Wednesday, February 17, 2010

phone a friend

Okay Internets, I need some help.

About a week ago, Elliot’s teacher asked me if he could start eating the lunches the center provides for the older kids. He’d been munching on the fruits and veggies that accompany the meals for a while, but she wanted to know if he could start having the entrée as well. She mentioned that most parents start letting their kids have the center meals around this age in preparation for their move to the toddler room when they are one year old. I was hesitant because we’ve been so conservative in expanding his diet thus far, but I’ve also worried we are doing him a disservice by not exposing him to more foods and I figured that if they were willing to give him a variety of pre-made, kid-friendly foods, that was probably something we should take advantage of. So I said okay, with some restrictions (no dairy of any kind, no nuts or nut butters, no honey, no fish) and asked them to be very specific in letting me know what he eats each day.

The first day he ate the center lunch, he had a hotdog. *Gulp* It was cut up into little pieces so no choking hazard but geez, let’s jump straight to the holy grail of processed foods, shall we? The next day he ate a baked potato with bacon. Yesterday, he had a jelly sandwich (no PB for him) and refused all fruits and vegetables. (Um, duh.) He had to skip the mac and cheese and tuna sandwich days. I’ve been informed that today’s lunch will be “Beanie Weenies” which consists of hotdogs and baked beans. (I had to ask. Another mom laughed at me.)

I’m freaking out a little bit and we're considering putting the kibosh on the center lunches. In addition to me not being thrilled about the fact that he IS eating these not-so-wholesome foods, I’m also really concerned about what he is NOT eating now: all veggies and most fruits. He’s always been an awesome eater, but since he’s been exposed to the dark side, if you will, he’s been refusing his healthier (read: boring) foods at home. He’s also had a cold for the past few days, so that could be messing with his appetite, but when we offer him the closest thing we give him to a treat (veggie pirate’s booty), he gobbles it up as if he’s half-starved.

I worry that I’m being overly neurotic about this. One of the things I have found the most value in about having E in daycare is that I have daily access to child development professionals who know my kid and know what he probably is/isn’t ready for. They’ve given us tips that have helped us tremendously and I really value their input. So on the one hand, I kind of feel like if they think this food is good enough for him, it probably is. They’re relatively progressive and I generally agree with their philosophies on keeping kids happy and healthy. I feel the same way about the other parents and all of their kids eat the stuff. On the other hand, I’m starting to wonder if their food options (which come from an outside source) are the one thing that is out of sync with the center's M.O. My speshul snowflake has thus far only eaten mostly-organic, mostly-homemade real foods and it makes me feel a little icky to think of him tumbling head-first into the land of sodium, preservatives and high-fructose corn syrup.

What do you think? Am I being too sensitive? Be brutally honest, please. If your opinion is, “Yes, K, you’re being one of Those Moms and you need to relax and accept that your kid is going to eat all that stuff and worse but his body will handle it,” then I want to hear it. Truly. I don’t want him to be the weird kid at school whose parents won’t let him eat anything good, but I also want his food to provide him with protein and vitamins and actual substance. He’s got my genes so there’s a good chance he will struggle with his weight at some point. I’d like to do my part by at least trying to imprint him with a preference for good, healthy foods now. But I can’t compete with a jelly sandwich. On white bread, I’m sure. *cringe*

So lay it on me. For reals. Thanks in advance. :-)


Alison said...

No, I don't think you are being neurotic. We did the whole making our organic baby food route and promised to not cave to "kid" food. Fast forward 3 years later and our kids are in a "kid" food rut and we are having a heck of a time getting them to eat veggies (fruits are not a problem.) I say hold off as long as possible with the every day junk food - I am all for moderation. It is possible to pack his lunch? He probably doesn't care if his lunch looks like the others - but if it is an issue you can send turkey dogs, sugar free/whole fruit jam sandwiches on whole wheat, whole wheat pasta, etc. Or ask if they will feed him his fruits/veggies before getting the "main meal." And don't get me started on kids menus. :)

anofferingoflove said...

well, from someone who doesn't have a toddler yet (and who's proclaimations should therefore be taken with a grain of salt) i would be freaking out a little too. it doesn't sound like their menu is very healthy, at all.

what is the problem with continuing to send elliot's lunches? are they required to eat the center's food once they hit the toddler room? is elliot feeling left out when he sees what other kids are eating?

it sounds to me like you are doing a *great* job of providing him with a healthy start and good nutrition at home and i would try to keep that up as long as possible. i am going to strive to do the same -- and am pretty sure my kid will be the one in the lunch room without any "good" food also!

people/other parents are so weird about food. we are vegetarian and i already get asked questions all the time about what we are going to do to ensure our kid gets everything she needs. this from parents who feed their kids at mcdonalds! its so aggravating. im pretty sure that the diet we will provide, full of fruits, veggies, beans, etc will be healthier than 99% of most american kids' diets. anyhow, point is, dont let those other parents at the center make you doubt that you are doing a great job with elliot's diet! personally, i think its kinda pitiful they are giving their less-than-one-year-olds processed, sugary, full-of-preservative beany weenies!

Strawberry said...

Ok, I'm going to just say what I would do if Miles were in Elliot's position. Hell, no he doesn't get hot dogs. Super-processed sticks of salt on a weekly basis? Ugh. I mean, even WE don't eat hot dogs that often. Once or twice a month in the summer? Sure, but I can't imagine giving him those that often. /hot dog rant (and I like hot dogs, really, but not for my baby).

We send Miles to daycare with 3 meals/snacks a day right now. Today they were: 1) home-made banana muffin + grape halves 2) chicken breast + steamed carrots 3) steamed sweet potato and mushy rice "cakes" We also send him with tofu, cheese (not quite sure why you have a problem with cheese as hard cheeses are fine for babies past 8 months?), steamed veggies, fruit slices, pasta, etc. So that should give you a sense of how we try to feed him and what we will allow.

Nutella and I were just discussing if Miles should get what daycare feeds the kids after 1 year. It all depends on what they feed the kids. He will NOT get chef boyardee, hot dogs, lunchables, or any of that crap. If our daycare provider, who is indian, wants to feed him some homemade indian food...we're all for it. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, maybe goldfish crackers...that's all fine. But we draw the line at junk food, things loaded with corn get the drift.

If this is important to you, which it sounds like it is, stick to your guns. This is your child and you have a right to say what goes into his body.

Strawberry said...

Oh, I wasn't a problem with the cheese was it? It's a problem with the milk in the cheese sauce. That I get, although I think we're going to be pretty lax about a little milk once Miles gets closer to one year (we may give him some around 11 months to see if he likes it since he is showing no signs of sensitivity/allergies with regards to anything else) But I don't like thinking of him eating Kraft mac n' cheese anyway...again, very processed/fake. Annie's organic mac n' cheese is much healthier :)

K said...

Thanks SO much for the input - keep it coming! :-)

I just wanted to answer a couple of questions:

(1) I have no problem whatsoever sending food in with him. That's what we've been doing every day up until a week ago. But no one else does once they hit the toddler room, and I just wanted some opinions on whether Elliot being the only kid with his own special food would create more of a freak factor than it's worth. Sounds like the consensus is no, thus far.

(2) The no dairy policy is particular to Elliot - his little system just can't tolerate it for whatever reason. I couldn't eat it when I was BFing and he can't eat it on his own. We try yogurt and cheese about once a month to see if he's grown out of it, but so far, no luck. The no fish policy isn't absolute - we are giving him fish at home - but we're very selective about what kinds he gets and I just figured it was easier to have a blanket policy for daycare than trying to explain the method to our madness.

Trinity said...

K, I don't think you're being neurotic at all. (Bear in mind that I am coming at this from a childless perspective with zero experience in navigating child care issues...)

I see it like this: the benefits of Elliot's nutrition (through the yummy wholesome nosh you send with him) far outweighs the benefit of having a normalized lunch experience. At least for now anyway. Who would think Elliot is a freak for packing his own lunch? Hopefully the progressive staff wouldn't...and the other kids probably wouldn't even notice, right?

We're conscious of what we eat too and eat organic, whole foods with minimal ingredients. I know that we will be equally as discrminatory for any future little one. Food--what it's made of and where it comes from--is a big deal to me.

Maybe when he advances to the toddler room he can have the center's lunch once or twice a week?

Strawberry said...

Gotcha! Committing "Elliot + dairy issues" to memory so as to not make future mistakes :)

JoyfromMotherWilling said...

I agree with pp. No, I don't think you are being neurotic and that you should hold off as long as possible with the junk food/non-whole foods. The benefits do outweigh that "difference" factor and at this age, it's unlikely that they would notice much. Just because other toddlers in the toddler room don't bring lunches, doesn't mean Elliot can't right? Maybe once he's old enough to ask you if he can eat the center's food, then maybe you can agree to a compromise that serves everyone. Best of luck!

w said...

OMG! I would freak out. If you are that mom, I am right there with you.

I am nutty about PBS' food and will likely always be. The first time she ate something non-organic I stared at her like she might burst into flames LOL!

I worry about allergies so at one she still hasn't had; wheat, soy, corn or any kind of meat or poultry. Processed food scares the hell out of me and I won't allow her to have it for as long as possible.

You are not being too sensitive at all. IMHO they shouldn't be serving garbage like that to children. As a former preschool teacher I understand how fast, easy and cost-effective food like that can initially be. However, we are sacrificing our childrens future health by encouraging this kind of eating so early on.

Send lunch from home again. You will worry less and he will have a great example of a proper meal everyday, it might just stick for life.

Sorry for the rant.

For the Long Haul said...

I read these comments with great interest. My first child had suck/chew/swallow issues and therefore couldn't eat a lot and didn't gain weight etc... But because of that we have been forced to give him really high in fat foods (although I still refuse anything processed or things that are horribly unhealthy) to try and get him to gain some weight. It shook my desires on what I wanted to feed my child/ren to the core.

He is now 4 and still eats mostly healthy (would choose broccoli over a cookie any day) and we still struggle with getting him to gain weight. But now he has a sister who "eats like a champ." I have been able to do with her what I wanted to do with him: organic, home made, high in protein really healthy foods. She is a little younger than E. I find myself going through the grocery store saying, "I need the organic tofu," for her and then wondering aloud, "Do you think he would eat Cheez Whiz?" for him. It is a predicament that I never thought I would be in.

So thanks for writing this post. And for the record I totally agree with everyone here. Pack his lunches. Hot dogs and "beenie weenies?" I would FREAK OUT. Especially when you have gone to such (great) lengths to give him a healthy diet thus far. You are doing a great job. Go with your gut! It won't steer you wrong.

Luisa said...

at first I was thinking "why can't he have the centre meals?" and then I read the menu and FREAKED RIGHT OUT!!! that kind of food is in my opinion totally unacceptable for little people. I would stick with your guns and keep packing his lunches (it sounds like you are doing a great job of feeding his little body with healthy wholesome foods).
is there some sort of parents advisory board or something at the centre? by and large the centre probably attracts parents such as your self who are there for their progressive policies etc and you might find that other ppl feel the same way but haven't spoken up.
as it is an outside caterer providing the food this could be quite an easy thing for the centre to change if enough parents get on board - changing catering companies is a lot easier than trying to teach an old cook new tricks.
daycare is a neccessary evil for many of us but I personally have never been backward in coming forward and letting the carers/centre know when I'm not happy.
rage against the junk food lady!

Two Moms, Two Monkeys said...

Totally agree with others here! We've been battling with the idea of whether or not, or better yet, at what point we should allow the twins to eat "regular" food... as if the healthy, homemade stuff can't be regular!

I never thought I'd breastfeed twins, so when it worked I thought why stop there? Why not keep up the healthy habit and make their baby food. Then it was organic vs. regular produce and while we use both, if we can, we go organic. Then my mom asked if we were going to let them eat cake on their bday since "you only let them eat healthy stuff" and we both just stood there in silence!

Its not that cake is poison or hot dogs are poison, its more that I don't want them eating those things on a regular basis and really, its not like they need either of those foods! We are going to hold off as long as possible on the processed foods and since we have my mom at our house to cook for them when they start to eat more than just the baby food I make, we are going to keep it healthy for as long as possible.

I agree that you should continue packing your boys lunch until he asks you to stop! Its more about training his brain to make better choices, this way he will learn to like the good stuff and though he will surely have a hot dog, it won't be his preference.

Pomegranate said...

I thought I left a comment yesterday, but I guess I didn't. Anyhow I just wanted to pipe in as another former pre-school teacher and agree with what w said. They feed the kids this stuff because it's cheap and easy to prepare, not because it's acceptable nutritionally. It really makes me sad that this would be the case even at your progressive child care centre.

I also agree that it shouldn't do Eliott social damage, as long as it's handled appropriately by the staff.

Pomegranate said...

er, that second part was about packing lunches. duh!

Monkey said...

If this is a state licensed daycare, please check your state licensing guidelines on bringing outside foods. I know here it requires a doctor's note for us to send special meals unless its a special occasion.

tireegal68 said...

Why oh why do people dumb down food for kids? Do they think that all they like is fish sticks and hot dogs? It's so weird to me! Why give kids something they wouldn't eat themselves? Yuk!!!!
I was the "victim" of very healthy lunches as a child ( I have always been a vegetarian - unheard of when I was in school in the early 70s! People used to tell me that I would die if I didn't eat meat - but I digress!)
re stigma: Healthy food is so much "trendier" these days and he's way too young to feel stigmatized I would think. I did feel it a bit but I was about 12 or 13 and that's a hard age to be different -but I really got past it. I also think as the kids get older it's all about presentation and packaging - not necessarily plastic packaging - but having things look cool. My mom was not so good at this and I think that was the worst of it.
Kids get this taste for sodium and fat and it's hard to go back. Don't do it!
Could you consider having this conversation with the day care center - kind of like you brought it up on your blog? or ask the other moms what they think?
Start a food revolution at the day care center, lady, ( in your spare time of course!!!!)

katie.edwards said...

K, I think you're NOT being too sensitive. Hot dogs, really???? My G is 14 months and no way would I give him a hot dog. Blech. Not even the healthier kind, I don't think. And their other choices don't sound so great either. I agree with PP...go with your gut and keep packing him better stuff. Save the junk food for an occasional treat and stick to what you've been doing. My two cents! :)

Inlocoparentis said...

I can't believe there is a food called beanie weanies. *Snort*

Ok, now that I got that immature moment out of the way, I will tell you that I agree with everyone else - you don't want him eating that crap. I would stick to bringing in lunch. If you feel like you're getting judgment, you can always say it's due to dietary restriction/allergy concerns.

Inlocoparentis said...

PS: Could you tell me more about fish? I've heard about limiting honey and nuts but not fish. Does it have something to do with mercury? Allergies?

Malea said...

If parents want their kids to each special foods that the center doesn't serve then by all means pack it.

However, after talking to the head dietitians at several schools i learned what is served is based on budgets.[ i noticed *i* would only eat at certain schools and wondered why all the schools didn't serve the same food]As one carefully explained,wanting healthier foods is great but are parents willing to pay for it? And this was at the public school level[higher taxes].

In the private sector with tuition paying for it healthier foods are more of a option.