Have you looked at what they’re serving at school these days?  Sure it’s an improvement from days gone by, but let’s face it, sometimes school nutrition still stinks.  That’s why I was glad to her from one mom of a preschooler who asked, “What do you do when school nutrition is in conflict with your own food beliefs?” How about: Hold your nose?

I can totally relate to this predicament, having had my own “situation” with my daughter’s school snacks. Truthfully, there are only two solutions to this problem.

One thing you can do is become an advocate for change.

Every school district needs an activist and even a little improvement will go a long way.  The website Better School Food is a good place to find support and learn some strategies.

But if you don’t want to be known as the crazy mom who’s against Goldfish, juice or any of the other goodies schools dole out these days in the name of good nutrition (even though you’re right…click for the scoop on snacks and juice) you’ll have to go with option #2.

Option 2: Think of this as an opportunity to teach your child about eating in the real world.

I know you thought you would have a few more years before you lost control of your child’s diet, but preschool is when it happens to most of our precious pumpkins.  If you don’t start teaching your child how to cope now, you’ll end up having to help her UNLEARN some pretty bad habits later.  And trust me, that is A LOT harder to do.  (If you’ve ever been on a diet, you know what I mean.)

Here are some things you can do:

1) If you are in a school situation where your child is regularly on the receiving end of cookies, juice and other sweet treats, then modify what you feed her at home.

It’s not punitive to balance your daughter’s diet this way (although it sometimes feels like it is).  Remember, it’s not important WHAT your child eat.  What matters is HOW OFTEN she eats it. (Click for more on this.)

  • See if you can get a food calendar from school.  That way you’ll know when to expect the sweet treats.
  • Put off when YOU give your child juice, crackers, cookies or anything else she’s likely to get during the day until AFTER school.  That way you’ll know what she’s eaten and your child won’t end up eating muffins AND cupcakes, breakfast bars AND cookies, chocolate milk AND chocolate candies.

2) Engage your child in the process.

Talk to your daughter about what you are doing, but skip the nutrition talk – your child is probably getting the basics in school and beyond that it’s just nutritional noise.  Instead explain three principles of healthy eating — proportion, variety and moderation – because these are the behaviors you want your child to learn.

  • Proportion: we eat these foods more often than those foods.
  • Variety: we eat different foods every day.
  • Moderation: we only eat when we’re hungry and we stop when we’re full.

3) Remember that teaching your child to eat right is a process that happens over time and give yourself a break.

Don’t get hung up on the nutritional composition of any one day. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t a big deal.  What matters are the lessons your child learns over time.

Use the everyday dynamic in school to help your kid to learn the skills she’ll need in life.  After all, isn’t that what school is for?

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~