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A Kid Food Rule I’ve Learned to Break

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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