When Australian wellness coach and food blogger Shannon Cooper gave birth to her first child, she decided to do something rather unique regarding her baby’s diet. She shocked doctors everywhere when she announced that she was never going to feed her child any sugar or carbs. That means no sweets, but it also means no rice, bread, or processed foods of any kind.
Shannon’s blog is called My Food Religion and it’s all about healthy eating. When Shannon became a mother in 2014, she wanted to give her child the best chance at a healthy life, even if that meant going against the opinions of several medical doctors.
Meet Shannon Cooper
Meet the daring mother Shannon Cooper. She has dedicated her life to learning about food and nutrition, and she loves educating others about how our bodies respond to different products and ingredients. She has spent years studying all kinds of different diets and what those diets do to our bodies.
Food has the potential to fuel us, but the wrong foods can also slow us down and cause long term health problems. Shannon truly believes that you are what you eat.
Healthy Eating From Birth
Shannon believes that the food we eat affects our bodies in a major way. If you eat an animal, your body takes in everything that animals ate while it was alive.
For example, free-range hens produce eggs with more Omega-3 content than caged hens. Free-range hens live healthier lives and therefore they produce healthier eggs. Shannon wanted to apply this concept to her own life. While she was pregnant, she only ate the healthiest foods so she could produce the healthiest baby possible.
Shannon Knows Her Stuff
Before becoming a blogger, Shannon studied science and animal health. Even though she’s no longer in school, she still spends a lot of time researching nutrition and various types of diets. She also as a degree in agricultural science.
Shannon has some pretty strong ideas about nutrition, but she also has the educational background to back up those opinions. It’s safe to say that Shannon knows a thing or two about healthy living. When her daughter, Grace was born in 2014, she started looking at food differently.
Staying Healthy Is A Priority For Shannon
Not only does Shannon have a background in plant and animal health, but she’s also a wellness and fitness coach. Shannon works with clients to help them improve their fitness and their overall health.
Even though Shannon is dedicated to staying fit, she understands that food plays an even more important role than exercise when it comes to staying healthy. It’s so important to feed our bodies with whole foods that make us feel better and stronger.
Shannon Decided To Put Grace On A Strict Diet
For the first few months of her life, baby Grace was exclusively breastfed. That means that Grace was basically eating whatever Shannon was eating, which we already know is a super healthy diet.
Shannon knew that when Grace got old enough to eat solid foods, she would be very selective when it came to which foods she would allow Grace to eat. She was determined to raise a child who was conscious of healthy eating.
Grace Has Spent Her Whole Life On The Paleo Diet
Shannon didn’t put Grace on a diet because she was overweight or unhealthy. She knew that her child would benefit from this style of eating, and she wanted her daughter to grow up on the right kinds of food. Shannon decided to put Grace on the Paleo diet before Grace was even born.
Shannon has been on the Paleo diet for the entirety of her adult life. She knew that this way of eating worked for her and her body.
People Criticized Shannon’s Parenting Decisions
Shannon already knew that the Paleo diet worked for her before she had Grace. Shannon felt amazing before, during, and after pregnancy thanks in part to her positive eating habits. Shannon wanted her daughter to feel good in her own skin too.
We know that the Paleo diet can have a positive impact on adults, but little to no research has been done on the effect of the Paleo diet on children. Shannon relied on her own experience and knowledge to help guide her and Grace through this uncharted terrain.
A Notable Exception To The No Dairy Rule
People on the Paleo diet don’t eat or drink any dairy products. Dairy that’s safe to consume is highly processed. Plus, it contains growth hormones that are perfect for baby cows, but not so great for adult humans (according to some).
Shannon did breastfeed Grace because breastfeeding seems to be in line with the Paleo way of thinking. Cavewomen definitely breastfed their babies, and babies need human milk (or a milk formula) to grow and develop properly. It’s the most natural thing in the world.
Paleo Formula Can Actually Be Dangerous
If a woman is unable to breastfeed, or if she needs to be away from her baby for long stretches of time, she may feed her baby formula instead of breastmilk. Luckily, Shannon was able to breastfeed Grace, but if she wasn’t able to, she wouldn’t have used a DIY Paleo formula.
Celebrity Paleo chef Pete Evans developed a baby formula that one nutritionist said could cause “permanent damage and possibly result in death.” Baby formula really isn’t something you should be concocting at home.
The Doctor’s Opinion
Shannon did a lot of research before deciding to put Grace on a Paleo diet. She asked her pediatrician for advice and guidance. Shannon was only given a fair warning and told to proceed with caution.
Once she was sure that the Paleo diet wasn’t dangerous for her child, she decided that she would start Grace on the Paleo diet as soon as she was born. She would make sure that Grace got all of her essential nutrients and monitor her closely.
Jarred Baby Food Is Not Allowed In Shannon’s Home
When babies are between 4 and 6 months old, they can start eating baby food. Typically busy parents feed their kids baby food that comes in a jar or a plastic pouch. Shannon had other plans. She made all of Grace’s baby food herself out of foods that conform to the Paleo diet.
Even though jarred baby food is mostly mushed up whole foods, it still contains some added sugars and preservatives. Shannon made her own baby food so she would know exactly what was in it.
One Doctor Who Opposes The Diet
Daily Mail Australia spoke with dietitian Dr. Rosemary Stanton, who has some things to say about the potential negative effects of the Paleo diet.
Stanton said, “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).”
How Shannon Introduced Grace To Solid Foods
While Shannon was still breastfeeding, she started introducing blended chicken and veggies into Grace’s diet. When Grace got a bit older, she was able to eat small pieces of soft vegetables and chicken.
All of Grace’s homemade meals were free of sugars, preservatives, and were unprocessed. Shannon knew exactly what was going into her child’s digestive system. She knew that everything she made was healthy and good for her daughter. Grace loved the food that Shannon made.
A Baby Who Loves Broccoli
When Grace was 13 months old, she was already eating healthier than most adults. Shannon shared photos of Grace eating things like broccoli, spinach, and chicken on her blog and on Instagram.
Her followers were so impressed with how much Grace loved eating her vegetables. Some followers though the Paleo diet could be harmful for Grace. They expressed their concerns online, but Shannon knew that she was doing the best she could for her daughter.
Grace Definitely Doesn’t Have A Sweet Tooth
Most children hate eating green vegetables, but Grace absolutely loved them. Grace also loved many other foods that most children won’t even try such as sauerkraut, chia pudding, and quinoa porridge.
Grace has never tasted carbs or sugary treats in her life. If she tried something sweet, she would probably find it sickly because her taste buds have become so accustomed to the Paleo diet. Only time will tell if she sticks to this diet once she gets older.
What Grace Eats In A Day
So what does baby Grace eat on a weekday? Well, breakfast is usually eggs with a side of veggies that were cooked the night before. For lunch, Grace would have some roast chicken with more leftover veggies.
At dinner time, Shannon and Grace would both eat spaghetti bolognese with zoodles (which are noodles made out of zucchini). Grace eats fresh fruit throughout the day, and on her first birthday, Shannon made her a Paleo-friendly panna cotta instead of a traditional cake.
What Happens When You Raise A Baby On Paleo
Grace’s diet was something of a science experiment because as far as we know, nobody has ever raised a baby on a Paleo diet before. At least, nobody else has documented it. So how is Grace doing? Well, Shannon says that her daughter loves all the Paleo foods, but then again, she doesn’t know any different.
Grace has only gotten sick once in her infancy even though she’s been around other sick kids on more than one occasion. Shannon thinks the Paleo diet strengthened Grace’s immune system.
A Strong, Healthy Baby
Shannon isn’t taking any special precautions when it comes to germs around her daughter. “She spends a lot of time around other kids who are sick all the time,” Cooper told Daily Mail Australia in 2015.
Cooper continued, “[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.”
Grace’s Diet Isn’t As Strict As You Might Think
Grace’s Paleo diet is not as restrictive as you might imagine. Shannon explained, “I am not vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, fat-free, carb-free or any other food ‘denomination’ in its entirety.”
Cooper continues, “I take what I like from different food approaches and recipes and adapt it to suit what makes me feel good.” Even though the Paleo diet is working for her and Grace now, Shannon is open to altering the diet as Grace gets older.
Shannon Isn’ Going To Tell Grace What To Eat When She Gets Older
Shannon knows that Grace most likely won’t be on an entirely Paleo for the rest of her life. As Grace gets older, she’s going to spend time at school and at friends’ houses, and she’s going to encounter foods that aren’t allowed on Paleo.
“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,'” Cooper told Daily Mail Australia.
Grace Will Make Her Own Food Choices
Shannon likes to eat foods that make her feel good. She wants Grace to do the same. Shannon doesn’t want to tell Grace what to eat for the rest of her life, she wants to give her the tools to make healthy decisions for herself when the time comes. She wants Grace to value her body and treat it with respect.
Shannon anticipates that the first time Grace tries sugar, she may overdo it a bit. “And next time instead of eating 12 cupcakes she might only eat three,” Cooper said.
Shannon Wants Grace To Enjoy Food
Shannon is aware that restrictive eating can lead to eating disorders down the road, especially for young girls. Shannon never wants Grace to feel guilty about enjoying food. “I don’t want there to be any disordered eating around food,” Cooper told Daily Mail Australia.
She continued, “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.”
Were Cavemen Healthier Than Us, Though?
Even though cavemen (and cavewomen) ate whole foods, they still had a whole bunch of health problems. A lot of those problems were due to factors outside of their control like parasites and diseases. Medicine wasn’t really a thing back then.
It’s impossible to tell if cavemen were actually healthier than us. They had shorter lifespans even though they ate “well” by our standards. The Paleo diet is pretty extreme and it involves completely cutting out grains, dairy, and processed foods.
So What Is This Paleo Diet, Anyway?
The Paleo diet is also known as the “caveman diet.” It entails eating what people in the stone age would eat, back when people were hunters and gatherers. Way back then, there was no such thing as processed foods. People ate plenty of meat and fish, in addition to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Shannon has been on the Paleo diet since 2010. She said that her decision to eat unprocessed foods completely changed her life.
Shannon Has Never Felt Healthier
Before adopting the Paleo diet, Shannon Cooper was suffering from a number of health issues that were making her feel generally unwell. She had a lot of food allergies and the processed foods she was eating weren’t doing her any favors.
Shannon took note of how everything she ate made her feel. She zeroed in on her diet as the root of many of her health issues. Eventually, Shannon realized that a Paleo diet made most of her health issues disappear.
Paleo Worked For Shannon’s Lifestyle
The Paleo diet isn’t for everybody. Each body has its own particular needs and diets work differently for different people. For Shannon, the Paleo diet was a perfect match.
“I just got sick of not feeling great… That had become my normal and (I decided) that wasn’t going to be normal anymore,” Cooper told Daily Mail Australia in 2015. Even though Shannon swears by the Paleo diet, some medical experts are still skeptical about it.
Is Older Necessarily Better?
In theory, the Paleo diet sounds pretty healthy. Cutting back on sugar and processed foods is always a good idea. Nutritionists agree that whole foods are generally better for your health.
There is some truth to the idea that cavemen ate more whole foods than we do. When no processed foods are available, we have to make do with what the earth gives us. Cavemen reportedly ate three times more fruits and vegetables than the average American does today. Their diets were richer in fiber, protein, and Omega-3 fatty acids, and they consumed more vitamins and minerals.
Why Do So Many People Care?
Shannon has received many comments online about her decision to feed Grace an entirely Paleo diet. Some of those comments have been negative and some of them have been positive. People have very strong opinions about both diets and parenting.
Shannon explained, “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.” Let’s just all agree to stop shaming moms who are doing what they know is best for their kids.
Grace Is Eating Normal Whole Foods
Shannon has heard Dr. Stanton’s argument many times before. It’s a popular opinion among medical professionals. Shannon knows that Grace isn’t restricted and she enjoys the foods that she eats.
“(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,” Cooper told Daily Mail Australia.
What Is Grace Eating Now?
Grace started kindergarten in 2018. She is an energetic little girl who loves life and loves spinach. She’s growing up and her Paleo diet seems to be serving her well.
Now that she’s in school, she will be in an environment where kids around her will be eating things like cookies, cakes, bread, and crackers. We’ll have to wait and see if Grace prefers her Paleo diet, or if she wants to branch out on her own and try some other foods.
Shannon Isn’t Worried About Grace
Shannon has always said that she wouldn’t force Grace to maintain a Paleo diet. If Grace expresses a desire to eat something different, Shannon will listen and respond appropriately. So far, Grace seems to be loving the way she eats.
Grace actually prefers fresh fruits over sugary snacks. In the photo above, you can see Grace snacking on some fresh strawberries while she and her family were on vacation in Mykonos, Greece. Sometimes strawberries just really hit the spot.
Shannon Just Wants Grace To Learn
Shannon often speaks with her daughter about healthy living and the impact that food can have on our bodies. One day, Grace will be able to ask more questions, and Shannon is more than ready for that.
Shannon involves Grace in her food and wellness blogging. She hopes to teach Grace about the value of making informed decisions about her own health. Shannon is ready to share what she’s spent her life learning with her daughter.
Shannon Isn’t Perfectly Paleo
Shannon will likely stay on the Paleo diet for years to come. It really does seem to be working for her. Even though she’s Paleo, she doesn’t put any limitations on herself or her diet.
“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 explained to Daily Mail Australia. There is room for indulgence on the Paleo diet, though. There are ways to make delicious desserts without flour or dairy.
Shannon Thinks That Food Should Bring You Joy
Shannon doesn’t believe in restricting your diet. She doesn’t believe in set mealtimes either. “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,” she tells the GoodnessMe Box Blog.
She continues, “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.”
Shannon Has The Education To Back Up Her Claims
Most of the people who judge Shannon for her parenting choices or her dietary choices probably don’t have the credentials that she has. Shannon uses the skills that she gleaned from her university education to back up her decisions.
On her blog, Shannon wrote, “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.”
Spreading Knowledge Is Her Passion
Shannon Cooper’s blog, My Food Religion, is full of healthy and delicious Paleo recipes. Shannon also teaches workshops and classes to people who want to live healthier, more active lives.
Shannon writes that “healthy does NOT have to equal bland.” She continues, “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.”
Little Things You Can Do To Improve Your Wellness
Shannon knows that going Paleo can completely change the way you live your life. Paleo isn’t just a diet, it’s a lifestyle. Shannon practices meditation every day. She also gets plenty of sleep (when possible).
Shannon often takes to social media to share what she’s learned with her loyal followers. She shares honest product reviews, recipes, and tips for living a healthier life. This woman is truly inspiring. One visit to her Instagram page and you’ll be sipping cider vinegar and doing yoga.
She Only Promotes Products That She Truly Loves
Shannon now makes her living as a social media influencer, but she doesn’t just accept brand deals whenever they’re offered to her. Shannon tries out all products and brands that come her way before she promotes them online. She never promotes products that she wouldn’t use herself.
She regularly works with brands such as organic coffee brand Crema Coffee Garage and Cleanse Skincare, an all-natural beauty company that Shannon swears by. Is Coffee Paleo? If Shannon drinks it, it must be.
You Can Find Her Recipes Online
Shannon’s wellness blog has been doing so well that she decided to release some e-cookbooks to make it easier for fans to access her Paleo recipes. Her books also contain more information about her personal wellness journey.
Shannon’s recipes look super delicious and easy to make. Shannon keeps proving that food doesn’t have to be processed to be delicious. Each book is full of recipes that are easy to whip up when you’re a busy parent on the go.
The Learning Isn’t Over
Shannon likes the Paleo diet because it works for her. It has helped her overcome some stomach issues and it makes her feel good. If she finds some more information or she learns something else, she’ll change her diet to suit what’s best for her. Shannon knows that learning is a lifelong process.
Shannon wrote, “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!”