I saw a mother carrying a large pink bakery box into the school before I even got out of my car. Oh, I thought, she must be sharing them with the teachers so she doesn’t eat them herself. Then, I realized they were probably for the preschool children. This solidified the reality that there would be no dodging the influence of gluten and sugar being eaten in front of my Paleo Toddler outside of my home.
I was nervous about how the Paleo Toddler was going to react seeing the 11 other kids get large sugar cookies glistening with sprinkles. Wasn’t she going to want what they were having? I happened to be staying with her to get her oriented the first day, but would the teachers be able to successfully keep her away from the treats all the other days I am not there?
The moment of truth arrived at snack time. The Paleo Toddler was so tickled to have a big piece of banana on her plate and to be sitting at the table filled with her peers. She greedily grabbed her banana, took a huge bite of it, while locking eyes with me she joyfully exclaimed, “Nom,nom”! My heart swelled with a love for her. My kid is psyched about eating a banana and has no interest in what the other kids are having. One point for Team Paleo, Zero points for White Addictive Substances.
Why is it acceptable to give children with developing brains, who are being shaped for lifelong choices, a lone, large sugar cookie as a snack? For the record, every single bite of sugar cookie was eaten. We are talking about 100% clean plates. The majority of the 11 kids did not even eat half of their lunch that day. My greater issue is larger than the keeping my Paleo kid grainfree. It has to do with the societal message being sent to our children about food.
In defense of parents, most schools or children’s programs who receive government assistance are mandated to provide a carb in the form of a grain for a snack and include certain types of food, like bread, in lunches. This is sad because fruit is a perfectly legitimate snack to hold over a toddler until lunch. It would be even better if it was fruit paired with a fat source like a pumpkin or sunflower seed butter. Maybe those same kids in my toddler’s class would have eaten more of their lunch that day instead of being filled up by the cookie.
The argument I often hear about why kids should get to have sugar and white flour-containing foods is that they don’t have to worry about their weight and they should be able to enjoy their childhood. Despite the growing number of childhood onset Type 2 diabetes and rising national childhood obesity rate, I’m more worried about what their bodies look like on the inside. Are their brains getting the fat they need? Are their cells and intestinal lining healthy and thriving?
The irony of my experience on the Paleo Toddler’s first day, is it most definitely was not an isolated experience. As I was drafting this post at a local cafe, a preschool class came in at 10am to celebrate their last day of school. Each kid was given a sugar cookie and a hot chocolate with whipped cream. After they finished the cookies they were offered pizza. I was curious why they were served the cookie before the pizza, but in my Paleo view they are both sub par choices for this age group. Does it really matter if you serve junk before junk? Either way these kids are being nutritionally shortchanged. I know it isn’t realistic to expect my Paleo Toddler to survive childhood in this society without eventually eating a white flour and sugar or other non Paleo food. I also know (very deep down) that it won’t be the end of the world when she does have that experience, although it will be an exception and not the rule.