My mother and I get into big arguments about the food she tries to serve my children. Do I have to stay away from her house until they’re grown?

  • Posted by Dr. Jay Gordon

The last thing you want to do is start fights with other family members or to keep your children away from their grandparents. We have to realize that the nutritional guidelines have changed dramatically since the time our parents were young. The old rules stressed three glasses of milk every day, meat at every meal, and desserts used as bribes for eating all those “yucky” vegetables.

In today’s society, we’re becoming more and more aware of how dangerous the old eating styles are. It’s important that Grandma realize that the rules at your home may be quite different from what she believes is best. If she won’t respect the way you’re raising your children, it won’t take the grandkids long to figure out they get to eat things at their grandparent’s house that they’re not allowed anywhere else. That’s not going to be helpful to anyone.

It’s time to sit down and talk to your family and tell them which foods are and are not allowed in your house. If making cookies is important to Grandma, explain the need for making them as healthy as possible. You might offer some recipes for cookies which are low in fat and sugar and high in fiber. If you are going to be at a dinner where meat will be served and you don’t want to eat it, ask if you can bring a rice or pasta casserole for your family. That way you can enjoy a meal together without compromising your nutritional beliefs. Explain that frozen yogurt is preferable to ice cream and frozen fruit desserts made without added sugar are preferable to both. You might even buy Grandma a juicer. Introduce her to fruit drinks. Stock her pantry with healthy snacks.

If it all seems too strange, you should compromise a little and meet your family half way. An occasional deviation from a healthy diet isn’t going to do any permanent harm if you explain to your children that this kind of food normally is not allowed in your home. Don’t ever refer to Grandma’s food as “treats”. You don’t ever want your children to feel that sugar and fat are rewards.

What is eaten once in a while has very little effect on your health, so don’t start a family feud over this issue. Like any family disagreement, if you handle the discussion of food with humor and a willingness to negotiate, you’ll have tension-free get-togethers that won’t leave your children confused about who’s right and who’s wrong.