Kids Who Are Watched by Grandparents Are More Likely to Get Fat

boy eating friesDo your child's grandparents happen to watch him on a regular basis? If so, then you might be setting him up for an unhealthy lifestyle.

A study from Finland was published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology and found that kids who are cared for by grandparents are 22 percent more likely to be overweight or obese as opposed to kids who are watched by parents or babysitters. 

Did you hear that? Twenty-two percent! Apparently it's because grandparents can't resist giving kids yummy treats to eat, which stems from a natural instinct to boost their survival chances by feeding them.

Huh. I guess that makes sense.

And I can say first hand that my son gets all sorts of goodies when he's with my mom and dad -- because there's no way either of them could possibly refuse his request for something delicious. You know what else? He totally knows the odds of them saying no to whatever food he asks for are slim to none, which is probably why he can talk either one of them into buying him a Happy Meal on any day of the week.

And since my little guy doesn't have an ounce of fat on him, it doesn't bother me in the least. When I drop him off with my parents, I tell them to give him whatever they want to give him. As long as he eats, I'm really not too concerned about whether or not he splurges a little. (Or even a lot. Yep. I'm that mom.)

But if he did start getting a bit on the chubby side, I'm sure I'd be all sorts of anal about what he eats. I'd probably have a thing or two to say about my mom and dad feeding him sugary and salty snacks or anything that wasn't on the healthy side of the spectrum.

And if you are at all concerned about what your child eats when his grandparents are taking care of him, there are a few things you can do to make sure he eats healthfully when you aren't around so your kid doesn't wind up being part of the 22 percent statistic.

  1. Stock their pantry and fridge -- Chances are that grandparents will feed kids whatever is on hand. If you're really concerned about what they're eating, make sure to regularly bring over plenty of healthy choices that are easy to grab so they don't have to think about whether they are adhering to your wishes.
  2. Set some guidelines -- If you know your kid is going to try and sweet talk grandma into going through the drive-through a few times a week, tell her she's allowed -- but only once as a treat or something like that. If you let her spoil him a little without going overboard, everyone winds up happy.
  3. Have a heart-to-heart -- Grandparents want to feel respected and appreciated, so instead of getting all upset with them for feeding your kids junk food, sit them down and calmly explain that sticking to a healthy diet is important to you, and state your reasons why. If they hear it from a positive angle, they're much more likely to remember the conversation down the road and stick to your request.
  4. Pack your kid's dinner -- You pack him a lunch for school, right? If grandma and grandpa are babysitting one night during the week, bring him a bagged dinner instead of forcing them to figure out what to feed him. Either that, or bring over a healthy dish they can all enjoy together. They'll appreciate the fact that you were thoughtful enough to bring the meal and forget all about you being concerned with what they feed your kid.
  5. Educate your child -- If you want your kid to make healthy choices, you have to teach him the difference between good foods and "bad" foods. If he knows what he can and cannot eat, he can instruct and guide grandma so the guesswork isn't left up to her.

Do your parents or in-laws watch your kids a lot? Do you ever worry about what they feed them?


Image via Mary Fischer

food, family, kids nutrition


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

LostS... LostSoul88

I think its a load of shit. My brothers and I were rasied by my grandma and only my little brother is fat but that's because of his poor choice of a diet. I know a few people who were raised my grandparetns and none of them are fat.

my MIL NEVER watched my kids, my family sometimes does but they are with me and their dad most of the time. 

amazz... amazzonia

I really wish my dd would have grandparents to spoil them and fill their hearts with love. This article is full of crap

pj2be... pj2becca21

Bullshit, my grandmother took care of us and none of us are fat. We are all very active and very fit

AprilC35 AprilC35

absolutely no doubt that this is true. My girls used to visit their grandparents for extended visits when we lived in RI and they came down here to NJ...everytime they came back they had gained a LOT of weight was crazy ridic!!!

Tracey Anne Lopes

load of shit is correct! My daughter stays with my mom and she is most definitley not given any treats....I buy her food and am adament that she doesn't have any sweets unless its once and a great mom makes her healthy, homemade soups and meals...we are Portuguese and therefore, she is fed well, lots of veggies, proteins and daughter LOVES fruit and drinks primarily water and milk and once a day, I don't agree with this article one bit!


Leighanne Hoskey

seriously people, it says 22% likely, so that means that there is a 78% chance they WILL NOT become more obese. This study does though need to be conducted again to see if this is truly something that can happen by chance or if this is significant... I am thinking that this is all chance.

Parks... Parksey27

My family is proof this is true about 50% of the time. My Mom watches my boys only occassionaly but she is great about making sure they eat healthy food and my boys are both lean and healthy. My MIL on the other hand buys only processed, fast and easy foods and doesn't check labels ever. My kids don't spend much time with her needless to say; but their cousins do and my 8 year old nephew is obese. 

nonmember avatar Cass

Leighanne, if you're going to lecture on statistics, make sure you understand them. In this case, compared to whatever the baseline likelihood a child has to become obese (say 10 percent for simplicity's sake), the kids watched by their grandparents have a 22 percent higher chance (32%) of becoming obese. An interesting correlation most likely explained by a more caloric diet provided by grandparents.

Benja... Benjamins-mama

not true in my case.  my in laws and my dad and stepmom have watched both of my kids and they are always fed pretty good.    they are allowed junk but in moderation

Rachel Weaver

I watch my grandson every day during the week and I am the one who pushed to make sure he gets brestfed the most he can and for all homemade baby food as much as possible so he isn't getting the junk. Maybe its because I am young still and have 4 kids still at home ages 8-16 but I push for a heathy diet for all!

1-10 of 62 comments 12345 Last