I swear I didn’t put her up to this. Yesterday, my five-year-old was given this homework assignment:

Please decorate the attached tree in a way that best illustrates your family. Complete and attach the sentence to go along with the way your tree is decorated. For example, “My family tree is a banana tree because my family is like silly monkeys.” You can make any kind of tree you believe best describes your family.

So what did my daughter come up with? Silly monkeys? A tree full of nuts from California? Nope. This is the type of tree she decided best represents her family, without any suggestions from Mommy or Daddy:

Great. If her teacher took any standard-issue nutrition courses in college, she’ll probably see this and make a note: “Tree full of nuts from California. Watch carefully for signs of learning disabilities.”

I should mention at this point that my wife and I are careful not to be food Nazis. If our daughters ask for a potato or toast or cereal, they get it. They just don’t ask very often. If they’re offered a sugary treat, as happened today when a classmate of my five-year-old’s brought cookies in honor of his birthday, they can have it. But they often say no thanks, which is what my daughter did today. Here’s why:

Yup. My daughter knows a “cooky” or an “iscrem” cone is nothing but a big load of sugar. And in her scientific opinion, a load of sugar is classified as “Yuk!!!” Since she wasn’t raised eating sugary snacks, she just doesn’t crave them.

Here’s what she does like:

Eggs and “sbinich” are “Yum!!!” Before we had kids, I always heard how difficult it is to get them to eat their vegetables. My girls like their vegetables – but that’s probably because we serve them drizzled with melted butter. (I seriously doubt anyone would pay $30 for a lobster tail if not for the melted butter, as far as that goes.)

Shortly after we moved to Tennessee, a neighbor stopped by to welcome us. The welcome included a tub of homemade broccoli-cheese soup. Almost apologetically, she told us her kids won’t eat broccoli without the cheese. I suppose she was worried we’d think to ourselves, “Tsk-tsk! Giving your kids all that fatty cheese … shame on you.”

Not hardly. The meals my girls ate today are typical for their diets. Breakfast: scrambled eggs, bacon, a peach. Lunch: cheese sticks, apple slices. Dinner: Beef stew made from a pot roast, carrots, onions, mushrooms, and olive oil. (They loved it. They had seconds.) Snack: a dish of almonds.

According to the high priests of The Holy Church of Accepted Advice For Living A Long and Healthy Life, my girls are badly nourished. They rarely eat whole grains, half grains, fractional grains, or any other grains that make up the base of the Food Pyramid. They eat a lot of meat, eggs, and saturated fat. In other words, they eat a lot like most human children did for nearly all of human history.

If they’re malnourished, I have yet to see any evidence of it. They’re lean and strong and energetic. (If they were any more energetic, my sanity would be at risk.) They both swim whenever they get the chance. They chase each other around the house. They dress up in costumes and put on shows – which are usually pretty good for the first two hours or so. The five-year-old loves to dance and takes dance classes.

She also likes to read, she makes up her own scientific “experiments,” and she was the only student in her class last year to get a perfect score on their first addition and subtraction test. I think we can safely assume her brain isn’t suffering from stage-four Cheerios deprivation.

If I sound proud, it’s only because I am. The girls are thriving on the Protein Tree. I wish I’d been raised there myself. Life on the Corn Tree wasn’t nearly as healthy.

The full homework assignment.

The full homework assignment.

 

Sprouts from the Protein Tree.  The four-year-old was trying to look frightening in the cat get-up.  She hasnt grasped yet that the thumb-sucking diminishes the effect.

Sprouts from the Protein Tree. The four-year-old was trying to look frightening in the cat get-up. She hasn't grasped yet that the thumb-sucking diminishes the effect.

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32 Responses to “The Protein Tree”
  1. Gwennie says:

    What lucky girls! They are especially fortunate in being raised without sugary things. My oldest boy developed a taste for starches and sugars before we went low carb and it has been difficult on him to find that these so-called foods are no longer stored in the house.

    What do you say when people express worries about your children’s way of eating? (Do they?) I have this nightmare scenario in my head where CPS shows up and tries to remove my son because meat, cheese, and eggs form the bulk of his diet. I’m probably being silly, but I know people will think we’re insane.

    We haven’t had to deal with it yet. I figure that will happen when my oldest starts hearing the dietary dogma in health class. Boy, will she make herself unpopular with the teacher then. Perhaps I’ll have to donate some copies of Fat Head to the school and hope it helps.

  2. Dave, RN says:

    OK, I’ll be first.. cute, cute, cute. I didn’t turn paleo until my kids were 14 and 17, and they think I’m pretty much crazy, although they do understand my triumph over high blood sugar, weight and blood pressure.
    The boy is now away at college. On the dorms food plan eating who knows what!

    College, ugh. Sugar, starch, alcohol, an occasional burger, but always with fries. What is that saying about the freshman 15 pounds?

  3. Tinamemphis5 says:

    How adorable! Its great that your kids WANT to be raised primarily low carb. I wish I would have known to do that with my children.

    I’m glad I got the chance. If I’d had kids at a younger age, I wouldn’t have known any better.

  4. tiffany says:

    I LOVE this. As a mother of two girls, 7 and 3, it always amazes me how they pick up on our family’s ‘differen’t eating habits. They will freely tell their friends (and their parents) that the bowl of pasta they are eating will not give them energy to play but just make them tired, and could the please have a slice of beef or an apple with almond butter. They may call us crazy now but when our kids grow up without diabetes and the host of other health issues kids are having these days maybe they will think back to these comments.

    That’s my hope. My parents, bless them, didn’t know any better.

  5. Beatle says:

    I’m no expert, but these kids look pretty damn happy and healthy!
    I wish there were protein trees!

    So do I. We could tell our kids how Newton thought of gravity after a 16-oz ribeye fell out of a tree and landed on his head.

  6. Josh says:

    Beautiful children who are obviously being raised very well. Great job! You have every right to be a proud father.

    I certainly am. Thanks.

  7. Heather says:

    What a smart girl (and they’re adorable!) Since we are fairly new to this way of eating my 12 year old is still a little skeptical — too many ‘health’ classes under her belt at this age. Heck, even her Ped was talking to her about her BMI (fine at 22.6) and how not to get fat by maybe cutting some of the meat out of her diet and adding veggies. ::sigh:: To do her credit though, she didn’t blink an eye when I said we had switched to raw milk. My 7 year-old has really taken off with it though and will look at each dish and say ‘does this have a lot of fat and protein so it will be hell-fy for me?’ I find that if I keep the junk out of the house healthy eating becomes a non-issue.

    I’m kind of dreading the day when we have to explain to my daughter that sometimes teachers and textbooks are wrong. It will, of course, ultimately be good for her to develop a healthy skepticism about the “experts,” but there’s that bit of innocence lost …

  8. Ellen says:

    I was looking for some info on a local middle school’s craft show, and ran across the lunch menu for the months of August and September. Curious, I took a look. It was pitiful.

    I noted all the foods that were high in carbs and chemicals, and they made up most of the page. I know all public school menus probably look like this, as they are compelled to follow the USDA pyramid. It’s a wonder the kids can learn at all. I don’t have kids, but they be taking a lunch to school if I did. I salute you as an excellent dad.

    Our daughter packs a lunch.

  9. Dave says:

    Similar experiences in our household. My daughter Stephanie recently hit both the doctor and dentist in preparation for kindergarten. She’s 5, but almost 4′ tall and 60 lbs. The doctor was clearly experiencing some cognitive dissonance, as most 60-lb. 5-year-olds probably are obese. He even went so far to say “I’m not worried about that, because she’s obviously very healthy.” Stephanie volunteered that she has “big muscles” because she eats “lots of steak”. Similar experience at the dentist, who raved how healthy her teeth were. “You must brush twice a day”. Again, I would guess she’s used to looking at the teeth of Vitamin D deficient carb eaters.

    I, of course, thoroughly alienated the nurse when she suggested the kids have soy milk.

    Thanks for putting up a post where we can brag about our kids :-)

    Your kids are worth bragging about. Healthy, articulate, and as I recall, very polite around adults. It was a pleasure to meet them.

  10. April says:

    That is so cute! I just love kids they crack me up.

    I don’t have any of my own at the moment, but if/when I do have kids, I know a big concern of mine is not having them become addicted to sugar/carbs. Personally I feel my own addiction stemmed from my childhood, and I wish my parents would have tried to push better eating and exercise habits when I was a kid. My boyfriend grew up with parents like that, and he rarely ever craves sweets! But I know now that it’s all entirely up to to me to decide what I do!

    Kudos to you for teaching healthy habits to your kids at a young age!

    I think the tastes we get used to as kids have a lot to do with it. I grew up eating Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks, Cap’N Crunch, and other garbage. (Sadly, we switched away from bacon and eggs when my dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol.)

  11. Mrs.K says:

    I too wish I had this information when my daughter was a child. Luckily, I loved to cook, so even though we were living on a very low income, she grew up happy and healthy. I’m hoping to educate her before she has her own children now, but she is not receptive yet, she likes to cook, but her weight is normal and her health is good so doesn’t have a pressing reason to improve the quality of her diet.
    I wanted to mention that I saw a headline on the ‘net today that 15% of toddlers are depressed. The brief article mentions that these children are at a higher risk of depression if their mothers are depressed. It immediately made me wonder if anyone knows if they are strict low fat families….

    If not low-fat families per se, I’d bet they eat more sugar, more starches, and more frankenstein fats, as opposed to natural saturated fats.

  12. Dave Dixon says:

    Thanks Tom. Your kids are sweethearts as well.

    We got a lot of comments from friends that “you’re lucky your children are so well-behaved”. As much as we’d like to take credit as having great parenting skills, our experience is much more that biology drives behavior. Feed the kids junk food, you get junk behavior. Deprive them of sleep, ditto. Keep them rested and full of protein and fat, and they’re as cool as the other side of the pillow.

  13. Cynthia says:

    Gorgeous AND adorable!

    My boys grew up eating butter and other good fats, but also plenty of carbs and sugar, and found themselves seriously overweight during their high school years (as we all were from eating that way). Our lives were revolutionized by reading Taubes’ GCBC, and luckily the boys were amenable to change too. Both have slimmed down beautifully (one was even going to weight management classes before, lost 100 lbs mostly by cutting out sweets). When my son lived in the dorm at college, he found it very difficult to find any decent food though. Carbs, carbs and more of the same! And the only meat there was overcooked hamburger. He managed to survive by eating the hamburger and cream cheese (for the bagels!), but was so discouraged that he’s decided to move off campus so he can at least eat well. So sad, outrageous really.

    College food is pretty horrible. I wasn’t exactly the picture of health when I graduated.

  14. Brian says:

    That’s awesome. Props to you and your family.

    The teachers and others pretty much leave us alone now. Except now that my oldest is in 5th grade, she’s getting more mainstream science stuff. This is the first week and already she’s had two assignments on global warming. Are you kidding me?

    In the first she had to create a 10 word dictionary of terms she found on the internet describing global warming (the EPA has a site for kids). In the other, she had to write down 3 things she talked to her parents about regarding saving the ozone. I didn’t participate too much on the 2nd.

    My girls are 7 and 10. I can tell you the shows will only get more dramatic – the music gets louder, the acting gets more intense and the costumes get changed often. It’s not a complete day at our house if we haven’t heard at least 10 songs from Taylor Swift or Hannah Montana.

    Brian

    If you want to gaurantee your daughter will annoy the teacher, have her pull some quotes from “Heaven And Earth” by Ian Pilmer for her next global-warming essay.

    Here I am showing my age … Taylor Swift? Guess I’ll find out soon enough.

  15. Matt says:

    Best. Post. Ever.

    Thanks.

  16. Jean says:

    Somewhat off topic–I have just started reading The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith. IT is very well written and makes an excellent case for low carb eating being not only healthier for humans but more moral and better for the environment. Thought you might be interested if you haven’t already read it.
    http://www.lierrekeith.com/vegmyth.htm

    I haven’t read it yet, but it’s on my list. I saw Mike Eades’ review, and he also told me about it some weeks ago.

  17. Auntie M says:

    I’m a teacher, and I would have LOVED getting that assignment from a student. Although I teach 6th grade history, so I’m not sure why I would assign something about a tree. But if I ever did, well, your daughter would have gotten the biggest “A” possible!

    In any event, it’s tough trying to be the voice of reason in a building where they show “Super Size Me” in health class and worry about global warming in science class. I taught a section of science one year, and the next year the kids all told their 7th grade teachers that I don’t believe in global warming. That got me a lot of stony stares. This year I’m going to teach a lesson on critical thinking where I point out that 1970s scientists “knew” we were going to turn into a huge ice cube, but now we’re all going to fry to death with global warming. Luckily, 6th graders love subversive stuff that might annoy their parents, and usually indulge me and my “weird” ideas.

    Half the time when I find out a student has ADD/ADHD/ODD/alphabet soup of the month disorder I just want to ask, “What do you eat?” I bet it would explain everything. I wish I could smack the parents for feeding low-fat starchy sugary garbage to their kids, or for letting them anywhere near the chemical-fest that is a school cafeteria lunch.

    One of my nieces is brilliant but only eats sugar and starch. She’s constantly off-the-wall swinging on the blood sugar pendulum, but my sister claims that it would be too hard to get her on a higher fat, lower carb diet. Truth is, she just doesn’t want to eat that way. It kills me that such a great kid is at the mercy of something so easily fixed.

    I’m going to try and convince some of the health teachers to at least look at “Fat Head”, but they’re bound by the required curriculum of the Food Guide Pyramid, so I doubt they would take it seriously or show it to the kids. I’ll try to do what I can in my little corner of the world, quietly and carefully shedding some light on the truth.

    Scientists have predicted we’re all going to fry … then freeze … then fry … then freeze … with each new cycle over the past 100-some years. I’m currently reading “Heaven and Earth” by Ian Pilmer. He’s even found cases where there were books warning of global cooling and later books warning of global warming — by the same authors.

    Whatever people believe on the topic, the one-sidedness isn’t good for science or for helping kids become critical thinkers. Then again, I don’t believe critical thinking is the goal. Indoctrination is the goal.

  18. Auntie M says:

    Shoot. “we’re ALL going to fry to death”, not “ally”. Sorry.

    Fixed.

  19. Dave, RN says:

    My church is trying to do more for the kids (jr high and high school) and is going to teach them some nutrition. As an RN, I’m going to offer my services, figuring those initials after my name will be an “in”. First, I’ll show them “Fat Head”, then lots of counter-conventional wisdom teaching on real food, high fat, lotsa protein and low carb. The’ll never know what hit’m!

    Those are going to be some interesting lectures. Glad the film will be part of them.

  20. Amy Dungan says:

    That is simply awesome! My kids know sugar is bad… but sadly they still like it. A lot. We are struggling to change those habits.

    I wish you success on that. At least they get the concept.

  21. Laurie says:

    Tom, Your daughters are beautiful and BRIGHT. I can tell from the picture and your description. I feel horrible for all the innocent, eager children out there who are being poisoned, slowly and torturously by sugar and margarine, too much wheat, and any amount of soy. “The Vegetarian Myth” is an amazing book and I learned about it a month ago from a comment on this website (thank you) and then I was happy to see Dr. Eades review. I just got a library copy of Weston A. Price’s “Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”. It’s not as easy a read as Taubes, or Eades or Keith, but it is a must-read and a classic (and stunning). Now to “health-care”. We’re facing a bankrupting crisis in the US. We don’t have’ health-care’ here. We have a spectacularly expensive sick-care- break-it-and-fix-it system. This is to the tune of staggering trillions of dollars. We don’t have ANY meaningful prevention. Prevention is NOT billions of dollars spent on lipitor to ‘prevent’ CVD. Health care is not cracking open peoples’ chests and re-plumbing their hearts. It’s so perverted it makes me want to scream. Prevention is eating nuts, meats, fish, greens, berries, dairy and in some places bugs and reptiles. Sickness is eating wheat, sucrose, HFCS, soy, Frankenfats,margarines and ‘foods’ made in a lab. Dr. Weil suggested long ago that if he is in an accident, he wants to be taking to a well-equipped hospital emergency room, but if he developed some chronic ailment, let him consult a shaman priest first. But don’t take him to a shaman priest for an accident and the chronic ailments deserve a look at alternatives before allopathic medicine charges in and starts cutting, medicating, irradiating and slicing. UGH.

    Well said. Our emergency care is second to none — even the bozos who ranked the U.S. 57th in health-care had to grudgingly give it the top spot in that category — but we have no clue about prevention. Worse, we sicken ourselves on government-subsidized grains.

  22. Brian says:

    I’ll check out Heaven and Earth.

    You’re not showing your age, just the age of your daughters. Google Taylor Swift. She’s a teenager that has sold something like 100 million records, mostly to young girls. Okay, maybe just a couple million and I don’t mind my girls listening to her but when it’s all day, everyday. It gets a little annoying.

  23. Phyllis Mueller says:

    Hey, Tom, thought you’d like to know I just opened a promotional email from Amazon.com for the Drs. Eades’ new book (which I’ve already pre-ordered). Included in the email were promos for three related products I already own–Protein Power LifePlan, The Vegetarian Myth, and Fat Head.

    I didn’t know that. Cool! Thanks for the info.

  24. Susan says:

    Haha, what a couple of cuties!

    My son is also on the no grain train (although he never has those foods out of necessity). He regularly turns down cookies, potato chips, and whatever else well-meaning adults have offered him.

    He really likes almond butter bread and brownies, though (with just a little honey).

    And yeah, energy wise? I, too, would go nuts if he had more energy!

    The nice thing is, their energy — while high — seems consistent. They don’t go hyper and then have a meltdown.

  25. Jeanne says:

    Your daughters are cute, and the older one has nice, straight teeth, with what looks like plenty of room for them.
    I wish my parents had fed me as well; my mouth was so small and narrow that I had to have a bunch of teeth taken out before Ii could have the rest of them straightened. I think, at times, I have the narrowness of face that Weston Price showed in the generation of people who’d eaten poorly, as oposed to their parents who ate traditionally. I’m starting to see this in others, too.

    We’ve been wondering what will happen with the teeth. I had four teeth pulled before the braces. It’ll be nice if our girls don’t need those.

  26. Chris says:

    On an unrelated note, have you heard about the new ‘fatostatin’ drug developed?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090827123206.htm

    Apparently it reduces cholesterol (both LDL & HDL) in mice, and reduces fat stored in the mice livers

    Interesting, but I’m always a little leery of using a drug to block a natural process in the body.

  27. JaneM says:

    I wish I knew all this when my kids were small. My 24-yr-old daughter has a serious weight problem and is trying to eat healthy, but very influenced by what’s around her. My 26-yr-old daughter is slim, but still isn’t convinced I’m right. She’s at Virginia Law, and Joel Salatin is lecturing there this month, and the local food is fabulous. She is drinking whole milk, but when she was home kept complaining about how much cream and butter I was using. I keep trying!

    If I took the cream and butter away from my daughters, I’d have a riot on my hands. I hope yours see the light eventually.

  28. Matt R. says:

    My wife and I went to another couple’s house for dinner this past weekend. During the meal, my high school friend talked about how he couldn’t give up sodas (I hadn’t seen him in years and he’s rather large now) and proceeded to give his three-year-old daughter several sips of his Coke. I wanted to scream, but I’m a good guest. Thankfully, his wife seemed a bit more health-conscious.

    My wife grew up drinking the stuff, so did I. Quitting soda was a huge step for me in my early twenties. Now it’s sparkling water with lemon.

    You were wise to keep mum, but man … it’s tough to watch when parents give their kids soda.

  29. Holly says:

    I absolutely LOVE it! They are beautiful (and I love the thumb sucking – it just makes it that much more cute)! Because of the way your “protein tree” family eats, your daughters probably won’t need any braces so that will be money in your pocket.

    At the beginning of the summer I took my son (6 at the time, now 7) to get his haircut and afterwards there was an interesting exchange. The woman asked him if he wanted a sucker. He said “no thank you” and she asked me if it was ok. I said it was, you know, to be polite (not look like Nazi mom). So she tried to give him some again. He said “No thank you. I don’t like sugar.”

    The air was sucked out of the room. The other women in the salon that heard him couldn’t believe that. A kid who doesn’t like sugar?! Impossible.

    So she laughed and said “Would you like some celery sticks and carrots instead?” And he said “Do you have any ranch dressing?” She got a kick out of this, laughing said “No. I’m sorry.” He followed up. “No thank you then.”

    He will eat the vegetables without the dressing. But why would you want to when we make our own dressing at home with tons of fat in it?!

    I was thinking about donating Fathead to the school when my son starts going through nutrition or health classes. I can’t imagine having him keep his opinions to himself during these classes. This will be his first year in public school (1st grade). We’re packing lunches because there is no way he’s eating that many carbs and be expected to be able to sit still.

    Wish I’d witnessed that exchange. Let me know if the school shows Fat Head. I’d like to know the kids who end up having to sit through Super Size Me get an alternative viewpoint.

  30. Candace says:

    This post pretty much made me cry after I laughed. What beautiful girls, and—as others have said—extremely lucky to have parents like you.

    The mention of vegetables and cheese/butter was something I’d been thinking of recently. Seriously, who wants to eat asparagus spears or salad with nothing but lemon juice? It’s almost inedible and you’ll be dying afterward from the hunger pangs. It’s almost like people have to know, somewhere in the backs of their minds, that healthy food should taste good, and that you shouldn’t have to force yourself to eat (and then not eat).

    This even applies to junk foods… who’s going to naturally choose frozen yogurt over ice cream? They’re both bad but at least ice cream has (usually) got butterfat in it so it’s much more satisfying, and it tastes ten times better.

    Here’s the real irony of the usual advice to eat your veggies with lemon juice or other non-fat toppings: many of the vitamins and nutrients in vegetables are fat-soluble. Without fat in the meal, you don’t absorb them.

  31. catherine says:

    Awesome Post!
    More posts on what you recommend for kids to eat PLEASE!! Especially what you’ve found works for your kids, and details about what you pack for lunches. THANKS!!

    The girls usually eat eggs and fruit for breakfast, often with bacon or sausage. Sometimes they prefer smoked salmon with tomato slices and cream cheese. Dinner is usually meat of some kind and vegetables. They like pretty much any vegetable if it’s covered with melted butter. They also like cauliflower, steamed and whipped with butter, salt and sour cream.

    For lunch, my wife packs cheeses, nuts, an apple, lunchmeats rolled up with lettuce, etc. She just mentioned that she wants to pick up soup-sized thermos bottles so she can pack lunches that include her beef stew.

    The girls like a bowl of whipped cream for dessert, but sometimes my wife makes a “pumpkin pie” with squash, eggs, condensed milk, spices and Splenda. No crust.

    My wife picked up burgers on the way home tonight because the girls had dance class until 5:30. They both removed the buns, with no suggestion from either one of us. Bread just isn’t that appealing to them.

  32. Sofi says:

    I am truly amazed that the girls would prefer eggs and spinach over ice cream and cookies. How did you train them to eat so healthy? I have a 3.5 yo and a 1.5 yo (both daughters) and our family has recently switched to a low-carb (primal) diet. My youngest refuses any veggies – not even avocado! She’s basically a total carnivore. My eldest one is a bit better, but only a bit.

    I can get them to eat well enough (though not as much as when they had carbs) at home. But when grandparents visit, it is all downhill. And I know that if I weren’t present, they would grab that ice cream over the eggs anytime. They are always asking for sugar sugar sugar.

    So I want to know: HOW DID YOU DO IT? Any tips? Advice?

    We were lucky that both girls love fats, especially butter. They actually beg for spoonfuls of the stuff, especially if they see the Kerrygold package. So we serve broccoli and other vegetables drenched in butter. For spinach, we’ll drizzle on lots of butter or stir it up with butter, parmesan cheese, a pinch of garlic salt and sour cream to turn it into something like spinach alfredo.

    Then there are the dinner-table games, most of them created by the older daughter. One is the “wake up game.” When they take a bite, my wife and I are required to feign sleep. After they swallow the bites, they burst into loud animal noises. Then we have to jerk awake and ask what’s stalking us. (Typical answer: “A hundred and six big lions! … And a snake!”) They find this so amusing, they take the necessary bites to keep us in the game.

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