Agonizing over food at daycare - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 18 Old 09-03-2008, 11:59 PM - Thread Starter
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I need some advice from mamas who have BTDT. I am about to put my 2 y.o. DS in daycare for the first time. It will only be 2 days a week, but they will be long days, like 9-10 hours, so he'll eat morning snack, lunch, and 2 afternoon snacks there. It will be typical stuff--for snacks: yogurt, "fruit cup" (i.e. a cup of high fructose corn syrup with some little peach squares floating in it), cereal bars (containing HFCS and a billion other additives, I'm sure), goldfish crackers, etc. Lunches are catered in and the menu is a typical "school lunch" menu. Loads of processed crap, basically.

I am very fussy about what he eats and he would NEVER eat any of this stuff while with me. Here's my dilemma. Yes, I can send his lunch from home, and his snacks if I want to. But the director gave me the impression that he would be the ONLY kid eating food from home. She kinda discouraged it, though of course she had to tell me it's my option. DH and I have been talking about it and I wonder if I need to just find a way to let it go and trust he'll be OK eating healthy 5 days out of 7. He is very grabby right now--very prone to grabbing toys from other kids. I fear it will be no different with food, when he is the only one who isn't eating x, y, or z item. I SO want him to have a healthy diet and in a way I can't believe I am even considering having such crap food put into his little body 8 times over 2 days. But at the same time, I don't want to set up a situation where every time he sits down to eat, there is an issue between him and other kids, and the caregivers. That might be a less desirable situation than having a not-so-great diet for a couple of days. Also, I don't want to be seen as a "problem" mother and have that reflect on my son in any kind of subtle way.

Anyone have experience being the lone parent sending in food, with a 2 year old grabby kid ? How did it go?

Any other thoughts?
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#2 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 12:10 AM
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i'm not thrilled with food at our daycare, but the way it works for us is i don't pry into it too much. i get the take-home menu and i read it and i don't ask many questions (like when it says peaches, are they canned in HFCS or fresh? i don't even ask).

it's just one of the things i have to let go of or else i would obsess and go nuts.

we could send food, but i know all the other kids eat the food, and i just don't want to be "that parent." it would be different if DD had allergies/sensitivities, or even if she was a picky eater. but this kid will eat anything, and she's got an iron constitution; nothing bothers her.

i am not by any means saying this should be your approach, but it's been mine. our last daycare actually had much better food, but we got dumped from there because i was a PITA, so...trying to be less high-maintenance this time around

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#3 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 12:16 AM
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I had to just let the food issue go when my son was in daycare. I did bring in organic milk for him and that wasn't a problem with the facility. I considered bringing in his own food but that would have been expensive on top of the already expensive daycare cost. I just thought about the fact that he will be exposed to this type of food when he visits friends' houses when he gets older. I just have to set a good example at home and know that what is done most of the time is what matters most. Good luck with your decision.
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#4 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 12:29 AM
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I found a home daycare provider who serves very healthy food--fruit instead of fruit juice, organic food, soy when requested, etc. Probably is more likely in a home setting than larger facility.
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#5 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 12:31 AM
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Well, our daycare serves healthy, whole foods, so it's not an issue. But a number of parents bring in their own kids' food. Most do it because of allergies. One family I knew did it because their son didn't like the food, wasn't eating and then was a mess by the end of the day.

The director doesn't want you to bring in his food because it's a pain in the butt for them. If you feel strongly about it, I would stick to my principles. Most of the kids who have food brought in for them are very good at understanding why.

that being said, my kids probably eat more crap at home these days than at school. And so far, they've survived the assault of Kraft Mac 'n Cheese!

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#6 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 10:26 AM
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We don't eat meat at our house, and our DCP serves tons of nasty, processed meats-- even something described as "barbeque chicken wonder bites." Ugh.

I'm pretty sure I've become "that mom." I get a menu every week (upon request) and send substitutes for the meat every day. I know it's a disruption in their day. In fact, they even made me get a note from my pediatrician stating that DD was on a meat-free diet, as if it were an allergy.

In the beginning when she was grabbier I think there were probably situations where they had to do some explaining about Clara's food v. other food, but now she gets it and it is not a problem.

I do let her eat the other stuff there-- which I am not pleased about -- and have considered sending the whole lunch and snack combo but this is about as far as I'm going to rock the boat right now, as I'm 6 weeks in with #2 and praying for an infant spot (ahead of the waitlist) in April. But when I walk in at pick-up and they're eating pop-tarts? I just want to barf a little bit.

I feel ya, mama.

Mother, Wife, Worker Bee. Mama to Clara (10/05) and Ophelia (12/09)
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#7 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 11:19 AM
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I sent some stuff for DD (organic dairy mainly), but my DCP didn't indicate that she had a problem with it, even though we were the only family to do so. She did cook real food for the kids, though, not hot dogs and pop tarts. That was a key reason I picked her.

I will also admit that one of my favorite things about having an au pair now is that we have complete control over the food.
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#8 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 11:23 AM
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Have you talked to the other parents? How do they feel?

When dd started daycare, I wasn't thrilled with the menu and I soon learned that the other parents felt the same way. We lobbied the director and were very successful in getting them to change it. The menu now is quite good--organic milk, fresh fruit, whole wheat toast, nothing "junky", processed, or sugary. But that wouldn't have happened if the parents hadn't gotten together to demand change.

Might be worth a shot if you can find some like minded parents.

PhDin' mama to dd (Oct. 2005)
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#9 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 11:31 AM
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My 2yo DS was perviously in a daycare where we were required to send in all food and drinks, so I got used to it. He just switched to a new daycare that is glatt kosher and they provide all the food. We are vegetarian. On meatball day I send in Nate's meatless meatballs. On chicken nugget day I send in Morningstar Chik Nuggets. My hope is that he'll think he has the same food as everyone else. I still haven't figured out what to do on fish sticks day, but I'll send in a substitute of some sort (probably just seitan or tofu). They aren't entirely comfortable with it, but they did agree, and I'm more comfortable with them being uncomfortable than I am with him eating meat, kwim?

I don't worry about being "that mom" - everybody has their quirks, and we are great in many ways. I don't worry too much about DS eating the meat. He's used to his own stuff at school so I think that will go ok. He also is used to the concept of certain foods being "not for us." I do worry a little about them remembering or bothering to give him the stuff I send in, but that's just one of the everyday horrors of daycare.

Good luck.
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#10 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 02:29 PM
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Wow, I had no idea that day care centers provided meals

They do have a pizza day (Ick, Dominoes) and I let DS have that since they told me that he actually cried and refused lunch when the other kids got pizza and he didn't.

Since he went into the older toddler room they have started to provide some snacks and I hate the fact that I've nursed for 2 years and given him all organics at the cost of DH and I being able to have just about anything organic just for them to feed him "mac and cheese crackers." Can you just imagine what's in them???? :Puke

But, to finally answer your question, I pretty much try not to rock the boat because I know at that age it's tough for kids to be different from their peers, especially when it's a group snack time and everyone else is having the same snack.

You just have to try not to think about it and do your best to fill little tummies with healthy food when they are with you.

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#11 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by readytobedone View Post
i'm not thrilled with food at our daycare, but the way it works for us is i don't pry into it too much. i get the take-home menu and i read it and i don't ask many questions (like when it says peaches, are they canned in HFCS or fresh? i don't even ask).

it's just one of the things i have to let go of or else i would obsess and go nuts.

we could send food, but i know all the other kids eat the food, and i just don't want to be "that parent." it would be different if DD had allergies/sensitivities, or even if she was a picky eater. but this kid will eat anything, and she's got an iron constitution; nothing bothers her.

i am not by any means saying this should be your approach, but it's been mine. our last daycare actually had much better food, but we got dumped from there because i was a PITA, so...trying to be less high-maintenance this time around

While my dds are not in day care, dd1 tends to fuss if our nanny has something different for lunch than she does, and our nanny, for whatever reason, declines to eat our food most days and so has taken to bringing enough of her food to share with dd1. Most of it is not stuff that I would feed dd, but I figure it is just a couple of times a week, so I just thank our nanny for her generosity, reiterate that she is welcome to eat anything we have in the house, and move on.

I have found that this is just one of the things I have had to loosen up on by putting my kids in the care of another. It is a hard adjustment, and not the way I would prefer our lives to be, but the other alternatives necessitated by me not working would, I fear, be even more miserable.

Wife to Thomas, WAH mama to Sofia Rose 8/04, Ellen Marie 10/07, her twin sister Amalie Joy lost 7/07 , and Maya Grace and Hannah Miriam 4/10
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#12 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 02:55 PM
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I do not have the daycare problem as we have to pack lunch and the teachers encourage parents to pack fruit over processed snacks or that if he eats at school the hot lunch that the catering company provides includes a vegetarian option and all entrees are made from scratch. Not organic, but homecooked.

I know that my son eats at least 2 well balanced organic or whole food meals a day at home. If he eats pizza on Dominoe's day I am not concerned. If he eats something that I do not serve at a friends house I tend to look the other way unless the item is a complete no, no!

Unless you just do not want your child to eat processed foods I would stress the point to the director or find another center. BUT if the center is a good fit for your family you might want to compromise on the one meal and two snacks that your child consumes while away from home.

Married. Mom to 1. Due 10/12.
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#13 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 03:09 PM
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IME, it was so tough to pack food for my twins every night when we got home but I just was not going to compromise. I'm sorry, "Warm Fudgy Brownies" and nachos and cheese are not nutritious snacks and a Danish does not make for a good breakfast. My kids were only a year at the does a one year old eat a sloppy joe or nachos and cheese? After spending so much time starting them out right I could not bring myself to let them eat that crap. Even when the daycare gave me a hard time, even when I became "that mom" and even when they made me get a note from the doctor.

I know it would be harder for a two year old because they are starting to understand when they have something different from other kids and want what they see other's having. And part of me says go ahead since it's only two days a week. Could you do like a pp mentioned and send those orange Bernie Bunny crackers when they have goldfish or some organic fruit leather when they have fruit snacks, organic nuggets, etc. Stuff that looks similar to what the other kids are having. I really would care less what the daycare thought but I would hate to see my kid sad that they couldn't have what everyone else was. Then again try sending her meals and maybe she'll not even notice the difference. Good luck!
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#14 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 03:12 PM
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This can be hard.

I was a veg kid in the 80s when it was very unusual (I was always the only veg kid I knew) and I never minded having my own food. Actually, I kind of liked the attention that I got for it (though I remember being a bit jealous about people getting oreos in their lunch). My sister hated it and begged to eat what other kids had.

My son was at a daycare where I didn't like the food. I had to decide to relax for the most part- the food probably didn't comprise a big percentage of his dietary intake. I made sure he ate a big healthy breakfast and even gave him some fresh fruit to eat right before dropoff... hoping he wouldn't be too hungry for AM snack.

Also, I decided to work on a positive and proactive action, and I convinced them to get a box of local, organic fruit each week from a farmer who was selling at a market nearby. So at least they were offering the kids fresh fruit (in addition to gross things). But it DID make me into the PITA parent, and we're now trying a new school. You COULD try doing some education (or getting other parents interested in banning HFCS, hydrogenated oil, and food colorings? That eliminates a lot of the crap food. But good luck, from what I saw of the lunches at school, many other parents don't care).

Luckily they brought their own lunches. I got him a "laptop lunchbox" which was a bit of a splurge but eliminates the need for packaging and makes it all very simple to serve. Something bento-box style like that might make it easier for the providers to serve the meals if you decide to send your own lunch (and frankly, I'd let the snacks slide. I know its gross but its only a couple of times a week). Basically, I would suggest making it as easy on them as possible-- not a million little containers to open, nothing to heat up separately, etc. And make sure to pack food your child loves, so it will all get eaten and she won't be eying other people's food.

dissertating mom to three

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#15 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 03:17 PM
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My daughter has been going to a gigantic mainstream daycare center (She's 4.5 y.o. now and has been going there since age 6 months), and their food is institutional, meeting minimum nutritional guidelines, but not what I'd like for my daughter. At a big place like that, you'd think that they would be very rigid about deviating even a little bit, but my experience has been fantastic.

When she first started solids at 10 months old, I brought in my own food while the other babies just started eating the regular menu started, and my baby was too young to know the difference.

Things started to change at age 18-24 months when my daughter noticed that her food didn't look like the other children's food. She started eating the other children's stuff off of the floor. (Yuk.) Instead of giving up and letting her just eat what the other kids eat, I took a good look at the menu, and I started sending stuff similar to what the other kids eat. So instead of canned peaches, I either sent fresh peaches or frozen unsweetened peaches. Instead of the center's high sodium canned corn, I sent either no-salt canned corn or corn on the cob. The resemblance is not perfect. I don't send white triangular toast with jelly, my daughter gets dry brown (whole wheat) toast shaped like dinosaurs, but it was close enough that she stopped eating corn off of the floor.

But I approached this with positive thinking. I told the teacher that my daughter has a combination of lots of food allergies and nutritional concerns, but that I recognized that with so many children to deal with, making accomodations is difficult for the teacher and so I told her that I wanted to make sure that we could come up with a solution that would not require any extra work or time on her part. Then I asked if they would feed my daughter only food brought in from home (nothing else except water), and that would make it easier for them so that the teacher would not have to worry about which food she could/couldn't have. I suggested that we try it for a couple weeks, and that if it turned out to be too much hassle, then the two of us could brainstorm together to figure out some way to tweak the plan so that it would work better with the teacher.

When you phrase it that way, the teachers told me that it was absolutely no extra trouble for them.

For the first couple years (when my daughter was 1 year old until about age 3 years old), my daughter was the only child who did not eat the daycare's food. Then more and more children started to bring their own food. Now my daughter is definitely not alone by any means. Yes, most of the 100 or so children eat the center's food, but I think at least ten children bring their own food.

After my daughter turned age four or so, my daughter stopped caring whether her food matches the daycare's food. For example, this morning I told her that daycare is having pretzels for snack and I know that she doesn't like pretzels. I asked her if she would like pretzels or if she would like apple sauce or plain yogurt. She requested applesauce. So at this age the food doesn't have to match the center's food as long as she can have power to make a choice. This is a good thing because I have never been able to come up with a nutritional tasty alternative imitation of Jello.

After about a year an a half,
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#16 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 04:33 PM
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While I am not crazy in love with DS's food at daycare, it's not as bad as some of the things I have seen listed here! They have fruits and veggies, and while I don't love him eating chicken nuggets for lunch, there are good things he gets every day so I can live with it. I don't like the breakfast options so I do feed him before we go in, so all he eats is lunch and snacks there. I make sure he gets healthy food at home.

He just started two weeks ago there and they made a lot of accommodations so we could cloth diaper so I don't want to rock the boat too much right now, as I do like the center he is in. If in the future if I do see food going downhill, I will talk to the director to see if there is anything we could work out.

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#17 of 18 Old 09-04-2008, 08:57 PM
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My DCP is pretty mainstream, and when DS was 12 months old they moved him to the toddler room. This meant regular snacks and meals. I spoke to the director and asked her if I could bring in lunches for him but there was a concern because of the allergies of other kids in the room. I had to get a note from the pediatrician asking them to please allow me to bring "wholesome, natural foods" in for Wes.

Then I sat down with the director and the daycare chef and they let me read all of the ingredient lists of everything they served. I go through the menu and cross out anything I don't want him to have (nutrigrain bars are surprisingly awful!). They generally have suitable substitutions available for him, like if the kids are having bbq meatballs (ick!) they give DS a veggie burger. But generally everything is home made, like they do a mac and cheese that's real cheese and real wheat macaroni, with ham in it. They're actually pretty good with their meals and very accomodating.

I bring in snacks for him like organic cheese crackers that are similar to Cheez-its (which I don't want him to have) and Annie's Bunny Grahams for when they have cookies or graham crackers. SOmetimes I bring enough fresh fruit for the whole class, like a pint of blueberries or a bunch of bananas. They love when I do that, so that's a good idea for you too. Make it a treat for everyone once a week or so.

Also, I am not super rigid. One day it was sloppy joe's for lunch and they were out of veggie burgers. I didn't fuss, I just said it was fine one time. Try to compromise when you can.

If you are friendly the rest of the time and engaging and understanding of them and their need to protect all of the children there, then that will override that fact that you're 'that mom' who is picky about what her son eats.
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#18 of 18 Old 09-05-2008, 06:50 PM
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I am in this same boat. Are Cheez-Its, Saltines, Pretzels and Gold fish considered items from a main food group?

The licensing requirements in our state (California) REQUIRE that snacks be from 2 or more of the food groups. I have to see what else they serve with those snacks but I don't think anything.
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