Candy For Breakfast
The “No Cry” Way To Start Your Day
and the Kids Love It!
Halloween is upon us. A week from today my little spooks will be trudging around their respective neighborhoods and begging for treats. They will surely get at least a half of a felt pumpkin sack of goodies. Come Monday they will have tricked their unseasoned parents into giving them way more fun size bites than they probably should have.
Now I love myself some Halloween. I do have a cure for avoiding sugar intoxicated kids the week after Beggars Night. I require all parents to sign a contract which includes a small paragraph (in eight point font) where the parents agree to bring me ALL of their kids Halloween take. They are SUPPOSED to bring me their untouched sacks so I can keep for myself all the candy bars, Junior Mints, Sour Patch Extremes, and Milk Duds. I gladly return all the other candy to do with as they wish.
Now I haven’t had great compliance on that policy but I do manage to extort a few Snickers and Milky Ways. I’m working on better ways to enforce it but they always give me some silly excuse that their neighbors were selfish this year and only gave them pencils, erasers, stickers, and popcorn balls.
I’m not buying it.
We all expect to have candy be the mainstay of the children’s diet for a week or so after Halloween. It’s a cherished part of our early childhood. Those of us who have been in the business for decades could have never foreseen what is happening now. Candy for breakfast is being served the other 51 weeks of the year too.
Sadly we are seeing a dramatic increase in children who are given pure candy every morning before day care. That candy comes in the form of starch based treats (cookies with candy chips, donuts with candy frosting, granola bars that look nutritious but are nutritionally the same as candy bars, candy frosted pop tarts), drinks that look like juice but are really kool-aid, soda pop, and most recently actual candy like “fruit snacks, gummy candy, lollipops, and chocolate candy bars. As the child goes from age one to age five the amount of candy increases and the types of candy get closer and closer to some form of pure sugar.
Providers and Centers providing a complimentary breakfast are seeing this as often as those who don’t do a breakfast. It doesn’t seem to matter if a home cooked warm breakfast is awaiting the child at daycare. Providers who put the effort into making a whole grain and fresh fruit breakfast often end up tossing plates of food in the garbage day after day. We see one frustration post after another on daycare.com about how discouraging it is to put the time and money into serving excellent nutrition only to have the child who had a package of Skittles washed down with Sunny D refuse to even come sit at the breakfast table.
I think providers misunderstand WHY parents are so eager to give candy, candy food, and candy drinks to their children when they know a good breakfast awaits them after a car ride to care. They believe that the parent is giving it because they want them to have SOMETHING before they come to your house. They hear so often that the donuts and chocolate candy milk aren’t great for the kid but something is better than nothing.
When it comes to candy for breakfast something is NOT better than nothing. That something will turn the child’s natural hunger off and set the taste buds at a level where they will only be willing to receive equal or more amounts of sweets and fats.
I think that parents don’t really give the candy and treats because something is better than nothing. Everybody is telling themselves that because it makes you feel better but I don’t think it’s true. I think that most parents who give their kids this kind of start to their day have figured out that offering the highest form of treat food will bring them the lowest amount of fussing, stalling, and refusal in the morning. The candy IS the easiest way to get them dressed, outer gear on, out the door, to the car seat, and peacefully sit in the car on the way to care.
I don’t think it has a thing to do with food. I think it’s about compliance in the morning and getting the child from home to child care with little or no crying.
So when the child comes up your walkway with a half eaten six pack of powdered donuts and a sippy cup of strawberry milk remember that it’s not intended to BE breakfast. It’s intended to get the child in your door with as little protesting and crying as possible. It IS the best way to start the day if you don’t want to fight the fight first thing in the morning.
From the providers point of view, the reasoning for parents doing it doesn’t help manage the child’s meals for the rest of the day.
Kids who are given pure candy breakfast are refusing home made food and healthy drink all day long in anticipation of the candy treats and candy liquids they will have awaiting them in the car when they are picked up from care. This makes for a difficult time for the provider when she is trying to serve a table full of little ones a plate full of healthy veggies, meats, and grains.
I get asked many times a year what to do with these kids. How do you get a child who has lives off of candy and processed food to eat the home made food you serve at meals?
There isn’t an easy answer because the diet of children today is so bad that their taste buds are set to accept pretty much the opposite of what we know is needed for them to grow properly and develop normally. The good news is that with candy breakfast and processed treat foods for the other meals… we can’t get any worse. We HAVE met up with the worst possible way to feed kids. As far as I know there’s nothing available on this planet that is more threatening to our children’s health than what they are living off of now. We’ve reached the summit of the worse case scenario.
When you are on the ground working with children who refuse all healthy food the best thing you can do is to counsel the parents with the TRUTH. Tell them what you are offering every day and what their child is refusing. Do not buy into the response that the child is picky or a special eater. There’s no such thing as a picky eater. The picky eater is the one who gets to pick. Tell the parents what the child picked and what they didn’t pick.
If you make a good faith effort to include healthy options each meal and the child categorically denies everything but the starch based “snacks” and juice then remove those out of their snacks and just offer the meat and vegetable meals even for the morning and afternoon snack. Kids who eat treat based diets will try to fill up during snacks if that’s the only time they have access to white starch and juice. Take it off the menu completely. Don’t give it at breakfast and don’t give it for snacks.
The kid who eats candy breakfast with candy milk is going to reach their hunger peek after afternoon nap. That’s the time to try and introduce the healthy food from the meat, vegetable, and fruit group. Be willing to serve these foods at this time.
What I have done in the past that has worked wonders with kids like this is to offer them really “soft” versions of stews and soups at this time of day. I try to make them as comfort “old school” and “Sunday dinner” as possible. Things like thinly diced chicken and noodles, split pea soup with tiny diced carrots and potatoes, ham with a little cinnamon sweet potatoes are SOFT, easy to manage and eat quickly, and have enough fat in them to entice the child to at least try them.
I have made “dips” of veggies and protein for the kids to dunk their crackers in. Just a little dab on the side of the plate to start and add more as the child starts to show interest.
I have many of these “tricks in my bag” for helping poor eaters to accept good food that I will share with you in future blogs. These two methods will get you started . With the right timing you can get the kids who are holding out all day for the treats to at least TRY some healthy food. It’s not perfect for the provider because it takes a bit more time and effort to do this at snack time but the payoff is that you can eventually move the foods the child receives into his/her lunch menu as time goes on.
It takes a lot of exposure and a strong sense of calm to appeal to the humanness of the child. You have to dip down deep into the little human self who knows on a cellular level that we MUST have nutritious food inside of us to survive. You have to tweak the part of them we have carried from generation to generation that allowed us to evolve and live long. Every child has that inside of them. It may be buried underneath layers of candy wrappers and liquid Kool-Aid pouches…. But it is there.
My biggest piece of advise is to understand why parents are choosing to feed their kids the unhealthy treats and food but do not get into the business of being angry or accusatory about it. In the end, the only thing you CAN do with the parents is to tell them what the child is doing in your care. You can’t get them to change what they do while the child is in their care. You can understand it but you can’t change it. The parent has to do that themselves.
Lastly, don’t make food a battle at your house. As accepting as you must be with the parents is as accepting as you must be with the child. Know that if you put your love and effort into preparing and feeding them a variety of healthy options that you have done your job. Don’t punish them for refusing it or spend away too much energy getting them to change it. Keep mealtime CALM and invite them into it with some simple foods given in small amounts at times when you have the highest likelihood of getting them to take a small bit of it. You will be surprised how many kids you can gradually win over to healthy food if you come to them with some compassion and patience.
Don’t let the candy and treat kids defeat you. Stay at it and keep coming to the blog for more “feeding kids” advice. I’ve been there and done that for a lot of years and have ended up with all excellent eaters every day. Some of THEM have a little sompin sompin before day care but they still eat really well. It takes years of experience to get good at feeding today’s kid. I’ll help you along the way.