Can kids eat a paleo diet?

If the paleo diet maintained the evolution of man from the Paleolithic era, dating from 2.5 million to 10,000 years, then why is it not suitable for everyone, including our little ones? In this sense, some specialists believe that children can follow a paleo diet.

This guideline is an eating style that mimics what our pre-agricultural ancestors and hunter-fisher-gatherers ate. It is about eating fresh and little processed products, helping to reduce dependence on convenience processed and some options of whole foods and legumes.

It is also known as paleolithic diet, stone age diet, caveman diet or hunter-gatherer diet. In the case of children, like any other nutrition guideline, parents should make sure they are getting all the nutrients what do you need.

Paleo diet foods

In general, the paleo diet includes lean meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, healthy fats and oils. It is based on the idea that human beings are not adapted to eat and metabolize food from modern agriculture.

Like other experts, the author of the plan, Dr. Loren Cordain, concluded that the modern diet is associated with an increase in chronic non-communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.

The foods included in the paleo diet are the following:

  • Fruits and vegetables. Preferably tropical ones, such as pineapple, papaya, mango and fuji apple.
  • Fish and shellfish that are not raised on a farm.
  • Chicken, quail and goose eggs from organic farms.
  • Poultry and red meat, including game. Small animals, for example veal, are prioritized.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Bread made with buckwheat. It is a gluten-free pseudocereal.
  • Nuts, except for peanuts, since it is a legume
  • Mushrooms such as champignon, chanterelles, shitake, among others.
  • Honey as a sweetener.
  • Coconut oil, olive oil and avocado as a fat medium.
  • Garlic, leek, olives, onion, aromatic herbs and spices as a dressing.

The sweet potato is a component of the paleo diet, especially if it can be obtained from ecological and organic gardens.

Read also: How to follow the paleo diet: a complete guide for beginners

Foods to avoid on the paleo diet

The paleo diet avoids those foods that do not come from hunting or gathering. Therefore, it excludes processed and ultra-processed foods, such as those containing trans fats, breakfast cereals, soft drinks, prepared meals, among others established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as harmful to health. Health.

In a presentation on paleo diet they explain that other natural foods, such as grains, legumes and dairy are also prohibited. One reason is that they were not part of the Paleolithic era and can cause inflammation or digestive problems. This has been debated by the T. Colins Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.

The foods to avoid, then, are the following:

  • Potatoes and legumes, such as lentils, soybeans, peanuts, chickpeas, peas, lima beans, and all varieties of beans.
  • Dairy, such as cow's milk, cheeses, yogurts, kefir, and frozen desserts. Almond, soy and quinoa milk are also prohibited.
  • Cereals, such as quinoa, amaranth, corn, millet, rye, oats, rice, wheat, crackers, pizza, pasta, bread, gnocchi.
  • Seeds such as chia, sunflower, sesame, or pumpkin.
  • Refined sugar, sweeteners and any derivative.
  • Alcoholic or sugary drinks. Includes wine, beer, sodas, spirits, cola.
  • Berry-like fruits. That is, they have small seeds that are not digested, such as kiwi, bell pepper and strawberries.
  • Vegetable seed oils and all their derivatives.

Benefits in children

Children may benefit from the paleo diet more than adults, because their eating habits are just forming. This diet provides a nutrient density that supports the need for growth and development, adjusted to nutritional requirements.

Protein can be obtained from lean meats, fish, and poultry, which contain essential amino acids to synthesize tissues during development.

As a source of energy for their growth, they can consume a mixture of complex carbohydrates and simple sugars, through fruits, squash, sweet potatoes or buckwheat bread. Olive oil, famous for its extensive health benefits, like avocado, will be able to supplement the calories.

Another benefit of the paleo diet in children is the contribution of omega 3 fatty acids for visual and brain development and cell construction, described in the Revista Chilena de Nutrición. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines, and walnuts, are good sources of this type of fat.

On the other hand, the Complutense University of Madrid exposes in its book "Fruits and vegetables sources of health" the wide spectrum of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that these vegetables cover. They are coadjuvants of metabolic processes, an optimal immune system and a healthy body. The paleo diet promotes them as an important part of the diet.

Within the restrictions, the decrease in refined foods and sugars from an early age is also supported by the WHO. It can reduce the risk of obesity, overweight, diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adulthood.

This diet also avoids cereals, sources of gluten and antinutrients from legumes, as they can be harmful to the child's immature digestive tract. However, the Spanish Association of Pediatrics recommends introducing gluten and legumes from 6 months of age, during complementary feeding.

Possible consequences and side effects

The incorporation of gluten is discussed among followers of the paleo diet and medical organizations that promote its presence from 6 months.

Our children are in full growth and need a lot of energy. The paleo diet eliminates a large number of foods that can be a source of it. For example, simple sugars from fruits and carbohydrates from cereals and legumes.

By omitting legumes in the paleo diet, the properties they offer to health are eliminated, as established by the FAO. They are a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals, and resistant starch used to enhance the growth of bacteria in the gut.

On the other hand, excluding dairy reduces one of the best sources of calcium in children's diets, which is essential to strengthen bones and teeth. For this reason, emphasis is placed on watching the consumption of fish, green leaves, nuts and eggs.

However, as the issue is debatable, if the child tolerates milk, it can be indicated to reinforce calcium intake. The morning or afternoon sun will allow to fix what has been consumed.

Another consequence of omitting dairy is that they are also an excellent vehicle for probiotic foods that improve gut health, such is the case of yogurt and other milks with bacteria. In this case, the paleo diet offers some fermented plant products, such as sauerkraut and fruit drinks.

Regarding the consumption of red meat, the Chilean Public Health Magazine associates it with the development of certain diseases, which is why they recommend including more white meat in the eating plan.

Read also: Everything you need to know about the paleo diet

Is it a recommended diet for children?

The paleo diet is considered a safe and nutritious diet for people of any age. Little ones, like adults, need to customize their eating plan according to individual requirements.

Children can follow a paleo diet, as long as it is in the hand of the pediatrician and a nutrition professional, so that no nutrient is missing and the necessary adjustments are made.

Without a doubt, the inclusion of lean protein, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and unsaturated fat is an excellent option for children and the whole family.