthy” normal diet. While I didn’t take them all fully carnivore, I did begin to make all of their meals heavily meat-based. I allow them no more than two servings a day of either fruit or a starchy vegetable. They can have some leafy greens, though not kale or spinach. I eliminated grains, seed oils, and all refined carbohydrates completely, allowing for seeds and nuts or beans once a week, and only for the children who tolerate them well. For the two with the most obvious problems, we went 100% carnivore for a time. Both of those children are able to incorporate only small amounts of some “safer” plants, though still not daily.

It’s pretty restrictive, and we’re fine with that.

Now, I know (or hope, at least) that my son’s coworker was joking when she proclaimed our plain fare to be actual child abuse. But let me tell you what looks a lot more like child abuse to me:

  • 8 year-olds who weigh 150 pounds
  • teenagers with Type II diabetes
  • children who can’t go more than an hour without begging for a snack
  • children who can’t behave themselves because of food colorings, sugar highs, malabsorption of nutrients, and proteins that are incompatible with the human gut

That, and not thoughtful application of dietary principles, is child abuse. I am certainly not accusing parents themselves (most of them, anyway) of abuse, but our overall food culture is abusive. Because of dishonest science, hatred of self-discipline, and the greed of big food corporations, nobody knows how to eat, or even that food has an impact on all areas of health. That is an absolute shame, and we have to put an end to it. Now, once a person knows he should do something, and doesn’t do it, we might begin to put the blame on that person. It might become abuse, or at least neglect, if a bad situation is allowed to continue.

The foods that I used to serve my children were very tasty. I took a lot of pride in being a good cook. In fact, I inadvertently did to my children with my “healthy home cooking” the exact same thing that wicked big food corporations are still trying to do to all of us. By introducing the biggest and best flavors I could manage–every day, nearly every meal–I was spoiling their palates and their health, and (much worse) setting them up for food addictions later in life.

Hyper-palatability is that quality of sweetness, saltiness, and fat that processed (even home-processed) foods possess. When we eat these foods, that powerful combination of flavor and mouthfeel bypass all hunger and satiety signals that our hormones send when we are hungry or full, causing us to both overeat, and eat the wrong food. Food corporations spend millions, maybe billions, on research finding the best ways to keep customers eating long past the point of satiety, and to keep us coming back for more. Even though the body’s nutritional needs are not being met by these foods, our entire bodies wantonly crave them, and reject plain food in favor of that dopamine high. There’s a word for this. It’s called addiction. My constant attempts to please the palates of my family were creating raging addicts in my home. I had to face that fact and do a hard thing.

I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it is not. They actually acted like a bunch of little addicts when I stopped letting them have the candy and gold fish crackers! They were somewhat depressed, unhappy with everything I fed them for a while, and though they are typically well-behaved, there were a some bad attitudes for a while. Thankfully, it didn’t take them long to adapt. They are children, after all, and very impressionable. After a few months of eating real food, not too fancy, they learned to reject (for the most part) foods that do not nourish them. Kids do want to do what is good for them, but we have to enable them to do it by removing the stumbling blocks in their way.

Don’t we ever have fun with our food? Sure! Our family does still occasionally have food that can be considered hyper-palatable, like this keto or carnivore pizza or carnivore waffles. But I keep these things mostly to special occasions. There’s nothing wrong with having a treat every now and then, but to expect every meal to hit all of those pleasure buttons in our brains is gluttony. Dare I use such a harsh word to describe probably most of the people who are reading this blog? Yes, I do.

American, you’re most likely enjoying your food a little too much, and a little too often. That is gluttony.

Do your children a favor, moms and dads: Give them plain food 95% of the time. Salt it, of course! We actually need salt. But use sauces and seasonings less frequently, and get the processed foods out of your house entirely. It is a hard lesson to learn, but teach your children to be content with meat that just tastes like meat, fruit that just tastes like fruit, and veggies that just taste like veggies. I can promise that if you do this, you will be improving not only your children’s overall health, but their behavior and moods, and even their emotional connection with you and each other. Far too many children who appear healthy but have behavioral issues are struggling because they just don’t have the energy to fully engage.

Help them.

You might fear a mutiny if you do what I did, but you are the parent. They can’t drive themselves to the store and override your decisions. (Well, a couple of mine could have, actually.) If you do not give in to the addictions that you have created, it won’t be long before the crying is over, and your children accept that this is just how it is for your family. I know you love your children. I know how much I loved mine when I was feeding them the exact same way! Now put as much thought and effort into their nutrition as you do into every other aspect of their lives.

If you find that you need help with a transition to a healthier (not necessarily carnivore) diet for your family, get in touch with me on SG or MeWe and I’ll send you a link to my diet coaching page. Or just shoot me your questions and I’ll get to them directly if at all possible.



That’s Some Lousy Parenting, Right There

And I’m not even talking about the kale. 

Watch this:

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first: Children should not be made to consume large quantities of raw kale. There’s nothing in that “superfood” that is actually going to benefit their bodies, and harm can be done. We can argue about that some other time, though, veggie lovers, because what I’m really appalled by is the “manifestation of goals” this mother engages in, also known as “bribery”.

Now, tell me this, Mom: When your kids grow up and drink a raw kale smoothie, will that then “manifest” as a reward at Target without your intervention? I’m going to insert here an old post I wrote way back in November of 2010, because everything old is new again eventually:

Taking my six year-old to Pizza Hut last night to collect his very first–and very last—Book-It reward for reading, I asked him if he was looking forward to reading his next book.

“Why would I want to do that?” 
was his reply.

With those words, uttered in complete innocence, the fine mood I’d been in came crashing down to the ground. Suddenly, I was angry. Great. I have de-motivated my son instead of motivating him. Since I hadn’t told him I have 6 vouchers for free pizza, he thought this was all there was. So why try?

I relieved my frustration by envisioning my wildly-chuckling self ripping the vouchers to shreds and burning them. I may have even thought up an incantation to recite while lighting up that offensive booklet. Then I got my son the pizza I’d promised him, came home, and completely forgot to rip those suckers up. Oh, well. They can rot, for all I care. They’ve done me no good whatsoever. Before, I had a boy who read books just to be reading. Now I have a boy who thinks reading is such a miserable chore that you have to bribe him to do it.

Parenting 101: Our kids’ attitudes are formed by our expectations.
 In implementing this reward system I signaled to my son that reading is something disagreeable, and not worth doing for its own sake. Here’s the thing, though: I knew that. I do not reward my children for doing what they ought to be doing anyway. I’ve never used candy or stickers to bribe my kids during potty-training or for anything else I want them to learn. I do give gifts to celebrate milestones sometimes,  but not as rewards the child is working toward. For us the finished product is the prize. So what happened to those high-falutin’ ideals this time?

Instead of sticking to my usual methods, when I learned about the Book-It program for homeschoolers, I went for the freebie. Free is good, right? Try as I may, I can not resist a freebie. I just wanted to get some of that sweet pizza action for my kid.

I hearkened back to my memories of the program when I was in school. I loved to read, so the pizza was just a neat thing to me, a poor kid who didn’t get restaurant food very often. I do remember feeling like my teachers were being rather patronizing, thinking I’d never read if they didn’t trick me into it. I wasn’t deterred from reading after the program ended because I didn’t care very much what the pizza was for. If they’d offered rewards for something I hated doing, like public speaking, I wouldn’t have been getting that pie. The fact that I can remember feeling that way–slightly embarrassed to even be accepting the reward–really ought to have deterred me from “encouraging” my own kids this way. Ah, but everybody says it works!

In public schools, kids expect their teachers to be condescending, handing out a certificate every time a student remembers to cover his mouth when he sneezes. Our system pretty much demands it, lest some slow child be left behind, or worse, feel inferior. The children recover from those slights and do what they’re going to do anyway, incentives or no incentives. A good learner will learn. A poor learner won’t, no matter how high the cheesy, saucy stakes.

Kids do not expect that kind of horse-trading from their parents, however. At least, mine don’t. I don’t work that way, and they know it, so it must have thrown my son for quite a loop when I explained this program to him. He must have gotten the idea that that reading isn’t to be done for its own sake. Now I’m going to have to undo my bad work.
Hopefully, the memory of this whole thing will fade and

the child will rediscover the joy of reading just because he can.


I have no doubt he will, since I’m just going to expect it and he’s just going to have to. I’m trying not to kick myself too hard for this ridiculous mistake. It’s really just a hiccup for us…

So why would those kids drink the kale in the future? (Perhaps we should be relieved to think that they probably won’t.) Why would my son read a book?  When he reads a book, that does not “manifest” as a pizza anymore. If I didn’t like reading, I either wouldn’t read now, or if I did read simply because I was taught that I should, would I then hie me to the kitchen for a brownie to reward myself? Probably. This goes for allowances, too. Is your allowance based on whether children get their daily chores finished? The chores that they should be doing because the reward is a clean home and a happy family?

Are they learning that working around the home, for your family, is a cash transaction?

What are you really teaching your children when you tie an unrelated reward to the action?  Let’s pretend for a moment that drinking kale (God help us) actually is a healthy thing to do. Only if the children’s goal was “get healthy” is that “manifestation” going to happen for them outside of your parental intervention. What that child has learned is that if he does something unpleasant, he now deserves something pleasant that is completely unrelated to the unpleasant thing.

You’re setting up an addictive and self-destructive cycle in your child! Every “good” thing he does is now an excuse for self-indulgence. 

Do you know somebody who has a piece of cake or a glass of alcohol (or more) at the end of a hard day (or hour) because he “deserves” it? If so, you’re looking at someone who never learned to do the Thing for the sake of the Thing itself. It’s not a bad thing to have a piece of cake or a glass of wine, provided that you’re healthy enough to take the temporary hit to your biological state, but it is a very bad thing if the only reason you stayed on your job after the boss yelled at you was so you could justify your indulgence afterwards.

Mom, if kale is good for him, then he should be drinking these hideous smoothies because the health effects are manifest. If he’s not far-sighted and self-controlled enough to do that yet, you simply expect him to drink it, and model that behavior for him, until he’s old enough to make that decision for himself. Good luck with that, though. Kale is so far from healthful that small children instinctively avoid it. But if the health effects are real, he will see them, first in you, and then in himself. That is the true manifestation of the true goal.

I’m sure that none of my readers would ever do this. You are obviously of a discerning mind, or you wouldn’t be here, right? But I have fallen into that trap, lacking discernment myself at times. Any parent who is desperate to get a struggling child onto the straight and narrow has at least been tempted to use these tactics. Don’t fall for it, moms and dads. As you can see from my own experience, it is counterproductive in the long run.