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Nutrition in preschool--is it worth

577 Views 15 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  callmemama
pulling out over? I am not vegan or vegetarian--and I don't mind occasional indulgence or compromise. I am mainly very devoted to whole foods and much of it organic.

Why are my kids going to preschool? What am I thinking? I really thought this new facility (built as part of an "Ecovillage") would be more friendly to my way of parenting. Now I think it was just wishful thinking. I was SAH and felt like a burnt-out mom and wanted this cool part-time job.

So the food isn't bad for mainstream food most of the time, but it's worse than it appearred at first. White breads, cheese puffs, and pop tarts have all been in the menu more than a few times, and I am appalled.

I was so optimistic about this preschool--it is such a part of the community. I feel as though I am the only parent who even cares much about this kind of thing. Mostly they just deal with some allergies and some vegetarians who still eat everything but the meat, you know. It makes me feel like some kind of snob. I cannot send my kids separate food all the time--it's just too much and I resent that they would be odd for eating simple healthful foods.

I knew I would deal with some of these things if I sent my kids here. What made me think it would not drive me nuts? It is nagging at me worse and worse and I don't feel I can speak with the director or teachers about it because I can't envision a solution. I can't fix their entire menu. They probably can't even afford to fix it for the entire group, or they would think they couldn't since what they are accustomed to purchasing is cheap. I do not want to be critical. I now feel I made a bad decision, that is just wrong for us. Nutrition is my first reason. I keep thinking that maybe food should be secondary to the relationships among children and teachers and having good activities etc.

Should nutrition be a deal breaker?
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It would be a deal breaker for me. That is part of the reason my kids never went to preschool - there were other factors. One preschool I went to was having a party and I saw so much candy and junk food that I knew my kids would never go there. Another one I checked out, the kids brought there own lunches and snacks, and asked parents to send healthy food - that would have been the one I went with.

If you are looking for relationships and teachers, how about a music class, dance class or art class for preschoolers where they only go for an hour and no food is involved. Or maybe there are other preschools where healthy food is more of a priority.

I realize you want to use the school in your community. Is there any chance you could get them to offer healthier foods - fruit, real cheese, whole grain crackers or bread shouldn't be that much of a big deal. STuff like cheese puffs and poptarts - that is awful stuff for these young children.

I think it really is a serious issue - and these early years is when our children's tastes are being established. The childhood obesity and behavioral problems are out of control and it is mainly because kids are getting hooked on junk food at early ages.
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I can't stand the junk that preschoolers get fed at most of these organized things. I'm with you on the frustration!

We participated in a parent participating school and the rule was no juice (loved that!), just water. The director said there were too many allergies around so no one complained, but that was obviously a cover statement (they allowed peanut butter). No one complained about that. Maybe you need to put together a presentation for the director, showing how easy it is to do alternatives (I'm envisioning a side-by-side chart).

If you love the school otherwise, you can make it work. If there are other reasons you would like to pull, then go with your gut.

In general, I try to weigh how cool the experience is for the child and how often they are being misfed with my misgivings. I also try to see how a place is trying to feed healthy compared to society at large versus comparing it to how I feed them at home. My standards are too high to expect others to follow, but I appreciate any effort toward whole organic foods.
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I feel like I should add that my attitude is similar to yours deeporgarten - I don't mind if my kids have a couple of cheese puffs or a piece of cake at a party or something special and occasional like that but several days every week, I would not go for that.
Yes, it feels like a deal-breaker.

The job I have is a big deal though as it is essential management and I am job-sharing with another mom (with a brand-new babe) who is counting on me to take that share. It is a very small non-profit with few people to take up slack. WHAT was I thinking?

The nutrition problem is inconsistent. Some meals include lots of veggies, fruit, beans, etc or are just basic like a pasta dish. Yet I know that they had some kind of sweetened colored cereal one day for breakfast. Seriously my jaw dropped at the mention of "colored cheerios" The pop tarts are a regular in the snack rotation--so are cherry tomatoes.

They serve milk at every meal. I hate that they serve milk at every meal but I am sure they are proud of it. Milk at every meal and never organic--to me this is totally contrary to my approach: Milk is a nonessential extra that isn't all that beneficial--but is okay in moderation. Since we don't need it (and so many people have some sensitivities to it) but the production process has serious problems, it is apprpriate to drink smaller amounts and pay premium for organic, hormone free, or pasture-fed sources for that small quantity... I do not believe I can communicate about this at all to the preschool staff. My kids aren't allergic, we do eat dairy, a little bit is fine even this conventional stuff. But every day in quantity is too much.

I serve water at every meal. Tap water seriously concerns me. If we run out of our filtered water at home and drink tap water for an evening, my throat is sore the next day--every time! I cannot ask the preschool to only offer my children more tap water.

My kids are 5yo (twins) and in lovely physical shape. Partly because I worked hard on nutrition.

I feel stuck. I have made so many commitments in my life that I changed my mind about and backed out of. I start so many things I do not finish. Dive into them, really. And I let other people down after they believe in me.
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deeporgarten, I hear ya. Dd is only 2, but has had what I consider to be superior nutrition from birth. I cringe when I think about what she'll be eating when she goes off to school. Poptarts and non-organic milk would be a deal breaker for me.

But... I am thinking... since you sort of have this commitment that you can't get out of... What about getting the school to meet you part way? I mean, some of the things they serve are actually passable, right? Could you get just one other parent (the more the better, but at least someone to back you up) to go in and say, hey, could we pull the items with sugar and hydrogenated oils? That doesn't seem like too much to ask.

You could even frame it up with the new USDA guidelines (yes, I know you probably don't like them, I don't either, but most people go gaga for gov't recs). The new guidelines say there is no safe level of consumption for trans fats. The new guidelines also mention a certain # of tsps. per day for sugar. Or, tell them your doctor expressed concern about your kids' diet and health, questioned what they were being fed at school, and suggested you speak with the director to see if he/she would be willing to make some changes.

After saying all this, I don't think I would have the guts to go in and complain, but is there some way you can frame it so they don't get defensive?

I'm rambling and don't know that I helped much. I hope you can find a solution and I'm with you on being a nutrition snob.
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Thank you so much, I really need some feedback.

I could get out of the commitments, it would just make me feel bad. I could get out of them partially. I can also bring my kids with me. But I am bringing four kids then total! My 10yo already comes, the twins, and the 2yo whoa! It gets really hard to concentrate on anything but it is still a somewhat viable possibility. Um, but then I end up letting them watch way too many videos.
I think the milk thing is easily remedied - send them with a bottle of water every day and ask teachers to let them have that with meals. Then you are not worried about tap water either and at least water takes no preparation. The rest of it though - well, not as easy. Do you know any nutrition "experts" that could come and give a talk about healthy foods for kids. I give workshops to the local parent participation classes here and the parents really seem to listen and care about what I tell them.

Are there any other childcare options - a babysitter? a home daycare that would be more open to listening to your nutrition requirements?
I thought pre-schools and daycares need to have a posted menu? Can you ask for a menu of what they plan to serve and if you don't like it then provide your own food? They can't force you to feed your child the junk they are feeding. I also though pre-schools and daycares needed to follow nutritional guidelines? I'm in Canada and the schools have to meet certain nutritional requirements. Maybe they just don't know about propper nutrition?

I personally would talk to them and find out why they are choosing sugar cereal and pop tarts. Perhaps you can give them other options?

I was considering taking a part time job and found a great center for ds to go in the mornings. The menu wasn't too bad, but not whole foods. I told them that I would prefer to bring ds's meals and they had no problems with that at all.
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What about getting together with some other parents to provide nutritious snacks for the school? If you get enough interest, everyone could bring something say once every 2 weeks, or so, then at least you are cutting down on the other bad things...
You know, you could for example on the weekend before your turn, bake up a pan of apple oatmeal squares with organic ingredients and freeze it until your turn to supply snacks, or maybe even get together with others and decide a mutually acceptable list of snacks that everyone tries to supply from? We belong to a playgroup with some parents in both camps, however, after 3-4 snacks from concerned parents, I noticed that all the snacks started becoming healthier, a lot more fruits, pretzels, organic snacks...
Don't despair. There is a mom out here who is single-handedly changing what high schoolers are served and supplied. If she can do it for numerous teens, you can change one director's mind.
It is worth a shot if you like the school -the worse that will happen is that you'll pull out anyway.
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As a vegetarian, nutrition and ethics are of top priority in our lives. It would be a deal breaker for us in your situation!
Well, I don't know if you can get them to move their thinking on things like milk, or to provide organics on a regular basis, but you should be able to approach them with every confidence about the convenience foods and sugar snacks. There really should be no middle ground about those appearing regularly on the menu! Pop tarts and sugar cereal??!! No way.

I agree that approaching it from the point of view of govt recommendations may make it easier so far as the preschool goes. It sounds like they'd want to match up with these - also why the milk, organics, bottled water issues may be harder to push.

Snack-wise, when my stepdaughters were in preschool parents had to sign up to bring snack on their appointed day. The snacks were pre-selected and listed by the preschool, and you signed up to bring what was directed: e.g. apple slices, cheese and whole wheat crackers, cheese and celery sticks. Basic stuff that can't go too far awry nutrition-wise.

We rejected one preschool, partly on the basis that "for allergy reasons" the only thing they would serve was saltine crackers and apple juice. Yeah, that'll really help her grow up big and tall, and develop her taste buds at the same time!
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This has been a really good thread for me to read. Overall, ds's preschool is great with snacks - they would never serve anything like poptarts or cheetos. I think the junkiest thing they do on a regular basis is pancakes made with Bisquick. They do request that parents send healthy lunches. A birthday treat of cupcakes for a birthday is allowed, but on Halloween and other holidays they discourage candy being brought in.

However, I too have been bothered by the milk issue. We mainly drink water at home, especially with meals. If ds asks for milk (cow or almond, we usually have some of both), then he gets some, but it's not a regular thing here. At his preschool they serve it with lunch (not snack), so it's only once a day, but it bothers me that it's not organic. (They don't use organics for anything, which also bothers me. ) I have actually thought about asking them how much milk they go through in a week, pricing out the difference between that and organic, and asking if I could pay the difference (depending on how much it is of course!) If it is too much, then I have thought about sending ds with his own container of organic milk (I would love to just send him with almond milk, but I think he likes to drink what everyone else is drinking). I know they would be more than happy to serve him whatever I send. They do have a bottled water stand that the kids help themselves to throughout the day, so that's a nice start.

I think it's important that we begin speaking out about what's important to us with regard to our children. I have gone all year not saying anything about the milk, but it's bothered me. This is just the beginning of a long line of things that our children are going to be presented with that go against our beliefs, and the way I figure it the sooner I suck it up and start advocating for them the better.

I don't think it can hurt to ask to review the snack menu. The worst that can happen is that they roll their eyes and ignore you. But like my MIL always says, "you don't ask, you don't get."

You have insipired me to talk with the director of our preschool about this issue for next year (as this year is almost over).
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Is there any other preschools there? I know in my area we definitely have places that serve organic whole foods. They cost quite a bit of course.
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It would be deal-breaker for me, vegan-health-nut that I am! :LOL The one thing I would encourage you to do is follow your heart where your children are concerned...whether that means addressing the food issue at school or backing out on your committment or finding some other alternative.
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