One of the questions I often get asked about transitioning to paleo is what do you do when you attend a birthday party or other food-centered gathering where most of the guests and even the host are not paleo. How do you keep the kids away from the canola-oil-laden chips and gluten filled cakes and treats?
When I first transitioned the kids to paleo it was difficult. I was still trying to figure out what foods contained what ingredients, what they were sensitive to, what things were uber important and which I could let slide ocassionally.
Over time I learned that my 4 year old cannot tolerate gluten at all and doesn’t do well too much dairy either. My 14 year old is affected by gluten and dairy quite noticeably but is at an age where she’s figuring that our for herself and I feel the need to step back and allow her to sort it out. And my 2.5 year old seems mostly unaffected by sneaking a few things before I can get to him. Ironically its too much crummy salt that keeps him up at night asking for water several times.
Here are a few of the tips that work for us:
Paleo Tips and Tricks: Attending a Birthday Party
1- Feed them before you leave the house!
I do this for myself as well often times, not only for parties but if I know I’ll be out running errands for several hours. If they’re well fed ahead of time they’ll simply eat less at the party. If it’s a long car ride I even take something for them to eat on the way there like beef jerky or even a larabar.
2- Take foods to share!
Talk to the host first and find out if you can bring some burgers or chicken to grill, a salad and a dessert to contribute! Chances are food will be welcomed and that way you know there’s at least something you will be able to eat. We’re a family of five so I feel the need to bring plenty anyway. Usually I’ll take all 3 things: a protein, a vegetable (usually a salad), and cupcakes that vanish within seconds. That way the kids don’t feel deprived when cake they can’t eat makes an appearance. If Natalie (14) decides to eat it, she does us a solid of being discrete so the other 2 don’t gang up on us. 🙂 If watching the kids eat canola oil laden potato chips make you cringe you can also bring these potato chips which are cooked in avocado oil – yay for healthy fats! They’re delicious by the way.
3- Relax if and where you can.
For example, my 4 year old will spend the day vomiting and/or with diarrhea if she has even 2 bites of regular glutenous pizza and if she has a whole regular cupcake she’ll be thrashing on the floor for 3 days. I’m not even a little bit kidding. It’s possible that as her gut heals the effects will lessen and maybe even disappear but for now, I find it important to make sure she remains 100% gluten free at a minimum and paleo as often as possible. My friends are often surprised to hear that the only thing I’m 100% strict on for myself and my 4 year old is remaining gluten free. At home we’re pretty hardcore, so I don’t feel the need to carry the hardcore-ness with me everywhere I go. Also, perhaps influenced by our unschooling philosophy, my 14 year old is free to make her own choices when it comes to food. They’re not always choices I agree with but other than right before and right after her major spinal surgery for scoliosis I feel like she is at an age where she can create her own journey when it comes to food. She wrote about it here.
4- Superfood the heck out of them!
If a certain day or a certain meal will be a bit of a bender I try to minimize the damage by making sure my kids have super nutrient dense meals before and for a couple days after the event. For example, I’ll give them twice their daily dose of Fermented Cod Liver Oil for a few days. I’ll also make sure to include sardines, bone broth and organ meat as often as I can.
5- Start a blog and convert your friends! (wink)
I’m only half joking. I feel super lucky that some of our friends are on the real food bandwagon lately and the last birthday party we went to my friend Sarah served paleo cupcakes! So awesome.
Want to learn more about how to transition to paleo? Read my eBook Paleo Made Easy. It contains practical advice for busy families, shopping tips, answers to pretty much every paleo lifestyle question, and 45+ paleo recipes. Learn more here.