What You Should Know About Your Free Choice

A couple of people sent me/tagged me the story of the Cookies-for-Lunch-Mom. If you don't know what that is, basically a mother sent packaged cookies (brand name purposely omitted. She also sent string cheese and a sandwich) for her daughter's preschool lunch. A teacher sent the cookies home, giving the child a healthier alternative and told the mom she shouldn't send those. Instead of considering what's best for her child, the mother got very defensive.

Naturally I agree with the teacher, as she is 100% right. Unfortunately, these days you can say almost anything you want to as long as you're not trying to tell Americans to put down their guns, let alone their packaged pre-made convenience foods. 

Whatever your opinion on the matter, the rule remains: 
Kids should bring a "healthy snack." 

Even Dr. Oz couldn't spin an argument that packaged cookies are a healthy snack.  

Yes, what you feed your kids is your choice, however:

Here's the THING about your free choice.
When you send a lunch or a snack for your child to eat at SCHOOL, in front of all of the other children, it is so important to follow the school's rules. They are made for good reasons. There are children who have allergies, or medical conditions and you aren't being fair to those kids.

Some kids are, for one example, deathly allergic to peanuts. As an American you're free to feed your child peanuts in your home. If you send peanuts to school, you could cause a serious allergic reaction. 

This isn't your choice anymore, now you're choosing for other children. 

This is similar to the debate on vaccinations. You may think you should be able to choose for your child, and in a perfect world maybe you should. Unless, that is, you ever plan on your child interacting with, talking to, or being around, other children. 

And if you don't, you can stop reading because I don't have any idea what you're about in this world. People need each other. Society is a necessary tool for human survival. This predates The Wildlings asking for help from The Watchers on the Wall in Game of Thrones.

Fictional medieval characters aside, keeping your child from society would be like Texas getting it's ultimate wish and seceding from the United States. Then the next day when Cuba or any other country declares war on a single state, I'll give you ONE guess who would suddenly decide they do need the help of federal government after all?
from kernelmag.dailydot.com
To get all the benefits of a society, you have to consider the laws and rules. They are in place for the well-being and safety of everyone. 

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. That's actually from Star Trek, as if we needed one more nerdy pop culture reference, but it's absolutely true.

When you don't vaccinate your child, you're forcing your choice on others. That's not okay. 

You don't get to choose for others.

When you send your child to school with candy, crackers, cookies and anything else in a package full of chemicals and artificial colors and ingredients, now it's not just your choice for your child. You are now undermining every parent who chooses a healthy path for their child. 

Besides establishing healthy eating habits, there are several legitimate, medical reasons why parents might choose certain foods for their children. Some children are more sensitive to artificial colors, preservatives, and yes, also sweets. 

Some kids have juvenile diabetes, or allergies, or even ADD. They may need to avoid certain foods due to medical testing, and other doctor's orders. 

Whatever the reasons, your choice affects other kids. 

While it's almost too late at the teen stage, the younger years are the developmental years to from good eating habits. It's beyond unfair to ask a child to watch another child eating something like cookies if they're not allowed to have them. That would be like me eating cake in front of your child and then telling your child, "Sorry, you can't have any." 

That's about the most cruel thing you could do to a kid. That is Harry Potter living under the stairs level torture. A kid would probably rather live under the stairs than watch that.

The point is, the "healthy snack" rule is there for many reasons. If you feel the rules are unfair, take it up with the director(s) of the school, away from children. The time to argue is NOT during the school day, it's not by sending whatever you big fat want. Set a good example for your children, by following the rules. 

Kids will have plenty of time in their teen years and as an adult to rebel and be a non-conformist. The time for that is not preschool. First we must learn to conform before we can understand what it truly means to be a non-conformist. 

Besides the fact that we should strive to set up healthy eating habits in our kids, we need to remember that there are other children in their classroom from different backgrounds. 

Rules are made for all of us, by people who have a much different perspective than we have.

As far as the school lunch debate, there really isn't anything to argue about. 

No one is taking candy from your baby, you can feed your kids canned bread and cookies while teaching them how to load their guns at home. I'm pretty sure that's what our founding fathers intended when they wrote the Constitution.
From Spongebob Squarepants. He gets it.
At home, it is certainly your choice. I also really want you to know, my sarcasm aside, that processed foods affect different people in different ways. You may not notice any change in your children, but the fact remains that as soon as these Western foods are introduced into a civilization's diet, people start to get sick. 

Down the road, if you and/or your family start to develop health problems, just know that our government and modern science probably isn't going to be able to jump in wearing a cape and immediately save the day. In pill form.  

Because there already is a cure, it's called Prevention.

You can opt out, but please don't force other children away from this option before they get a chance to get started.

If you feel the urge to debate this, please use that energy to Google what free radicals are and what antioxidants are and what processed food does to your body.

I'll link a few articles below. 
On food additives and cancer

Food dye and ADHD:

Processed foods:

People tagged me, I imagine, because I have been very verbal about my struggle to keep my kids on a path of eating healthy, whole foods. My son was/is a typical ADHD child, textbook case. Whatever you believe in, know that once I changed his diet and removed processed foods, not just sugar but artificial colors, ingredients and BLEACHED FLOURS, he got a lot better. With NO medication.

I saw this happen. I'm not quoting an article, or a chiropractor or anyone with a hidden agenda. I'm not selling anything. I just want my family to be healthy and happy. Period.

That doesn't mean they can never have treats, quite the opposite. If you follow my blog, you know that recently my husband had to stage a full-on cake baking INTERVENTION. I needed to be stopped, or at least paced better in terms of sugar and butter intake, before I turned into a Willy Wonka character. 

Food is my weakness. You know this if you've ever seen any picture of any part of me. You know this if you've seen my hands and the fat that has grown around my wedding band, making it impossible to remove unless it, or my finger, were surgically removed.

That said, I still struggle to put and keep my children on a healthy path. That means something else to every person. For me? That means limiting processed foods, and keeping sugary foods as a treat instead of a normal part of meals. They can have treats, AFTER eating nutritious foods that contain some sort of vitamin and/or mineral. And not after every meal because I don't feel setting them up to expect dessert after every meal is realistic, let alone healthy. I wish someone did this for me. 

I have always struggled with my weight, and that's okay. A few extra pounds are a lot more healthy than filling my body with chemicals and diet products. That's a choice I make, and I'm okay with it. 

This is why I don't get angry or defensive if someone disagrees with me. If people don't accept me the way I am, that's their problem. Not mine.


  1. I agree with you about peanuts and vaccinations, but I must confess I started off this post disagreeing with you about such close and heavy-handed policing of what kids bring from home as their own school snack. However, you have persuaded me of the merits of your viewpoint. Consider me a convert!

    1. Thank you for saying that Debra. I know you well enough that you wouldn't just say that and it means the world. It's hard for me to share my opinion without sounding horrible. I had to change a lot of parts to this before I could post it.
      It's absolutely true. I saw the changes in my son and my family did as well. All kids are different, and it's so important to me to get kids off on a somewhat healthy path. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  2. I agree with a lot of what you have said. Vaccinations are an absolute must - PERIOD. Food-wise, I'm maybe a bit more liberal. My kids' elementary school banned peanuts/nuts because of children with severe allergies but, otherwise, had no food rules. I have always made sure my kids had a good balance of food in their lunch bags; fruit, veggies, meat and, yes, cookies - both homemade and store-bought - as long as they were peanut free. I believe that kids can recognize from an early age that every family has their own eating habits - good, bad and ugly - and can understand when someone else's bag has different food from theirs. I think that as long as we offer our kids a good variety of food, we're doing okay and nobody has the right to tell us differently. Again, protecting other kids with severe allergies is a must. I would never want to see a compromise on that.

    All of that being said, I commend you on your choices for your kids and respect your dedication to teaching them healthy habits.

    1. I agree with all of that, I just wish the delicious snacks were eaten at HOME. The schools asks us to pack a healthy snack, and I KNOW (for a fact) that her classmates bring candy and cookies. Every single day my 5 yr old comes home asking for a treat, because she sees other kids eat it. It's okay in OUR case, I just tell her "No" or after dinner or whatever. I have met a young girl that absolutely NEEDED to remain off of sweets and dairy and something else for 30 days before medical testing. If/when she ate something on the 'no no list' she had to start her 30 days all over again. The parents could avoid birthday parties, etc., but they couldn't keep her home from school for a month. It's not for that little girl, and other kids with other conditions to have to watch that every day. That's all I'm saying.

  3. I have mixed feelings on the school snack issue. I totally agree with banning things like peanuts for the sake of allergies, but then on the other hand the angry Irish woman in me initially responds to the cookie/candy issue with maybe the parents should try and teach their kids not get so butthurt because someone else has cookies and they don't (which the rational side of my brain accepts that you'd have a hard time teaching that to a young child). So I guess I don't really have a solid opinion either way. :/

    My niece's school has embraced the healthy food thing--all the school lunches are "healthy" now with gluten free options and everything whole grain, and no one is allowed to bring in anything remotely similar to junk food. Only the problem is, the food they serve the kids tastes awful and a huge chunk of the children (my niece included) come home starving because they refuse to eat it. I didn't believe her at first, but she brought home some of the whole grain pasta and vegetables they had for lunch one day and it was disgusting. It's a shame everyone can't wake up to the fact that all the chemicals and junk in our food are well and truly awful. If enough people cared, I think the schools could probably do better with budgets and planning to serve edible nutritious food.

    I'll shut up now, I feel like I'm rambling.

    1. I hear you on the crappy school lunches. It's great that the schools are trying to be healthy, sucky that the kids don't like the food. I actually packed my son's lunch every single day of his life, up to and including his SENIOR YEAR OF HIGH SCHOOL. Now, yes, he still bought french fries, etc., at the cafeteria at lunchtime. He was way too embarrassed to whip out the bag at lunchtime, but during the day he would eat his sandwich on whole grain bread, his fruit and/or healthier options I had packed for him. Sending your kids with healthy food is always an option. Not an easy one, mind you, but an option. I pack a healthy lunch every day for my husband as well. Otherwise he would eat at Taco Bell and McDeath every day.

  4. I'm with you on this! I too initially thought that it was not the school's business about what the snack should be! But, I guess preschool is not really the age at which children can bear the sight of watching their peer wolf down cookies in a philosophical way!! Actually, it takes a lot out me to display self-restraint when someone chows down cheesecake in front of me! :P

    1. That's the thing. Teenagers are going to buy snack foods from the vending machine, trade with their friends and find ways to get the food THEY chose, but young kids? If you pack their lunch, that is their only option. THIS is the time to get them started eating healthy foods.
      And I'm with you, I'm totally addicted to the wrong kinds of food. Watching someone else? Is almost torture.

  5. You know, the school that my cohort and I gave a talk to last year has cheap, unhealthy, disgusting looking food just being served to them BY THE SCHOOL. For example, the breakfast they get each day (never changes) is a breakfast pizza and candied raisins. Yes, an entire pizza for breakfast, with a side of raisins covered in a neon colored candy shell. I looked at the bag. It has just as much sugar as a soda. Or in this case popping a pack of Oreos. Isn't that funny? Sugar is sugar no matter if you put it in cookies or on top of a fruit. Parents who don't know any better probably think this is great, my kid starts each day eating raisins, but instead they fill themselves with junk. It's sad. This definitely isn't the way to teach kids to be healthy.

    So... I don't have much to say about your actual post, as I don't have kids (though I do agree with what you said). But I will say that I really love your end note.

    See, my wife has severe ADHD and the doctor (yes, a real medical doctor) advised that she try to go relatively gluten free and eliminate processed foods. What he meant by that is not to do the fad gluten-free diet because everyone's doing it now (needlessly), but because most of the gluten in foods currently comes from things like bleached flour. And he said studies have shown that overly processed food is bad for those with ADHD. So we removed processed foods and went easy on gluten, just like you mentioned doing for your son. And guess what? It works wonders. It really does. As someone who has to deal with her ass 24/7, I can absolutely tell the difference between her eating processed food with a ton of gluten and her eating all natural food with relatively low gluten. It's a night and day difference.

    So I say kudos to this post. I enjoyed the hell out of it and nodded so much I thought my neck might snap in half. Especially the end bit. I'm with you on that 100%.

    (Contrary to our blog title and public image, I'm a fitness freak, a clean eater, vegetable grower, and occasional junk food indulger, but for me it's more about the quality of food than counting calories, fats, carbs, etc. And life's too short not to enjoy some good food every once in a while; I just make it a treat and not an everyday thing)

    1. Yikes. While breakfast pizza sounds like amazing hangover food, I would not want my kids to eat that every day. There was an article floating around about school lunches across the globe, and of course 'Murican lunches were horrendous. Made even worse by comparison to REAL food offered by other countries.
      That whole bleached flour thing is real. When I first learned about nutrition with my son, I figured it would all be sugar-related but that's not the case at all. Sugar isn't great, but he would get really sketchy from a WHITE BAGEL. Kids cereals, with empty promises of nutrition all over the label, was also really bad. The artificial colors, processed flours and chemicals made a dangerous cocktail of crazy. Even adult cereal is barely food, kids cereal? Is crack cocaine for kids.
      I'm somewhere in the middle. I'll walk, do some lowkey exercise for my health, then eat a cake, then have a salad, then have a beer. But I am trying to start my little ones out right. And like you, have that balance.

  6. BOOM, baby!

    You said it all :)

  7. This is fantastic. I wasn't sure I would, but I agree on all points. Also that one section is NOT mean. Sarcastic and pointed, but mean? Nah.

    1. Thank you. Not mean ey? I shall try harder next time.

  8. Agree with EVERY. WORD. This post puts into words every thought I've had about all of this. I wholeheartedly believe that our kids are at school to learn and when health is part of the curriculum, junk food not only undermines other parents' efforts, it undermines the very education our kids are there for. When I read the story of that teacher I felt like I would have done the same thing if I were her, and I was shocked to see the overwhelming reaction on social media that she was in the wrong. Wake up and smell the coffee people!

    1. I feel really bad for the teachers. I know for a fact parents break our 'healthy snack' rule every single day. I know because my 5 yr old asks for treat food on the way HOME from school. Every time. I'm not anti-treat, I just wish the treats could be a home thing. It's pretty hard to sell an apple or a high-fiber whole wheat muffin when she just watched kids eating pudding and cookies.

  9. I agree with your point that parents should teach their kids how to lead a healthy lifestyle. And the vaccination debate should not be a debate at all in my eyes, because herd immunity is necessary for those people who cannot get the shot for health reasons, and should not be undermined by healthy people because of "choice". And if a school has actually a guideline on the school snacks, parents should definitely adhere to that guideline. Having said this, I do disagree with you on the issue of not allowing kids to eat things in public just because others may not be able to have it. Our daughter has a boy in her class who is seriously diabetic; still, the kids are allowed to bring treats to school for their birthdays. It is just a part of this boy's life that he cannot eat all the things other kids (even his own sister) are. It will always be part of his life, and later on, no-one will take his special nutritional needs into consideration. If we always standardize things down, we end up with situations like at my workplace, where a (former) diabetic co-worker of mine kept throwing fits (as in serious bullying) when another colleague of mine would dare to eat a chocolate bar in her presence. We have a Muslim colleague who has never complained if someone was eating a salami sandwich at work, or if we ate and drank while she was fasting for Ramadan. I never complain if people eat meat around me. It's tolerance; in life, we're always confronted with people who think of live differently than we do, and telling them this is wrong and that they should conform to a very strict standardized norm is not the answer, in my opinion. But I am still thankful for your sharing your opinion on the issue and starting this great debate!

    1. And as I said, they will understand all of that at some point, but it's pretty hard to explain that to a 5 yr old. It's also different for school, but this is preschool. They are 3-5 yrs old and they are there for only 3 hours. They have LUNCH at home, and just a healthy snack at school. No 3 yr old needs to have cookies while they're away for 3 hours. It's pretty ridiculous. I don't have a problem telling my child over and over, but I do feel bad for some kids. There is a little girl I knew who had to have medical testing done. She had to eliminate certain foods for THIRTY DAYS before testing and if she accidentally ate them, she had to start her 30 days all over again. Her parents could keep her home during parties, but they shouldn't have to pull her out of school for testing.
      I'm not about making it a law, it's just consideration. My blog is just asking people to CONSIDER other people's feelings and points of view. That's all this is.

  10. Hi Joy, I answered your "Ask Me Anything" question at my blog today.

  11. Food allergies are nothing to take lightly. My friends' daughter has almost died a couple times from anaphalaxis, once caused by a daycare provider accidentally giving her a cracker.
    Also, this mother knew the rules and chose to violate them. How does she have the nerve to get on her high horse?

    1. Yikes, that's terrible! My cousin is deathly allergic to peanuts. My aunt & uncle told us not to eat peanuts the whole day we went to visit her.
      I have no idea, but you know how Americans are. They're so busy demanding their freedom to do stupid things they don't stop to think about how stupid the things they do usually are.

  12. Very well written and passionate post. There is a fine line between good parenting and crazy over the top helicopte parenting. I agree with the whole vaccination thing and parents who don't get their kids vaccinated are asking for trouble. Also, our country is overloaded with overweight kids because of unhealthy eating choices which they learn from their parents. I can go on and on, and I'm not even a parent! I agree with so much here.