Guest Post: How I learned to eat clean for my kids

Editor’s note: Recently, one of my friends, Sarah, discovered that her youngest child, Ian, has a wheat allergy. She’s been talking a lot online about how she’s been needing to change things up in her home just so the kid wouldn’t get sick. I know I talk Paleo a lot, and a gluten-free diet is closely in-line with this ethos, so I invited Sarah to share her experience of bringing her kids into a world post-grain. Enjoy this fantastic guest post!

Sarah and her beautiful children, Lucy and Ian.
Sarah and her beautiful children, Lucy and Ian…and their puppy Tessa—all grain-free!

By Sarah H.

I don’t diet. In fact, if the diet had a name I wouldn’t do it because I knew I’d be miserable. And anyone who lived with me would have to live with my miserable wrath. I don’t do well on deprivation. People try to tell you it’s not deprivation… but anyone who’s ever had issues with food knows it really is. “No you can’t have that cheeseburger… but boy you’ll feel and look great… think of how healthy you’ll be… think of the PR’s”…. yeah, you lost me at no cheeseburgers. Deprivation.

I am also lazy and convenience food is, well, convenient but certainly not for weight loss or management. Don’t get me wrong- I had “tried.” I put that in quotations because inevitably I’d make some excuse or get too lazy to follow through and feel any results. I had done challenges at work, at home, and at the gym. I always blamed the money… or the planning… or the preparation… “I have two kids. I can’t eat like that. It’s too __________ (expensive, complicated, time-consuming, etc.).” And off I went. It wasn’t MY fault.

So when I suspected and later confirmed Ian had a wheat allergy it kind of turned my world of excuses upside down. Ian goes to daycare 5 days a week and their menu is usually something like: “Wheat with a side of wheat and wheat breaded with wheat topped with wheat sauce.” Yum. So I’d be lunch packing 5 days a week. And then what in the hell will I do for breakfast? The waffles, the cereals, the toasts…. And forget eating out. As I researched I found wheat is basically in everything.

But when it’s your child you find a way to do it. There is no “Well, I am too tired to pack lunches tonight. I’ll just eat KFC at work tomorrow.” With a wheat allergy that would become, “Well, I am too tired to pack lunches tonight. I’ll just let my child suffer explosive diarrhea and stomach aches so I can chill out on the couch for an hour.” You’ve heard of Moms lifting cars off their kids? I think the least I could do was pack a lunch.

It’s been 3 months now and I realize now that it was me always in the way of healthy eating. (The “I told you so’s” and “Really? Shocking!” comments can begin). I’ve always had the time to plan and prep- I just didn’t want to. And money? Well, it’s certainly a bit more money in groceries but a lot of savings in unplanned fast food stops (mainly for me), gas station snacks (definitely for me), and going out to eat cause Mom didn’t want to cook and clean. It probably balances out.

So how did I go from the “Screw it, it’s delicious” to the label-reading, farmer’s market food only eating Mom so quickly? Here’s my “I am still a novice, but it’s gotten me through” advice. None of which I actually made up, but have collected from various authorities:

  1. Need lunch? Cook extra dinner- same # of dishes, prep, clean-up, etc.
  2. Packing lunches is not rocket science: Protein, vegetable or two (with a dip like sunbutter, guac, or hummus), fruit, and nuts/seeds. Makes the 3, 5, and 31 year old happy for lunch time. Plus, takes like 10 minutes to get it all together. The batman shaped ice packs help too.
  3. Your kids will be better at this change than the adults. Has Ian cried for a cookie? Nope. Has Mommy? Almost.
  4. It does get better. You do get a new normal. I don’t want wheat now. At all.
  5. Everywhere has a gluten-free menu. Except Cheesecake Factory but at least their manager’s know what’s up.
  6. Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. Most diets, in fact, can be unhealthy if you really try. A friend of mine has a child with a lot of severe allergies and her best advice was to not buy the gluten-free subs for foods we were familiar with. No one “needs” bread, wheat or gluten-free. No one “needs” cookies, crackers, pretzels, bagels, pizza…. and no one needs the gluten free version either. That advice right there saved me $1000’s. She’s a pretty smart lady.
  7. You will not notice change right away. But it will happen. Some unexpectedly. I am far more energetic and productive, less frazzled, happier, and not so sickly after 3 months. My body composition is about the same even without wheat. “Abs” haven’t magically appeared because I am far from eating a clean enough diet to deserve them. I’m also not eating for abs. I’m eating to live my life and be happy.
  8. Eat knowledgeably. Eat what you are going to eat but know what you’re eating, where it came from, and why you’re eating it. Take ownership. Whether it’s a pound of bacon or a Whopper. Don’t pretend you don’t know the consequences or benefits or whatever comes with that choice.
  9. Totally disagree with me. If this doesn’t work for you, cool. Find out what does.
  10. You’ll never be perfect. Don’t get me wrong- I will NEVER give Ian wheat. Not even like an oat that was processed at a plant that processes wheat. But Chex cereal at 6:30am because 4 people need to be out of the house by 7:15am works for me. Some people would give me flak for that and suggest all sorts of other things to do for an even better breakfast. But I’m not perfect.

Yeah so this post turned into a talk about me and not my son. Why? Because he wasn’t the broken one with screwed-up food issues. He’s totally fine with the changes. Has never fussed or complained about it. Asks people if there is wheat in it before he eats. Sees cookies and if we say there’s wheat, he doesn’t want them. He’s probably been the most receptive to the changes. It’d actually be a pretty boring post: “Child has wheat allergy. Happily will not eat wheat. Feels better. The end.”

Now, if only I could be allergic to sugar…. and ice cream….

Sarah H. is a super mom and athlete, and has two super-cute kids and a super-adorable dog. Ask her more about her forays into the gluten-free lifestyle in the comments below.