Tuesday, January 29, 2013

the generation gap: grandparents and sugar

I'm curious, does anyone out there have a wholefood grandmother or if you're really lucky two wholefood grandmother's in their family? Or a wholefood grandfather? I'd love to hear.

Both Pete's mum and my nan are of similar vintage, they are beautiful grandmothers we love them to bits and like many grandparents they have sweet teeth, that's right not just one tooth, a whole mouthful of them and take great delight in giving our children sweet 'treats' mainly in the form of chocolate AND/or ice cream. These great women grew up in times before fast food, before overly processed and packaged additive filled 'food', they were the days of backyard veggie gardens and chooks, cooking from scratch, and at times - going without.

Fast forward to the days of 'convenience' food and these beloved ladies are kicking up their sugar coated heels and relishing every moment of pouring ready made custard from the carton on to their heat'n'eat apple pie. My nan still loves to bake, cheesecake and pavlova being her signature desserts. And in some ways I can't blame them! They are living long lives defying nutritional odds, they've worked very hard, given a lot (and still do) so I say yes ladies put your feet up and have your pav and eat it too. Of course I can't help but think of the longevity and vitality that adopting even just a few wholefood ways would provide for them.

When it comes to sharing the sugar coated love with our boys, the sweet treats from their grandparents are well spaced as we only catch up once a month sometimes less because of the distance apart that we live. If we lived closer I fear I'd have to change the rules. I say fear because you and I both know there'd be tears and possibly not just from the children.

Grandparents are not the only ones though who take great delight in filling children with sugar and other processed junk 'food', other relatives and some friends do too.

I read with interest on the weekend an extract of Dara-Lynn Weiss' book The Heavy: A Mother's Battle Against Her Seven-Year-Old Daughter's Obesity. What stood out to me in Weiss' story is the way she stood up to social pressures on a daily basis to prevent her child being offered and encouraged to eat unhealthy or excess food. The stakes were higher for Weiss in navigating this because her daughter at age 7 was obese and had high blood pressure, she was very clear first with herself and then with those around her that she wanted to improve her daughters health and if that meant asking her daughter when she went to a friend's birthday party to choose between chocolate and cake then she would. It wasn't always easy but she did it with the best grace and good nature she could muster and her daughter is healthier for it.

Parents of children with allergies are also navigating more challenging waters when faced with people who want to pressure their children into eating foods that are not compatible with their body. 'Go on just a little bit won't hurt'. A friend learned her child was allergic to orange juice and dairy, she took her child to her mother-in-laws to be minded for the day and explained the allergy diagnosis. Her mother-in-law replied that she didn't believe in allergies "you never heard of it in my day." Well no you didn't but that's a whole other post.

I am well underway with writing my first ebook and it relates to this post. I am working at filling it with useful information, tips and recipes to help you share the whole food love with your family. One of the chapters covers dealing with peer pressure from grandparents and other caregivers to feed your children junk. I would love to hear your experiences with this.

Do you have parents or grandparents who are not on the same page as you when it comes to sugary 'treats'? Have you had to set limits? Do you make allowances? Or do you have wholefood grandparents so it isn't an issue? Is converting your family from eating processed food to wholefood something that you are working at or have you already done so? Tell me tell me tell me do.


  1. Ah, yes, sugar, it has a way of hitching rides on coattails and making it's way in. Luckily my parents are pretty much wholefood grandparents, they also respect and mostly agree with the type of food our children eat. In saying this, I think the only 'treats' they have at my parents are watered down pineapple juice, salted nuts and for Poe only an occasional little chocolate, only one per visit. I am okay with this, even though these are foods we wouldn't really feed them. Scott's parents we don't really see that often but when we do, they make an extra effort to only offer the kids fruit, no sweet treats from them (I think they are a little scared of us and our crazy child rearing/food eating ways) but the other grandchildren do get sweet treats from them, just not when we are around. Does that sound really full on? Looking forward to hearing other people's stories. xx

    1. :) you and your crazy child rearing/ food eating ways. From your stories and photos your parents look like wonderful wholefood grandparents. None of what you write sounds full on to me. Thanks for sharing this and yes me too looking forward to others stories xx

  2. Oooh, don't get me started on this one!
    My own Mum would have been the ultimate wholefood Grandma - she raised us very very healthily and didn't use any processed food. She would cook cakes and we still had sugar, but it was largely for special occasions. Sadly, and despite a ridiculously healthy lifestyle, she died of breast cancer when I was pregnant with our first child at the age of 57.
    My mother-in-law is thus the only Grandma our kids have, and she doesn't eat wholefood-ish at all! She gives our kids packaged cakes, biscuits, white bread nutella sandwiches, juice... She thinks she is being 'healthy' because they first have to eat their processed meat and cheese sandwiches before they get a treat. But I don't complain too much because she means so well, and she is a great help to us with many many things. Also, we are in Belgium, and kids here are notoriously unhealthy. I have to pick my battles. You wouldn't believe it, but when my daughter's pre-school class went to the Zoo, they were all given Coke or Fanta to drink "as a treat" (they were the only two drinks on offer) Needless to say we complained very loudly to the school about that and are now probably known as the hippy family who deprive their kids of any treats!
    Anyway - don't get me started on Belgian eating habits.

    I have fond memories of the treat it was to eat 'packet biscuits' and lollies at my Grandparents house when I was growing up, and I don't think that has altered my lifestyle or affected the way I now cook for my family. I guess it just depends on the frequency of visits, and what other external influences your kids have.
    For us, the school is more of a concern, and we go with the mantra "what happens at Grandma's stays at Grandmas". I think if I asked my MIL to not give the kids a certain thing, she would listen to me (ie. she knows not to give my kids Fanta or Coke, though she gives it to the cousins, some of whom are only 10 years old, because they drink it at home too...)
    Ahhh, I will stop rambling. It's an interesting topic for sure.
    I'll look forward to reading more comments too!

    1. Rhi so sorry to hear about your mum that is really tragic at any time but especially so young and when you were pregnant. I lost my mum young too, before I had children and I do miss her not being here to see them. My mum was not really a wholefood mum though so I wonder what she would have been like in the food department as a grandmother! I feel for you too on the school issue - that is just terrible about the soft drink. Given there is equivalent to 11 teaspoons of sugar in a can of soft drink, I am sure the school or other parents would not condone sitting children down with teaspoon and a bag of sugar and encouraging them to eat their way through 11 spoons! Thanks for leaving your great comment. xx

  3. This comment came through to me but didn't show up on the blog for some reason...

    Anonymous writes "I was lucky enough to be brought up in a family that believed in wholefoods and healthy living so naturally for me raising my daughter on a wholefood diet was the logical thing to do. I am also lucky enough to have a supportive husband who also agreed with me that the first 5 years of life are extremely important in in developing healthy habits that will last a life time, so the decision to raise our daughter on a strictly sugar free diet and include only foods that would support her mental and physical growth was really important to us. Just before she turned five we noticed she had an increasing curiosity towards sweet treats and decided that if we held off much longer she would end up feeling deprived and want to go behind our backs to fulfill her curiosities. She now has sweet things occasionally and always asks rather than helping herself so I know that she knows it's a special thing.
    My mum would never dream of giving my daughter something I haven't said is ok and I'm happy that she shows that respect. Junk food is pretty far from my mum's life style so it probably wouldn't even cross her mind to get lollies for my daughter.
    I consider myself pretty lucky to have a good mother in law, although she doesn't believe in us being vegetarian and not giving our daughter all kinds of unhealthy food, she is supportive of our beliefs and always asks before she gives something to our daughter. Now that we have started giving occasional lollies I am a little nervous about the possibility of my mother in law starting to feel it's ok to buy junk food.

    To be honest I find it quite insulting that so many people are so quick to offer junk food to other people's children. I would never offer junk food to another person's child and I feel that food like that should be closely monitored by parents and it should be the parents choice to offer it not anybody else's, especially if you don't even know the child.

    Over the years we have had plenty of strange looks when refusing junk food. In my experience it's not so much the grandparents that you have to worry about it's all the strangers that are so quick to offer junk food to children.

  4. Its not just the kids! We have Christmas with my parents in law and I am forced to eat all the junk to be "polite" even though I try to bring some token wholefood, which no-one else feels they need to be polite and eat! It is a challenge eating with family and friends in general if they don't get the wholefood thing. One friend even tried really hard and bought plain rice crackers to share - it was the brand that puts MSG in the plain "flavour"! I am only just now feeling better after all the junk we ate over the break.

  5. I find it quite challenging to make others in general understand choices about foods for my little one and us. I have found that a lot of people do not understand (or do not want to understand) the reasonings for maybe eating organically or unprocessed foods for example. I sense that often people feel really challenged by our views about foods despite our flexibility, and even feel we are being elitist about foods, despite going back to basics.

    I am exicted to hear more about your e-book. I think that miscommunication and misunderstanding about these choices some people unfortunately find confronting and therefore dismiss. Information and education is key. to this change.

  6. Oh my goodness, so much could be said about this. We live five minutes away from my in-laws and they are a great help, babysitting weekly, so sometimes I find it difficult to complain. But I do know I have to set certain boundaries in regards to not only sugar, but salt, fried foods and white bread.

    I was horrified the other day to see Oscar's great-grandma slip some lemonade into his glass of water – her thinking that if it is watered down, then she isn't really giving him soft drink! He is only two and a half.

    Oscar's grandma always seems to be worried that Oscar doesn't eat enough, especially when he refuses a meal, so they will cook something bad – eg a very salty steak served with home made chips and a fried egg - especially for him, with the thinking that it is better he eats something than nothing at all. Sigh. They believe that because it is homecooked, then it is good food! And they all LOVE salt. I have had to lecture them (yes lecture, I'm sounding rather stern here), on salt – explaining that babies and toddlers do not need any added to their food. Yet, it seems to fall on deaf ears. I watched as Oscar licked his cucumber the other day, and remarked that I'd never seen him do that. "Oh I just put a tiny bit of salt on it to make it tastier for him" my mother-in-law remarked. Sigh, sigh.

    Sometimes it is difficult trying to make them (Oscar's grandma and great-grandma) respect my decisions, as they are both strong women who have raised children themselves.

  7. Hi Nikki

    This comment is a bit late sorry! My generation gap issues funnily enough all began when we adopted our greyhound! I wanted to feed him organic biscuits and treats etc which my family thought was ridiculous! I thought that having kids therefore would create all sorts of conflict but surprisingly everyone thinks its great that I choose to say no to lollies, juices, biscuits etc and they love to see them eating fruit and veg and natural sugar free yoghurt and so on. My only gripe is my grandmother, bless her, she thinks chicken in a biscuit is a healthier option. We indulge this as she is in her late 80s and she loves to feed everyone! I take my own food to family events and just like Liz, no one feels impolite when they don't eat mine but I'm expected to eat theirs and take plates of leftovers home. My mum has surprised me the most though as she is finally embracing this way of eating, discovered blogs about wholefood and even bought herself a vitamix( which I can't wait to borrow, maybe permanently!). Can't wait for your book!



Thanks for your comments. I read every one!

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