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Monday, 17 December 2012

The Dutch daycare diet dilemma

In one of the Facebook groups I belong to, one of the moms voiced her concerns about the food served in Dutch daycares. She was worried that the amounts were not enough. Other concerns included the fact that the children don’t get enough fruit and vegetables; instead they are served bread with processed cheese or ham. Also, the children are too tired to eat a hot meal for dinner at home and go without the whole day.

Now, I see that the Dutch like eating bread for lunch. Sometimes, I do, too. But I really understand why people are concerned about the quality of Dutch food. In fact, I was so frustrated with not being able to find proper bread here that I started making my own.

Klara has been going to daycare since she was 6 months old. She used to eat everything. Her favourite meal was palak chicken with rice, and she loved it. She ate curries and other spicy food. When my friends complained of their children not eating vegetables, I proudly explained that my daughter ate everything. And suddenly, this changed. Klara decided that she would mostly eat pasta, rice and potatoes. And while she would eat meat and veggies on other days, I can’t help but think that this might be somehow influenced by her daycare.

A while ago I read Pamela Druckerman’s “Bringing Up Bebe” where she describes the role food plays in French culture. Even in daycares, meals are carefully planned so that the children never eat the same food twice. Teaching about food starts early- at home and daycare.

Now, I don’t see anything wrong with eating sandwiches for lunch, if all the nutritional requirements are met. I don’t see anything bad in sometimes skipping veggies, because we should look at the weekly intake and not at what the children eat every day. I also know that children can be educated but still won’t eat everything. But I am still worried.

Luckily, we are changing the children’s daycare schedule, so that they will skip lunch there. Then, I will have to figure out how to serve well balanced meals for lunch without cutting on my Polish quality time with them. Also, Klara will soon go to school where she will have hot meals during the day. But not everybody has the same possibility.

What to do in this regard? The mom who started the discussion is a part of the parent committee and has raised this as a point to discuss. To get involved in our children’s daycare is a good idea because we might get at least some influence on what happens to our children. Then, while it is important to keep cultural differences in mind, and to be respectful towards other customs, sometimes the concerns about certain aspects are valid as well, and I think this is the case in respect to food. Also, how about giving your child a packed lunch and bring some more veggies to share with other children at daycare? It also seems to me that in some daycares food is better than elsewhere: for example, my children get veggies (cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots etc.) in the afternoon, while this is not the case in many daycares.

Of course, we can’t blame everything on the “daycare diet”. Even us parents have limited control over what our children will end up eating in the end. But why not make some efforts to ensure that our children eat well-balanced, delicious, varied foods?

Do you have any ideas, suggestions or would like to share your experiences?

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  1. Klara's eating only certain foods might just be a phase she's going through. Not necessarily influenced by what she eats at daycare at all.

    1. Yes, it might be a phase, or one of the phases where she decides that she will eat only meat, and then only carbs, etc. One day she decided that she will only eat tomatoes for lunch (I didn't argue). She also has a strong preference for some foods over others (she eats gorgonzola and olives and the weirdest stuff, but doesn't eat pasta with sauce, etc) In the end, most children end up eating some things and not other things. I also believe that they have inborn likes and dislikes when it comes to food- also connected to sensory preferences (for example they might prefer some food cut and not whole, cooked, not raw, or the other way round.) It changes every day. What she loved yesterday she will hate tomorrow. Julia's preferences are even stronger, but it also is getting better. I am in no way in favor of making children eat everything (I still don't eat many of the foods I was encouraged to try at home). And, as I say, I am not so worried about children eating bread at daycare, but the quality of said bread and things served with them is a little bit worrying.


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