“My father-in-law was giving my baby chips all night at the family barbeque.”
This is the complaint I hear all. the. time. Other times the complaint is about those really sticky twin popsicles that turn your child a radioactive green. Now that I have a reputation of serving healthy food, mothers flock to me to vent their stories of being sabotaged by extended family. Sometimes it feels that extended family make it their duty to introduce our children to the ‘luxuries’ of Hostess® products. (I know you’re reading, Mom.)
No matter how great our home health culture is, eventually we have to leave the house. As we interact with extended family about healthy changes there can be tension – especially with our in-laws.
I completely understand why grandparents give their adoring little fans junk food. It is a guaranteed squeal of delight. If you read my Trapped with Teens post, you know that I’ve been in this same crap trap with teenagers. If you provide really good junk food you will be the hero. Plus, junk food is really easy to prepare and serve. (Greasy wrappers in the trash and you’re done!) It can be overwhelming to have a house full of little ones after becoming an empty-nester.
Is there any harm in serving one ice cream sandwich once in a while? No. Is there harm building relationships with traditions built around junk? Yes.
Here is my plea to all of you sweet, wonderful, loving grandparents:
Your grandchildren are in a generation that actually has a lower life-expectancy than your grown adult children. This is a problem. When you lovingly and sometimes jokingly serve your grandchildren junk food it contributes to this problem. It is especially serious when it becomes a tradition. Food habits die hard and are carried through adulthood. That’s one of the reasons why kids who battle overweight or obesity tend to have the same problems when they are adults. TwinkiesTM don’t just taste good because they are sweet, they are even better because they remember eating them with you.
Please don’t feel attacked when your daughter or daughter-in-law requests a change in what you serve their kids. They are raising kids in a completely different environment from when you raised yours. You are responsible to help that poor mother battle an entire junk industry competing for her food dollar. Eighty percent of all food commercials on Nickelodeon are of ‘poor nutritional quality.’
Your grandchildren look up to you with admiration. You are a celebrity to them. Who else can sing Happy Birthday in three different languages? Use your celebrity status to teach them about the wonders of broccoli and frisbee golf.
Grandma, are you on board? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Have a special food that only you make together. Start with my whole wheat pancakes for a breakfast tradition.
- Alter a family recipe with healthier ingredients. Have them help you. Email the recipe to extended family or put it on a family blog.
- Check out some yoga DVDs at the library and laugh your way through downward dog.
- Mark up a map of your community with parks and farmer’s markets. Visit one each time they come to visit. This will be a really cool keepsake for them.
Want to read more? Here are my sources for this post:
- Children Targets of $1.6 Billion in Food Ads, Washington Post, 2008
- LiveWell Colorado Childhood Obesity Data
- Overweight in Children, American Heart Association, 2012
- The Right to Sell Kids Junk, New York Times, 2012
- Most Food Ads on Nickelodeon Still for Junk Food, Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2009