Stop sending in so much food.

A few weeks ago I conducted a workshop at a daycare/preschool center in NJ where parents pack their children’s food. What did the teachers there have to say?

  1. Parents send in too much food.
  2. Parents send in too much snack food like pretzels and crackers.
  3. Parents wonder why their children aren’t eating their vegetables.
  4. Parents think teachers should monitor what the children eat better.

Imagine, a small child sitting down to lunch. He pulls out 5, 6, even 7 containers. Most contain preferred foods like crackers, pretzels and cookies. One has a sandwich. One contains carrots.

How, these teachers wonder, are they supposed to make sure this child eats at least a few bites of the sandwich and some of the carrots? Because when the parent comes to pick her child up, that’s what she’s going to want to know:

  • Did he eat the sandwich and carrots? Or, more likely…
  • How come my son ate his crackers but not his sandwich?

Don’t think this is a phenomenon limited to this one daycare/preschool center. Everytime I talk to preschool teachers I hear the same complaints.

And so teachers resort to the bribing, bartering and cajoling that parents use: You have to eat at least a bite of your sandwich before you can have your cookies.

(Don’t know why that’s a failed strategy? Read Wheelin’ & Dealin’: 10 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Trade Peas for Pie.)

Here’s something to consider: Providing too much food actually encourages children to be picky. They never have to consider eating anything they don’t want at any given moment. 

In my experience, many parents are guilty of sending their preschoolers off in the morning with too much food. In fact, the pickier the child the more likely parents are to overpack. It’s a strategy that backfires.

  • Here’s the logic: “I never know what Sally will eat so I pack a lot of choices to make sure she has something she wants.”  But…
  • When parents pack lots of snacks (crackers, sweetened yogurts, juices) there is no reason for your toddler to eat the healthy stuff.

Packing too much food sets your child up to fail.

It sets up a bad dynamic for the preschool teachers. And, it also teaches your child to fear hunger. Read The Upside of Hunger.

Children need time and incentive to considering eating right. Read: Let Your Kids Sit with Their Own Struggles.

Send your child to daycare or preschool with a reasonable amount of food.

And your child will be more likely to eat (at least some of) everything you send–the healthy stuff included.

You’ll also be making your child’s teacher’s life a little easier.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~