Food and Snacks at Daycare

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Daycare center's unhealthy food

March 2006

Hi- My daughter's non-profit daycare center serves what I consider unhealthy food - lots of high-sugar, high-carb, processed foods (corndogs, jelly sandwiches for lunch, cookies for snacks, muffins for breakfast). I'm trying to spearhead a change towards no sugar, whole grains, and organic as much as possible. It's probably an uphill battle because I have little support from other parents, staff or the director, and the cook is almost hostile. I think I am perceived as a hippie health-nut (which may be partly true...). So far I've talked to the director, who wasn't totally closed to the idea of changes. I'm also considering talking to the board of directors. I'm trying to figure out the best approach before I really stick my neck out. I haven't done anything like this before. Does anyone have any advice about how to make some changes without being counterproductive? Right now I bring all my daughter's food, and I think they want me to stop. Can they legally not accept the food I bring? Thanks, Andrea

I don't blame you for being upset about that food. I would be livid if my son were being served that stuff. You don't say how old your daughter is, but I am assuming she's a toddler. One thing I would be concerned about is her feeling singled out because her food comes from home but everyone else gets to eat the yummy sugary stuff. I wouldn't want her to feel like sugar was a treat you were denying her.

The fact that the daycare center is not willing to change the kids' diet would be enough to send me looking for another daycare. I know you are trying to get them to change, but it seems clear that they aren't going to. We are very careful with our son's diet, and I think it makes a huge difference. He is a healthy little boy who does love his sugar, but never seens to want to eat too much of it at a time (and I suspect that it's because we don't have it around very often, and he's not exposed to it much - he doesn't feel like it's being denied to him, so he just eats what he wants of it instead of gorging himself). He also happily eats the healthy stuff, and I suspect that it's because he hasn't gotten used to food like corn dogs and white bread. He has a great attention span - I think because of not getting too much refined sugar - and he has lots of energy.

So if I were in your position, I would move her out of there to keep her from being exposed to that stuff. I know they get exposed to bad food once they are in kindergarten or preschool and see other kids with it, but hopefully by then our kids' tastes will have somewhat settled into the healthy stuff.

By the way there are plenty of daycares that serve good food. We go to Sundance and I am very happy with it. Check around or ask in the recommendations listserve if you do decide to switch. Another hippy health-nut mama

Since your food philosophy appears to be at polar opposites to that of the daycare center, the best thing you can do is switch your daughter to a different daycare provider that more closely matches your food ideals. Your daughter probably sees and wants what the other kids are eating, so it may be difficult for the daycare center to ensure that she only eats what you send with her. As you say, trying to change the center's food selection will probably be an uphill battle, and may take years. anonymous

hi andrea, i am afraid i don't have much help to offer you...except to say that i feel like i'm exactly in your shoes and that you are NOT the only one out there with these problems. all i can say that might be a tad reassuring is that it sounds like the day care is such a small and closed community that you just aren't going to have much success as long as your daughter remains there BUT the good news is that once she gets into school, which won't be all that long in the general scheme of things, you will at least be more able to travel under the radar and no one will care that you send with your daughter lunches and snacks the quality of which most others are not able to comprehend. doug

Worried about all the snacks at daycare

April 2007

Hi, I would like to ask some advice about food at daycare. My son, nearly two years old, attends daycare (home daycare) three days a week. He always eats a healthy breakfast (oatmeal and orange juice). When we arrive at daycare however they immediately start offering him food (also sometimes to stop his occasional crying on arrival, which gives him a wrong association that crying will get him food or cookies). I am trying to follow a normal schedule of breakfast snack lunch snack dinner, which goes well when he is at home. But I have the feeling this is not really done at daycare (where he already gets cookies on arrival in the morning and I have even seen him get sugar, colored Cheerio, which he never gets at home). He gets a healthy lunch there, with vegetables which he eats. I am worried though about all the snacks. I have tried to address this, but to no result. I am really pleased with the daycare except for this issue.

Tell the daycare provider not to feed your child these snacks. How they feed children is one of the main ways you can determine if you have a good daycare. It sounds like your daycare is not as good as you think it is. daycare provider anonymous

You might try bringing health snacks for him, although in my experience (both our daughters were in a home daycare) it's pretty tough to fight the environment and even harder to get your daycare providers to change the way they do anything. Also you have to nip those things in the bud - once it's been going for a while, it's even harder to change. One time when I dropped my daughter off I lingered to chat with her caregiver and saw the woman's mother give my daughter (then 2) a gummi bear. I was shocked!! (choking hazard, sugar, first thing in the morning!?!) I told them we didn't want her eating those things and they said it wouldn't happen again and it was the first time, which I knew was a lie since my daughter knew what they were called. But they did stop. Anyway, my point being you have to decide how bad it is, and if you can't change it, either let it go or go somewhere else. In our case, the good things outweighed the bad, so we were happy to stay. nobody's perfect