Tuesday, February 2, 2010

primal parenting?

Mark's Daily Apple featured a post yesterday on raising healthy kids, particularly when the kids split their time, and hence meals, between divorced parents. The general tenor of the post, and many of the comments, is that if you raise kids to be "primal" (for the purposes of this post, read "eat healthy" here), they will develop a taste for healthy food and prefer it over less healthy choices when they eat dinner at Dad's, go off to college, or otherwise leave the dietary nest.

Problem is, this doesn’t match my experience.

I was raised on what was essentially a primal diet. My family hunted our own meat: moose, caribou, duck, ptarmigan (which, BTW, is not very tasty, even if you avoid a mouth full of buckshot), even the occasional bear. We kept chickens and geese. We had a substantial garden; what the marauding moose didn’t eat was usually enough to last through the winter. We fished the fall silver salmon run, hauling in 40-60 fish each year. We didn’t have soda or sweets in the house, except traditional cookies at x-mas. We didn’t even eat a lot of grains or dairy, because neither were feasible to grow or produce locally.

Then I left for college. All that crap in the SAD became available, and (because of the magic of dining plans) in unlimited quantities. Even to my supposedly “primalized” taste buds, it tasted good. Moreover, eating it was the norm at a time in my development when I was desperately seeking to fit in.

Enter massive weight gain, followed by an eating disorder. Took me about 10 years to get my body into equilibrium again.

I wouldn’t wish that on The Boy for anything. So, long post, short question: given that we -- and in particular our kids -- don’t live in a dietary vacuum, how does one raise “primal” kids without setting them up for an eating “backlash” later?


  1. i don't know the answer to this. i started eating primally 6 months ago and love it. my family has definitely benefited from it, and we have eliminated a lot of junk from our diet (i didn't think we were junk-eaters before, but we went through a lot of cereal and that sort of thing).

    my sister had an eating disorder and it's more important to me that my kids have a healthy relationship with food than that every thing they put in their mouths is healthy. plus, to suddenly tell my 15 yo or my 11 yo daughter what they can or cannot eat seems wrong (not so much with my 2 yo triplets, though!).

    so what i do is just eat what i think is right, talk about food with my older kids (but don't lecture) and buy grains that i feel better about (sourdough, oatmeal, rice). and surprisingly my kids choose more primal stuff than i would've thought. but in the end, it really is their choice.

  2. I was raised eating pretty much the way you described (minus the moose) and my path was the same- massive weight gain and eating disorder. Over the years, healthy food, not so healthy food and treats were available to my kids. Both kids seem to be miraculously normal, although my 19 yr old son lives on a typical college student diet.

    I was never taught moderation and still can't do it. Maybe that is the difference.