Autoimmune and Paleo eating. The family approach.

My oldest daughter, Ty, asked me what it is like to be a parent. I said that it is the best job in the world, but it can also be the worst. I know she understands that statement, even though it sounds harsh. One minute she makes my heart feel like it’s fit to burst with pride and love and the next, I am tearing my hair out trying to deal with a stubborn ‘teenager’, who refuses to do as she’s told. Lately it’s been more of the former and part of it has manifested from her approach to how we eat now. We have become more united and she has shown me strength of character – beautiful independent thoughts exude from her. To explain though, I guess I’ll have to go over a little of how our eating habits have changed in our home.

When I set out to eat a Paleo diet, I spent hours doing my usual research and my mind floated dreams of us all eating pile of vegetables and fruit, good protein; dreams of eliminating bread, pasta and all the ‘bad’ foods from our household. I had no idea how I would implement it, nor how it would pan out. I read about several different approaches to applying ‘the changeover’ at home; from the extreme, who ban everything and take a blanket approach within their household to those who made the changes for themselves and left the family to eat as they were before. There was not a great deal of in between, but maybe people think others don’t want to read about people, who (like me), go through waves of eating styles in their home based on the ethos of eating Paleo and more sustainably.

So I introduced Paleo to the family and let them decide. Mr B backed me and from day on. Our main meals were strictly non-processed and free from grains, rice, white potatoes and pasta. There was no more take-away pizza, no more beautiful mushroom risotto, with white wine and parmesan (Ty’s favourite) and no more spaghetti bolognese. Ty understood the changes and although she was a little reluctant, she soon became a massive fan of vegetable tagine and sweet potato with prawn Thai style soup. I carried on buying her any cereal she liked; I also bought bread, butter, milk and cheese. When Ty started school over here in September, she ate school meals – carb-laden and although sometimes reliably sourced and organic, for the most part just a lot of processed food.

At Christmas, family and friends sent tons of chocolates, sweets and biscuits from the UK – a lovely idea, but not great for a family who were trying to develop a new way of eating. I encouraged home baking, as I always have, and emphasised to Ty how great it was that we could see what ingredients she was putting in her sweets. I gave her constant and well-deserved praise for the beautiful cakes and cookies she made.

When my HS got worse, I decided to take the autoimmune approach and eliminated everything I needed to –  no cheating at all. The family was subjected to more meal changes; no tomatoes, spices, chilli and eggs. Cooking got a whole lot harder and we had to get more creative. There were a lot of roasted vegetables, roasted chicken, pork. More sweet potato chips, stir fry broccoli, onion and a constant struggle to try to get leafy greens into our diet. A trip to Ed’s family went really well – everybody accommodated my changes and even though there was the usual chocolate, milk and pancakes for everyone else, together we had amazing main meals – simple but delicious fish and chicken dishes and organic vegetables. We encouraged Ty to eat how she wanted and explained that being at Nanny’s on holiday was a good time to indulge, if she wanted to – and she did. As the diet continued I found I had a reaction to red meat and so homemade burgers, BBQ steak and ground beef were off the menu. More changes, restrictions and struggles, but we kept looking for more recipes.

One day when I was writing a shopping list, Ty said to me that she didn’t want any more sugary/chocolate breakfast cereal.  She told me that she wished to be healthier and have more protein for breakfast. It helped that the paediatrician in New Orleans had told her that protein was an important part of her breakfast – funny the things kids remember. She said she was going to start eating omelettes instead. She decided that to do this she would shower the night before to allow herself time to cook breakfast. And she did. She cooked mackerel omelettes everyday for a longtime. As she became more confident in using the hob, she took a bigger interest in cooking. She started reading my recipe books and writing lists of ingredients for me to buy. She then started baking alone. From the weighing of ingredients, peeling and cutting fruit to using the oven.

Since then she has cooked apple crumble, cakes, upside-down apple and walnut pie. She made an amazing BBQ sauce from a Paleo cookbook and I often find her with her head in a recipe book, plotting her next bake-off. She tries hard to eat like me. She asks how much protein is in her food. She eats large helpings of salad with her dinner, without even being asked. She still eats sweets if she wants to, but they are never bought by me. My Mum asked if Ty would like some sweets and I suggested she buy Ty some silicone cupcake moulds. Ty loves them!

She’s back on cereal now, but it’s organic muesli, instead of Coco Pops. She has tried soya milk instead of cow’s milk. She talks about how different foods make her feel. She has an awareness of her diet, that last year even I didn’t have.

So this is how we do it in our house. We don’t all eat the same, but there are no special allowances when it comes to our main meals together. We try new foods and recipes often and we encourage baking – even if it is nowhere near Paleo. We cook together and eat together and this is one of the parts of our lives that has made us closer. Ty still drives me insane and is as stubborn as a mule, but she is educated, objective and very considerate. I am proud of my daughter and her approach to eating, even if it is not the same as mine.

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