Sage Advice: Nana Worries About Grandchild's Diet

By Amy Dickinson | April 10th, 2019

Trying to add health into a child's life

Childhood obesity

Dear Amy: I have a 6-year-old granddaughter. She is pretty, kind, smart, helpful and active with many friends. She has always been a picky eater. She eats very little protein, hardly any vegetables, some fruit, nuts and peanut butter, but does consume dairy and lots of salty snacks, breads, cookies, sweets, “health” bars, etc.

Her parents have tried to get her to eat more nutritious foods, but they continually give in with the sweet and salty items because they want her to eat something. They also often buy her sweets. She is noticeably heavier than others her age.

I’ve made a few light suggestions, but I’m no expert. I don’t want to make them feel they’re being bad parents. I don’t know if they’ve asked their pediatrician.

I worry about obesity, diabetes, kids making fun of her, and other results of being overweight. Do you have any suggestions? Can you give me the words for talking to the parents, and offer some helpful advice?

– Nana

Dear Nana: Your granddaughter is at the perfect age to learn about healthy nutrition. Learning about nutrition can be as simple as playing a game in the supermarket, learning to read labels, and choosing “whole” foods over processed foods. You can do this with her. Tell her to find some of her favorite foods and see if you can replace some of the processed foods with an equivalent product but with fewer ingredients. Don’t force her to eat meat (dairy, nuts, eggs and veggies provide protein).

The very best way for children to learn about nutrition is to cook!

Grandchildren have been cooking with their “Nanas” since the dawn of time.

“Cooking” can be cutting up fruit and veggies and arranging the pieces into a fun-looking salad.

Cooking can be measuring the appropriate proportions of rice to water for the rice cooker, making healthy smoothies or stirring easy-to-make caramel sauce to dip apple slices into. She can even make her own “health” bars.

You should not tell your granddaughter that she is fat, or will be fat, or that she is “chunky,” “husky,” “big boned,” or any iteration of this. You should not comment on the size or shape of her body. You should only focus on positive, healthy choices, and choose activities – both in and out of the kitchen – that help her to feel awesome, strong, and in control.

Let your granddaughter take some of these healthy lessons back to her parents. There are dozens of fun cookbooks geared toward kids. My pal Mollie Katzen has authored several. Her most recent is: “Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up” (2005, Tricycle Press). Let her choose recipes she wants to make, and praise and enjoy the results.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2019 by Amy Dickinson

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