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Stargrower
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I have heard a few of my staff saying to children that they won't be able to have any dessert if they don't eat more of their first course. I am not comfortable with this at all so thought I would review our Food and Drink policy at our staff meeting tonight, only to find no mention of it! I know we have discussed this as a team ages ago, but there have been lots of changes of staff since then, so I need to bring it up again (and add it to our policy!).

 

I'm beginning to doubt myself now! Do you agree that this isn't an appropriate way of helping children to eat? I don't like the fact that we're giving them the message that a main course is something to be endured so that they can be rewarded with sweet food. Also, as far as I know, it's an empty threat!

 

What are your thoughts?

 

Thank you.

Edited by Stargrower
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Hi Stargrower

 

I'm with you on this one and don't agree that children should be refused a pudding - I honestly do not think that as practitioners we should be withholding pudding especially at such a young age!

 

We do try simple techniques of separating a section of food and encouraging the child to eat that bit; if they still don't eat it then we simply tell the parent pointing out whether they ate the pudding or not

 

Some children are with us from 7.45 until 6 and its an awful long time to be hungry!

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I couldn't agree with you more. This has always been a real issue for me for the reasons you quote - lunch/dinner is not something to be endured and a dessert is not a reward for eating the first course. I would be extremely cross if I ever heard any of our staff saying this to a child. You are also right that it is an empty threat - and children know that it is (don't get me started on that - our parents often do not understand why their children won't do as they are asked and we regularly see them either bribing their child to do something or making a threat that they have no intention of sticking to).

 

We offer everything on the table to each child - and we encourage them to try things but we never try to persuade them if they don't want it, we simply ask if they have finished when its time, take the plate away and then offer dessert to all. Also, we don't allow parents to bring food in and we never offer them something else if they don't like what we're having - there is always something on the table that they will eat - even if it's only bread. Some parents have worried that their children won't get enough to eat or have asked if we will make them sandwiches/toast instead but we don't and we won't - and guess what - every child eats almost everything that's given almost all of the time. The children understand the rules better than the parents I think and soon fall in.

Edited by GFCCCC
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Yes

Exactly the same as above and again, most importantly, we do not offer an alternative in case the child doesn't like it ( such as toast) as there is always something they will eat within the meal.

For example, we always keep plain cooked pasta back in case a child really won't eat the pasta bake/sauce/bolognaise etc.

We find children usually soon try what everyone else is eating and feel we are not helping if they are only given what they already like as we are offering a variety of food for them to try.

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Our children bring in packed lunches. I'm afraid the food provided is not always the most nutritious or healthy. To be honest, we do encourage younger children to start with sandwiches etc before the 'sweet' items. Older children are encouraged to make their own choices. It is a minefield. We provide parents with advice about healthy choices and portion sizes but it doesn't always end happily and on two occasions we 'made' Facebook! !! Yay we love Facebook. We do provide toast for children who are still hungry but believe me, most have enough food for two children!

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We have packed lunches and as above the food can be something to be desired. We give the young children their sandwiches etc first and then fruit etc followed by sweet things. As they get older they are in control of their lunch bags and are educated to choose the sandwiches first and so on. We do encourage as much as we can for them to eat sandwitches first, if a child was a fussy eater we speak with parents and ask them what they would like us to do some say no sweet stuff others just put in a variety and say whatever but we where needs be use the parent to advise us.

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The issue with me isn't about eating sandwiches etc first. We would encourage this. It is the 'threat' of not having sweet food if they don't eat the main course/sandwiches. I just think there are better ways of encouraging children to eat.

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We have a couple who eat the pudding first, we encourage eating the main meal first but it doesnt bother us and we certainly dont say no pudding at all then.

 

We just tell the parents how much they've eaten. One has decided based on what feedback they get to provide a packed lunch instead and thats fine.

 

I'd rather a child eat something than nothing. :1b

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Me?? Old fashioned. I think that allowing the treats .....and allowing a child to choose treats/sweet things/pudding over the main course is simply encouraging some very bad habits. I'm afraid that for us, it is always savoury things first and sweet things are ( and should be, imho) a treat afterwards. I don't expect anyone to agree, but we have had no negative responses from parents to date and the children quickly understand that's how it is here.

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So you just serve a main course?

 

We have our lunches brought in from the local primary school and sometimes have 'their' pudding, sometimes provide our own. We have yogurt, fruit salad, rice pudding, fruit juice and a cookie, flapjack, jelly etc. We don't have the 'big' puddings on the school menu such as fruit crumble and custard as they are too much for our little ones. I'm pretty sure most school menus include pudding. We encourage children to eat their main course, then offer pudding.

 

I don't have a particularly sweet tooth, but I have to say, I always finish my lunch with fruit or yogurt, but don't consider them a treat.

 

Food eh? Always causes debate and opinion! :1b

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I'm with you Narnia and I'm a child who was subjected to a long time spent in the corridor at primary until I had eaten my dinner !

 

I believe we are educating children and their parents, we write notes if inappropriate food or amounts put in lunch box and inform parents, we encourage any savoury so do not limit to sandwiches, we have actively encouraged one child whose mum said ' he will eat weetabix ' fine put it in for lunch and now he has no issues with following with fruit and then treat .

 

And we did bring in the ban of no jam or choc spread sandwiches and it's caused no problems.

 

Our children know our expectations that are met with encouragement not empty threats , we say it , we do it .

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What would be healthier for children to eat? If children start to realise they don't need to "endure" the main course, they will start to simply skip it just to get the sweet stuff. The sweet stuff, usually being the unhealthy stuff of course.

 

So do we put healthy eating over a child's preference or the other way around? "as long as they are eating something" when just having the desert, in my opinion, should not happen. As mentioned it could lead to bad habits.

 

We only give children water in our setting, although children would much prefer juice. They don't have a choice thus it is not an issue.

 

ohh and just to add.. we don't give deserts, so children eating isn't a problem either :P

Edited by BroadOaks
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When I design our menus I use nutritional guidelines and therefore our 'puddings' or 'desserts' make up part of their nutritional requirements for that - for example a milk dessert to ensure they've had their 4 portions of dairy, or fruit 'trifle' (more fruit than anything else!!) Sometimes it would be hard to meet a child's nutritional needs, especially for 5 portions of fruit/veg, if they refused to eat the veg with their main course. By then refusing to allow them their pudding as well I would be making matters worse. We, as suggested above, cajole, encourage etc and give a manageable 'target' to the child (eg: 'You're 3 aren't you? - Can you have three big spoonfuls before we clear the table?') rather than an 'all or nothing' approach.


I find it more difficult when a parent tries to enforce their 'no pudding' rule...Many meetings then!!


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Children will, more often than not, choose a sweet option because it tastes better. Having milk to drink or when having cereal is in addition to lunchtime or teatime meals. We put fruit out on a table for children to eat at any time (usually snack times), and it is not only available after they have eaten lunch or tea.

 

Children eat extremely well and like i mentioned we do not offer any kind of desert. They enjoy their meals more often than not and we have found many children eat many potions. Yes this is not true for all children at all times, but it is working great at this time for us.

 

It is obvious to state that children who realise they are going to get something sweeter if they simply skip the not so sweeter, will opt for the sweeter option. Take away this option at meal times and remove the problem.

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I believe that our role is to encourage and enable children to make healthy choices and develop good habits and a healthy perception of food as they grow older.

There is actually no good reason why certain foods (i.e. savoury) should be eaten first. That's just our cultural norm.

By withholding a sweet food and labelling it as a treat we are making it more attractive and actually creating an attitude to food that we would rather avoid.

 

If we take away the sweet option altogether, we remove the opportunity to talk about different food types, model healthy decision making and help the children learn to make appropriate choices.

 

It's a difficult balance to strike but my ethos is that a healthy balance of food is offered and it is up to the child to decide how much of each thing on offer they wish to eat. If they don't take enough savoury and hang out for the relatively small amount of dessert they will be hungry again soon afterwards. That is an opportunity to reflect on their mealtime choices and think about what they might need to change. At the same time a piece of fruit or toast can be made available. This helps them to learn to listen to their own appetite, regulate their own food intake and, hopefully, grow up with good, healthy eating habits.

 

We all have different appetites at different times and on different days. We sometimes eat more fruit or veg, sometimes fancy more protein and sometimes want something sweet. Why would we decide for children how much of what they should be eating, when they are the ones experiencing their appetites?

As long as the balance of what is on offer is healthy and there is something palatable for each child I think, the less adult input into what the child actually eats, the better.

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I won't apologise for my stance on this....nor do you expect me to, I suspect? I have children here with a mouthful of rotten teeth...........sweet choices, because 'she likes those things'........I have a morbidly obese child sitting here right now......... oh he just LOVES kinder eggs............... their choices?? But shouldn't a caring adult make healthier choices for their children at this age?? Yes, discussion about what is good for us or not can come into it.............but are you really advocating throwing food away because the child says they don't fancy it.........but oh, I DO feel like a bit of toast now??

This week, I watched news articles about the siege in Modaya..where deperate parents are boiling up weeds....and any stray animal they can catch, to feed their dying children. I can't bear watching children stuffing themselves with rubbish and I won't. Here, those sweet treats and that is what I beieve they are, can wait until after the savoury things. My stance won't kill them......but a lifelong battle with that obesity I mentioned, might. I know that's extreme examples and it looks like we'll have to agree to disagree.

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Amen to that Nania - my thoughts exactly.

 

We do provide a small dessert (fresh fruit salad every other day and something else on the opposite days) and whilst I don't condone treating dessert like a reward or threatening to withhold it - We definitely wouldn't allow children to choose to have dessert first.

 

I also have a real issue with parents who allow their children to have an alternative because they believe that it's better for the child to 'eat something than nothing'! Not true - if you offer a sweet alternative or a bag of crisps etc. thinking they are going to go hungry - they will hold out for it every time. If there is well prepared, healthy food available at every meal time and they choose not to eat it - they will be hungry enough at the next meal - or the one after.

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I won't apologise for my stance on this....nor do you expect me to, I suspect? I have children here with a mouthful of rotten teeth...........sweet choices, because 'she likes those things'........I have a morbidly obese child sitting here right now......... oh he just LOVES kinder eggs............... their choices?? But shouldn't a caring adult make healthier choices for their children at this age?? Yes, discussion about what is good for us or not can come into it.............but are you really advocating throwing food away because the child says they don't fancy it.........but oh, I DO feel like a bit of toast now??

 

 

I wouldn't advocate offering more sweet food than would be a part of a healthy balanced diet, regardless of whether a child liked it better than something else.

 

We absolutely should make the choices for the children.The caring adult makes the choice to offer a good range of food across all the food groups including a suitable portion of something sweet, e.g. a main course comprising meat, potatoes, selection of veg, some apple and a small piece of cake. I would then leave it up to the child to choose what to select from the food on offer. There wouldn't be more cake/Kinder eggs because he really likes them or more sweets/crisps because eating something is better than nothing - it isn't.

 

It is my belief that, by interfering in a child's eating choices, we are more likely to create that morbidly obese teenager we all want to avoid. We need to teach children to listen to their bodies and regulate their own food intake from a healthy selection. Then when they are at high school, they are less likely to spend their lunch money on sweets. By telling them to eat more of something they don't have the appetite for, we are doing the opposite. They don't learn how to listen to their own appetite and savoury, healthy food is seen as something to be endured or avoided.

 

Children need to be allowed to learn that they get hungry before the next mealtime if they don't eat enough so they can make a different choice independently the next time. By insisting that they eat more at lunch, we deny them that opportunity. Yes we might have to throw away some of the lunch we prepared and we might have to provide some pieces of carrot to a hungry child mid-afternoon but that's a small price to pay for an opportunity to learn and a future healthy relationship with food.

 

I wouldn't dream of expecting anyone to apologise for their stance. We all take the approach we believe is best for the children in our care :1b I think we all welcome the opportunity to reflect on our practice in the light of new ideas and information too.

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

It is a very emotive subject! We have a child who's mother waits every home time with a bag of sweets for her daughter and the same child often arrives in the morning with a mouth full of chocolate biscuit.

 

Educating parents as well as the children can be tough to achieve. We have an ongoing all year theme of 'My Healthy Body' and discussions, related activities and games are introduced during circle time regularly. We send home letters outlining what we are teaching the children and we work with the local Children's Centre to raise awareness about childhood obesity and dental decay.

 

Before our children start, we give parents a letter suggesting the sorts of food to send in a packed lunch. Sweets are not allowed and we use the fact that we have Healthy Status Accreditation as a setting to explain this rule. Seeing a lunch box filled with pork pie, crisps and a giant cookie (as happened last week) makes your heart sink but as practitioners we have to try and keep educating in the hope that better understanding will lead to healthier children. We encourage children to eat sandwiches before any sweet items but I have to say, faced with that particular combination it was tricky which to pick as being most nutritious!

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Well i will say it again, we don't offer a "sweet" and we don't have problems with children eating our healthy meals. To argue children are missing out on conversations at meal times is not really a good argument. Yes we should use meal times to educate children and it should be a fun time to learn. I don't agree we are modelling good decisions if we give them a sugary sweet for only eating a folk full of food.

 

If parents want to give their child sweet foods, that is their choice. My point wasn't as much to do with the health issues but rather a choice issue for the children.

 

Given the choice.. children will choose nicer tasting food. The only reason they would choose nicer tasting food is because they now expect it. if you take this choice away, the healthy food starts to become the nicer tasting food.

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Our children come with packed lunches and it really can be quite shocking what some of them bring in. We only put the sandwiches and savoury items on the plate first and the children are expected to eat these or a good portion of these before they move onto anything else. I would not dream of letting a child start a meal with sweet stuff first. I have thought about sending out guidance to parents about what woukd make an appropriate lunch, but am worried about seeming condescending and a bit big brotherish. Not sure how I would have taken someone telling me what to feed my own kids when they were at school, think I may have told them to mind their own business.

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Our children come with packed lunches and it really can be quite shocking what some of them bring in. We only put the sandwiches and savoury items on the plate first and the children are expected to eat these or a good portion of these before they move onto anything else. I would not dream of letting a child start a meal with sweet stuff first. I have thought about sending out guidance to parents about what woukd make an appropriate lunch, but am worried about seeming condescending and a bit big brotherish. Not sure how I would have taken someone telling me what to feed my own kids when they were at school, think I may have told them to mind their own business.

But you probably gave yours food that you considered healthy. I definitely wouldn't feel bad about providing guidance to parents about whats acceptable in lunch boxes, and totally agree with you - wouldn't let the children eat the sweet stuff first.

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  • 1 month later...

Lots of food for thought! We are considering writing a Lunch Time policy as this time is part of the funded hours, therefore incorporates the EYFS. Children bring in lunch boxes from home and we have similar problems so feel we need some guidelines both for consistent practice in the setting, and for parents/carers. Does anyone already have such a policy in place and would be happy to share?

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I have been appalled by some of the items within the lunch boxes, some stale and mouldy sandwiches, some with only a cracker, some with loads of chocolate. We actually now purchase a few items ourselves to substitute for some. I feel so sorry for the children who gaze longingly at others with wonderful lunches.

I give new parents pictures of what an ideal lunch might look like, just I say to give them ideas of what to pack. We take pictures of other children's nice healthy lunches. This often makes no difference to the quality or quantity though, but at least we have tried. Some parents I think are just paying for an extra hour and dont really want to provide lunch.

 

We have only twice had a child who actually barely eats anything as they just want there sweet stuff first, one child I actually alowed to eat their cake before their sandwich, they did then finshed eating everything else in their lunch box, which previously they barely touched. I had a sister who was the same, hense I thought I would try this. I have another child this year who I have taken a similar approach and they now eat all their lunch. So I suppose you just may have to judge where this might infact be beneficial to the child. We dont have a lunch time policy.. but our parents pay extra for the hour session, so it is not part of their grant.

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