When Shan Cooper gave birth to her daughter, Grace, she had strong ideas about how she wanted to raise her child. Being a health fanatic herself, the new mom was particularly strict about the types of food that her baby consumed. And the effect that a diet free from carbs and refined sugar has had on the little girl can only be described as amazing.
Cooper is a self-professed “health and wellness coach” and “gut health enthusiast” who has studied the effect that the foods we consume have on our all-around wellbeing. She even has a degree in agricultural science, which is a strand of biology focusing on the growth and treatment of plants for human consumption.
And Cooper had battled with health problems for years; food allergies in particular had long been an issue. Her diet was specifically tailored to accommodate her needs, then, with the Brisbane, Australia, native choosing to refrain from consuming gluten, dairy and processed foods.
But in 2010 Cooper learned about the Paleo diet. For the unaware, the Paleo diet is a healthy eating plan that advocates avoiding added sugar, carbs and additives. It’s a regimen that promotes eating more natural, unprocessed foods, much like ancient man did – meaning lots of fruit, vegetables and organically reared meats.
“I just got sick of not feeling great,” Cooper explained to the Daily Mail in 2015. “That had become my normal, and [I decided] that it wasn’t going to be normal anymore.” Then when her daughter arrived in 2014, it followed that the health coach’s baby girl would eat in a similar way.
Besides breastfeeding Grace on a couple of occasions daily, Cooper also gives her little girl plates full of veggies along with servings of organic chicken. A Paleo diet steers completely clear of any dairy or grains and instead sticks entirely to the types of foods that “cavemen could scavenge for.”
All in all, then, what the infant consumes is miles away from the sugary treats kids usually like to eat. But Cooper in no way feels as if she denies her daughter the indulgences other children may feast on daily. In fact, the health coach is adamant that Grace “loves it.”
Furthermore, Cooper often shares the choices that she makes for her daughter’s meals on her Instagram page, @myfoodreligion. On the social media site, a young Grace can be seen happily chowing down on a single floret of broccoli, for instance. It’s food that might typically send children that young into meltdown.
And up until the age of one, babies will often be fed foods designed specifically for the consumption of newborns. Cooper never saw that as a viable option for Grace, however. Instead, the new mom would give her daughter food that she’d prepared herself, in accordance with Paleo diet guidelines and so free from unnatural processing, sugars and preservatives.
It’s a choice that Cooper believes has had an incredible effect on her daughter’s well-being. How? Well, she has claimed that at, the age of two, Grace has only ever had one cold. And the wellness coach claims that the child’s good health is thanks to the way in which her daughter eats.
“[Grace] spends a lot of time around other kids who are sick all the time,” Cooper explained to the Daily Mail. “[They] have snotty noses, coughs, colds. But she just doesn’t pick them up.” And the Paleo diet fan gives the credit for that success entirely to her daughter eating immune system-boosting fresh fruit and vegetables.
“It’s certainly not because I’m shielding her from [sick children],” Cooper added. “I absolutely think that a nutrient-dense diet is giving [Grace] a strong immune system.” In fact, the mom feels so strongly about eating well that she’s even written her own recipe book based around health foods.
However, although Cooper puts a lot of time and effort into preparing her daughter’s meals, she’s pretty easy going about processed foods creeping into the little girl’s diet at some point in her life. Indeed, with kids comes the prospect of children’s birthday parties loaded with cake, potato chips and sugary drinks.
But, as Cooper has said, “[What Grace eats now] is not weird, or anything that normal people wouldn’t eat. She loves it. I don’t feed her toast or cereal or anything like that. [But] I think, ‘That stuff is not going to kill her.’ If she eats a piece of bread, I’m not going to have a conniption fit.”
It’s a laid-back stance that Cooper is taking into her child’s future. “I’m not going to not let her go to kids’ parties,” the fitness devotee has insisted. “She’s going to go to kids’ parties and eat what’s there. I’m never going to go to Grace, ‘You can’t eat anything at this party. But I packed you some kale – here you go.’”
Instead, Cooper will credit her daughter with the intelligence to choose the foods that are right for her. The wellness enthusiast added, “[Grace will] be old enough to know that she can choose whatever she wants to eat. She’ll probably come home jacked up on sugar and cake and say, ‘Mom, I don’t feel very well.’”
And before long, Cooper has reasoned, her daughter will make her own connections between what she eats and how it makes her feel. The health devotee cited women in particular and their relationship to food and eating disorders, continuing, “[Grace will] also learn what makes her feel good and what doesn’t.”
Of course, not everyone is a fan of Cooper’s unorthodox methods of parenting. Dietitian Dr. Rosemary Stanton, for one, has cautioned others to think before they choose to follow Cooper’s lead. “It’s not usually a good idea to put a child on such a restricted diet, particularly when there are no valid grounds for it,” she told the Daily Mail.
Instead, Dr. Stanton has advised that grains and legumes, such as alfalfa and chickpeas, ought to be part of Cooper’s child’s diet. Meanwhile, Cooper herself remains baffled as to why her parenting methods are being questioned. After all, why should she be told that she could be damaging her child’s health, while other parents regularly take their kids to fast food restaurants and people say nothing?
“[Why] eating real food is such a scandalous topic is just bizarre,” Cooper has said of her critics. “If you want to feed your kid one of the most nutrient-void pieces of c*** ever, knock your socks off. [But] people think that it’s offensive to eat a plate of vegetables [over] a piece of bread. That’s bizarre.”