Paleo with a non-Paleo family?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 26, 2013 at 6:11 PM

Let me start off my saying that Paleo makes sense to me, and is something I have wanted to do for a long time. The only reason I have not committed to it is because of my family. I'm an adult, I've got two kids and a spouse. My kids eat whatever I put in front of them (mostly) but my spouse is completely opposed to Paleo. I think that this would be a LOT easier if all of us went Paleo, rather than just me and the kids. I don't want to be cooking two different meals (or one meal with modifiers for him) because that will be an added expense and an incredible temptation, especially when I am starting out. I love my breads and pastas, and while I know I can live without them I can assure you that I will be tempted to eat them if they are being cooked (by myself) for him.

It isn't that he doesn't think I should do it. He is just one of those guys who is of the opinion that he should be able to eat whatever the heck he wants and not be on a "diet".

Short of convincing him to go Paleo, does anyone have any good ideas for getting him to eat Paleo without feeling like he's deprived? I will likely be doing primarily meals like burgers, where he can have his on a bun and I can have mine on lettuce. But it would be nice to have a few meals I can put together without having to make any adjustments for him.

And it has been suggested that I tell him he eat Paleo or he can cook for himself, but frankly I won't be doing that. I cannot and will not force him into this lifestyle. I am hoping that once he sees me feeling and looking better he will realize he should give it a shot, but I certainly won't force it on him.

Another hurdle I am dealing with is my parents. They have been vegetarian for the last 10 years (and a few of those they were vegan) and rely heavily on carby foods like pastas and breads. My mom is morally opposed to meat eating (and I understand where she comes from; I go through phases where I struggle with eating meat myself) and she is constantly sending me emails about how bad Paleo is, and how I should go vegan. I have been vegetarian and vegan. I've lost weight on a vegan diet, but I had no energy and it never felt "right" to me. Any advice for dealing with this kind of thing? I don't want to be rude (she is my mother, after all) but I am at a point where I have decided to go Paleo and I don't even want to tell her because I don't want to deal with her disapproval.

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4 Answers



on August 27, 2013
at 12:15 AM

Most of us are in this boat, so don't worry you aren't alone. Temptation will always be there, so it is really your/my deal to decide what we deem worthy to cross our lips. Our spouses are grown ups able to choose what they eat, and part of how we love them if we are the primary cooks is to cook what we know they love. Kids we have more control over, but I kind of want to make my children adventurous eaters and cook a wide variety of stuff for them paleo and not.

When I first started I needed to be really strict, but now, if I've cooked spaghetti and garlic bread for the family, I'll sometimes have it too. Those foods used to destroy me, which was actually a pretty good deterrent, but I think I've healed a lot and can eat them without pain now, so I indulge if I really want to. I used to think of paleo as a permanent lifestyle change, and now more like a therapeutic diet that helped me get to a place where I could eat more freely without feeling ill. There are still things out there that make me feel crappy, but I'm not laid up with stomach cramps and brain fog for days now.

Something that might help is if you check out Perfect Health Diet, it is pretty much what I'm following these days. My family doesn't even know they are eating a paleo meal half the time, and I don't have to cook separate meals. I'll often make baked potatoes topped with chili, curry or stir fry with rice, stews, salad rolls in rice paper wrappers with shrimp. Kids can't seem to get enough of rice balls, which are super easy to make if you buy sushi rice, and you can put all sorts of stuff in them. The show New Scandinavian Cooking is my current fave cooking show and worth a watch for inspiration, almost all the recipes are paleo friendly, usually a meat, a root, and a little something green. "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" by Julia Child is my favorite cookbook too, it is practically paleo if you skip the bready stuff. You could even just tell your family you are on a gourmet kick, and drop any and all references to paleo in speaking with them, and be feeding them paleo all along. Deliciously devious....muhahahaha!

If they don't want to give up bread, real sourdough has much less gluten than your basic sandwich loaf from the store, and is easier to digest. I just ordered a sourdough starter from Friends of Carl (they'll send it to you for free with SASE) and am going to start making bread for my family.

As for your family members criticizing your food choices, everyone is entitled to their own opinions no matter how batshit crazy they are. And we can still love them just as much even if we can't agree on a single thing to eat. No need to worry about their judging you or you trying to win them over to your own point of view because there is nothing you can do about what goes on inside of their heads, and really it is none of your business anyway. Just as what you eat or think is none of their business, even though this breach of the social contract is often ignored by evangelical vegans (and paleos, and Low Carbers, etc. You know who you are). It is okay to remind them of this, and to inject a bit of reality into the conversation if need be that every animal dies someday, and mama nature can be just as cruel as the nastiest CAFO operation. Natural death is often a slow, drawn out, and painful process. This doesn't excuse humans from acting poorly in the name of profit, but it doesn't condemn the using rather than wasting of available animal foods, which is what the vegan philosophy would have us do.

Surely the culling of a domesticated farm animal with a single shot or shock to the head (an animal that stands no chance of surviving in the wild, so that "let's just free them" argument is absurd) is less painful than a wolf taking bites out of a caribou while it is still alive, or a cow starving to death after getting stuck in mud. I try to do my best to source meat from places that treat their animals well, and follow the "one bad day" theory of animal culling. I sleep well at night knowing the lamb, cow, or bird I'm eating had a lovely time frolicking around with its friends and eating well until the day it ended up in my freezer. The food chain persists whether we choose to participate in it or not. You can also share that grain is not a blood free food either, combines decapitate rabbits like crazy during the harvest. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1


on August 26, 2013
at 09:06 PM

Just start making paleo dishes and see how he reacts. Breads and pastas are really just fillers anyway, and if you cook up some wonderful paleo meals, I am sure he would enjoy them. Don't call them paleo, just call them "dinner".


on August 27, 2013
at 04:36 AM

It can be done, I'm a paleo in a non-paleo family, maybe you could make some paleo dishes the whole family will enjoy? As I said, it's quite doable and I do it, but you may need to thicken your skin and get used to listening to your family rant about how much meat you eat and how high in fat and protein your diet is and that grains are heart healthy, etc. Just lead through example and when they see how strong and fit and energetic you are, maybe they'll be convinced.



on August 26, 2013
at 09:02 PM

A lot of people assume that being "on a diet" means having to eat tiny portions of tasteless food. So you might want to try the following :

Try to cook something delicious on a given day, such as this : http://eatdrinkpaleo.com.au/hearty-paleo-beef-stew-recipe/

When your husband is done licking the plate, casually mention that he just had a 100% paleo dinner.

Try adding more paleo meals to the weekly list and see what works. You don't have to go all the way immediately, but see if both you and your husband see changes in your health/energy levels etc.

Concerning your parents, see here : http://www.vegiehead.com/vegan-paleo-recipes.html

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