'bad' food relationships

Should Kids Have To Eat Their Meals In A Specific Order?

A mom clapped back at a preschool for making her kid save her "bad foods" for last.

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Getting little kids to eat anything can be an incredibly hard endeavor. Getting them to eat a healthy array of foods is even more difficult. Finally, helping kids establish a healthy relationship with food at the same time can feel all but impossible.

And it’s even harder when the other caregivers in your children’s lives are working against you. This is certainly what mom and business owner Caroline was up against when her three-year-old daughter Evelyn came home from school with a story about how her teacher told her that she had to eat all of her “good” foods before she ate her “bad” foods. She was told couldn’t have her cookie before eating her sandwich and cucumbers.

Carolina posted what she did in response on TikTok.

“In this moment, I felt a little frustrated by the antiquated instruction from the teacher,” she explained, “but I responded [to my daughter] saying, ‘Well that’s silly. There are no good foods or bad foods. Food is just food!’”

After reinforcing the idea of food neutrality with her kid, she also made sure that the same conversation wouldn’t happen at school again. She wrote a note to the teacher and stuck it on her kid’s lunch.

“Hi! Evelyn has our permission to eat lunch in any order she chooses,” she wrote. “None of her foods are ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ they are just food!”

In the caption to the video, she explains that she didn’t always feel this way about food, but she’s learned.

“This was not my internal dialogue growing up, but because of the information that I have from so many great accounts created by moms and experts, in the field of childhood and nutrition, I am armed with better responses, knowledge and practices for my kids,” she wrote on TikTok. “Three years old. At three years old someone has told her that foods are good or bad. I am so proud that she had sensed something was off — to know that was not right enough to tell me about it.”

She also expanded on how she teaches her kids to think about food at home.

“If you only eat carrots or broccoli your body won’t have protein it needs to grow strong muscles,” she wrote. “If you only eat chicken, your body won’t have enough energy to do things like run and play all day long. We need little bits of everything to make sure that we are able to learn and play and grow all day long.”

Down in the comments, people applauded her approach to teaching her kid about food in a healthy way and for making sure that her preschool teachers knew where she stood, too. A number of teachers weighed in to back her up.

“As a teacher, if their belly is full, that’s all that matters,” one person shared. “And trust me, in prek we’re so busy they’re gonna eat it all!”

“As a daycare teacher I will always try to encourage kids to eat at least some of their ‘foods that give them energy to play’ but I can’t imagine telling a kid that foods are good or bad,” another teacher added.

Is it okay for kids to eat dessert first?

So, with all of that said, is it okay for kids to eat their sweet treat before their meal?

An interesting 2019 study recently found that people who eat dessert first often eat a healthier meal overall. And a 2014 study found that eating something carb-heavy like dessert first can help you feel full faster and not over-indulge. However, for adults with a family history of diabetes or a diabetes diagnosis, eating a sugary dessert that doesn’t have much fat or protein in it before eating dinner can spike your blood sugar.

Of course the above concerns are more about adults. A more primary concern for kids is that they learn not to put moral values onto their foods, an issue that can lead to eating disorders down the line.

Want even more evidence that it’s okay for your kids to eat dessert first? Dr. Natasha Burgert, board-certified pediatrician at Pediatric Associates in Overland Park, Kansas, spoke to Scary Mommy about the importance of feeding your toddlers a healthy array of foods. And one thing that she said you definitely shouldn’t worry about is when these foods are eaten or in what order.

“When I talk to my patients, I speak about nutrition in a 7-10 day window, rather than a 24-hour cycle,” she tells Scary Mommy. “You can’t micromanage a toddler, so we want to think in larger time gaps of sprinkling healthy, nutrient-rich foods in.”

There you have it. Timmy can have his Oreos before his sandwich and everything should be more than fine.

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