In the decade plus of being a parent, I’ve changed my mind about a lot when it comes to food. With the benefit of time, I can now see how another kid food “rule” did more harm than good in how I thought about snack food.

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I remember when my oldest was a toddler and she discovered cheese crackers. Our kitchen at the time was brown, so my memory of this is sort of dark and fuzzy, but she was 14 months and suddenly obsessed with bunny crackers. (The ones from Annies.) Up until that point, I made most of her food—I had the benefit of a flexible job, culinary knowledge, and only one kid—and she was a toddler who generally ate most foods I made her.

The sudden cheese cracker devotion caught me off guard—and I remember feeling fairly terrified of what it meant for my “good eater.”


At the time, my real life parenting group and online Facebook groups were baby-led weaning focused. I didn’t know many close friends who navigated this toddler phase before me since I was the first in my friend group to have a baby, so I was all ears whenever anyone talked about feeding kids. The message I heard over and over again was that if a child starts to taste “processed” foods from the store that are designed to be super appealing to them, it will become harder for them to like the homemade foods they had been used to (happily) eating.

And since this cheese cracker exposure was coming from our in-home child care provider, I took the only route I thought was open to me at the time: I took my daughter off the provided food and sent in her lunch and snacks. This, I thought, would keep her food the same as it was at home. No tiny purple bags of cheese crackers!

(I want to hug my younger self.)

Even though the care provider fed my child first in an effort to limit exposure to what the other kids were eating, my daughter was aware of the environment around her. She knew she was being excluded. Every other child was sitting around a communal table, sharing snacks and meals, and I had inadvertently singled my child out as different—and made all of their food off limits.

She wanted in, and she wanted to be part of her group. Which was a 100% normal response to her context.

This lasted maybe a week before I learned she was asking over and over again to eat lunch with the other kids. And the food that helped me reverse my decision turned out to be broccoli, not the crackers, because the kids also loved the roasted broccoli that was often on the lunch menu. It felt terrible to me at the time to restrict my child from eating broccoli with her little friends, so I decided she could once again eat the shared food…which, of course, included the crackers.

Which brings me to another food “rule” I have learned to break.

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  1. That’s exactly what it’s like having a kid with food allergies. They don’t understand why you keep saying no, you can’t have the crackers! The sheer effort I went through to make sure my toddler wasn’t excluded and his safe food looked as similar as possible.

    1. I am sure it is, and that is so much harder than anyone can realize if you haven’t been in that situation with your own child. Thanks for sharing that, and for the reminder about how this sort of thing impacts us in different ways.

  2. This happened to me too! Kiddo learned to love goldfish at daycare.

    My general philosophy is that eating with other people is a good thing and that if someone else is going to feed my child for me, I don’t complain unless it’s a safety issue.

    Actually, one problem at our first daycare was that there was one kid who was getting cupcakes and other sweets in his lunch and my son wouldn’t eat the things he normally liked seeing that. I ended up sending banana muffins with hidden veg and some chocolate chips.

    When we switched to a daycare where I had to provide my own snacks, I kept sending some goldfish or veggie straws packaged alongside some favorite fruit and veg.

    One thing you didn’t mention is sometimes you need the packaging to keep the snacks fresh for portability. I like to keep some bars and other snacks in the car, and also sometimes I would put a bar in kiddo’s school lunch bag in case he needed an extra snack. It would usually get picked after the veggies and snack food and I could use the same extra snack for a few days.