Doing a Whole30 with Kids
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
Tips and tricks from our experience bringing the kids along for the ride on a Whole30.
When we embarked on our first Whole30, the (then three) monsters were five, two, and less than one. The baby got to keep his rice puffs, but everyone else was all in, whether they liked it or not.
People thought it was a little crazy that we forced our kids to join in our little health experiment, but there are two huge reasons why we did:
1. It's a lot easier to follow through with a Whole30 if everyone in your household is on board. There's the camaraderie factor, sure, but also, if my partner or kid is munching away on something I am trying to give up, Imma want some of that.
2. If we are attempting a nutritional reset to heal our bodies and change our habits, why would we not want to get our kiddos in on that? What's good for the goose is good for the gosling.
So that's the why. Here's the what:
I'm starting here because, while snacking is discouraged on an adult Whole30, kids have smaller bellies and generally need to eat more frequently. Plus, if your kids are in preschool, chances are snack time is a pivotal part of their day. Monster 2's preschool provided snacks, none of which were Whole30 acceptable, so I made arrangements to send his snacks from home. Now, you may be thinking, "Suzie will never survive without her Oreos/Cheerios/Goldfish/Veggie Straws!" And Suzie herself will try very hard to convince you of this. But trust me, she'll be fine. It may take a week or two, but by the end of the Whole30, she'll be begging for...
-apple chips (or fresh apple slices) with Sun Butter (or tree-nut butter)
-Kids RXBARS (they're smaller than the adult version)
-celery "ants on a log" with Sun Butter (or tree-nut butter)
-guacamole with beet chips, cucumber slices, or chicharones (pork rinds)
-cantaloupe with prosciutto
-clementines + almonds or pepitas
-trail mix like this one
-fruit and veggie sqeezy pouches like these, these, or these + mixed nuts
-carrots (or other raw veggies) with paleo ranch
Try to include fat and protein in every snack (so not just a banana) to avoid spiking blood sugar.
This is another hard one for kids (and parents) used to an easy bowl of cereal in the mornings, but here's what we love:
- cucumbers (easy veggie to keep on hand and serve along side any of the following)
- coconut yogurt mixed with collagen powder (for protein) + fresh berries
-"green apple sauce" (applesauce mixed with greens powder and collagen powder)
-leftovers topped with a fried egg
-any other kind of eggs, haha
-ground meat browned with chopped apples, onions, sweet potatoes, garlic and cinnamon
-roasted sweet potato rounds topped with almond butter, blueberries, and cinnamon
-green smoothies with collagen powder and coconut oil mixed in (smoothies are discouraged on a Whole30, but mornings with monsters are crazy)
You can fill up reusable squeezy pouches with smoothies for babies and even add probiotics or vitamins if desired. These pouches are my favorite because they are dishwasher safe. Just be sure the lids make it to the dishwasher! I am so bad about almost throwing them away--although they do sell replacement lids if that does become an issue!
There were so many rules and regulations for what you could send for lunch at Monster 2's preschool--and they required special lunchboxes that didn't have space for ice packs to keep perishable items out of the temperature danger zone--that I fudged a little on this one. I'd make a batch of silver-dollar-sized paleo pancakes, keep them in the freezer, and pull out two each morning to use as bread for an almond-butter sandwich to send to school with him. Paleo pancakes are famously disallowed on the Whole30, but I didn't want him eating turkey that had been out of refrigeration for several hours, and nut butters were only allowed on sandwiches. So. . . sometimes you gotta do whatcha gotta do. Assuming you have greater flexibility, here are some great options:
-approved turkey (or other) lunch meat (I like this one with no sugar, no carrageenan, and a great price)
-spread a slices with mustard, baba ganoush, or guacamole, and roll up
-use the turkey as a wrap for a BLT with Whole30-approved bacon
-wrap slices around an approved pickle to make "pickle dogs" (we like these)
-Whole30-acceptable hot dogs with compliant ketchup, yellow mustard, and raw sauerkraut (if your kids are adventurous--half the monsters love it, half not so much)
-veggies with compliant ranch, baba ganoush, or guacamole (as a side dish)
-frittata wedges (great warm or cold)
-salad with compliant dressing (the Monsters love Tessemae's caesar)
-apple slices spread with almond butter and wrapped with prosciutto
When it's dinner time, you're gonna make what you're gonna make. There will be times when the kiddos will protest. Protesting might last the whole first week. Maybe even the second. But by the end, something magical will happen. You'll glance around the dinner table, and your kids will all be happily munching away on their salad. And you'll think, boy am I glad we did this. Here's a couple tips to get you there:
-Tell them they do not have to eat it. That's right, it's their choice. Choosing not to eat it means going to bed hungry, but that is their choice to make. But what if they skip dinner every night? Chances are that's not going to happen. When and if they are truly hungry, they will eat whatever you give them. Remember, you are not taking dinner away from them, you are simply giving them a choice to eat the amazing meal you've prepared, or not. Give small portions at first and praise them for trying new things with a good attitude.
-Offer "dessert" to those who eat all their dinner. This might not be 100% in the spirit of the Whole30, but kids sometimes need a little extra motivation. We buy giant bags of frozen fruit from Costco and let the monsters have a certain number of pieces after dinner. Some of them like it with a splash of coconut-almond milk. Dried mango (check ingredients list for sugar and funky stuff) is another great treat, but use sparingly.
This is another area where I choose to obscure the rules a little--just for the kids. You can't help it if a crazy number of the kids in Johnny's class bring birthday cupcakes to school during your Whole30. You don't want Johnny to miss out completely, but you also don't want him eating ALL THE THINGS--especially if you are evaluating how diet modifications affect issues for him specifically. Speak to the teacher (and possibly the administration) and ask if you can send a stash of approved treats for these kinds of situations. Explain that you are doing an elimination diet to see if it will help with certain issues. I had to meet with a couple different people, but the staff at Monster 2's preschool were super supportive and agreed to stash a batch of Pecan Pie Tartlets for him. Fruit strips or dried mango pouches could be good options as well.
Equally as important as "the why" and "the what" is "the how." How you approach the Whole30 with your kids as you embark on it together will set the tone for their outlook on the next thirty days. Explain to your kids the big groups of things you'll be giving up (dairy, legumes, etc.) and explain why you won't be eating them (these food groups may be making us feel bad, and we want to see if our bodies and minds feel more healthful, strong, and superhero-y without them).
You can even make it into a grocery-store game:
-Mom, can we buy this?
-I don't know, what's in it?
-Ooooh, it has grains. Nope, it's not part of our superhero plan!
-Good sleuthing! You're going to make a great superhero!
Doing your first Whole30 with kids is no easy task, but so, so worth it. I hope these tips help you and your family to approach yours with confidence and excitement!