Concerned Grandmother Believes Paleo Is Hurting Her Grandson

I recently received this comment below from a reader on my blog post called “Is Paleo Safe for Kids?” I think this question is a perfect representation of how so many grandmothers, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, etc. feel about the paleo diet for kids.

To be honest, her comment irks me a little with the whole “I don’t care what she says – I’m feeding my grandson what I want to feed him,” and the “fad diet” bit. But her concerns are very real, and her grandson’s mom is probably making some mistakes if this woman’s observations are correct. So let’s dive in. Here’s her comment.

My grandson is 5 almost 6 yrs old. His mother is on the Paleo diet & looks the healthiest I’ve ever seen her look. My grandson on the other hand is pale, very small for his age, tires easily, gets nauseous easily. The mother is constantly eliminating foods that he loves; oatmeal, cheese, brown rice, beans. It appears to me that the diet is good for her but not for him. The Paleo diet is a fad & parents shouldn’t be starving their kids for the latest. The mother isn’t open to any discussion about the diet. As a grandma when he visits, I don’t follow the diet in the foods I give him & he loves it but he feels guilty at the same time & that’s sad too for him. Kids are not the same as adults nor are they mini adults. Any suggestions?

Ok, a few things.

First of all, I’m happy to hear that your grandson’s mother is doing well on the diet, and secondly, I understand your concern. That’s why I wrote this post, “Is Paleo Safe for Kids”, and I strongly recommend that you send it to her. Adults – especially overweight adults – have VERY different needs than normally sized children, and she needs to make sure she’s giving him plenty of fruits, veggies, sweet potatoes, and other carb sources, plus plenty of Paleo fats, so that he has all the energy he needs to be a kid and continue to grow.

Here’s what I said in that post about that, and I’m sticking to it now. I think some parents royally F this whole Paleo thing up with their kids, and it’s dangerous.

EXCERPT FROM MY BLOG POST CALLED “IS PALEO SAFE FOR KIDS?

Now, people do make mistakes when they put their kids on a Paleo diet, especially if those kids are active. Namely, parents put their little skinny kids on the same weight-loss Paleo menu that they’re on. That is, low carb.  GIVE YOUR KIDS ENOUGH CARBS! If they’re hungry all the time, not growing properly, fatigued, nauseous, or not able to concentrate, you’re A) probably not feeding them enough food in general and B) not feeding them enough carbs and fat. Meat and veggies are great, but just like an endurance athlete needs more carbs, so do your active, growing kids.

Sweet potatoes, squash, banana tapioca crepes, potatoes (yes, potatoes), and plenty of fruit will be your kids’ friends. How much of all of those things really depends on your kid, but I’d shoot for a couple pieces of fruit a day and a small serving of sweet potatoes or one of the other starchy veggies I mentioned above with at least one meal per day. And don’t skimp on those fatty, grass-fed cuts of meat. Kids need more fat than what comes on boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Give them the pork, the good cuts of beef, and some bacon. Coconut milk, coconut oil, olive oil, and avocados will also do the trick. The fat will give them energy.

Having said all that, my advice to you is to respect your daughter-in-law/daughter’s wishes and feed him how she wants to feed him, just as you would’ve wanted with your own child (I’m guessing). If you don’t, it will only cause friction between the two of you (trust me – I’ve seen it all too often). It’s also maybe not the greatest idea to put your grandson in the position of feeling “naughty” and possibly feeling really sick because of your desire to give him non-Paleo foods. You said yourself that he feels guilty about taking the food you give him, and no kid needs to be torn between their mom and their grandma.

If your assertions are correct, and he does, in fact, seem sickly since the diet change, then I’d let his mom know that you’ve noticed that your grandson is not looking healthy and strong like he used to look. Tell her you’ve been doing some reading, and while her version of Paleo seems great for her, there may be a different version of it for her son.

I strongly urge you not to use the words “fad diet” with her, as it will probably make her shut down and stop listening to you (as it almost did to me). It’s not a fad diet to her, so there’s no use in name-calling something she loves. Know what I mean?

The other thing to consider is this: what if he seems sickly when you’re around him because you’re feeding him things that make him sick? It’s just a thought, and it may be worth talking to his mom about. Ask her if he always acts and looks the way he does when you’re around. And know that when someone goes Paleo and then they eat grains, dairy, sugar, beans – any of that stuff – some of the most common symptoms are fatigue and nausea…

Thanks for writing in. I understand you’re concerned for your grandson, and thank goodness he has so many people around him who care about him! It’s really hard to talk to parents about the way they parent, so I see why you’d reach out for help about this. I hope this post helps, and I do hope you talk to your daughter or daughter-in-law and send her that post I wrote on kids and Paleo.

Anyone else have any suggestions?