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Pssst … we’re not totally Paleo

dairy products

Hey! Where did these come from?

I have a confession to make. I do not eat 100% Paleo 100% of the time. Neither does my son or my husband.

While I recognize all the wonderful benefits of the Paleo diet, I just can’t imagine going the rest of my life without eating another slice of pepperoni pizza. I don’t even want to.

My philosophy is this: We keep foods in the house that we are OK with any one of us eating. That means while we’re at home, we eat about 90% Paleo. Our “cheats” are usually dairy-related, specifically butter, whipping cream and (occasionally) cheese.

When we’re out and about, I feel free to indulge. I suppose this is a habit I picked up years ago when we first turned our kitchen totally gluten-free because of my husband’s celiac disease. Just because he couldn’t have gluten when we were out, didn’t mean I couldn’t, right?

In practice, these days this means my son and I eat the samples at Costco and on the rare occasions we go out I eat what I feel like eating. Last weekend, we went to Chipotle and I had a burrito bowl complete with beans, white rice, sour cream and cheese (oh, the horror! the horror!). I also got a steak quesadilla for my son, which I ended up eating most of as well (yes, I have portion-control issues — I love food, what can I say?).

This weekend, we’re going to a BBQ and I’m fairly confident I’ll be ingesting some gluten-filled products and quite possibly some sugar-filled products as well. If this makes me a weak person, so be it.

I am pretty tired of people judging other people’s food choices (and I have to admit that this is a behavior I’m working on myself — whenever I’m at the grocery store, it’s hard for me not to cringe when I glance inside some of those shopping carts). If you don’t want to eat gluten or sugar or red dye or whatever, that’s just fine with me, but let me enjoy my cupcake in peace.

For me, it’s all about finding the right balance. If we eat Paleo 90% of the time, then I feel like we are in a much healthier place than something like 90% of the population. But I don’t want to have to bring our own food to every social event we’re invited to for the rest of our lives.

And I fully admit that I have the luxury of being able to eat almost anything I want. I’m not allergic to any foods (except kiwis, go figure) and I don’t have celiac disease. This is a luxury not everyone has. I understand that, trust me. Whenever we buy anything out of a box, can or bag (which happens less and less these days since we started eating Paleo), I have to pore over the ingredient label because even if it says it’s gluten-free, it may have been manufactured in a facility with wheat or it might have soy, corn or peanut oil in it. Whenever we eat outside of our home, there is a good chance my husband will get sick, which is why he almost never eats out. When we travel, we stay places where we can cook food ourselves and even bring our own cookware.

My point is, living with food allergies and celiac disease can be a real chore. I go through a lot of effort to make sure our family has nutritious food to eat. If I want to treat myself occasionally to a forbidden food and not worry about gluten, sugar, corn, legumes and dairy for one meal, I don’t see a problem with that.

The thing is every person has to figure out what works for her (or him). If you’re allergic to a food, obviously an occasional cheat is not a good idea. I suppose some people may not be able to control their cravings for gluten, sugar, etc., with occasional treats, so they may have to stay completely away from them (this is why we don’t keep such foods in our house). What I’m doing right now is a good balance for me.

What I worry about mostly is my son. He’ll be going to preschool five mornings a week starting this fall and in true Montessori fashion he’ll be serving himself snacks. Of course, the snacks at his school are not your typical toddler fare (thank God!). They’re not serving lemonade and Goldfish crackers. But their vision of “healthy” is still different from ours. There are grains. There are dairy products.

These are things we really don’t want our son having every single day, but I don’t know whether we’ll be able to prevent him from having them without making a huge hassle for everyone involved. And it’s not like he can’t have them in the sense that he’s allergic to them or something. We just don’t want him to have them, particularly my husband, who fears all grains (for understandable reasons). I’m hoping we’ll be able to prevent him from having these foods, but there’s just no way of knowing at this point.

My other concern is just the social factor. As we’ve become more involved in our community here, our exposure to non-Paleo foods has greatly expanded. It’s worst around holidays. Moms bring in cookies or cakes to the classes we take. There are sweets at church. We go to a friend’s house and there are more sweets. I’m wondering what the future will bring as our son gets invited to more events and involved in more activities. For now, I try to limit his intake of these items, but it’s so hard.

Part of it, too, is that so many of my fond memories from childhood relate to food — eating cotton candy at a fair, popcorn at a movie theater, fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies, etc. One of my favorite breakfasts as a child was Oreo cookies dunked in milk.

I’m not about to start feeding my son Oreos, but I realize, too, that denying my son these experiences is in a way forcing me to look at my childhood in a different light. My childhood was not a happy one and I really don’t want to tarnish the happy memories I have. For now, I’m just hoping that we’ll be able to create positive memories for my son around healthy foods and that the occasional cheats won’t matter that much in the big picture of things.

And now … I’m off to eat a huge bowl of microwave popcorn. Sshhh!

Do you indulge in any forbidden foods?

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5 Responses to Pssst … we’re not totally Paleo

  1. Honestly, I really admire your ability to relax and give yourself, and your son permission to indulge here and there. We’re not paleo, but are careful about sugar, dyes, refined foods, etc, and I’m vegan. I have an incredibly hard time relaxing and being flexible, and I don’t think it benefits anyone. I’ve been stressing about a birthday party my daughter is invited to next weekend, because I know there will be cupcakes with refined flour, sugar, dairy, and the like. The stress is totally unnecessary. One cupcake will not give her diabetes. Hopefully I naturally become more easygoing over time.

    With the school issue, I’d say it’s worth just chatting with your son’s teacher. We always had self-serve snacks when I was teaching Montessori, and yet it was really easy to accommodate allergies and special dietary preferences. I had at least one or two children every year whose parents sent in special snacks for their kids and it was not an issue. Others just talked to their children enough that they knew to avoid specific food groups, and eat whatever else was on offer.

    • Thanks, Melissa. I’m sure we will be able to work something out when he starts school.

      You are right — it’s not worth the stress. I am not at all easygoing by nature, and I definitely would not consider myself easygoing, but it is something I am working on. I think we all need indulgences every now and then, whether its a cupcake or a bubble bath.

  2. Of course all I eat are forbidden foods. I’m happy you free yourself occasionally from the restrictive diet. Also, amazing all the things you are making from scratch. I’ll have to try the coconut butter to believe it!

  3. Great post, and something I try to live by as well. The most important thing about rules is knowing when and where they should be relaxed. Such small forays into forbidden pleasures only help keep you on the path long term, in my experience.

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