What would happen if you raised a child without ever feeding them any sugar at all, starting from birth? Would they suffer as a result of that decision? Would it be child abuse? Or would they go on to live a happy, healthy life? One mother tried it - and here's how her daughter turned out years later.
Depending on which expert you believe, many different types of food can be good or bad for you. Some people believe that red meat is a potential cause of cancer, whereas others say that eating red meat helps the heart muscles. Different studies seem to confirm different theories about food.
One food type that causes a great deal of controversy is sugar. Almost everybody knows that having too much sugar is bad for you, but it's generally believed that a little sugar is necessary to keep the body ticking over. Sugar does, after all, occur naturally within the human body.
Having spent years studying diets, how our bodies respond to certain foods and various food processes, Shannon Cooper gained a deeper knowledge about healthy foods and which foods to steer clear of. Cooper knows too well that "you are what you eat", and strongly believes that certain foods can provide your body with the healthy fuel, whilst others can be poison for your body.
For much of her adult life, she had carried this notion and incorporated it into every aspect of her life. So it seemed natural that her lifestyle choices would affect how she would bring her daughter up...
Many people have heard of the well-known catch phrase, 'You are what you eat". But Cooper takes this one step further as she believes that you are what 'whatever your eating ate'. Put simply, this means that if your eating an animal, then the food that this animal ate will affect your body.
So by this line of thought, it's better to eat free-range eggs than caged eggs, as the free range hens live healthier and produce more omega 3. Cooper carried this concept into every aspect of her diet.
Cooper was actually so much more than just a food enthusiast, she had a degree in agricultural science. For her degree she studied the way plants are grown, science and animal health and their effects on human consumption. So its fairly safe to say that she has a deep understanding about nutrition.
She believes animals which are fed low-quality nutrients on farms can pass those low-quality nutrients on to us when we eat them. She's not a vegetarian, but she never eats anything without knowing exactly where it came from.
When her first daughter Grace was born in 2014, Cooper wanted to teach Grace to have a happy relationship with healthy food. This in turn led to her dramatic decision...
Whilst Shannon had experience in animal and plant health, she had also trained as a wellness and fitness coach. So Cooper was pretty much an expert on healthy living and her blog is mainly based on being careful to put the right food inside our bodies. Naturally Shannon wanted to instill these ideas into her daughter. Nonetheless, whilst she had Grace's interests at heart, she would have no idea how this healthy diet would affect her newborn...
Shannon was determined to stick to her beliefs and not to let motherhood affect her healthy lifestyle. After all, she was a wellness coach and couldn't just throw away everything she stood for.
This meant that she wouldn't raise Grace in the same way as other parents. She chose a different path and was determined to raise her on a conscious diet, being careful about what she would feed her.
Most parents might be shocked to hear that a mother put her newborn baby on a diet, especially as she was definitely not born over-weight. Nevertheless, Shannon, made the conscious decision before Grace was even born to place Grace on a special diet.
Since Cooper herself was a devoted supporter of the Paleo diet, it was a natural decision that she would raise Grace in the same way. This meant Grace wouldn't be eating processed or jarred baby foods like other babies...
Though the Paleo diet has become a popular buzzword in recent years, many might not be aware of what it actually entails. In fact, Paleo is a shortened term for Paleolithic, which means the Stone Age.
Paleo is also known as the 'caveman diet', and means that you should only eat what the would have found in the early stone age. This includes plenty of fish, meat, fruit and vegetables.
After discovering the diet in 2010, Cooper never looked back and it completely transformed her life. Still, would it affect her newborn baby in the same way? Shannon initially adopted the Paleo diet as she had health issues in the past and kept feeling sick. She suffered from food allergies and certain foods didn't make her feel so good.
As an experienced nutritionist, Cooper decided to focus on her diet, as she found that gut health plays a role in our overall well-being. After researching the subject, she decided to switch to the Paleo diet, but that's not all folks...
Since each body works differently, certain diets will only work effectively on certain people. For Shannon, she found that the Paleo diet worked wonders for her body. the diet involved cutting carbs, sugars, processed food, additives and preservatives.
Cooper told Daily Mail Australia in 2015,"I just got sick of not feeling great... That had become my normal and (I decided) that wasn't going to be normal anymore." Nonetheless, the Paleo diet is still controversial for some experts. Whilst many accept that the diet can have positive affects, they do offers some warnings about the negative ones.
In theory, the Paleo diet sounds pretty healthy. Many nutritionists and experts praise the diet for championing real, whole, healthy foods rather than processed foods. In fact there are some studies that show cavemen were healthier and they ate three times more produce that the average American does each day.
Moreover, the average Caveman enjoyed a diet that was richer in protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, it sounds like the best way to bring up a healthy child, but others were not so convinced, and she attracted quite a lot of judgement.
After avidly following the Paleo diet for a few years before the birth of her baby, Cooper felt healthier than ever. Naturally, she wanted her baby to feel the same way. Still, her decision to raise her baby on the Paleo diet attracted controversy for a few reasons.
Once of the main reasons was that the diet is geared towards adults, so would it be appropriate for a growing baby and help them develop effectively? As she never seemed to let the opinions of others affect her, Cooper relied on her own motherly intuition. Despite this, many doctors couldn't hold back and were very opinionated on the matter.
There was one person that Cooper did turn to for advice before putting Grace on the Paleo diet, and that was her pediatrician. Still, since there haven't been many studies on the effects of the Paleo on children, Cooper was simply told to act cautiously.
As you might expect, Cooper was not deterred. There was just one exception to the rule that Cooper made to ensure her baby was as healthy as possible and received all the nutrients she needed to develop and grow naturally.
Some parents naturally transition from breast milk to formula after the first year or so. And whilst there are a few make-shift Paleo formula recipes out there, Cooper decided not to follow one of these. In fact, it was probably a good thing she didn't follow this advice. Celebrity Paleo chefs like Pete Evans famously developed one of these formulas, and a nutritionist said it could cause "permanent damage and possibly result in death." That's because the formula didn't contain the right nutrients for a growing baby and contained others that babies weren't able to digest. Still, Shannon was strict about other ideal when it came to Paleo...
The exception that Cooper made was that she allowed Grace to have breast milk. Since Grace was too young to digest meats and plants, breast milk was a natural way to ensure she got all the nutrients she needed. Some of you may not be surprised that she made this exception, but many Paleo parents are strictly against any form of milk. However, Cooper believed that since she was already eating a healthy diet, she would pass this on through her breast milk. Nonetheless, there was still so much to learn...
There was one thing Shannon was clear about after she weaned her baby off of breastmilk. That was there would be no jars of baby food in her household. Instead, Cooper insisted on cooking her babies food the Paleo way.
That's because although baby food is not known to be harmful, it can contain traces of preservatives and sugar. Cooper wanted to ensure Grace would start her life eating wholesome, nutritious food. But what would happen once Grace started growing up?
While Grace was still breastfeeding, Shannon started slowly introducing her to the Paleo diet with tiny plates of organic chicken and veggies. She hoped that this would make it easier to made the gradual transition onto solids. Shannon was happy with the fact that she knew exactly what was going into her little girl's body, since she sourced and made all the food by herself.
Each of Grace's meals were prepared without sugar, preservatives and nothing was processed like most baby food at the supermarket. All she could do was to wait and see how her meals would affect her baby as she grew up...
Since Cooper gave birth to Grace, she started to share photos on her blog and social media channels of the meals she prepared for her. So from day one, fans have watched Grace eat broccoli without a care, as if it was a chocolate snack for other kids.
In fact, Grace actually followed a healthier diet than most adults. Still, by the time she was 13 months, many critics were concerned if she was getting enough nutrients to help her grow. Cooper however still had faith that she would soon see the results when Grace grew up...
By the time Grace was 13 months, she had never tasted carb or sugary treat like other kids. Instead, she was used to eating a diet rich in fruits, veggies and even some more sophisticated dishes like sauerkraut, chia pudding, and quinoa porridge. While most kids would dread the day their mom fed them broccoli or sprouts, for Grace it was the only diet she knew...
Although many skeptics might think a baby Paleo diet sounds strange, it actually was not as radical as it seems. After Grace transitioned to solids, her typical daily diet included eggs and veggies from the previous night for breakfast. When it came to lunchtime, Grace would eat veggies and roast chicken. For dinner she would have meals like spaghetti bolognese with noodles made from zucchini. As a snack Grace would eat fruit instead of sugary treats or cakes. In fact, for her first birthday Shannon made a Paleo-safe strawberry panna cotta. We all wondering what Grace looked like when she got older!
As Grace started to grow up, everyone was left wondering how she would react to the special diet. Well Shannon assured us all the she "loves it." Since this the only diet Grace has ever known, this is understandable.
Still, Shannon insisted that the diet has been amazing for her glowing girl and she was only ever sick once, just with a mild cold. Although she has been exposed to sick kids all the time, Shannon believes the diet has strengthened her immunity and she hasn't caught anything.
Although you 're probably thinking Shannon kept Grace in some sort of bubble to keep her away from any illness, she assured Daily Mail Australia in 2015 that "she spends a lot of time around other kids who are sick all the time. [The other kids] have snotty noses, coughs, colds - but she just doesn't pick it up.
It's certainly not because I'm shielding her from any of that stuff. I absolutely think a nutrient dense diet is giving her a strong immune system." In another twist, Cooper doesn't just attribute this to only the Paleo diet either...
Many might be surprised to hear that Shannon is not as strict on Paleo as you think. On her blog she explains, "I am not vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, carb-free or any other food 'denomination' in its entirety. I take what I like from different food approaches and recipes and adapt it to suit what makes me feel good."
Still, Cooper mainly follows the Paleo diet,and it seems to have been effective for Grace so far. Many fans still wondered though if Grace will always want to follow this strict diet her whole life. How will Cooper deal with this as Grace gets older and begins to think independently?
Shannon is well aware of the fact that Grace might not want to follow a strict Paleo diet her whole life. As she grows up, it's inevitable that she will encounter other sugary foods that don't fit into the Paleo rules. She's pretty open minded and thinks when that time comes she will just let it happen.
Cooper told Daily Mail Australia that "I'm not going to not let her go to kids' parties. 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,'"
In her blog, Cooper explains how she prefers to eat healthy food that makes her feel better. This is what she hopes to instil in her daughter, and she just hopes Grace will be healthy and happy when she's older too.
Shannon also wants Grace to be able to decide for herself, and realizes that if she does go to a friends party, she might decide to eat all the sugary snacks she's never eaten. However, she secretly hopes that she will learn the first time and overdo it and realize that she feels sick. "And next time instead of eating 12 cupcakes she might only eat three."
Cooper says that she's not going to restrict Grace's diet when she grows up, as she wants her to have a healthy relationship with food and feel good about what she eats. She told Daily Mail Australia how,"I don't want there to be any disordered eating around food.
Females particularly have enough problems with eating disorders... I want Grace to eat what makes her feel good. That's the reason I eat this way. I don't think eating a piece of bread is going to kill me." Whilst many praised Cooper for raising her daughter in a healthy way, there were still critics who were still not convinced.
While Cooper was inundated with positive responses for raising Grace on a healthy diet, she also attracted a lot of negative comments. Once her story became viral it seemed everyone on the internet had something to say about her decision to raise her baby on such a strict diet.
Cooper later said that she doesn't understand why there are still many negative comments and why it's such a big deal for them. Cooper doesn't get how parents can casually feed their kids fast food, but criticize her for making healthy food. "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."
Cooper is mostly unfazed by critics or negativity, but there have been plenty of people who tried. Daily Mail Australia featured a well-known dietitian Dr. Rosemary Stanton, who publicly stated that she doesn't believe the diet is a good idea.
She reasoned how "It's really not usually a good idea to put a child on such a restricted diet, particularly when there's no valid grounds for it... Depriving her child of grains and legumes will make it much more difficult to achieve a balanced diet... I'd certainly sound a note of caution (to other people considering following her)."
It's probably safe to say that Cooper had already heard this type of criticism from other medical experts, but took it with a pinch of salt. In fact, she insisted that Grace is happy eating this food and has no idea why other people are critical or think it's strange. In the interview with Daily Mail Australia, she said, "(What she eats now) is not weird, not anything strange, that normal people wouldn't eat. She loves it... I don't feed her toast or cereal or anything like that. Again I think, 'sure that stuff is not going to kill her.' If she eats a piece of bread I'm not going to have a conniption."
Grace is growing up fast and in August 2018, she started kindergarten. While many may be wondering what happened next, you'll be happy to know that Grace seems to be thriving! Cooper is still amazed at how fast Grace is growing and she realizes that soon the time will come for her to go to birthday parties with non-Paleo foods. Many might be wondering if Grace will decide to continue her mother's healthy diet once she gets her first sugar fix...
Cooper said that she wouldn't force Grace to stick to the diet if she decided to later on. Still, so far, fingers crossed, Grace seems to be happy to stick to the diet, even when she's been exposed to sugary snacks.
When Shannon took Grace on a vacation to Mykonos, she was happy enough to snack on strawberries on the beach.
Shannon teaches Grace about healthy living and hopes to instill her with ideas that she can take into the future. She has honest conversations with her about food and hope that once day she'll understand why she chose to put her on this diet.
Cooper also educates Grace about her career as a wellness coach and hopes to inspire her to make informed decisions when she's older. It also helps her deepen the bond with her daughter.
Though Cooper is strict about her healthy diet, she admits she's not so strict all the time and allows the occasional slip up. She explained to Daily Mail Australia "When I got 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."
Cooper insists that even on the Paleo diet you can still be indulgent, just with the right recipes. On her Instagram page and blog she shares some of these indulgent Paleo snacks. These delicious-looking treats are actually pretty healthy "Nut Free No Bake Fig & Quinoa Bars". She recommends these as a healthy way to curb any cravings without added sugar and they are also quick and easy to prepare.
One unconventional concept that Cooper believes in, is that you can eat whenever you want. Instead of the sticking to traditional concept of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
She told the GoodnessMe Box Blog how "I have finally arrived at a place in my life that I feel like I can eat more intuitively rather than just eating because it's 'lunch time' etc. Some days I eat a huge brekkie and no lunch and a big dinner."Other days I don't feel hungry in the morning so I will eat my first meal around 11 am. I listen to my body and hunger signals."
Cooper addressed the critics on her blog, and anyone who reacted negatively to her decision to put Grace on the Paleo diet.
She insisted how "I'm a mum, a foodie and a coffee & bacon addict. I have a background in science and animal health & have done a wellness coaching course... I am constantly researching into nutrition and various 'food religions' and love to learn about food."
Cooper's blog, My Food Religion is filled with healthy recipes and ideas that incorporate various diets. Shannon also offers individual classes and workshops to educate people on how to prepare healthy recipes and learn healthy lifestyle choices.
Cooper insists in her blog that whilst she believes in wholesome nutrition "healthy does NOT have to equal bland." Cooper adds how "I love to cook nutritious, wholesome food that is preservative, additive and artificial everything free. I prefer to use ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible and have been through minimal processing."
While Cooper is an avid Paleo champion, she also believes that changing your diet is just one of the ways to transition to a healthier lifestyle.
She also advocates other healthy habits such as meditation and shares her knowledge of how to incorporate wellness into our daily lives on her Instagram page and blog. She also shares tips and honest reviews of products she tries.
Shannon Cooper has earned a reputation as a social media influencer. However, she still sticks to her values and insists that she wouldn't just endorse a product she didn't believe in. She assures us that she tries and tests the products before giving an honest review to her fans.
Some of these that Cooper tried and tested for herself include, a home workout brand, PrimalThenics and a natural skincare brand with no chemicals or toxins, Cleanse Skincare. Another brand that Cooper swears by is an organic coffee brand, Crema Coffee Garage.
Shannon's blog has been so successful that she made the decision to make her healthy recipes more accessible for her followers.
So, she published several e-books with healthy recipes and offer advice about keeping healthy. One thing she's sure of is that the recipes she included are dairy, gluten, sugar, and grain-free. They also look pretty delicious!
Cooper is pretty pleased about the effects of the Paleo diet on her daughter Grace, so she hopes to inspire other parents to follow some of her healthy ideas, tips and recipes for their kids with her ebooks.
She also happens to have a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, so one of her ebooks is hilariously titled 'CBF Paleo Kids: For people who really want to feed their kids well but Can't Be Fu$ked. 5 ingredients or less. Real food for big kids and little ones." Well that's one way to say it!
Cooper hopes to inspire and educate Grace by involving her in her healthy lifestyle choices and sharing her diet decisions with her. She hopes that by educating Grace from day one, Grace will be inspired to make healthy and informed decisions when she's older.
On her Instagram she let's Grace unpack and test out new products, like this healthy and organic goodie box from Goodnessmebox. It's also a great way for her to bond with her daughter.
Cooper admitted that one of the main reasons she champions the Paleo diet is that it transformed her own life for the better. She found this was the best way to cleanse her gut and feel healthy every day.
Shannon writes on her blog how, "I have a huge passion for gut health & cannot get ENOUGH of learning all about the gut microbiome and how it affects so many aspects of our body!" In case you weren't aware, the microbiome is the environment for microorganisms that live on a living being. So now you know!
On Cooper's site 'My Food Religion', she does highlight how every body is different, so there's no 'one diet fits all' rule - you have have to find the right diet for your body. She explains, " The thing with food and nutrition is, everyone's body responds differently to different macro and micro-nutrients...
You can't "broad brush" nutrition which is why so many "diets" fail, they are not one size fits all. Our digestive and physiological make-up are a direct result of a life-time of conditioning: How many meals/day are you used to consuming, how large or small are your portions, have you consumed predominately carbs, proteins or fats throughout your 'eating life'?
One of the most adorable things about this mother-daughter duo, is that they come with everything matching. There's literally nothing this pair cant' coordinate, from matching sports outfits and matching aprons to matching unicorn PJs.
ooper loves to share photos of Grace looking happy, as she has received quite a backlash from strangers about her strict diet choices. Some even criticized her diet as child abuse, but as you can see from these photos, Grace looks pretty happy with her lifestyle.
On the brighter side, Cooper has also received praise from many people about her lifestyle choices and decisions. On her blog site there are many testimonials from health experts and non-experts alike.
Cooper insists that she doesn't like forcing people to do anything they don't want to do, but prefers to educate and inspire. She also believes that once people try her healthy lifestyle, they'll get hooked instantly.
Cooper is pretty enthusiastic about her lifestyle decisions. So she travels around Australia to spread the word and teams up with other health experts and bloggers to swap healthy diet tips and ideas.
Since Cooper switched to the Paelo diet, she feels it transformed her life for the better and she had a healthier gut. While some are still skeptical about the Paleo diet, Cooper uses her platform to reveal what Paleo really is about.
On Coopers site, she features a range of positive testimonials from other health experts. Once of these is from Revie Jane, the owner of Crossfit Babes Miami, who said "there's no question that Shan's recipes are delicious but she exudes passion when talking about it, so i was excited to see someone so excited to talk about food. her enthusiasm is contagious.
Shan also keeps it real, she doesn't sugar coat anything (pun totally intended.) and lastly, shes a mum of a gorgeous but busy toddler, she understands what time poor means, so her recipes are super easy for time poor mums like myself.
Not content with sharing healthy recipes on her site, spreading the word or posting adorable matching mother daughter photos on her site, Cooper also runs cooking workshops. She runs one-to-one and group sessions and has already proved to be successful. Luke, Owner at Crossfit Iron Lion Sunshine Coast shared his feedback, saying "Lots of great, easy to understand recipes, and nutritional information.
The format was fun and interactive. The feedback from my members was awesome, everyone loved the experience and wants Shan back for our next challenge. Shan is highly knowledgeable and very passionate about what she does. She is also very charismatic with a great sense of humor and ability to engage with her audience."
Cooper wants to spread her healthy message to as many people as possible, so she even offers a tailored coaching package. As part of her 'One Kitchen at a time' program, she offers one-to-one coaching 'to suit each individual's needs based on where you are at with your health & wellness journey & what you really want help with.
We can cook, shop, plan meals, or purely discuss what you need help with and work out how you are going to achieve.
Shannon believes 'we can change the world, one kitchen at a time'. On her site, she explains her vision, 'You know what would be awesome? To see a nation of healthy people, happy & able...People not plagued by debilitating illness, inflammation, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer & cognitive dysfunction. To not have to watch people we love suffer at the hands of these completely preventable diseases.
No one wants to be sick, they just don't know how to prevent it or start to heal from it. So, they take the drugs, continue to feed their body garbage & wonder why nothing changes. Our bodies are amazing machines. They have the ability to heal & repair if we provide them with the right foundation to do it. Food is that foundation. Food is our medicine or our poison'.
Grace is already growing up fast, and recently celebrated her 4th birthday. Just like most of the kids her age, she asked her mom for a Unicorn birthday cake. However, this cake came with a healthy twist! On her FB page, Cooper shares the back story behind her magical cake. "We wrangled the unicorn cake as requested without any artificial colours or flavours (thank Christ) and kept it gluten & dairy free.
I used CocoLuscious vanilla ice cream and then coloured the layers with blueberries, mango & turmeric & raspberries...The unicorn topper fiasco was a headband she had that was broken... No doubt she'll have a meltdown and my efforts to create a bloody unicorn cake will go unnoticed as we wallow in the demise of the headband. Good times!"
As Grace is growing up, the paleo diet seems to be working wonders for her, and she seems to be developing into a happy and healthy little girl. She is also growing up to be quite a sassy little character of her own too.
For her birthday, Cooper posted a super cute photo slide show of of Grace with the caption, 'Happy 4th Birthday you little firecracker. You are smart, sassy, kind, fierce and funny as hell.'