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What is a "Healthy" School Snack?

03 February 2012

Over the past two days, I have been fully engaged by a conversation on the website Kitchen Stewardship.

The conversation begins with an account of the blogger's experiences when she was asked to contribute a "healthy snack," for a school activity intended to teach kids about healthy snacks.

This struck a nerve with me as I remembered two similar instances I encountered in my children's preschool classes.

Here were my comments on the post: "If you Take a Chickpea to First Grade, the Teacher will Probably Still Serve Pretzels..."

"I laughed when I saw your post title because I immediately flashed to the first preschool snack I ever sent in- I carefully doled out carrots and hummus into little serving sized cups. All but one cup of hummus was returned to me unopened and the teacher commented, “I don’t even like hummus myself, I think you need to acquire the taste when you’re young.”
After reading your post, I was reminded of a second incident…. I remembered on the drive to school that it was my day to bring snack. Since I had three kids in the car (including a newborn) I needed a quick solution that did not require getting three kids out of the car and into a store. Alas, I settled on mandarin oranges from Wendy’s. Even though they had added sugar, I am a believer that it is the message we are sending that is most important as they are learning, and at least the “message,” was that they were getting fruit as a snack.
I was staying at school that day to help with an activity and was able to observe snack being served. The teacher gave each child a cup of oranges. Immediately one girl pushed her cup away and said, “I don’t like oranges.” Without missing a beat, the teacher pulled out a bag of cookies (animal “crackers,”) and gave the girl a handful. This then resulted in a ripple effect of EVERY SINGLE CHILD (except mine) pushing their own cup of oranges out of the way, and requesting animal crackers (cookies) instead. No one else even so much as tasted the oranges. My daughter, on the other hand, devoured them since they were a rare treat for her!!"
I've really been engaged in this conversation and would love to hear your thoughts on the matter...


  1. That is a disgrace. I don't think that Teacher should have given anyone cookies instead of oranges. I feel like if you don't like the snack then you go without snack (or at least get an equally healthy option instead).
    Why don't they send a list of acceptable options for parents to bring in for snack if it's such a problem?

    1. Every preschool my children have attended has had a list of "healthy snacks," and in many cases they are ignored and the teachers do not enforce it. At one school, parents regularly sent full size cupcakes- when I brought it up to the teacher, she said that she didn't want the cupcakes as snack, but, had a "what could she do about it," attitude. My suggestion was that if she sent the snack back home with the parent, it wouldn't happen again...her suggestion was for me to send an alternative snack with my daughter...

  2. At our preschool the kiddos get a snack from school (generally provided by the parents at the beginning of the year IE: a big costco sized box of crackers, etc). OR the "Super Star" of the day brings a snack. The teachers ask for no cakes or cupcakes and that it is "healthy". They have called out parents who have brought cakes or cupcakes and I'd say at this point it hasn't happened in the two years we've been there. Most of the time I think they are generally "healthy" and often my kiddo doesn't eat it and if he doesn't want it then no snack for him. Which I think is the way it should be. They also get water on a "regular" snack day and usually juice on a super star day.

  3. Wow, that makes me so sad that your daughter's teacher was so lazy in enforcing healthy eating habits. I can't believe she would bring out a pack of cookies after they were offered oranges! I am a pre-kindergarten teacher (and mom to three boys under age 7) and each day I provide a healthy snack for my class(fresh fruit, veggies, occasionally cheese & crackers or yogurt; never pre-packaged snacks.) I am a firm believer that children often need to be exposed to a food many times before liking it, and that adults determine what a child eats, not the child. My students know that my expectation is that they take at least two bites of a food before saying that they're "not a fan of it" and if they choose not to eat the snack anymore there are no other options. I had many picky eaters in September but now my students are very willing to try new foods and they are enjoying healthy snacks! I feel bad that you had such terrible experiences with your children's preschool teachers, but just know that some of us are just as passionate as you.


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