Paleo Magazine (September / October) – Feeding Kids: What the USDA Recommends vs The Paleo Diet

Diane Sanfilippo Lifestyle & Mindset 142 Comments

As a contributing author to Paleo Magazine, I'm excited to share a peek at my article in the upcoming September issue. Check out exclusive articles by subscribing or finding issues on a newsstand near you. Enter to win a FREE year's subscription to Paleo Magazine by posting a comment below within the week (through 10/1/11)!

An excerpt from my article in the latest issue (or click here to download a preview PDF):

Feeding Kids: What the USDA Recommends versus The Paleo Diet.

Parents looking to make the move to a Paleo Diet (PD) for their families often question the nutritional value of “this way of eating.” Specifically, parents express concern about low calcium intake without dairy, low fiber intake without grains, high fat and cholesterol intake (and whether it’s healthy or  not), and the overall nutritional value of the approach.

Let’s tackle these questions by comparing a day’s worth of meals from each camp.

According to the MyPyramid For Kids Worksheet (there is not yet a MyPlate developed for kids), kids should strive to eat the following: “Whole grains: 6 ounce equivalents. Vegetables: 2 ½  cups. Fruits: 1 ½ cups. Milk: 3 cups. Choose fat-free or low-fat most often. Meats & Beans: 5oz equivalent. Some foods don’t fit into any group. These “extras” may be mainly fat or sugar—limit your intake of these.”

I created a 1-Day Example based on the USDA recommendations for childrens’ nutrition using the online calculator at The day includes all of the recommended servings of foods listed above (fig. A – click to view info on I also created a typical day’s worth of meals that you might  expect to see a Paleo parent feeding his or her child that  breaks down as follows (fig. B – click to view info on

How do these two days worth of meals compare on the big topics in question?

Calcium: We can see in a day’s worth if USDA meals  that the RDA is slightly exceeded at 123%, while the PD comes a lot closer than parents might assume at 90%. Now, I wasn’t specifically searching for calcium-rich foods when I calculated this day, but you can see how a child can easily come close to the RDA for calcium without a DROP of dairy in his or her daily diet. That said, even at 90% of the RDA, the amount of calcium that’ll be absorbed by the child’s body is likely going to be much higher since the  cofactors for calcium absorption are higher across the board in the PD day (continued)… Subscribe to read the full article!

Example: USDA Recommended Day of Meals for A Kid.
To view the USDA worksheet for recommended Kids' nutrition, click here.

Example: Paleo Day of Meals for a Kid.
There is no recommended way to feed a kid on paleo… just meat, seafood, eggs, veggies, fruit, some nuts & seeds. Done.

Read more of mu analysis and comparison of these two diets by grabbing your copy of Paleo Magazine today!

Enter to win a FREE year's subscription to Paleo Magazine by posting a comment below within the week (through 10/1/11)!

Comments 142

  1. I am so Glad I found your website. I am working on moving my family to a paleo diet. So excited about the magazine. Thanks for all your awesome research and for making it available to the public.

  2. Excellent article, but if you were to show a layperson those nutrition facts pages side by side, would they really see much difference?? I feel like I know what to look for and it’s sort of clear that paleo is better, but it’s not a huge difference… either way, it’s a great way to eat!! I wish I could do it all the time! And I wish I could afford the magazine… 😉

    1. Hey Allison- possibly not, but the article lays out a lot of the differences, whereas this post is just a teaser. The nutrition info is just for reference, and, interestingly enough, part of the reason I created the days as I did was to make them SIMILAR enough that they aren’t so different in terms of what the average person might be looking for, ya know? 🙂

      You’re entered now to win a 1-year subscription because of your comment, so good luck!

  3. We’ve started buying this magazine for my husband’s chiropractic office (need to actually get a subscription!)… I love having something we can put out on the table that we actually agree with. Can’t wait to read this whole article!

  4. Thanks for such a great article Diane. My husband and I eat Paleo now and are making the transition with our kids. They have been off of gluten and dairy for a long time now and have not missed it! People look at us like we are crazy to have completely removed dairy and gluten from their diets, but maybe this will be a good side-by-side comparison for all of those nay sayers out there. Love your blog!

  5. Love this! I eat Paleo and wish I could get my hubby to make the change. I’m trying to switch my daughter but in a house where only one parent has made these changes it’s hard. Plus no one else in our day to day lives eats this way – they all think I’m crazy. I love reading all I can about this stuff so the magazine subscription would be fabulous!

    1. I agree! It kills me that my family qualifies for free lunches yet we don’t take advantage because of what’s served. If I could get a doctor to sign a note claiming allergies they could get the gluten free meal, but the doctors all look at me like I’m crazy when I ask.

    1. Welcome. I think you’ll find that the magazine is filled with awesome info, backed up by science, and you’ll read it cover-to-cover without having to say “well that was a bunch of crap.” 🙂 Enjoy!

  6. As a diabetic moving to a Paleo diet (Primal right now), I wish this information was more widely disseminated, and not just for children. So many adults, including my colleagues (I am a scientist) and my own doctors are completely oblivious and brainwashed as far as what is conventionally recognized as a healthy diet. Those that just blindly accept what these “experts” tell them regarding nutrition are going to find themselves on the wrong end of an insulin syringe. This belief that we *have* to have grains is just another way to keep money flowing into the already too-deep pockets of doctors, pharmaceutical, governmental and agricultural giants. I’m all for being able to choose for yourself what is best for you, but personally, getting away from grains and processed junk was the best move I ever made and I can’t understand why people would fight irrefutable proof.

    1. Thank you for that comment!!! You are SO correct! The purpose of the article was to compare for kids since people always think their kids will be missing out on certain nutrients or go hungry without grains- which we KNOW is not the case! Glad you’ve found a grain-free/low-carb life to be beneficial for you- welcome 🙂

  7. I really like this for comparison purposes. I also wish the schools would pay more attention. My kids go to a private school on a biodynamic farm. We consider ourselves very lucky, would be great if public schools would jump aboard!

  8. Great article, thanks!! I try to feed my kids Paleo when possible, often I make meals that can go Paleo or incorporate a few whole grains (ie. tacos for which they can either use brown rice tortillas or lettuce for “shells”)… they didn’t even notice when I just flat out stopped buying cow’s milk last year!

  9. Great one, Diane! I didn’t get much ridicule or push-back when I changed the way I eat, but when I began to get my entire family on board, I was surprised by some reactions and/or sneaky/ominous ploys from other parents that thought my kids were missing out on “treats” (i.e. sugar addiction/indoctrination). It can be frustrating at times, especially considering you’re actually making attempts to better improve the future health of your child. One would think that having a daily dose of sugar was an essential nutrient that was required for kids health, by the way some react. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism on the part of the parents, since they probably realize it’s a good thing to remove all that sugar from their diets, but they don’t have the conviction to do it. Dunno. Thanks again for such a great article!

  10. This is great information, Diane! My husband and I are raising three little Primal kiddos ourselves, and this article will arm us with some great information moving forward. Our kids get teased for having healthy lunches at school and some of the other parents ask us questions such as, “Why don’t you just let your kids be kids?” All this because we pack their Planet Boxes full of meat, raw veggies, fresh fruit, 85% organic dark chocolate, and a few nuts or seeds. My kids, although young, are educated in why we eat and live the way we do, so they keep their chins up. I am proud of how they handle these situations. Thanks for writing on this subject. This infomation needs to be much more widespread. Keep up the great work!

  11. Wow, great job (or the rest of the article completely sucks and you’re just a master saleswoman >:D). I would love to read the full article, as it seems you’ve spent quite some time on it. Whenever I enter 1 day’s meals into fitday out of random curiosity, it takes me some valuable time — and that’s knowing exactly what to type in because it’s what I just ate!

    One of the things that pisses me off the most is how unhealthily children are turning out these days. Even many of my peers are messed up when it comes to health. In my experience: people who aren’t athletes and don’t have a serious health-issue, generally feel like they don’t need to worry about their health. If something goes wrong, they’ll just put a bandaid on it and hope for the best.

    It’s great to see the issue of Kids’ Health being tackled. When people learn this stuff young, it benefits them a lot. Thanks for helping get the info out there.

    1. Ha, no it doesn’t- the rest of the article in fact completes the picture by explaining more about the comparisons and why kids won’t miss anything eating Paleo! 🙂

  12. I love Paleo! I have been eating this way for 34 days and I feel great! My 16 year old son is eating this way too and he has told me how much better he feels. We both train in Taekwondo and he is a serious competitor. He told me the other day how much better his workouts are since eating this way! I love your podcasts too! Keep up the good work!

  13. Great article! Eating Paleo has changed the way I think about nutrition on a fundamental level. I’m healthier and those around me are healthier (my girlfriend no longer has frequent bloating and stomach pain) because of it. It has also opened my mind to question mainstream ideas about …well…everything. It’s all thanks to you, Robb Wolf, Chris Kresser and Mark Sisson. Thanks!

  14. As always, great article and appreciate the share, Diane! Discovering your site and attending your seminar were two of the best things I could do for my health! sadly I’ve detoured from plan,altho not nearly as bad as a year ago, but need to get back on track. i’ve noticed my mood, stamina, energy and attitude all suffer. amazing how sugar/processed foods jack with you from the inside out! Thanks again for sharing your research and knowledge!!

  15. Thanks for this! So many of my friends are interested in Paleo and I’m trying to get them to make the switch. Having this subscription would be a great help…especially this article. I’m so tired of hearing…”I like Paleo, but my kids need carbs, so we don’t do it”
    Just think of how much the health of our nation would improve if we started with the youngest generation! Thanks for spreading the word!!!

  16. Hi Diane,
    I made the pumpkin muffins last night and love, love, love them! (I am commenting on this post rather than the muffin post because I wanna win the Paleo magazine subscription!) 😉 Thanks for all you do!

  17. Ooooh, I hope I win, I love the everdaypaleo blog and have the cookbook, but having a fresh mag to look at every once in awhile would be wonderful! Thanks for the opportunity!

  18. Looking forward to digital version of Paleo Magazine… Very good article! I thought I would let you know that I created this great compendium of Paleo and Primal Lifestyle:

    I hope I win! 🙂 I would want to show the articles published in the magazine when I visit friends… 😀

  19. Have been paleo for over two years now and there is no looking back now 🙂 Love the paleo lifestyle, it improves every aspect if my life!!!

  20. just started paleo and have found a lot of great info online! would be so exciting to win a subcription to your magazine 🙂

  21. Sounds like a great article! With a 3 and 4 yr. old at home, I really appreciate getting more information on how/why to do Paleo with kids.

  22. So excited to have found this site! I’m mostly Primal and have been trying to slowly transition my family. We eat mostly paleo dinners, but we still have challenges elsewhere.

  23. We are just starting this ourselves but I would love to get my kids eating this way too! This article is very enlightening. Thanks!!!

  24. I switched my whole family to Paleo and have seen such great improvements in behavior as well as other issues. It still amazes me even after I explain why I don’t give my kids grains or dairy people still don’t understand that the nutrients they are receiving is far superior to a SAD.

  25. Great article- as are all of your articles. Diagnosed with celiac 6 months ago but still have GI symptoms, so paleo is looking pretty good right now. Would love to win the magazine so I can get a good start.

  26. Love Love Loving the idea of this magazine! I had just asked primal toad a couple months ago is there was a primal/paleo magazine out there! Thanks so much! Im going to be getting certified in holistic nutrition soon! So excited! paleo has changed my life! 🙂

  27. My family has seen an amazing turn-around in our health since starting Paleo over four months ago. My 4yr old twins who weren’t talking and had been ‘semi-diagnosed’ as on the autism spectrum started talking two days after we threw out all the ‘junk/grains’ from our pantry. Now they’ve achieved over a years worth of language development in four months, and they’re astounding their teachers at Kindy. My eldest who had battled depression and other issues is now laughing and smiling, her skin has cleared up and she has a positive outlook on life. My husband is off medication for gout, and we’ve both lost body fat without even trying. I have energy where before I was barely getting through the day. I love the way Paleo makes you feel.

  28. Looks like more great info, Diane! Thanks for sharing your work and your enthusiasm. We really enjoy your blog, your FB updates and the new podcast. Do you have any tips on the most economical sources for good fish eggs?

  29. I’ve been looking forward to this comparison article since you first mentioned it on Facebook! I’ve shared it with my friends and I hope it opens a lot of minds.
    I’m working on getting my family (DH & 5 kids) to be more enthusiastic about giving up their typical awful (I’m so sorry that I have been feeding them USDA-recommended whole grain JUNK) meals and snacks for the past 6 months. FINALLY they are starting to see the light because MY DIABETES IS DISAPPEARING after following the Paleo diet when nothing else i.e. pills and insulin was working! Lead by example!

  30. Enjoying the podcast – makes my 25 min walk to work go by so quickly (between your, Robb Wolf and Chris Kresser’s podcasts). Your blog and guides are really great. I am slowly converting my husband to grain/legume free with the help of your gluten guide. I Would love to win a subscription to Paleo Magazine!! PS Thank you for making me realize that bacon is the best!

  31. My kids (pre-primal/paleo) were just average kids…not overweight, not underweight, no ADD/asthma/allergies, …. and the change I see in them is remarkable. My oldest, an athlete, is performing twice as well primal. My 2nd, who has had cradle up his whole life…even at 8 years old.. has no cradle cap or dry patches. My 3rd has some sensory issues that disappeared on a primal diet. My 4th and 5th have grown their palates tremendously and have both hit growth spurts.

    I don’t need a food pyramid or plate to tell me that we’re eating improperly because I just have to look at my kids to see how well they are thriving. Great article, as always!

  32. what a fantastic comparison!
    hard to refute the numbers. seriously people, what are we feeding are kids? and THIS is what our government thinks is GOOD and/or FOOD? hardly. keep up the good work!

  33. what a great article. It is awesome to have some real facts to show people when they say that a life without grains is deficient in someway. Thanks for all your hard work!

  34. More Primal than Paleo as I drink raw milk but have been grain free for 11 months now with good results all the way around. Would love to have a subscription to Paleo magazine. Follow you on Twitter since the AHS.


  35. I’m new to Paleo in the past 10 weeks. Lost 25 pounds, GERD vanished (no more meds!), back pain from too much standing nearly gone now (I have a job that could involve standing for many hours a day), Plus my mental alertness feels like a cloud was lifted. Thanks for posting this in your twitter feed, if I don’t get the subscription, I’ll be subscribing anyways. With us ditching magazine subscriptions left and right, getting a new one is a big deal!

  36. Thank you so much for this site, and this article! I think I may be convinced to subscribe even if I don’t win the subscription, especially since I plan on getting my kids on board with the Paleo lifestyle in a few weeks.

  37. Been Paleo since Jan 1st and my kids (being older) have been more and more interested. They didn’t even realize that I have been feeding them Paleo! I’m not making a fuss about it so I am certain they are getting grains elsewhere, but I think they are coming around!

  38. Very interesting to see the charts/nutrition details side by side. Hard to argue against Paleo with those figures, yet the Paleo way of eating meets so much scrutiny… Crazy!

  39. Oh, my! I went through the USDA recommended meal and thought, “That’s how I used to feed my kids…it can’t be THAT bad…”

    Then I saw the inflammation factor number and just about cried.

    Thank goodness I switched everyone to Paleo when I did!

  40. Great article as always. I wish all parents took their kids health seriously instead of just deciding that because the child isn’t overweight that he/she can eat whatever. I would love a subscription to this magazine!!

  41. Thanks for the encouragement and support you guys provide for us parents. I’m 30 years old and all after just recently discovering the paleo lifestyle, I feel betrayed and lied to by the culture around me. You guys have earned yourself another soldier in the battle for human health.

  42. I’m already a subscriber and have contributed once so don’t count me in! I won’t be seeing this issue for a while since I am in Hawaii but they are supposed to be available at all whole foods right? I may have to stop into the one in Hawaii to see and read this article!! Either way, I’ll dive in at the end of October when I’m back home in Michigan for about a week.

  43. Great article, thank you. As a paleo mama of two I am interested in more paleo info. I received a copy of. The first. Paleo mag and loved it, would love to win a subscription

  44. I’m currently at a 90% Paleo/Primal diet and I am working on moving my family onto the same track. The hard part for me is my daughter she is 6 and getting her into new ways of eating has been the hardest.

  45. I am glad you wrote this article! I would love to win a Paleo magazine subscription! I would love to be able to convert my boys (14 and 10) to paleo. They’re way better off than the average SAD kids, but still very resistant to go 100% sugar, grain, and dairy free… 🙁

  46. I would love to see a similar comparison of Paleo vs. Vegan. Maybe I will run one myself. I know some people swinging in the Vegan direction lately. While I applaud anyone’s willingness to make dietary changes for their health, I have not found a formula that works better for me than Paleo. I’d like to have a little piece of evidence to back my claim when they badger me to come to the dark side and go Vegan!

  47. I’m trying to transition my husband off grains. He needs his morning cereal. Otherwise, it’s working quite well. He’s not computer literate and would prefer to hold in his hands whatever he’s reading. The Paleo Magazine might be the determining factor to alternate his decision. Please include me in the give away.

  48. wow! i wish everyone knew this! i love all the valuable info you offer and am using it to get my family healthier and happier, i would love to get the magazine as well . . . thank you so much for the opportunity!

    1. Amazing article. I wish they would actually teach this in nutrition classes. Currently I am taking a Nutrition class in school on the dynamics and society of nutrition, when the professor pulled up the the current pyramid I was appalled. I had to hold my opinions back because people are truly so hyped on believing what the government tells you what to do, not so much what you SHOULD do.

      1. The most shocking thing about this article to me is comparing the 2 examples of a USDA and Paleo Diet. While the caloric consumption is relatively the same, more than 50% of the calories in the USDA example come from carbohydrates (yikes!). While I believe people are becoming more weight obessessed they still lack the education about the food they put in their body. Calories in and calories out is not the only key to healthy living, the origin of your calories also makes a big impact which is something I am now learning as I make the transition to the Paleo lifestyle.

  49. Great article. I’m currently dealing with the issue that my daughter’s preschool doesn’t allow snacks or lunches from home other than in instances of severe allergies. Am considering moving her to another preschool for this reason, but education-wise, this one is amazing.

    1. I linked to the recommendations they have for kids. It may look reasonable, but it’s loaded with sugar, is highly inflammatory and is not as dense in naturally occurring nutrients as a Paleo diet is. Many of the vitamins/minerals in the USDA diet come from enriching and fortifying the foods post-processing, which are never as bio-available as the natural form. Read the article when it’s out in the magazine.

  50. I am glad I found this site! I am paleo (as of pretty recently), trying to use the diet because my food intolerances and autoimmune disorder. So far it seems to be the best remedy!

  51. Fascinating comparison. And wow, i might win a subscription to Paleo mag! I have been somewhat concerned about a possible calcium deficiency in the Paleo diet. This helps me understand it is not a problem.
    i’m curious tho, in what food(s) did nutritiondata find transfats?

      1. In which diet? Sometimes there are naturally occurring trans fats in grass-fed meat, but those are NOT the same as man-made trans-fats which are harmful to health. If man made it, don’t eat it 😉

  52. Looks like a great article. It certainly shows that paleo kids don’t miss out on any nutrients. I’m working on my 12-year-old.
    I was stunned at the difference in the inflammation factor!

  53. I would love a subscription to this magazine. The blogs provide a great wealth of information, but sometimes having a hard copy to read is more satisfying than looking at the computer, and so much more portable.

  54. This article looks like it’ll be great for pushing past the “mommy guilt” of taking away some of our kids favorite foods. Can’t wait to read the whole thing!

  55. So excited for the magazine give away! I just found out about Paleo magazine yesterday! I used to love cooking magazines but now that I have switched to Paleo I realize that while delicious, that is not the way to eat if you want to be healthy and feel good! Love your article about feeding kids paleo — esp. the figures to see the differences in nutrition values!

  56. I love the teaser. I can’t wait to get my magazine in the mail so I can read the whole article. I wish I could convince my husband. He is very set in his ways and so far nothing has gotten his bagels out of his fists!

    I have at least lowered the amount of grains and I only buy paleo- so if he wants it- he has to buy it!

    Thanks for the great post!

  57. I really enjoy reading your blog, Diane, especially the fact sheets. Breaking everything down into easily understood and factual terms is so helpful, especially with all the hype out there.

  58. The paleo menu just sounds soooo much more appetizing, who would want to eat that other stuff? And low fat/non-fat dairy really burns me up! Btw, love your site.

  59. Thank you for this site. I’m a meat a potatoes gal working on eliminating sugar. I know it will help my headaches and moodiness. I try to feed my toddler son protein before carbs. Thanks

  60. Diane,
    Thank you for continuing to supply an invaluable wealth of information, free of political correctness! Would LOVE to have a Paleo Mag subscription!

    Warmest regards,

    1. Thanks for this great info!!! We have been Paleo for 3 weeks now, and have been dealing with some resistance from our 5 yr. Old daughter. She doesn’t believe that what she’d been eating was so bad for her, and why she had to eat this way now. Until we went to a birthday party this weekend and let her make her own food choices. Let’s just say she felt horrible( stomach ache) from all the sugary cake and candy she had eaten. We explained why she felt that way, and if she would make better food choices next time, she agreed. Last night she devoured her dinner, salmon, roasted broccoli, and a field green salad. It was a great night;). Thanks again for all of the great tips and encouragement you give in a world that wants to tell our children all of the opposite

  61. Thank you for your article! My husband and I have recently decided to change to the Paleo lifestyle, in the middle of his 14 month deployment to Afghanistan! So far I have noticed a huge change, I feel better,sleep better and our 4 year old and 18 month old are eating and behaving better than ever. This article was PERFECT for all of my friends who insist I must be depriving my kids of grains, fiber, vitamins and minerals (especially that dreaded Calcium in kids. How will they ever survive without 3 glasses of milk a day?!) We could really use a year long subscription to gain more and more knowledge about our new Paleo lives. Thanks again.

  62. I am so glad I found this website I am new to the Paleo Diet (AS IN STARTED LAST MONDAY NEW) and I am trying to convert my kids as well. My youngest, however, is allergic to eggs so it’s hard to figure something out for her to have for breakfast… anyways would LOVE a one year subscription to paleo magazine for some insight into this perfect way of eating!

  63. I just stumbled upon your site today! My husband and I have been eating Paleo for a few months now, and I love finding new resources for information (as I tend to research things to the death). Once we have children we are planning on having them eat Paleo as well…so it doesn’t hurt to start learning about children’s nutrition now!

  64. So thankful I found this site! I teeter from “normal” to paleo and know that I feel A LOT better without grains and sugars —

  65. Hello Diane,

    It’s great to see that you have responded back to so many people on here; I know that must be very difficult to do. I have a very important question to ask that my wife and I have debated back and forth on, concerning a baby’s transition from breast milk/formula to puréed food. First, I want to just mention that we will not be able to breast feed because my wife is on medication for her epilepsy and it would not be healthy for the baby. My wife is adamant about us having to give the baby some type of cereal (oat/rice/etc) before we transition her to a puréed, whole food diet. Its how she was raised, plus, she has fallen victim to the big business/gov’t marketing scheme of those who are pushing these products. For years, I have been behind many of the concepts you write about in your book, Practical Paleo, and I am trying to find a solid alternative to oats and rice for the baby’s transition. It’s unfortunate that we have to use formula, but do you have any guidance on how we can give our daughter a healthier transition when she is finished with it? Is it ok for us to go straight into a puréed whole food diet? This topic is very important to me because I know how vital it is to build a solid, nutritious foundation for proper growth and development from the beginning of a child’s life. Hope to hear back from you!

    P.S. a friend of mine just went to your seminar in Long Island a couple of weeks ago and told me how great it was. I immediately picked up your book and convinced my wife that we should try following your 30 day meal plan. It has been hard to put the book down ever since I cracked it open. Thank you for reiterating and confirming many years of “debates” that I have had with family and friends. I have also learned a ton of new things as well.

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