Snacks & Treats at Daycare & Preschool
How do you handle it when your kids are offered food you don't
want them to have? I have offended our neighbor because I said
the snacks he offered my 2 yo had too much sugar for him, so no
thank you. (I always offer his sons our snacks--at the local
park--which they love.) How do I handle this as my son gets older
and wants some of this really junky junk? I let him have some
junk at a recent birthday party--I don't want to be an ogre--and
he melted down and started crying (not usual behavior). Junk
overload! Also, my concern is that he will start to reject his
beloved kale and squash (we really got lucky--he is a great eater).
Mom of a kale eater--for now
Keep talking to your child about smart food choices, why you make
them, what they do for your body, etc. Talk about the kind of
food that's only okay for very special occasions. Talk about
polite ways to decline any kind of food.
If you keep modeling good, healthy diets, the idea of moderation,
and polite behavior, then your children will follow your lead.
Of course they will want to try the junky stuff - but they will
also know what they really like.
I've seen loads of different very young children politely turn
down chocolate, birthday cake, candy, potato chips, fast food,
popsicles, ice cream - all with a ''no, thank you - I'm don't
really like it/not hungry/not in the mood for it/I'm allergic to
it''. I've also seen tons of candy and cake go to waste with
barely a bite out of it- one taste was all the child needed/wanted.
I've got a classic ''picky'' eater child and a ''eat first ask what
it is later'' child - and they both show moderation when ''junky
stuff'' is offered. Some things get tried (and even liked), some
things it's ''no, thanks''.
Me - I Can't Say No to Chocolate
I'd stop offering your neighbor's kids snacks - that way your
neighbor may stop asking your kids if they want his ''sugary''
snacks. You can also say no thanks in a nice way, maybe say that
your son has problems with too much sugar or that he's allergic
to something. also, at age 2, your son's pallet may be different
than when he was 1 or when he gets to be about 5. it's great he
loves veggies but you can't block him from the rest of the world.
i have the same problem as you, but when we are at a party or
with family, i let him have one treat - it's not going to kill
him and he will ask for it less if he gets to try it once in a
while. right now, he absolutely says no to french fries even
though 6 months ago he was dying to try them. and when he is
given a piece of chocolate cake that's too big for him, he
doesn't finish it - he has as much as he wants and knows that he
doesn't have to finish it and that it won't be the last time
he'll ever have chocolate cake. he's 3 years old, 10 months.
and his favorite food is spinach quiche. he thinks apple juice
is a rare dessert.
Well maybe you could have just said ''Oh he doesn't need anything''
instead of ''That has too much sugar in it,'' which he obviously
took as a criticism of his parenting. At some point, you will
have to lighten up, because it is the kids who only ever get kale
and never get sweets that really go crazy when they get a chance.
One cookie is not going to kill anyone/sabotage all the healthy
eating he does. I really understand about the sugar not agreeing
with your child, which you can explain to people who really
insist. But overall, just learn to decline politely and every
once in a while, do have a little treat.
I just had to respond. I am as healthy of a food nut as can be
with my son. He too is junk food less. But I am must say, I
wouldn't say ''sorry your food has too much sugar'' to a
neighbor. That does sound sorta snooty.
Granted my kid has never touched fast food or known the child
delight of sugary cereal, but an occasional treat? Yeah, I will
let him eat those gross Gogurts on a very slim occasion if
offered by a friend's mom. He may get cranky after, but the way
I figure, I ate much worse as a kid and my son is already light
years ahead of me in health. One indiscretion now and then
really won't kill 'em. And as long as you practice good eating
habits at home your kale kid will stick around.
I have a similar attitude toward junky food. However, in order
not make it a big prohibited thing, I let my kids have it if
others around them are having it. They actually limit themselves
when they've had enough to a surprising extent. The fact that you
provide good food and home and no junk will not go away if you
let them have junk outside and I don't think their hime eating
habits will change unless you change what you serve at home. Oh,
and the sugar rush and crash - just expect that for a bit. plan
to leave early if you have to. it actually gets less bad as they
get a little older/ used to occasional sugar
I'm not sure if it comes across this way when you decline food in person,
post sounded judgemental about others' choices about food. I'm pretty
about what I feed my kids but it is annoying to be judged about the
boxes they drink (which has happened to me). I think a simple ''no, thank
enough unless you want to get into a big philosophical discussion. Or you
say, ''my son has a hard time with sugar and I don't like the way it makes
act'' (although birthday parties, especially for 2 year olds, are pretty
producing, for lots of reasons, not just the sugar). If the other person
is offended by
a polite, honest response, that's really about him, not you. I personally
that eating a tiny bit of ''junk'' now and again will affect your kid's
love of kale. At
least that hasn't happened with my 4-year old, who loves all veggies.
(Now, my 18
month old is another story--he has yet to eat a veggie on his own.)
Everything in Moderation
First of all, it is quite common for a 2 year old to have a meltdown at a
party (even if that is not his usual behavor). There is a lot of
overstimulation there. Junk food many have contributed, or he could have
having a normal 2 year old reaction to the chaos.
My policy is to always ask the parent quietly if it is ok before I offer
her kid food,
even if it is healthy. You never know about food allergies, or if she
doesn't want her
kid filling up on fruit just before a meal. All of my friends and family
stance on junk food, and they have always given me the same courtesy. It
right to decide what your child can have. Your neighbor was probably
defensive that you were basically calling the food he was giving his kids
probably thought you were judging him, and let's face it - you probably
were a little.
Maybe if you had taken the focus away from the item being offered and put
on your genereal rules about food, it would have gone over a little
I am not sure what you consider ''really junky junk.'' I was pretty strict
with what I
would let my son eat for the first 2 - 2 1/2 years, and then I started to
relax and let
him have the occasional treat, usually when we are out of the house. We
spend a lot
of time with family, and there was only so long I could ask his cousins
not to eat
their cookies in front of him. Now he is almost 4, and he knows where the
are kept at my grandmother's house, and that there are usually popsicles
parent's. He also knows that when I say ''just one'' that I mean it. I am
about baked goods than candy (he almost never gets candy - which made an
or a jelly bean a great motivator when we were potty training). I keep my
stocked with healthy food and snacks, he eats 3 balanced meals a day and
asks me for fruit or carrots if he is hungry in between. He knows that I
anything ''junky'' in the house, and never asks for it. He still doesn't
like french fries
much, but always eats his broccoli. I think that trying to shield him from
any kind of
junk food would only increase its allure. Plus, treats are super-yummy.
There is a
way that you can be balanced about it and let him have the occasional
him becoming a mush-mouth.
Mom of a mostly-healthy eater
My kids eat brown rice, brocolli and tofu, but they also get
junky sugary foods from time to time and it's really ok. If the
majority of the time your two year old is eating healthy is a
good eater I wouldn't worry about occasional treats. Meltdowns
If you Google ''does sugar makes kids hyper'' you'll find lots of
studies that say ''no - not true''.
That said, it's very easy to just say ''no, thanks'' to any kind of
food for any reason.
One shouldn't need to explain whether it's against your religious
beliefs, allergies, current diet or personal preference.
A simple ''no, thanks'' with a smile for yourself or your child
should be enough.
If people press you for a reason, you can say something along the
lines of ''I'm trying to limit junior's intake of
Just another mom
I think the way you phrased it offended the other parent. You
could say something like, ''No thank you. He doesn't do well with
sugar.'' Or, ''He doesn't tolerate sugar very well.'' The way you
phrased it made it sound like you were passing judgement on the
other parent's choices.
In all, you get to decided what your kid eats, but he won't be
living in your protective bubble forever. He certainly will be
exposed to more and more junk as he gets older. It will be very
hard to regulate, so you need to teach him whether he gets to say
yes to it or not. My kids (8 and 12) regularly turn down the free
kid's dessert at restaurants or treats from friends, either
because they are full or because they already had a treat that
day. And they do it themselves...I don't have to make the
decision for them.
Lastly, the occasional junky snack will not turn your kid off the
healthy foods. We are very lax with our snack foods, but my kids
love bok choy, tomatoes, spinach, chard, green beans, tofu, etc.
Our family and friends marvel at how well they eat. So it is
possible to have your kale and your cake too.
I generally let my kids have the junk that is offered, in
moderation. A couple of mini-marshmallows or cheetos are not
going to kill the kids (no matter how nasty). I have a two and
four year old. I keep things pretty healthy in our home and
school lunches (actually, the schools require a whole grain,
protein, fruits & veggies be packed every day in the lunch). My
kids generally request grapes or apples as snacks. Just tonight
they were bouncing at the table, pounding their utensils on the
table (they didn't have naps -- my husband has learned his lesson
that not giving them naps is not really a 'treat' for anyone)
because I wasn't steaming the broccoli fast enough.
That said, if it really bugs you, then come up with a nice way to
deal with it. 'My kids really melt down when they have too much
sugar' is an honest statement. You can add, 'we've really had to
take it out of their diets so that they will act human.' which
leads the 'junk-offerer' to believe that you are not disapproving
of their choices, but just need to keep a look out for your kids.
No parent likes to be judged.
Loosen up a bit. Teach you child to eat well at home, and he
will learn to eat well for life, although he may not always
follow your desires as he is growing up and becomes
independent. If you make a big deal about the ''junk'' food, he
will probably desire it more than you had wanted as he gets
older. Restricted food often is very tempting to kids. Let him
have the junk food if it comes up at birthday parties, etc.,
but keep only the foods you enjoy eating at home. Restricting
it too much only causes temptation.
I really liked your question about how are you going to keep you son
junk when he's older. I think our our mainstream food culture is awful
and you are
right, there is so much junk food easily available and there is nothing
you can do to
keep an older child from being exposed to that. I want to suggest a
strange idea--let your kid have junk almost everyday. My best friend is
and she can't get over how we in the U.S. demonize sugar and fatty
foods. She gave
me the idea of teaching my children portion control. Junk food is not a
fruit in our house, but a tiny pleasurable part of our diet. Most days
we sit down
(and it's important to sit down and eat mindfully) and enjoy a small bit
something--a piece of chocolate, a few tablespoons of ice cream, a
popsicle, a fun-
size bag of M&M's around 3 pm or immediately after lunch. Depending on
the day, I
might have the kids eat some cheese or yogurt first to help stabilize
sugar. It's not that sugar and fat are so evil. Our body does the same
thing with all
foods, but it is the calories and the blood sugar crash that are bad.
You can easily
find ways to deal with the extra calories (lots of exercise) and blood
(read up on the Zone and all that). I am happy to say that this
approach seems to
be working for us. At parties, my kids eat a bit of cake and a handful
of candy. I
was at the airport last week at treat time and let them each pick one
thing out of a
vending machine-full size candy bars-and they didn't finish them.
may be something that works for you, too
I'm probably going to sound harsh -- but you will not be able to keep
away from your child forever. To think that you will is simply
unrealistic. In fact, I
think it's better if you allow him to have some in moderation.
I allow my son to have cupcakes at school birthday parties, half a donut
functions, Halloween candy, an occasional ice cream cone. He willingly
broccoli, sweet potatoes, and spinach. He has a tendency to eat about a
third of a
piece of birthday cake, and then put it aside because he's just had too
Now, I don't put cookies in his lunch every day (in fact, never), I
don't keep sweets
or chips in the house, and I don't allow junk (or anything else for that
hour before meals. But with this balance, my son is fine in terms of
My toddler loves all the best junk food. In fact donut was one
of the first words he learned. He was introduced to these
delectibles by myself or his gramma or as a treat from
babysitter. He really loves this stuff and asks for it. Well, I
feel that I don't think it's necessary to totally restrict this stuff,
but also not good to go overboard. But, my question, how
much is too much? Does anyone have any approach to this
stuff? I was brought up on junkfood and I still love and crave
sweets. I don't think I am any worse for wear. But, I also
wish I had a taste for more healthy food, like natural peanut
butter vs. Skippy. I can only eat Skippy or Jif because of
what I was brought up on.
I feel guilty after yesterday. I fed him a donut in the am
cheetos in the sfternoon and french fries at night. This is
definately not the norm and overboard. But will it kill him
once in a while?
I am a pediatrician and I say just do your best and try to set a
good example (or at least do what I do and sneak my candy fix
when they're not around and choke down a little extra broccoli
when they are)- I worry as much as any Mom, but you can't force
feed your kids and you don't want to give them long term
food ''issues'' by making a lot of judgements on this subject.
There is so much food guilt going around. I hear people being
critical of themselves for not being all organic, and people
somehow think they should control their children's diet to the
point of being healthier than their own. Don't try to be
perfect. Just try to squeeze in the healthy stuff, too, and
limit the total quantity- other than too many empty calories,
most junk food is not toxic to children- but they do need to
learn to eat their vegetables and moderate the processed food as
they grow up. And a plain old chewable multivit is added
insurance too. When we try to change a child's diet we always
make the whole family work on ''heart-healthy'' eating, and make
small, gradual changes.
anon Dr. Mom
I think it is important to start a child off with a taste for
nutritious foods, so we have worked hard to keep unhealthy food
out of our son's diet (he is 4). We keep most junk food out of
the house, which virtually eliminates begging for it, because we
just say we don't have it. We also have a one treat a day
policy, which means that he can have one cookie or serving of
sorbet/ice cream a day, if he asks for it. Sometimes he asks
first thing in the AM, and I give it to him then, explaining
that this is his cookie for the day. He really gets it and only
has issues after overindulgent holidays like Easter or
Halloween. To avoid relying on junk food, keep easy healthy
snacks in the house like cut up fruit, frozen berries, whole
grain crackers or pretzels, even chips paired with a healthy dip
like guacamole or hummus. Fruit sorbets, yogurt, oatmeal
cookies, whole grain muffins make healthy alternatives to sweet
My toddler thinks seedless tangerines,
fruit leather (from Trader Joe's - available in organic), Paul
Newman cookies, pineapples, all kinds of berries, etc are the
cat's meow. He has been given sweets - also by his Grandmother
and Aunts, etc - however, when he asks I say ''Isn't that special
that you get those treats at Gramma's house!'' He knows he can't
get much from us so he doesn't try too often. And, like I said,
there are so many sweet treats out there that aren't junk food.
I grew up with lots of junk and am still learning to
appreciate the goodness of good, whole foods. Good Luck. I hope
this will be easy for you and a learning experience for all.
Signed, A Pretty Healthy Mom
I grew up in the opposite camp--I was totally deprived of junk
food and now love to binge on it. I've decided I'll give it to
my son in moderation only when he knows what it is and asks for
it. To him, an orange is a big treat. Yesterday at a birthday
party everyone was eating cake and all he wanted to do was play
and eat pasta salad. I think for a toddler, it is okay to give
junky treats once in a while but it depends on what ''once in a
while'' means to you. A donut a week isn't going to be a big
deal but if he's eating junk on a daily basis, he's not going
to be hungry for more nutritious foods. My concern about
allowing a lot of junk food is setting kids up for obesity or
diabetes which are becoming more common for children in our
increasingly sedentary society.
Fellow junk food lover
First off, I want to tell you that even though you've felt no ill effects from
eating junk food to date, you could still develop problems. Diabetes and
heart disease usually don't start until one's 50s or later, but can start
much earlier, and eating lots of junk food definitely contributes (either
through increasing your weight, or through clogging up your arteries).
Junk food may also contribute to other problems such as cancer,
although the evidence is less clear. So even though you don't think
you're the worse for wear, you can't be sure. I just developed diabetes
(and I'm not even forty yet), so I know what I'm talking about.
Now to your question Most reasonable nutritional experts I have read
recommend giving your child junk food (chips, cookies, ice cream,
french fries, and so on) no more than twice or three times a week.
Also, don't make a big deal of the junk food versus other
kinds of food. It's just a food he gets sometimes, like every other kind of
food he gets sometimes. Otherwise he'll learn that junk food is ''the best''
kind of food.
Think of it this way you are trying to teach him all kinds of things that
will make his life easier and better. Liking vegetables, fruits, whole
grains... that will definitely make his life better, and if he doesn't (like
some of us do) have to force himself to eat them rather than chocolate
chip cookies, his life will be a lot easier and healthier.
By the way, healthy food has a lot less to do with type of peanut butter,
and a lot more to do with eating lots and lots of veggies and fruits.
I think most of us love the taste of ''junk-food'' however with
time, we could learn to love the taste of healthier foods, too.
The ingredients of concern mentioned in donuts, cheetoes, and
french fries... are hydrogenated fats containing trans-fatty
acids , repetetively heated oils (usually hydrogenated fats) ,
artificial colors,flavors, and high salt in cheetoes, and
finally ''empty calories'' in the donuts and cheetoes.
Trans-fatty acids Latest research published in prestigious
medical journals have shown a correlation with eating
hydrogenated fats w/ trans-fatty acids (found in shortening,
and any hardened vegetable oils called partially or just
hydrogenated fats) to breast cancer in women. The definition
of cancer is that there is no threshold for toxicity. I.e. one
exposure could initiate the cancer. The more we expose
ourselves to transfatty acids, each time we may be risking
cancer later. Second, when oil is used over again and again,
it breaks down and free radicals are formed, which is known to
cause mutations. If you're unlucky, one of these mutations may
mess up the developing central nervous system, and can manifest
in a serious disease later on, particularly if a child is
exposed during its rapidly developing period before the age of
6. Third, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are
linked to ill-health effects which I have no room to get into
right now. Although these studies are not as conclusive, many
studies link artificial ingredients with a variety of illnesses
including ADD, ADHD, and even cancer. Finally, snacks that are
very flavorful and tasty and full of calories displace the
child's need for nutritious food. I.e. the child will eat less
of the nutritious food he/she needs for development. Even
giving more than 4-6 oz. of fruit juice /day/3 yr old is not
recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Sugar is
not so bad in itself, but it tastes good and the child will eat
that juice first and then is not hungry for the nutritious
foods. Most preschools provide kids with snacks that contain
transfatty acids. Out of 70 schools I've visited in the East
Bay, I have only seen one school that does not provide trans-
fatty snacks as a policy. And only one other school provided
water over juice as a policy. There is much need for child
care facilities and parents to become informed. children's
cancer has been going up each year since 1970, since I was 7...
to where it's about 33% higher now. ADD, ADHD, Autism, and
other neurodevelopmental diseases have skyrocketed, along with
asthma, allergies, and chemical sensitivities. Researchers are
also finding that higher frequency of diagnoses is not the
reason. There may be answers to keeping our children from
falling into the statistics. Please check out www.pfse.net for
info on an upcoming conference to address these and many other
often preventable problems.
The best way to improve your child's diet is to improve your
own. He will eat what you eat, and it's really not fair to
expect him to do ''better'' than you do. Naturally this is hard,
but it will pay off in so many ways. I'm a big fan of junk food
myself (although, sadly, I prefer expensive, high quality junk
food to things like Cheetos!) and count myself lucky that
somehow I ended up with a son who loves broccoli and bananas
(both of which I hate) almost as much as he loves cookies.
Anyway, if you're providing your son with a variety of good,
nutritious foods from which to choose, the occasional Twinkies
binge won't hurt him. Try to focus on what he's eating over the
course of a week or a month, not what he's eaten at any one meal
or in any one day, and try to limit junk to a small overall
portion without making an excessive amount of fuss over it.
In the past year, a lot of information has come out about
the harmful effects of junk food on children. Among the many
reputable sources that discuss some of the research are
- National Association of School Nurses
article at http//www.nasn.org/positions/softdrinks.htm
- A book called ''Feeding Your Child for Lifelong Health''
by Susan B. Roberts (good source for info on toddler nutrition,
and the importance of ''imprinting'' healthy foods early)
- Consumer Reports (recent article on fats, particularly the
harmful effects of ''trans-fats'')
The information on ''trans-fats'' is particularly
sobering the research shows that there's simply no safe level.
Coca Cola and ''trans-fats'' will be to our children's generation
what cigarettes have been to our ours. All of that being said,
my kids eat a doughnut about once a week and the occasional nasty
hotdog, and we all adore chocolate, indulging in it about once a
month -- but we don't keep any of these food items in our home.
If you know they're getting the right stuff MOST of the time, you
don't have to worry so much about what's going to come at them
from the rest of the environment -- and come it will.
My 16 month old attends a playgroup a couple of times a week
and, of course, likes to eat everyone else's snacks. We all
share our child's snacks with the group but I don't want my son
to eat the unhealthy snacks the other parents bring because
they usually contain refined flour and sugar. I always allow
my son to share but I also try to entice him with the snacks I
bring so he won't be as tempted with the junky snacks. I don't
know if I'm being too uptight about this, especially because he
eats very well at home.
Certainly with kids as young as yours, you should feel
comfortable limiting what she eats. Others may feel you are
too restrictive, but as her parent, it is your choice. Since
she eats well otherwise, you may choose to be a bit lenient at
play-group, but it should be because you have decided that's
o.k., not because OTHERs feel you are too restrictive. With my
kids, the rule was always to ask mommy (or daddy) before
accepting any food from anyone. I was not only concerned about
sugar, etc., but also found that some young chldren were given
foods that might lead to choking, or foods that had been sucked
on by the others. Even among friends, kids should be in the
habit of getting permission before accepting any food (and
asking other children's parents before offering to share their
own snacks.). Perhaps you could talk with the other parents
about instituting this (yes, it is kind to offer, but you have
to check first). Chldren can be taught to ask the other
child's parent (''is it o.k. if Susie has some of my raisins?)
This will also help if you encounter kids with food allergies,
religious food restrictions, etc.
Yes, you're being too uptight about this. :-) An occasional
junky snack isn't going to hurt, and it's well worth learning to
share and enjoy 'social eating'. Plus, the more you restrict
your son's diet, the more likely he is to binge on junk when
he's a bit older and can obtain it for himself. Teaching him
that junk food is a once-in-a-while indulgence is likely to be
much more successful than trying to keep him from having any at
all. However, you ought to bring up this issue with the other
parents in the playgroup and agree on some snack ground rules.
The only way to avoid your son eating other kids' junk food is
to make sure the other kids don't have junk food. Perhaps
everyone would be happy to provide some better things. (I
think 'no refined flour' is a little out there, but packaged
sugary things could probably be avoided.) If the other parents
don't want to improve the nutritional value of the snacks their
kids have, then live with the junk or form a different playgroup.
Hey, you are not uptight for desiring the best for your child -
to NOT ingest nutrition-less food, loads of empty calories
(sugar), chemical additives, and dyes, preservatives and harmful
pesticides - the list goes on! Pat yourself on the back for
swimming against the tide and making a more intelligent choice
for your precious children's health now and for the future. You
If your son eats really well at home, I think I'd just relax about a couple of
times a week at playgroup. Much of the reading I've done says things
like chips, goldfish crackers, cookies, ice cream and the like are OK a
couple of times a week -- as long as your son is getting enough fruit and
vegetables, protein, usually eats whole grain, that kind of thing.
Let's face it, as your son gets older, he will definitely eat stuff with refined
flour and sugar in it -- he won't be in your control all the time. If you
never allow junk food, it may very well become an obsession. If you
allow it once in a while, it is less likely to. It seems like ''only at
playgroup'' is an especially convenient way to limit it to ''once in a while.''
Try thinking of ''three-quarters'' (or four-fifths or whatever
works for you): I feel my kids will be healthy and well-
adjusted and not feel deprived if they eat healthy foods at
least three-quarters of the time, walk rather than drive three-
quarters of the time, and engage in learning-type activities
rather than watching TV at least three-quarters of the time.
You did not say how often your playgroup meets, but I had
the same problem with my little ones. My oldest was (is!) a
very picky eater and eats very little, so I found myself getting
worked up about WHAT she ate, since it was very little
period. I didn't want her eating junky stuff because that
would be it for most of the day -- she was no longer hungry
after eating the junk. What I finally did come to realize was
that we only met once a week and it was less important for
me to stress over her sharing other snacks that I did not
want her to have than to make a huge deal about it and get
everyone upset because I was stressed about her eating
their kids' junk! Not worth it! All of the rest of the time that she
is with me, she has healthy choices. I don't offer her the
junk, but if she gets it once a week, is that really a big deal in
the larger scope of her life? I decided not and would make
the conscious effort to take a deep breath when snack time
came around at playgroup ... then let it out and let it go! Yes,
it's refined sugar, but I don't want to totally restrict her from it
for fear of her seeking it out as soon as she is older and out
of my sight for 10 minutes. This way, she gets a ''treat''
(augh!) once a week, and I do not make a fuss about it AT
ALL -- just let it go. Good luck!
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