Oliver currently eats a 100 percent Paleo diet, and we have no plans to change this anytime soon. We have, relatively speaking, a very small window of time during which we retain complete control over the foods that are offered to Oliver. We are exploiting this fleeting opportunity to give Oliver the best nutritional head start that our knowledge allows, and to cultivate as many positive eating habits as possible.

Since we prepare all of Oliver’s meals, including the ones he eats at daycare (fortunately, he is able to opt out of the lunch program), this should be easy, but I have recently encountered a problem.

Several times each week, I take Oliver to various indoor community play times in order to allow him to play with new toys, play with (or more accurately, in close proximity to) other children, develop his gross motor skills, and freely explore in a “child-proofed” environment. The latter factor is key, as these playtimes afford an otherwise impossible opportunity for Oliver to explore, unimpeded by yours truly having to constantly redirect him from things he shouldn’t be touching (e.g. electrical outlets, appliance cords, trash cans, pet food/water bowls, laptops, etc.).

So, you can imagine my dismay the first time a mother pulled a plastic container of puffed wheat cereal out of her purse and placed it on the floor, opened, so that her child (and others) could eat while playing. Oliver, in his infinite curiosity, crawled over to investigate the interesting new “toy,” and I suddenly found myself having to intervene, lest Oliver start snacking on non-Paleo wheat puffs. Not a huge deal…

But then, the mother turned to then eight-month-old Oliver and offered him one of the wheat puffs! Yes, she offered food to a baby without consulting his mother first. Leaving aside the fact that we don’t want Oliver eating non-Paleo food, wheat puffs aren’t exactly a developmentally appropriate food for a baby just learning to chew and swallow. They are a choking hazard. Wheat is also a highly allergenic food.

Recognizing that this mother was in all likelihood just trying to be friendly, I politely declined, whereupon she insisted, “No, it’s okay: he can have some,” totally ignorant of the fact that perhaps I didn’t want him to have this food.

“Thank you, but he’s not allowed to eat wheat,” I explained. And then I found myself feeling awkward, as if somehow I had to justify my seemingly odd reaction to what was obviously intended as a polite offer.

Unfortunately this was not an isolated event. Parents regularly bring food for their children, and instead of providing snacks in the designated eating areas (complete with tables and chairs), they simply feed their children bites of food here and there on the playroom floor. Not only do they often leave behind messes, but I find it frustrating that I now have to restrict Oliver’s movements in what is supposed to be a safe place to explore. I have to be vigilant to ensure that other parents do not give food — intentionally or inadvertently — to my baby. I can’t begin to imagine how infuriating this would be for a parent of a child with food allergies, or for parents who have strong moral/religious convictions about food!

I recognize and respect that not everybody holds the same views towards feeding children; that some parents prefer to allow their children to graze throughout the day; that the vast majority of parents do not impose a strict Paleo diet on their children. Every parent should feed their child(ren) as they see fit.

However, I take issue with people offering food to my baby without consulting me first. Because I don’t want to offend someone who obviously means well, I am probably more polite and restrained in my reactions than I ought to be. But inside, I stew.

How do you address other peoples’ unintentional and benevolent violations of your parenting “rules?”

24 responses to “POLITELY PALEO

  1. I hear your frustrations but you’re going to have a REALLY hard time with keeping Oliver’s diet Paleo as he gets older. Have you seen toddlers sitting at a table eating together? Food all over the place and they eat off each others plates.

    Even if you bring your own food to daycare there is a chance that once Oliver is out of the high chair, and seated for meals at a table, he could easily eat his friends meals.

    Sharing snacks and a relaxed attitude about food in play areas seems common wherever I go. I agree, if you have a child with an allergy or you have food restrictions it’s a challenging environment.

    We did one month of very strict no dairy or grains when Henry was just past two. It was a lot of work. I had to tell all of the other parents to keep an eye on my son and to not offer him snacks.

    I never offer a child food without asking the parent first, BTW. I think that’s pretty standard.

    Interested to read more on this as Oliver get older. You’re leading the way! 🙂

    PS. Looks like your category and tagging project is done. Impressed. I have to do that as well. Just 328 posts…

    • I know there will come a time, undoubtedly sooner than we’d like, where Oliver starts being exposed to non-Paleo foods, but I think he’s still well within the territory where we should be able to have full control over what is offered to him. Once he reaches the point where he is aware that what he is eating is different from what others are eating, we will definitely have to relax our stance — at least, outside of the house. But I think these early experiences are important for laying the foundation of good eating habits in spite of a society that isn’t particularly friendly towards genuine healthy eating.

      I’m still only halfway done my category/tagging project. I had a great start for a few days, and then… 🙂 I need to just make a point of doing a certain number each night. 68 to go…

      I wish WordPress had a way to mass categorize/tag posts. Maybe you’ll have better luck with Blogger.

  2. This is so hard! I have had people get down right hostil with me. I’ve a friend get really angry at me because I didn’t want to get a crappy hot dog from a stand outside our work one day for my son. I also have had waitresses give me dirty looks when I make certain requests. One of our favorite restaraunts is Perkins a breakfast place that has amazing omlets. My son (who is 3) got scrambled eggs and bacon and is perfectly happy with this. The waitress then said “o I’ll make sure I bring your cookie for you!”. I understand it comes with the meal and she was just trying to be nice but when I said no thank you, he doesn’t need it. She gave me the nastiest look! This has happened at alot of places. Luckily I have found that overall other moms are pretty respectful but as my little guy gets older it has become harder and harder to keep these things out of his life!

    • That’s rather sad. Nobody has to agree with your parenting decisions, but they certainly should not be getting snarky with you when all you are trying to do (just like every other parent) is the best thing for your child!

      I bet servers are unaccustomed to parents turning down free desserts. Still…

  3. I hate to say it, but it’s only the beginning. D’s diet is very restricted (voluntary and food intolerance wise) and I get really peeved when people offer her things like cookies, candy or other junk food. Now that she is bigger, they just ask her instead of me. What kid is going to say, “No thanks” to a cookie cheerfully? Even though we’re pretty good about it, she still has a sweet tooth despite never introducing any kind of sugar, (short of sugar found in fruit and real foods) until she was over three. We have friends who try to understand our goals and will bring things that are gluten free/egg free/dairy free to share with D. and a few times, I’ve just had to let it go in the nature of kindness. So she’s had one of those Envirokids faux-healthy-rice-crispy-crap-treats….it’s not the end of the world. I totally lost it when the grandparents gave her a potato chip! (“But it’s the organic, healthy kind…”) Um, yeah. I totally hear you! It’s hard to keep our kids away from mainstream food. Even parents who are relatively health conscious don’t get my fanatical take on sugar. They even make excuses about it that we’re somehow depriving D. of something and that they don’t want to do that to their own children. She’s going to grow up and binge on sugar because we never let her have any. Never is a strong word. We don’t indulge in sweets on a daily basis, but now that she is bigger, we do incorporate some treats with maple syrup and honey sometimes. It’s all a balancing act and sometimes I see her need to fit in. Just wait until cupcake birthday party season shows up. That will really make your head spin! Why can’t teachers just say “No food treats” for school birthdays and let parents do their own thing at home? There are lots of special ways to celebrate without cupcakes (20 times a year!).

    Enough ranting my own rant! I totally know what you mean!

    • “Envirokids faux-healthy-rice-crispy-crap-treats” — hahaha! That kind of stuff drives me nuts. It really doesn’t do anything well, because it’s neither healthy, nor does it qualify as satisfying junk food. I say if you’re going to have junk food, just go all out and have the darn chocolate cupcake piled high with frosting, and appreciate it for what it is :).

      The other day at the farmer’s market, a kindly older gentleman offered Oliver a cookie. When we declined, he was utterly shocked, “What kind of parent doesn’t let their child have a cookie?” I guess he’s of a different generation.

  4. I commend you for standing up for your principles! It’s hard enough in our society to reinforce healthy eating habits without having do-good parents offering up puffy wheat thingys! I have no idea how else you might approach the issue than exactly how you did, without disrupting the whole place and asking whoever’s in charge to enforce the “no food on the play floor” policy. Hang in there, no matter how much non-Paleo stuff Oliver comes across along his path, your efforts will have a greater affect on his eating habits than you probably realize!

    • Thank you! 🙂

      I have been contemplating asking (particularly at one place) for a sign to be put up reminding parents that food should be consumed in the eating area. I think that we are so accustomed to being able to eat anytime, anywhere that sometimes people lose sight of the fact that there are still places where food is not necessarily appropriate.

  5. If it reassures you any, I saw D. once react to a buddy eating a frosted cookie with, “Are you really going to eat that? It looks like it has gluten *AND* like 100 grams of sugar. I know that’s not good for my body…” and she shrugged and wandered off. Admittedly I am a bit neurotic about reading labels in stores for fun–making somewhat dramatic (for her) comments about ingredients and advertising statements. “Look D! This only has 18 grams of sugar (that’s more than 4 whole tsp of sugar!!), but it’s high in antioxidants and the label says, what? It’ll make your hair grow long, green and lush and improve your eye sight”–and then we run back to the perimeter of our store where the “real” foods live.

    • Oh, that is just priceless — you must have been such a proud mom :). I think it’s amazing that you are educating her about label reading and bogus health claims at such a young age. As she grows up, she will be so much better equipped to make her own informed decisions about foods (which is the ultimate goal, is it not?). We are hoping to do the same with Oliver when he is a little bit older.

  6. I struggle with this too. I want to be friendly with people and I especially don’t want to turn them off of a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle by being weird and hostile. But man, people really make it hard sometimes. Especially when they just won’t let it go. The best thing I’ve been able to figure out is to politely decline snacks and say she can’t have gluten. Then I bring with me special treats that Rose doesn’t get usually like date bars or a sweet potato bar so she can have a fun treat. I bring more to share with the other kids too so parents can see that their kids like healthy snacks too!

    This is what I do at birthdays as well. I love the paleo brownies from Elana’s Pantry for super special occasions. I know we can’t keep our kids away from the bad food forever but we can make healthy food for them that’s special for fun occasions. I’m hoping this helps her to rebel less!

    • I really like your idea of bringing along your own treats, with enough to share!

      I have been toying with the idea of just saying Oliver is allergic to gluten, sugar, dairy, etc. because it’s somehow easier for people to accept allergies than restrictions, but then again, it’s a bit of a cop-out… 🙂

  7. I’m dealing with this now at my son’s day care of all places, he’s 10 months just like Oliver. They have the sweetest women working there in the infant room, and on several occasions one of them has given C some cheerios or a piece of graham cracker. At first I wasn’t sure what to say and I mumbled something like “oooh, we don’t get to eat cereal at home!” for C’s benefit, but she just says “Look how much he likes it!” Of course he does. I’m OK with it because I know I’m not going to be able to control 100% what goes into his body now that he’s on solids and “out and about”, but my husband really doesn’t want it to happen. So since I’m the one who picks him up, I’ll have to tell her something next time I see it. I’m just going to say that I have a sensitive stomach so we’re trying not to give C certain foods. Something like that.

    As he gets older though I don’t want him to be the outcast for not eating something, so if they are giving a graham cracker and small cup of lemonade to the older kids on the way out, I will let him indulge. I hope to teach him the meaning of good food, so that he can appreciate the treat, but get right back to his steak and brussels sprouts at home!

    • That’s actually really surprising. Oliver’s daycare has been amazing about respecting our wishes, and I would expect nothing less. I think you’re right that telling a little white lie might be the most effective (and diplomatic) way to stop this. Most daycares are pretty careful when it comes to food allergies and sensitivities.

  8. Oh and we’re also buying a dehydrator so that we can send C in with some easy to store and eat snacks that are better for him.

  9. “Every parent should feed their child(ren) as they see fit.”

    What about GRANDparents? 😉

    Trying saying no to your mom’s freshly baked rhubarb crisp, made with love, and intended for her granddaughter…if only so she’ll get to see her with rhubarb smooshed all over her face! Now, THAT is my one exception 😉

  10. Stumbled across your blog while searching how to adjust my CF workouts due to being pregnant. At any rate, I dealt with this battle today with my mother and my sister – who gave my 18 month old sips from her blue slushie (sister) and then swears she “sucked all the sugar out before she gave it to her” and then my mom who gave her sips of diet lemonade…..at least my mother apologized. My sis is still standing her ground that she did nothing wrong…so frustrating! Anyway, got a lot of encouragement from the other comments!

    • Oh my gosh, how frustrating for you! I would be livid if one of my family members did that. It’s one thing for a child to share a little treat with their grandma or auntie (with parental permission, of course), but another thing altogether to have them completely disrespect your wishes. Hopefully they will be a little bit more considerate in the future. Maybe you could give them some suggestions for approved treats?

  11. I feel for you. I don’t have kids, but I’m a supervisor at a cycling camp and we have a strict no food sharing policy in case of allergies or food intolerances. Plus as someone who is GF/DF, I understand that you don’t want your child ingesting certain things. I try my best to monitor the children during lunch time, as parents like you have put careful thought and planning into their child’s lunch, whereas others have packed a toxic wasteland of chemicals and sugar. The only problem, the camp is nut free, makes it hard for me to find good snacks!

  12. Hi. Would love if you could do an update on how paleo Oliver is now. I have just started solids with my son and I intend to give him real food for as long as I have control over what goes into his mouth. It’s just that its amazing how people view food. I get so many comments from people saying, why bother trying eventually he is going to eat all the cookies and cakes that he wants. Or they say, he’s a child you don’t have to put him on your diet from now. How do you explain to people that you see the other food as not just harmless indulgences but down right poison to a tiny body? I’d love to read a follow up post!

  13. The worst thing is to see relatives shoving pieces of cake into baby’s mouth and claim that it’s sweet and that he’ll love it! I have seen yellow potato puffs, replete with msg, stuffed into a baby’s mouth with the remark “These are soft so the baby won’t choke” ! Unbelievable. The concept of healthy or unhealthy doesn’t seem to cross some people’s minds.

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