I am going to share with you how we did the Whole30 with kids. You will learn tips on how to succeed and recipes that are compliant with this lifestyle. Try my Whole30 recipes, eggroll in a bowl, and no-bake coconut blueberry pie.
When my family did the Whole30 earlier this year, I jumped in with two feet. I:
- Compiled tons of tips for doing the Whole30 on a budget
- Made a budget-friendly Whole30 meal plan
- Even kept track of what we actually spent on the Whole30 (lessons learned for next time!)
… and I also jumped in with two kids!
So many people asked me so many questions about doing the Whole30 with kids, that it warrants a public answer and a how-to/warning guide of sorts if you choose to do the Whole30 with kids as well.
It wasn’t easy, but it was so, so good for all of us. Here’s how it all started:
Telling the Kids About the Whole30
Mr. Crumbs and I went back and forth on how we were going to tell the kids that Friday night pizza, ice cream and PBJ’s were going to be off-limits for a while, but you never really know how it’s going to happen until it actually happens, ya know?
However, we agreed to NOT refer to the Whole30 as a “diet” when talking to the kids.
You know how kids are… they talk and share and unknowingly embarrass the family by telling the whole class grandma’s underwear can fit over their heads…
We didn’t want our kids to share that they were on a “diet.” Partially because we didn’t want anyone to jump to conclusions and call Child Protective Services on us, but also because the word “diet” carries a huge negative connotation for a lot of people.
*I* know and *you* know that the word “diet” means “the sum of the food consumed by an organism or group” (thank you Wikipedia) and a “healthy diet” means “the process of helping maintain or improve overall health,” but people have a sneaky way of hearing what they want to hear so we just didn’t use the word “diet” at all.
Instead, we called it a “meal plan.”
That worked out well because the kids know what a meal plan is. They’ve been listening to me FOR YEARS asking them what they’d like to see on the meal plan, or to check the meal plan when they want to know what’s for dinner tonight (and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day…).
So using the word “meal plan” automatically put whatever we did on the Whole30 in the partially recognizable territory.
Explaining the Whole30 Rules
The Whole30 rules are pretty short and simple:
- No grains, gluten, dairy, soy, sugar, alcohol, legumes, or specific additives
- 3-4 meals a day
- No snacking
I wish I could say that explaining this to the kids was quick, easy, and painless, but it wasn’t. It’s not like I’m expecting them to know what all these things are. They were 8 and 10 and pretty smart, but even some adults have never heard of the word legume, don’t know that vanilla extract is 99.9% alcohol, that corn is a grain (not a vegetable), and that something doesn’t have to be labeled gluten-free to actually be gluten-free (hello fruits and vegetables!).
Still, we used examples to explain what these things were, and most of them were self-explanatory:
- No dairy means no regular milk or cheese or butter… but we can have almond milk and ghee! (Expect the “what’s ghee” question to pop-up here.)
- No soy means no soy sauce, but you don’t have to worry about that. Mommy will make sure I cook using the right ingredients. (Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce!)
- (We skipped the alcohol and additives.)
- No sugar means no sweeteners at all – not even honey or maple syrup. (What are we going to put on our waffles?)
- No grains mean we can’t have waffles… or pancakes or tortillas. But there are SO many other things we can have for breakfast that you won’t even miss! (That’s stretching the truth because we couldn’t wait to have waffles again!)
- No gluten means no bread, but we haven’t had much bread lately anyway so this really isn’t a big deal. (Be positive here! And don’t ask them for confirmation – it ISN’T a big deal!)
We took our time explaining this – still over dinner – and answered all the questions they sent our way.
Their little wheels started turning and they started connecting the dots and it was as if their world came to a screeching halt and crumbled right before their eyes:
NO BREAD AND NO CHEESE MEANS NO PIZZA?!?!
Changing Family Traditions (Temporarily?)
My daughter’s face turned bright red as she unsuccessfully fought back the tears. She knows that not having pizza for dinner isn’t worth crying over, but it took Mr. Crumbs and I a minute or two to realize that she wasn’t upset about pizza.
Well, she was upset over pizza, yes, but that wasn’t the ONLY reason she was upset.
She was crying because homemade pizza has been our Friday night family tradition FOR HER WHOLE LIFE.
It’s something Mr. Crumbs and I started when we first got married. Apparently Texas’ version of “New York Style Pizza” didn’t taste anything like real New York pizza. So we started making our own!
To her, the news was devastating. What do you mean NO PIZZA for dinner on Friday? What else could we possibly eat?!
Once she was calm and started breathing again (not joking), I asked if we could do hamburgers on Fridays instead.
THE GIRL: So, hamburgers without the buns, right?
THE GIRL: Can we do potato wedges too?
My lesson to you: have a plan to replace any family traditions you might have going on, and make sure it’s a plan that they’ll love just as much.
Snack Time on the Whole30 with Kids
I mentioned that the Whole30 has rules about snacking. Meaning, you can’t. Part of the Whole30 is changing how your body and brain views food and for 98% of the population, snacking throws it all off in an unhealthy way.
For the kids though, we knew they wouldn’t make it from one meal to the next. Their little bodies process food SO FAST! That’s why they’re asking for snacks when you’ve just finished cleaning up after breakfast!
So we made a rule that the kids could have a snack at 10 am and 3 pm with our standard disclaimer of “as long as you finish your breakfast/lunch” (whichever applies).
Snack time though had to follow the same structure as our meals: protein + fruit/veg + fat.
What did the kids eat on the Whole30?
I’ve received questions like,
- What did the kids eat for breakfast on the Whole30?
- Do you mean they didn’t have cereal or oatmeal for breakfast?
- How could you let your kids starve at breakfast?
- What kind of parent forces their kids to eat leftover dinner for breakfast?
To which I answered,
- Protein, fruits, vegetables, and fat.
- They ate PLENTY of food; I promise they didn’t starve.
- Apparently, ME!
Because here’s the thing – when we hear the word “breakfast,” 9 times out of 10 we associate grains and sweet foods… pancakes, waffles, muffins, oatmeal, cereal, granola. The mere fact that we write “breakfast for dinner” on our meal plan proves my point.
But this is one of the reasons why we loved doing the Whole30 with kids – no one food was ever assigned to a particular meal and it taught ALL OF US what types of food to put on our plates.
Plus we branched out into new foods like homemade breakfast sausage and carrot sweet potato fritters and sweet potato apple breakfast bake and no-bake blueberry coconut pie and dairy-free ranch dressing and our favorite ground beef taco meat and my go-to dinner salad recipe and creamy mashed cauliflower and sheet pan Hawaiian Shrimp and quick cauliflower rice and egg roll in a bowl and almond crusted baked chicken and 5 minute guacamole and oven-roasted hash browns.
That’s FIFTEEN new recipes in roughly 45 days. In terms of trying new foods, this was a HUGE success!
Special Occasions on the Whole30 with Kids
The kids’ school allows birthday parties and rewards the kids with candy and ice cream for achieving classroom goals. I’m all for rewards and celebrating, but these in the midst of the Whole30 meant coming up with an alternate plan.
We bought 100% fruit bars from Costco and made a rule: if there’s a birthday party at school, they could take one with them and have it instead of cake. This was the ONLY time they were allowed to have these fruit bars, so the novelty of them never wore off.
It was really important to us that we stuck to the true meaning of the Whole30 as best as we possibly could as a family, so we didn’t waver on birthday pizza parties (the kids still packed their own lunch) or any candy they received (it was to come home and be thrown away, period).
I might sound like a mean mom…. and these rules might sound harsh… and you might think that “just one piece won’t hurt them”… or “everything in moderation”…
But to be frank with you, those last two statements are a lie. Government studies have shown that sugar is more addictive than cocaine (source) and bringing home candy EVERY SINGLE DAY is not in moderation.
Plus the Whole30 doesn’t allow sugar anyway!! If one of my goals as a parent is to get the sugar out of our house, how does letting candy in help the cause?
So we didn’t keep any of the candy.
Positive Changes from the Whole30 with Kids
Just one week into the Whole30 with kids and we were already seeing MASSIVE, positive changes.
- My daughter stopped having massive emotional meltdowns (she was 8).
- My son stopped giving us attitude and talking back (he was 10).
- They became better listeners (and obey-ers).
- There was less arguing when asked to do something.
- My son didn’t throw fits when he had to do homework (or re-do an assignment).
- They paid more attention to their work in school, and performed better on assignments.
- In turn, their grades went up the next quarter!
- They ate all of the food on their plates within a reasonable amount of time.
- Both kids started ASKING and REQUESTING specific VEGETABLES for dinner!
- They had less issues sleeping.
- Both were super regular in the bathroom.
- They drank more water.
- They understood what a “healthy” plate of food looks like.
The shift was HUGE, and we knew we wanted this trend to continue. Our kids are one of the reasons why we’ve kept much of the Whole30 lifestyle now several months after officially completing the program!
My Tips for Doing the Whole30 with Kids
- Being open and honest with the kids is paramount. No matter how young they are, you can be honest and share with them in language that they’ll understand.
- Tell them why. Don’t just say yes or no. Explain the reasons behind your decisions, why you’re doing the Whole30 meal plan in the first place and why they’re doing it too.
- Include the kids in the process. Ask them what they’d like for dinner; what vegetables they’d like from the store; what fruit they’d like for breakfast. Ask them if they want regular potatoes or sweet potatoes. Ask them if they want almond butter or ranch dressing to dip their snack in. The more you ask, they more they’ll feel included and the more they’ll be okay with doing the meal plan (not diet!).
- Stick to the plan. Kids are great negotiators and can weasel in and out of any situation, but you stick to your guns!
- Mark off the days on a calendar. Let them be in charge of that. They have very little control over the whole thing, but this empowers them a bit.
- Don’t commit to ending on a certain date. The time frame for reintroducing foods is almost two weeks, so if you tell the kids “we’ll be done on this date,” you’re setting yourself up for failure. Keep it vague, but be honest in that “we’ll see how everyone is feeling after the 30 days, and after we bring back some food groups.”
30 Minute Dinners Sample Meal PlanSign up to get instant access to my 30 Minute Dinners Sample Meal Plan, complete with recipes and step-by-step instructions!
And there you have it! A fairly comprehensive summary of our Whole30 with kids experience. I’d like to know this though… have YOU done the Whole30 with kids before? How did it go? And do you have any tips to share with us?
I have searched high and low for articles about eating healthier with kids and this is the first article I’ve found that shows how it’s done. You just do it!! I appreciate your experience and the conversation with your kids. I have 3 boys- twins (3.5) and a 5 year old and I am hoping to implement this even though they are younger! Thanks again!!
Brittany @ Team Crumbs
We’re pleased to hear that you enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing. 🙂
Hi! I just found your site as I was looking up the whole 30. Our kids are 9 and 7, and my son is the pickiest eater ever— won’t touch fruit as is. Has to be blended into smoothies or soups. We are desperate! Do you have recipes that got you through? Or where can I find the meals your kids preferred when you did this? Thank you!!
Kyare - Team Crumbs
Michelle, we have a ton of smoothies with a variety of options offered on our site. “Plus we branched out into new foods like homemade breakfast sausage and carrot sweet potato fritters and sweet potato apple breakfast bake and no-bake blueberry coconut pie and dairy-free ranch dressing and our favorite ground beef taco meat and my go-to dinner salad recipe and creamy mashed cauliflower and avocado chocolate mousse and sheet pan Hawaiian Shrimp and quick cauliflower rice and egg roll in a bowl and almond crusted baked chicken and 5 minute guacamole and oven-roasted hash browns.” This paragraph in the article has many recipe links which match what the kids enjoyed while on whole30.
Hi! My kids are 10,8 and 3 and we are starting on this venture. I’m struggling with ideas for including fats in the school snacks for a kid who doesn’t like olives or avocados and the school has a blanket no nut policy…right now it just meat, fruit and veg at school and I’m encouraging nuts at home (which is never a problem). Ideas?
How about eggs or chia seeds or salmon or coconut?
I love this! We are a family with three kiddos. (One tween and two toddlers) We have been given guilt trips, snide remarks, and out right rude actions from people over refusing candy and sweets for our kids. (Family,friends,strangers) You are the first blog I’ve read that rightfully calls it like it is! My kids sleep so much better. Toddlers were waking up 5-6 times a night on average before. Now they might wake once for a Binky or snuggle. Attitudes are so improved! My tween doesn’t cry everyday, she loves her siblings again, she’s just happy! My migraines disappeared and no eczema on any of us! Thank you for being honest and telling people the truth about diet. This has made our family so much happier and healthier!
You’re not alone in this battle, Chyrsti! You’re a great mom. ♥
Kimberly - Bearfoot Mama
Hey! I found your blog when I googled “Whole30 kid snacks” and you mentioned your kids ate snacks at 10 am and 3 pm, but you didn’t say what! What do your kids eat for snack?? Especially non-perishable, easily accessible ones? We run around town a lot with my 2 & 1-year-old. They have many digestive issues, so we can’t eat dairy, and I want to try eliminating grains. But snack time is SO hard. If we have time, I will sit down with them and eat apple slices with peanut butter, but other than that, it is fig bars, granola bars, applesauce, and little baby food puffs. Any good whole30 little kid snack ideas? TIA!
While on the Whole30, snacks were “protein, fat and fruit/veg.” So that would be nuts, olives, bananas, carrot sticks, almond butter, homemade Whole30 ranch, celery sticks, etc. I think applesauce and fig bars are a great idea for when you’re on the run. I’d mix it up though, and keep the “convenience” ish items for when you truly can’t be there to help them, and the more labor-intense things (i.e. helping them with fruit/veg and nut butters) for when you can sit down for a few minutes. One thing I learned on the Whole30 is that anytime you eat, it’s ALWAYS the same: protein, fat, fruit/veg. Even snack time should be that way. Maybe viewing it as a mini-meal, rather than a snack, would help broaden the ideas. Shoot – leftovers are a great idea too!
I don’t understand the part of the Whole30 that calls for no gluten. A lot of doctors and health professionals agree that gluten shouldn’t be avioded unless you have an allergy.
And the refusing classmate’s birthday treats just seems kind of…rude to me? My school teachers would never let kids just whip out another snack just for themselves on someone’s birthday. But I guess there is kind of a whole culture to classroom snacks that can vary.
Hi Natalie! I don’t make the rules for the Whole30, but gluten can cause inflammation for a lot of people, even if they don’t have allergies. In fact, it triggers migraines for my daughter (which we wouldn’t have known unless we eliminated it for the Whole30!).
You can call me rude, but to be honest, I’m the parent and I’m in charge of what my kids eat. Growing up, if I couldn’t have the pizza and cupcakes as part of the celebration for dietary reasons, I’m sure my teacher wouldn’t have minded if I ate the snack I brought for myself. It’s not that I’m wasn’ sharing with everyone else – it’s that I’m not able to partake and my snack is so that I’m not left out. And I’m sure I know many parents mean well when they bring in pizza and cupcakes, but I wasn’t willing to let that deter us from our greater health goals.
I am a teacher and I would not have any problem with a student needing to eat something different than their classmates. In fact, I would love if more students brought alternatives and were choosing better nutrition over sugary treats. A little secret is that teachers usually dread these treat times because then we have to deal with the after effects until it’s time for students to go home: hyperactivity, mood swings, sugar crashes, etc. Kudos to this momma for teaching their kids how to take better care of themselves and that it’s ok to not do something even though everyone else might be doing it.
Maria Esperanza Quarles
❤️ ❤️ ❤️
Wow! Thanks for sharing. We are a grain- free, dairy-free (except butter), sugar-free household out of necessity, so we basically eat Whole 30. My kids are 3 and 5, so they haven’t known much different (except for occasional gluten-free bread, which they miss). I need to bring a breath of fresh air to our menu, so I’m looking forward to checking out some of the recipes you posted. Thank you for the inspiration!
I’m amazed at the changes you saw in your kids. What motivation to continue! Where would you say you’re at right now? 80% Whole 30? What have you decided to bring back in to your family’s menu plan?
Btw, I saw that you’re eating more paleo now. These are hands down the BEST paleo waffles! https://www.paleorunningmomma.com/paleo-waffles-grain-free-dairy-free/
They are great with fresh berries and a *little* bit of maple syrup. 🙂
Loved this article especially point about OUR EXPERIENCE DOING THE WHOLE30 WITH KIDS
sharing this on facebook and pinterest