Parenting is hard, there is no doubt about it. Many people love to give their unsolicited advice to you, no matter what the subject, no matter how unqualified they really are. For one mom, Shan Cooper, this unsolicited advice on her parenting style starting coming from all around the world once her decision to keep her child on the Paleo diet went viral. But she never gave in, and years later, we get to see the effects this decision had on her daughter.
It was time for young Grace to start kindergarten, an exciting time for any parent-child duo. Grace was much different than the other kids, she had never tasted sugar or processed foods her entire life–something extremely foreign to most households. Shan always knew her decision was one that would benefit her baby, but she didn’t realize just how much until she noticed Grace looked very different than her classmates.
So what is a Paleo-diet? Paleo refers to the Paleolithic era, a diet that follows the logic of only consuming foods available to humans during this time period. That means no sugar, no processed foods, no dairy, and no grains or legumes, basically no foods that were only available after the invention of farming. Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, nuts, and seeds, make up the majority of the diet because they’re all foods that were available from hunting and gathering. It follows the discordance hypothesis, a theory that human genetics aren’t made to thrive on the modern day diet.
Long before baby Grace was born Shan had adopted the diet in hopes to cure her health problems related to certain foods. When she realized the benefit it made in her life, it was no question she would do the same for her child when the time came. She explained how she felt after eliminating processed foods, “I just got sick of not feeling great. That had been my normal and (I decided) that wasn’t going to be normal anymore,” according to Life Buzz.
The Paleo diet has been around since the 1970’s, floating in and out of trend every few years. Many people swear by it, but it’s never been tested or observed in infants before. Regardless of the lack of data, Shan stuck to her decision as her gut told her this was the best thing for her daughter. People told her she was crazy, some even informing her that she was harming her child, but nevertheless, she stuck to it. However, when she visited the doctor, she got some information she wasn’t expecting.
Grace’s pediatrician was slightly concerned that she wasn’t receiving enough nutrition due to the diet’s restrictions, even though he had no hard proof. Shan had always breastfed Grace while feeding her a healthy diet, so, by all means, Grace was a healthy child. She never gave her sugar, as she knew it would increase the risk of certain diseases as well as distort her taste buds and brain to only want sugar–much like a drug. As we know, the brain reacts to sugar just the same as it does to stimulant drugs, and Shan knew that wasn’t what she wanted for her baby. However, people still told her she was wrong.
Even though Shan has now found success in the health and lifestyle world, it was a lot of hard work and dedication. In the middle of expanding her career, while she was teaching health and wellness workshops and publically promoting the Paleo diet, she found out her husband was having an affair. She was now a single mother with an eight-month-old up against the world. Trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle became harder than ever.
In her blog, she stated the hardship she went through actually brought new opportunities, “It has created avenues for my business that would have never been possible had I stayed where things were ‘comfortable’.” As Grace grew up Shan realized her daughter had a pallet that most children don’t, and she was starting to see all her hard work pay off.
Grace loves eating the foods she’s grown up on. She doesn’t fuss or fight eating healthy options because that’s what she’s grown accustomed to. For breakfast, Shan says Grace mostly eats eggs cooked in coconut oil, and for lunch, it’s things like organic chicken and veggies. A favorite dinner of theirs is spaghetti with zucchini noodles and organic grass fed beef instead of a more traditional recipe. They don’t miss out on dessert, either. Instead of traditional sugar filled options, they eat sweet fruits or smoothies.
It’s not like Shan was shooting in the dark with her ideas about clean eating, she has a degree in agricultural science and has written her own e-book about the subject. She also has her own website, My Food Religion, where she constantly updates people on new information, recipes, and personal experiences. She’s not a stalker mom, either.
She told Newsner that when Grace gets old enough to go to parties she will let her make her own decisions on what to eat, “she’ll be old enough to know she can choose whatever she wants to eat. She’ll probably come home jacked up on sugar and cake and say, ‘Mum, I don’t feel very well.’ And next time instead of eating 12 cupcakes she might only eat three. I want Grace to eat what makes her feel good.”
Shan says Grace has only been sick once in her life, giving credit to her diet for a strong immune system. Shan told The Daily Mail, “She spends a lot of time around other kids who are sick all the time — who have snotty noses, coughs, colds — but she just doesn’t pick it up.”
Shan also lives a mostly relaxed lifestyle, despite her diet restrictions. She also has a way to deal with the reality of her diet in life, “I don’t think eating a piece of bread is going to kill me. When I go out to dinner with friends, I’m just going to eat what’s on the menu. I’m not going to be a jerk about it,” she told The Daily Mail.
There is another reason why Shan won’t be a stickler when it comes to Grace’s diet as she ages, “I don’t want there to be any disordered eating around here. Females particularly have enough problems with eating disorders. I want Grace to eat what makes her feel good.” Even with her rational logic and lifestyle, people continue to voice their disapproval.
Dr. Rosemary Stanton, a well-known dietician, disagrees with putting a child on such a restrictive diet. She states that “It’s really not usually a good idea to put a child on such a restricted diet, particularly when there are no grounds for it. Depriving her child of grains and legumes will make it much more difficult to achieve a balanced diet.” She goes even further, urging others not to follow Shan’s choice. Shan didn’t let her get the last word, however.
Shan went on to fire back on such harsh criticism on her blogs, saying, “Why eating real food is such a scandalous topic is just bizarre. If you want to feed your kid one of the most nutrient-void pieces of crap ever, knock your socks off.”
Shan isn’t about to take part in internet bullying, either. She thinks parents should do what’s right for their children but always have a reason why “I’m not going to internet troll you. You do the right thing you think for your kid. Why people think it’s offensive to eat a plate of vegetables over a piece of bread — that’s bizarre.”
Although Doctor Rosemary disagrees with Shan’s decision, other doctors have something different to say. The New York Times published an article which highlighted 11 studies about childhood nutrition, essentially supporting Shan’s idea about healthy living. Doctor Elsie M. Taveras, chief of general pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, says introducing children to healthy eating is essential, “Our early taste preferences, particularly for fruits and vegetables, and on the flip side for sugary beverages, are lasting.”
These are her go-to dairy-free “ice cream” pops when Grace is asking for sweets she can’t have. In an Instagram post she shared how she combats moments when she has to say no, “I was at a cafe the other day with G and there was a big sign advertising all the ice creams they had available. In standard 4-year-old style, she asked for pretty much every item on the sign which was consistently met with the same answer, negative Ghostrider. The negotiation for not embarking in a full-blown meltdown (because 4) was that we could make some ice blocks when we got home. Of course she asked to make rainbow paddle pops, *facepalm*, and of course, I had to oblige because asshole parent wouldn’t let her eat the other junk from the shop so this was my alternative.
On her blog, Shan shares some of her most delicious recipes, “Figs roasted in truffle honey & pink muesli.” Who says she can’t enjoy sweets?!
Or this spinach pie which I’m sure tastes as good as it looks. Shan is vocal about taking things she loves from a variety of lifestyles, like veganism, vegetarianism, and gluten-free. This pie happens to be paleo, vegetarian, and low-carb. She not only gives you the recipe but tells you how to modify it to your preferences.
Or how about this cauliflower soup that is a delicious alternative to dairy heavy clam chowder. For all these recipes and more go check out her page, My Food Religion.