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Grandparenting in a New Food World: How to Handle Food Battles with Your Kids and Grandkids

Grandma or Grandpa, you’re in a unique situation. You’re a grandparent in a time when parents both work, and you’re taking care of your grandchild. You wear many hats: First, as the fun Grandma or Grandpa you’ve always wanted to be. You’re also the babysitter, expected to listen to your son or daughter about how they want to raise their child.

Many new parents and grandparents differ on the issue of food. The way we eat has changed. There is a lot more food available, and more types of food. The way new parents handle their child’s behavior has changed. This makes it extra challenging for you: how can you please your grandchild and your own kids, but stay true to your own beliefs?

Here we outline some common food battles faced by grandparents today, and ways to handle them without having an outright war with your child:

Food Battle #1: Your child is a lot less strict with your grandchild’s eating habits than you think she should be.

Solution: Your no-nonsense approach to parenting got lost in the shuffle of today’s generation of parents. Your grandchild gets his way too often. You shouldn’t be the food police, but it’s appropriate for you to set limits with your grandchild, especially if you are one of his primary caretakers.

Take time to prepare healthy snacks. Set the expectation that he sit down for regular meals with you, with no TV or iPad. This is a great opportunity to tell your grandchild stories from your childhood, and to create happy memories of meals with Grandma and Grandpa.

Food Battle #2: You don’t like to see food wasted, and you fight with your grandchild to finish his meals.

Solution: We no longer live in a world where food is scarce. Today’s generation of children is more likely to be overweight than undernourished. This is a great opportunity to teach your grandchild to be thankful for the food he has, and not to ask for more than what he thinks he can eat. Don’t push your grandchild to finish everything on his plate; this teaches him to ignore the feeling of fullness and to overeat. Give him 20-30 minutes to eat, and when time is up, the meal is over.

Food Battle #3: Your grandchild grazes on snack foods all day, but you’d rather he eat three square meals.

Solution: With an overabundance of food and a shortage of free time, people eat anywhere, anytime. As nutrition experts, we think that all-day snacking can lead to overeating calories, while missing out on nutrients like protein and iron. Compromise: set the expectation that your grandchild have three sit-down meals with you, and allow two small healthy snacks in-between.

Food Battle #4: Your job as grandparent is to spoil your child, and that includes treats and junk food – but your daughter only allows healthy food.

Solution: This is a fabulous opportunity to serve lesser-known kid favorites: strawberries dipped in real whipped cream; berry “salad” with blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries; in-season fruit or veg bought from a farmer’s market (what’s better than a fresh peach?); or trail mix made with whole grain cereal like Life or Cheerios, dried cranberries, and sesame sticks. (Note: dried fruit is safest for ages 4 and up because of choking risk). Create healthy snacks (and memories!) by baking banana muffins or oatmeal raisin cookies together using whole grain flour.

There is no easy way to bridge the gap between your child’s parenting style and your grandparenting style. You won’t agree on everything, but you can be both fun Grandma/Grandpa and provide healthy foods for your growing grandchild.


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