Primarily Paleo

A path to wellbeing

The Paleo Toddler: Dodging Sugar Cookies at Preschool


This is not a Paleo cookie . . .

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.


  1. Yikes, a sugar cookie and hot chocolate together? Those kids must have been nightmares later on.

    I’m surprised that sugar cookies are an acceptable snack at preschool. The one we are going to be sending Rosie to specifically requests healthy snacks ( although it does not define healthy) and when I was there visiting each kid got carrot and celery sticks with what I think was either cream cheese or ranch dip and some kind of nut butter. Oh, and bunny grahams of course, but at least they weren’t the only option.

    • HI Renee, The sugar cookies for the Paleo Toddler’s class was in celebration of another kid’s birthday. Normally, they are given animal crackers or yellow cheese crackers. I pack a special Paleo approved snack everyday specifically for the Paleo Toddler- and I hope she keeps eating those snacks from home as opposed to the snacks from a factory 🙂

  2. Thanks for this Stephanie. And I may take your advice and tell my kids’ school that they have a gluten allergy. They have been eating a ton of (mostly) Paleo food at home and not that much at school, but that could easily flip over. We need some government reform on school nutrition for sure!

    • HI Jen, Glad you were able to view the post. I hope you find a balance with how your kids are eating at their new schools. It is sad when parents are given limited choices to what their kids are fed. Good luck, Stephanie

  3. Hi Stephanie, Congratulations on raising your daughter to love the right foods! I haven’t been quite so paleo with my son yet, as I am new to it myself, but his preschool actually makes doing the right thing a little easier. Kids are not permitted to eat sweets, and that includes birthday “treats” brought by parents as well as treats they find in their lunch. (I forgot this rule the day after halloween, and found the mini candy bar I put in his lunch in a tiny plastic isolation hazard bag in my parent cubby. my bad parent moment!) For birthdays, parents are encouraged to spend time in the classroom and tell a special story about their child. Your sugar cookie story is scary, but I know it’s still the rule at most preschools. Maybe your daughter’s school would consider a similar sugar-limiting rule. Cutting the sugar is sure to cut some of the gluten consumed, as well. Even though my son’s school really helps me do the right thing, it’s still an uphill battle with what everyone else expects kids to consume and offers them. Thankfully, your daughter is demonstrating that even small kids are capable of making their own good choices, and what we model is so important.

    • Hi Amy, Thanks for sharing your experience. I love the no treat rule at your child’s school. Even if you ended up in the isolation cubby by accident, it seems like they are very aware of what the children are eating. I love the idea of parents spending time in the classroom as part of the birthday celebration and being able to share a special story- that is a wonderful honor to have for a birthday. Thanks for reading!

  4. This fall my daughter will start preschool and I am very nervous because each parent must take turn in bringing a snack for all the kids every week. The preschool has a list with “approved” snacks but most of them are CW “healthy” snacks(like whole grains animal crakers or the fat free sugar loaded yogurt). I was curious if you specifically talked to the teacher and explained that your child is paleo and should not be offered the snack the other kids are having (unless is something acceptable like fresh fruit). Or does your child has that self control to really push the non-paleo food plate away from her and eat her own snack instead. Also, what did you tell your child/how did you explain why other kids eat that stuff and (s)he can’t?

    • Hi Laura, You pose a great question. I will address this in a future blog post to go into greater detail. I told my daughter’s school that she does not eat grains or dairy and that I would be happy to provide a snack for her. This eliminates her being able to have the snack they offer, although they do give her fruit. You may have similar luck taking the same “bring your own snack for your child” approach with the school. Some schools are more open to the education about food sensitivities/ allergies and might be willing to make a a bigger switch to an approved snack list being only fruit or veggie snacks.

  5. Pingback: Primarily Paleo: Favorite Grain-Free Pancake Recipe | Primarily Paleo

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