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  • Paula Thompson
    Paula Thompson

    Grandparents and Our Dietary Habits: Is Healthy Eating Under Threat?

    Having a baby is one of the most exciting times in a family’s life. As new parents, we take responsibility for the well-being of our little ones, developing routines and rituals that mimic our own childhood memories. When the time comes for our kids to meet their grandparents, however, healthy eating habits can be at risk. With hugs, kisses, and bags full of sweets, grandparents can have an undeniable and unconditional love for their grandchildren that often endangers the nutritional balance in the family’s diet.

    When it comes to having balanced diets, children need guidance to help them understand the importance of making healthy food choices on their own. Even the best intentions can be misread and teetering on the fence of giving in too much can be a parents’ undoing. On one side you can remain firm, but this could leave your children feeling left out or deprived, whereas if you cave a little, then you will soon find your cupboards filled with empty calories and sugary snacks. It’s a struggle even without our parents' input and when they come over with a garland of treats they can often undermine our efforts.

    So how can you limit the effect of your children's doting grandparents on the family's healthy eating practices? To begin with, involve your parents in the conversation of nutrition. Educate them about healthy portions, ingredients, and recipes that you have found useful. Explain why proteins are important for development and why vegetables are key for your kids’ growth. With satisfactory knowledge, you can turn the tables a little and offer solutions, instead of bickering over what to serve.

    Parents should also monitor their children’s exposure to junk food without seeming false or contemptuous of their grandparents. Establish rules that prohibit certain treats from being served during meals, but make sure to keep the transition smooth. Treats can be served before bedtime as an occasional sweet treat. Setting limits gracefully can be accomplished when both sides align.

    Encourage healthy snacking by providing an ample supply of nutrient dense snacks, such as fruits and nuts. A good rule of thumb is to keep the cupboard free of refined sugar and focus more on natural and fiber rich ingredients, like oats and berries. Keep cookies and cakes out of eye level and store biscuits and cakes in the top corner cupboard.

    Parents should lead by example and show their children that healthy eating is achievable and delicious. Serve a variety of foods and demonstrate through positive reinforcement that healthy foods can be enjoyed and celebrated every day. Most of all, remember that grandchildren are only around for a few days or weeks and it’s natural for grandparents to want to spoil a bit. Just try and practice mindful eating which can be achieved when both parents and grandparents set bounds and celebrate their accomplishments.

    Being able to provide a source of wisdom and empathy, grandparents are a valuable asset to any family. But, when it comes to healthy eating, the parents must assert themselves so that their kids can grow up developing an understanding of well-balanced meals with a nutritious value that will benefit them for years to come.

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