Feeding Your Grandchildren

Grandparents and elders play a vital role in caring for children, handing down traditional knowledge and building children’s food literacy. It can be tempting to want to “spoil” your grandchildren and make meal and snack time fun and treat-filled. Although this is okay in moderation, if you care for your grandchildren regularly, it’s key to ensure they are mostly eating foods recommended by Canada’s Food Guide. This will  help them grow and have the nutrients they need to learn and be active.

Check in with the parents

Parents usually have the ultimate responsibility for meeting their children’s food and nutrition needs and they often spend the most time managing this goal. They have experienced the feeding successes and struggles and can share the history of the child’s eating. Check in with them about usual meal and snack foods and times. Ensure you know about any allergies or intolerances to food they may have. Try to maintain the same rules as parents have  around mealtimes, like coming to the table and turning off screens and other distractions.

Make a meal plan involving your grandchildren

The more children are involved in the growing and cooking of their food, the more likely they are to eat it and develop a positive relationship with food to last a lifetime. Plan meals and snacks with their input (although you are the ultimate decision maker) and base them on the Canada’s Food Guide recommendations to eat “plenty of vegetables and fruit” and include whole grain foods and protein foods. Use this meal plan and check your fridge, freezer and pantry for what needs to be used up while you make your grocery list.

Cook together

Many children learn to cook with their grandparents as they may have more time to have fun in the kitchen and have a lifelong history of cooking to share. Pass along your family food traditions by involving them in making a family recipe, perhaps one of their parent’s favourite dishes. If cooking with children is new to you, check out our post to help understand Tips to Make it a Success as well as the skills they are capable of at different stages.

Understand the Division of Responsibility

Caregivers are responsible for deciding when to eat (ideally every 2-3 hours for younger children), where to eat (at the table ideally or outside for a picnic!) and what is served (healthy choices based on Canada’s Food Guide). It is the child’s job to decide if they are going to eat and how much. This helps them to understand their own hunger and fullness cues and grow up to have the body that is right for them. This means it’s not the caregiver’s role to ensure the child has “finished their plate” which happened in years gone by. To reduce food waste, allow the child to decide what goes on their plate or just serve a small portion and allow them to have more if desired. Try to serve familiar foods alongside new foods. For more understanding, visit our post on The Division of Responsibility in Feeding.

This resource was adapted from:

Dietitians of Canada Unlock Food