Help! My parents are sabotaging my kids’ healthy eating

A friend was telling me how frustrated she is with how her parents are feeding her kids. Whenever they are at the grandparents’ house the grandparents offer the kids “treats” throughout the visit.

I know the rules at my parents’ house changed when they became grandparents.  Every meal involved a dessert and usually in unlimited quantities. Whenever the grandchildren asked for food they got it. They were never like that when I was a kid – what happened?

Grandma cutting pie for grandchildren

It isn’t always grandparents who have different ideas about feeding your child than you have. It could be another relative, a special friend or someone you are co-parenting with who lives in a different house.

But what can you do?

  1. If you think they would be open to changing their behaviour, talk to them. Share your concerns. Be open to compromise. Feeding is one way we show love, so you may want to offer some ideas of how this person can show their love and care for your child in other ways.

Time is a cherished commodity these days and spending it with a child shows you value them.

Build memories for a child by:

  • Sharing a loved activity (reading, playing board or card games, flying a kite, gardening, cooking)
  • Go for a walk together
  • Talk about what is important to them
  • Share stories about when you were a child
  • Look at pictures together

Some of the best memories my kids have of their grandfather are of him reading to them after school. The reading session always ended when grandpa fell asleep.

Grandfather reading to grandson

  1. If you don’t think they would be open to changing their behavior, decide whether it would be worthwhile to challenge it. How might a conversation impact your relationship with this person? It may be best to just let it go.

Remember healthy eating is not about a single snack or meal or even a day of eating, but the pattern of eating over time. If you eat healthier foods most of the time and less healthy foods sometimes you will be doing well.

  • Talk to your kids about how different people/families have different rules, beliefs and traditions. Be clear about your expectations in your house.  
  • Use the opportunity to talk to your child about the kinds of foods we eat most of the time and the kinds of foods we eat sometimes.

Granddaughter feeding grandfather a strawberry

Read more: How to cope with junk-filled play dates 

Do you ever worry someone else is going to spoil your kids’ eating habits? How did you deal with it? Share your story (and your solution, if you found one) below!

Karen Wismer
Public Health Nutritionist