Sunday, March 4, 2012

Kids Going Primal?

I have been asked by several people if I think Going Primal is okay for kids. The short answer is: yes. Feed your kids real food, people! It's more than worth it. Do your best to give them grassfed butter, organic meat (if possible), and a lot of fresh vegetables, some fruit and nuts, and a little honey every once in a while. 

The question is: Do kids need more grains than adults? I couldn't figure this out. Three out of four of my kids have really done well with being Primal and on minimal grains (usually sweet potatoes and squash soup), but my one carbaholic child has been in a slump for weeks. One problem could be that she just misses carbs. Another reason could be she wants to feel like she fits in with her friends. And another reason could be, maybe, that she actually needs some more grains than she is currently eating. 

So what is one to do?  I am thinking kids burn starches so fast that it might be a bad idea to cut them out of a child's diet.  I should note that my kids are not overweight, they run around and play a lot, and they don't sit down and eat in front of TV. If your kids do this (not a judgement) then they really won't burn those extra grains so easily, so maybe pull back on what and how much they are eating. 

Anyway, Tom and I happen to know this awesome lady named Karen DeCoster. She is pretty awesome with things like guns, personal liberty, fitness, and then I find out she's also Primal!, so I wrote to her to ask her about kids and Going Primal. 

She very, very kindly responded to my email, and she gave me a ton of great info. I asked for permission to share with all of you, so if you have kids, you might feel a bit better about what to feed them when GP.   See her email below. And be sure to check out her website 

So I wrote to ask about kids and carb-flu, and dehydration due to lacking in grains, she wrote back with:

"There is absolutely nothing to this. Folks tend to take stuff off the web and the stories grow bigger - and the facts get more distorted - each time a tale is told. This kind of thing will often be mentioned where conventional wisdom is spewed about ketogenic diets, but your kids are not on a ketogenic diet. But carbs are carbs, and water is hydration. Almost no one keeps properly hydrated because water is usually replaced with sweetened beverages (just look at that aisle in any grocery store). Eliminating sweetened beverages and replacing those with water will not allow for any hydration problems.

Here are some quick thoughts on things.

I would be concerned if your kids really are having any "carb flu" symptoms. Remember that you and Tom, as adults, have had plenty of time to wreak metabolic havoc upon yourselves by eating a diet rich in carbs. For the kids, that will not be true. They, I suspect, are likely addicted to carbs - with all the juice, bread, desserts, baked goods, pastas, etc. in the home over the years. You and Tom are also addicted to carbs. The kids will want and demand sugar (carbs), like an alcoholic will desire a drink. Make no mistake - most Americans are addicted to carbs. Like heroin or tobacco, carbs are tough to give up without uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Most people I know - the workplace is a great working laboratory - are enslaved to carbs.

But those kids have not had the time to become insulin resistant or leptin resistant, like an adult. They have not destroyed their pancreas, other organs, etc. So remember that the formula for long-term quality of life/health for those kids is not low-carb so much as it is _real food_ (which is paleolithic foods by definition). You and Tom necessarily need to absolutely restrict your sugar/carbs for a period of time because you are both addicted to carbs, and you have both caused metabolic damage, and you need to clean things up. Weight is the visible effect; extensive blood panels and wellness exams reveal the more serious effects. Now the kids don't need carb restriction as much as they need to learn that bread and grains (and all simple sugars, processed foods, industrial oils, sweets, etc,) need not be in the diet. 

For the kids, give them lots of fruits. Put heavy whipping cream on top. Make homemade cranberry sauce from a bag of fresh cranberries and put that on their meats, etc. (something like this, only I use pure maple syrup in place of the stevia Give them dried fruits. Use honey and real (pure) maple syrup to occasionally sweeten certain foods for them. Or even some organic brown sugar. These are all better alternatives to the constant simple sugars and gluten-loaded foods that they were accustomed to having every day. Plus, they can get carbs from many vegetables, as well. They should only be restricted to eating real foods, without getting too caught up in the macronutrient balance. As you and Tom restrict, heal up, and then modify your food life, those kids will be accustomed to real foods and they will eventually reject the junk stuff.

I've been there, done that -- I was a weekend endurance athlete, and I carb-loaded for years. I can't even look at that kind of food now. You'll all get there (the human body is so resilient and self-healing), but you have to peel away from all of those bad habits and smash them.

Hope that helps.
Karen DeCoster"

So given this info--and I completely trust her judgement--I think I will add some organic basmati rice back into the kids' diet. I have never liked rice and since I have weight to lose so I won't be eating it. Tom is at his ideal weight now, and the kids would be ecstatic, so I think it will be fine. However, I will really watch them and see how they react to it. I'm hoping it really helps Veronica to perk up. 

I'm sure I will take some flak for this. As much as I want to have everyone's approval, I still have to do what is best for my kids. If nothing else, I have to say that I did what I thought was/is best for my kids.


  1. I don't have any children, but I would imagine that a child's nutrition would be similar to that of a highly active person. Not only are kids typically highly active, but they are also growing, which means that they will need a net energy surplus to sustain that growth. I simply cannot see any way of doing this without incorporating a decent amount of carbohydrates. Fats and proteins can often be too satiating to supply enough energy to meet the demands of a growing body, plus fats and proteins metabolize at a slower rate, whereas carbohydrates are metabolized immediately (i.e. they convert to energy very quickly). A normal, active child is certainly going to be using a heck of a lot more glycogen, will require more immediate energy for activity, and will be continually building new cells for growth-- carbs are perfect for this. Like athletes, children will probably outstrip their body's ability to synthesize glucose through gluconeogenesis, so the only way to restore glycogen and provide energy for activity and cell growth is by increasing carbs.

    Just so long as you stick to the approved carb sources I don't see any detriment to health. As far as grains go, rice is certainly a better choice for a cheap, easy and plentiful source of carbohydrate energy, just don't overdo it (moderation).

  2. I would recommend two books. The first is Deep Nutrition. The second is Primal Body - Primal Mind. Both take a very scientific look in an interesting manner of how various foods and nutrients are processed by the body and how they affect health and various health problems experienced by both children and adults.

    I learned that short and medium chain triglycerides are processed more directly as energy and seldom stored as fat. Coconut products and butter etc fall into that category. There may be some foods that are fats which add satiety as well as energy

    Most of the books I have read stress that sugar and carbs are needed in very small amounts, whereas protein and fats should not be restricted for growing bodies. Grain is never needed by anyone. There are better food choices that offer more nutrient density and energy than grain. Starchier carbs like squash and even potatoes would probably be better. Too much sugar in fruit and carbs in general set the kids up to be sugar burners rather than fat burners, and the Hunan body was designed to run on fat not sugar. This is a complex subject and I really think you would have more information on which to build opinions you feel comfortable with if you read a book like Deep Nutrition that really is an eye opener in so many areas. One review I read was by a doctor who recommended the book to patients as well as other doctors. Sadly, doctors are get little training in nutrition.

  3. Karen had an excellent response. Real food is much more important than carb counting for children and active people in my opinion as well. Rice is a pretty clean grain and I don't see why children shouldn't eat it. Heck, I still eat rice on occasion, just not the large portion sizes that I use to have with my curry and stir fry.

  4. Honestly, as long as they aren't eating wheat, gluten, and crap – you're being a great food provider, and like she said, a much better food provider than most American. You shouldn't feel guilty. Give them the sweet stuff if they want, just not the crap.

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