30 Days of Yes

we've got the beet

Just a few days into this 30 day food challenge, I can already see the challenge evolving.  The kids were initially receptive to eating strictly Paleo for 30 days, but then they started asking questions:

"Can we still have . . . ?"
"Is . . .  Paleo?"
"Will you buy us . . . at the end of the 30 days?"

I can tell you from first hand experience that googling, "Are (insert food in question) Paleo?", is a complete buzz kill and effective appetite suppressant.

Add to their questions the online and in-print flack I've received for feeding my children vegetables and meat.  I've been called Obsessive Compulsive and, in effect, irresponsible for eliminating certain major food groups from my children's diets (never mind that the food groups I've eliminated, grain and dairy, are two food groups my children shouldn't eat due to food sensitivities).

The point of the challenge, for me, is to feel positive about my food choices.  I want the same for my children.  I leave many food choices up to them.  Just yesterday morning, Grandma came over and offered Aidan a donut.  She asked my permission first, but I shrugged my shoulders and said, "It's up to him."

Thankfully, he said, "No, thank you."

YES!  Score one for the irresponsible, OCD mom using her children as guinea pigs!

This is not a Whole 30 Program or Primal Blueprint Challenge or 30 Day Total Transformation.
This is not about following somebody else's list of acceptable foods.
This is about celebrating where you are in your transformation.
This is about taking control of your own diet (and your family's diet too).
This is about loving food.
This is about saying yes.

This month, I'm saying yes to as many vegetables as I can get on my plate.  Yes to beef, pork, chicken, and trout.  Yes to eggs.  Yes to foraged fruit.  Yes to bacon and avocado.  Yes to sweet potatoes slathered in butter, post work-out. Yes to coffee with coconut milk in the morning and herbal iced tea in the afternoon.  Three to five times a week, I will say yes to fruit from the farmer's market.  Once or twice a week, I will say yes to a glass of wine or a tequila spritzer, and maybe a treat such as coconut ice cream or nut flour baked good (recipes for some of our new favorite treats coming soon).  On a rare occasion, I will say yes to protein style hamburgers from In-n-Out.

I will not say yes to ice cream or fro-yo, so kids, don't even ask me.


Yesterday, I said yes to smashed potatoes, one of my daughter's favorite foods, and also a Paleo no-no. I said yes because volunteer potatoes were literally popping out of the ground in our garden, begging to be boiled and fried to a crisp in butter.  I said yes because it was a rare treat.  I said yes because I knew it would make my family happy.  I said yes because I'm in control of our diet. I said yes because I love saying yes to food.

"And yes, I said, yes, I said, yes."


  1. I think you're doing a great job. More people need to be much more concerned with what they and their kids are eating. You are a good example of nutrition and exercise for your kids.

  2. forget about them! They probably don't like the way you parent or what you wear or how you act. Too much goodness out there to waste it on the naysayers. Yes is so powerful when it comes to food. Glad your family understands the best path to their health and can decide how that journey looks.

  3. Isn't it amazing the comments people have. My two cents: if everyone paid the same attention to what their children, and they, put in their bodies as you have we'd all be better off. We're vegan, part for health, part sensitivities and intolerances, part for animal loving reasons and while I didn't speak up to your last question I agree that you and I are largely on the same page when it comes to food. Good food, food made of food, food that fills the belly and warms the heart, food that grows strong happy kids and contented Mommas. You know, just food.

  4. I say yes to people being opinionated and strong-voiced on things that matter - things that need changing in this world but often receive a blind eye - not the personal journey of a family looking to be more in touch with their food and share their story. Why would anyone take the time to pass judgement on this - on you? I'm sorry Molly. If it stung at all - I hope it only made you more determined. The great thing about you is that you make decisions based on what you have at your hands. If it makes sense to continue something, you do. If not, you don't. The fact that you have the gumption to try things but do so with realism is something I admire about you. Forget them! BTW - I'll ask my dad about blackberries!

  5. Hey there!

    I love your blog because it mirrors my own family's Paleo journey so closely. But lately, I've been having doubts and this post makes me wonder: Why did you decide Paleo was the end all be all for you and the family? What pushed you towards that over some of the other Paleo cousin diets out there? Let me explain:

    We (my 4 kids - ages 2-12, my husband, and I) have been Paleo for a few days shy of a year now. I've neglected my blog documenting our changes, but basically my husband lost weight and are the epitome of health, the kids are strong, healthy, and thriving, and life is good............except lately - the last 2 months or so - I've been having Paleo doubts. Specifically, I'm wavering on my stance on enjoyment foods: potatoes, rice, wine...even good cheese. While I used to be a drill sergeant about "yes" foods like in your post for over 10 months, recently I've relaxed a bit. And I'm really okay with it. See, my kids were homeschooled, but since we moved to an awesome school district, they are all enrolled in Spanish immersion. Even with unending public school cupcake and pizza parties, we've still maintained Paleo. That's no easy feat with grade school aged kids!!!! My parents/inlaws send McDonalds gift cards for Valentines or jelly beans for Easter. Still we've maintained Paleo. It's been an uphill battle, but this is how hardcore I've been.

    But lately, I've begun to question the root of my belief. I jumped on Paleo in June 2011 because it seemed so logical. But as I immerse myself in the science, I've stumbled upon some misconceptions and issues Paleo diehards dig their heels into (like nut consumption and shunning of potatoes, etc.) that other diets feel less strongly about. Primal and even The Perfect Health Diet seem to make even more sense than Paleo to me these days. Consequently, some foods I used to shun I've allowed back in...white rice (in sushi or to scoop up curry), smashed potatoes like you mentioned, dark chocolate with coconut, and even homemade ice cream with fresh berries they pick from the backyard. I've noticed no ill effects in any of us, but lots more easy smiles and relaxed children...and parents.

    But I'm still uneasy about my decision because I was so strict about Paleo before. So I'd love to hear your thoughts...why diehard Paleo and not Mark Sisson's Primal, Chris Kessler's Healthy Skeptic, The Perfect Health, etc., etc.? Have you found better results from sticking only to "yes" foods? What are they? Have you been doing organ meat (super Paleo, but I'm having a hard time with. Same with chicken...I can't seem to eliminate it no matter how hard I try)? Any upcoming posts on it??

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and your wonderful blog. I know no one else doing what I'm doing and often feel like an outcast in my own social circle.....I love to read up on your adventures with it because there are so many parallels!


    1. hi kim!

      you've certainly dished up a generous plate of food for thought. i've been thinking on it for days!

      for me, personally, strict paleo is my (current) eventual goal, but for my family, strict paleo is too restrictive. mark's daily apple and the healthy skeptic help provide a balance between my ideal and our reality. thank you for mentioning the perfect health diet - that site is new to me, and the "diet" is quite attractive for an active, growing family.

      as i've told my family, the 30 day challenge is about creating a habit of making healthy choices. for me, it's an easy reason to say no to the foods i want us to avoid. in full disclosure, rice and potatoes are an occasional food for my children (i should also mention that they love heavy whipping cream, and my son still drinks whole milk). personally, i'm not interested in dairy or white starches.

      eating clean in a society brimming with junk food is an uphill battle, but the last thing i want to do is be a food nazi and create more problems surrounding food for my children. if everyone is healthy and happy, then i know we're making good decisions.

      joining a cross fit gym has done wonders for my diet/food choices. at the gym i've found a supportive group of paleo "believers". we talk about food as much as we talk about lifting weights. also, working out regularly has become my motivation for eating clean. when i first went paleo, my goal was to lose weight and reduce inflammation. now that i'm lean and feeling good, my goal is to get strong, be powerful throughout my work outs, and recover fast. the better i eat, the heavier i lift, the longer i endure, and the faster i recover. paleo and cross fit are truly made for each other!

  6. I'm sorry you're receiving such flak - there are as many ways to healthy, conscious eating as there are ways to living a happy life. I've enjoyed reading about your journey.

  7. Our children have grown up safe with the knowledge that because I gave birth to them, I get to say how they are raised, from their meals to their schooling and beyond. What Jimmy or Jimmy's parents do is of no consequence, since I played no part in their being on this Earth.

    This works well for many things, especially for countering critisism and peer pressure. Roar on, Momma Bear!

  8. I feel so bad that you are getting negative feedback on this. I say "great for you" for taking control of what goes into your family's mouths and bodies. I for one, will watch your journey and applaud your efforts...and maybe learn a trick or two in the meantime. We aren't Paleo at our house, but that sure doesn't stop me from trying out tips and recipes that I find that look interesting as we lean towards a healthier lifestyle.
    Thank you for sharing your journey!

  9. I think this is great. I think that as parents we need to teach our children to eat correctly, the way that will make them feel better and if that means no grain or dairy because of sensitivities or no processed sugar because their little bodies react adversely then I think you are being an amazing parent. I've been teaching my not-so-little-anymore man to make healthy choices and to think of the other foods as sometimes foods for a long time now. I think that the nay-sayers are just uninformed and you are an amazing mother.

    1. thank you, brianna! i like the phrase "sometimes foods". i'm going to use that.

  10. I love your passion for food and feeding your family Molly! Ignore any begrudgers - in contrast to many other families yours has researched and chosen a food routine,so enjoy it! In our house we allow most things in moderation but I love the fact that my two-year olds idea of a treat when we're shopping is a tub of blueberries, a pear or some cheese! Educating our kids to make good food decisions is not easy but its so essential in a world where they all too often are surrounded by the worst option possible.

    1. i too love how certain whole foods have now become a treat. my kids love it when i give them a few dollars and let them buy their own fruit at the farmer's market. to think that i used to allow them to get a complimentary cookie from the bakery every time we popped into our local market. what was i thinking!!!

  11. It is so challenging in the world we live in to just listen to what our bodies need, and respond accordingly. When someone does it, when they listen to themselves and their family and they respond accordingly, it goes against the grain. That is a sad truth, but it still can spawn an awful lot of crappy comments. I think that what you are doing is awesome, and it will yield so much positive for you and your family.

    1. "it goes against the grain" - hehe.

      i completely agree about listening to our bodies when it comes to food, and i also know from personal experience that eating crappy food is like stuffing your ears with cotton. sometimes i feel like susan powter's yelling, "stop the insanity!"

      thank you for your encouragement, heather. your thoughtful parenting is always an inspiration.

  12. Although not on a Paleo journey, I find your enthusiasm and commitment to your "yes foods" to be contagious! It is so critical to bring up children to make thoughtful choices about your food and I think that your "yes" mentality is just the right way. I became friends with the eldest of a large family of vegitarians when I was in college- and I was astounded by the commitment of the older children to healthy foods! When I asked my friend about the family secret to commitment to healthy eating, she gave me told me that as small children, they were sheltered from foods the family didn't approve of. As they got older and tried the super-chocolate-frosting-cake at a friend's birthday, they found it too sweet and not to their taste. This is only half of the story though. I learned the other half visiting their house for the holidays- it was a culture of "yes foods." The family was constantly baking and smelling and feasting and sharing the whole foods that they loved and agreed with... there was no lack of anything and the table was filled and delicious. I know that this will look different in my house as my children get older (I love meat!) but I hope to keep the essential part- the family culture of loving to feast together on 'yes' foods. Thank you for the new phrase. Cheers.

    1. yes, yes, and yes again! this is exactly my point! it's funny how often people will ask me, "so you don't eat cheese? beans? bread? pasta?", but when i tell them what i made for dinner, they say, "i want to eat at your house!"

      a culture of "yes" foods and a family who loves whole food is what i aim to cultivate.

      enjoy your meat, amy!

  13. oh boy. Well, you don't have to defend your choices around these parts. I think your choices -- and your conviction to stick with them -- is inspirational.


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email: mollydunham@sbcglobal.net
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