Guest Post: Jan’s Sushi Bar – The Young One’s Strange Diet

If you haven’t yet heard, Wednesdays are our Guest Blogger Series day! It’s a day where Stacy and I get a bit of a mid-week break while getting to share with you some of our favorite online bloggers.  And for their hard work, they get the benefit of your readership – we encourage you to please show all of them your support by visiting their blog and social media links at the end of this post!

We’re excited to be kicking of our Guest Series of 2013! We actually put forth the effort to initiate requests with some of our favorite under-appreciated bloggers and are now booked-up with posts to thrill you all year long!

Today’s post is from a site we’ve personally followed for years. In fact, I look forward to her seasonally changing header each month! Jan’s site, Jan’s Sushi Bar, has not only gorgeous recipes, but it’s content also has much more to offer. Today Jan is talking about a topic we frequently get asked about, but don’t yet know the answer – teenage children gone paleo. In fact, we were so inspired by the topic we’ll have another guest post tomorrow from a different blogger, with a different perspective, on the topic.

I am an old parent. Yes, I am. My eldest will be 30 in June, and my youngest is going off to college in the Fall, when I will enter the fabled land of The Empty Nest.

It apparently does exist, after all.

That’s not what I’m here to talk about, though. No, I’m here to tell you about the kid that’s going off to college soon; I call him “The Young One” on my blog. Three months premature, weighing a whopping 2 lbs. 4 oz., he was known among the staff at the hospital as “the miracle baby.” Born January 27, we took him home on March 17, just a little over six weeks later; there were babies in the NICU that had been born closer to term and weighed more who spent much, much longer there. And aside from surgeries to correct a hernia and strabismus in one eye, he never had the health problems many other preemies faced.

But there were developmental and behavioral issues – issues not fully resolved until he was in middle school. Knowing what I know now about diet, I think back to those days and am angry – angry with a society that tells us “foods” laden with chemical additives, dyes, industrial seed oils and HFCS are perfectly safe for growing little bodies and minds. Angry with myself for not knowing the difference; I can make all the excuses I want that the wealth of information available today simply wasn’t there nearly 20 years ago, but it does little to assuage the guilt.

Even if I’d known then what I know now it would have been a struggle. You see, The Young One is what is politely known as “a picky eater.” Naturally lean and wiry, it was a struggle to get him to eat anything beyond a few (very few) foods as a small child. For years, every meal was a battle, and every new food tried a triumph. Of course, as he’s matured that’s become easier, but there are still foods he simply will not eat – don’t even bother to put that zucchini or those collard greens on his plate, because they’ll just…sit there. The dog might eat them, but The Young One will not.

Surprisingly, he’s always been pretty good about meat; even as a small child I used to tell people that my son lived off of meat, cheese and chocolate chip cookies (even if he did eat them in frustratingly small amounts). If it flies or walks on four legs, that boy will eat it (alas, he’s not so fond of things that swim). So when we “went Paleo” it wasn’t really difficult to bring him along for the ride. In fact, it was downright easy once he got over the disappointment that there would be no more junk in the house. And he has thrived.

But there have been repercussions that I, for one, didn’t foresee. You’d think after five children I’d remember what social, herd-like animals teenagers are and realize he would receive some negative feedback about his new diet from his friends and classmates. No chips? No cookies? No soda? No ice cream, cupcakes, candies or even cereal, for crying out loud? Did he really like those carrot sticks, all that celery stuffed with nut butter? Grapes? Apples? Bananas? Raw milk cheese? Sandwiches on LETTUCE?? As far as his friends were concerned, that wasn’t lunch – it was some sort of dietary purgatory.

His very best friend was especially hard on The Young One, since the friend’s mother is still a member of The Low Fat Tribe (she is, in fact, their Queen). Her kitchen is filled with every low fat/fat free “food” and treat in existence, because fat – especially all that nasty saturated fat – is just going to clog up your arteries and kill you faster than you can say “Hollandaise sauce,” don’t you know. I don’t try to enforce our diet outside of home and school lunches (it wouldn’t work, anyway) and he often “indulges” when he spends time there…and comes home complaining of headaches, digestive issues and the nastiness that is turkey bacon.

We won’t even go into the complaints of this friend when he’s at our house, where there’s nary a Lean Pocket nor Snackwell cookie to be found, although I’ve yet to see him turn down the nuts, cheeses, seasonal fruits or “paleo-ized” goodies we always seem to have on hand. (This is also the same young man who, after having whole, non-homogenized, grass-fed milk at our home for the first time, asked me, “What have I been missing all these years?” I told him, “Real food.”)

The Young One handles it well, though, and some of the criticism has begun to wane, perhaps due in part to the fact he’s getting kinda ripped with next to no effort. But six-pack abs and bulging biceps aside, he’s never tried to pressure us to bring foods into the house we would not eat ourselves. For the most part he likes the way we eat now.

Barbecue sauce is about the only condiment he’ll eat, but that’s okay – it makes Barbecued Beef Liver one of his favorite dishes and it makes a great dipping sauce for another of his favorites: Crispy Fried Chicken Livers. When I sourced a goat for our freezer, he ate things like Moroccan Goat Stew with abandon (minus the butternut squash). Surprisingly, he enjoys spaghetti squash and dishes such as Venison Bolognese and Cincinnati-Style Chili have been huge hits with him. Heck, even his friends will eat things like Whole30-complaint Chili Dogs and Bacon-Wrapped Honey Mustard Chicken Strips.

I still worry a little about him going off to college – the food options on campus aren’t exactly the best, although I secretly cheered when he expressed dismay and disbelief over the fact there’s a full-service Quaker Steak and Lube in the student center. And I wonder just how often he’ll be home to raid the refrigerator in the months to come.

Jan, the culinary talent behind the Real Food/Paleo recipe blog Jan’s Sushi Bar was a popular food blogger long before she transformed her entire family’s diet several years ago. As the mother & step mother of a grown – and growing – family, she is living proof that your kids can and will embrace a healthy lifestyle if you take their individual tastes into consideration.

About Stacy

Stacy Toth has written 342 post in this blog.

Stacy is the matriarch of the Paleo Parents family. After beginning a paleo diet and founding PaleoParents.com in 2010, she lost 135 pounds and found health and happiness for the whole family. The following three years have been a progressive journey with a mission to educate people about nourishing their bodies by eating real foods. Stacy can be found on all forms of social media as @PaleoParents as well as the top-rated The Paleo View Podcast and her two cookbooks, Eat Like a Dinosaur and Beyond Bacon.

  • grokgrub

    Wow, really enjoyed this. I can’t imagine what my peers would have said if I showed up with a lettuce-wrapped sandwich back in the day… eating real food in high school builds character!

  • Alice

    I love this post. Thank you! My son is 9 and food has been a struggle with him his whole life. DH & I went paleo about 2 years ago, and DS is sort of paleo-ish. He still eats grains, but I have found lots of gluten-free and wheat-free options that he will eat and like. He now notices that if he does eat wheat (like when he’s with his gramma who practices no restraint with food and fills him with all the junk he doesn’t get at home), he will often get an upset tummy and generally not feel very good for a day or so. He’s starting to see the connection, but he doesn’t know how to turn down gramma when she suggests pizza & ice cream for dinner. In the past year, I’ve started making green smoothies for breakfast at least 3 or 4 times a week. He loves them, and doesn’t even realize it when he’s getting a healthy dose of kale or chard or spinach for breakfast. The fruit I put it masks the “green” flavor and he slurps it up. It’s all about baby steps with him.

    • Karen

      I’m with you on the grandparent battles. I’ve been trying to win my mom over with Wheat Belly, Grain Brain and the youtube video, “Diet, Health and the Wisdom of Crowds” as we don’t spend as much time as we should with her for those very reasons.

  • scapegoated

    I’m going to have to use these tactics on my boyfriend eventually, so thanks in advance, Jan! : P

  • NK

    So encouraging to read Jan! I have 2 sons, ages 10 and 8.5 and peer influence is already so strong. My 10 year old still takes canned sardines in olive oil for lunches, but I am not sure how long that will last. Great to see such smart, confident kids who are able and willing to make good choices for themselves (with lots of help from mom/dad of course!)