My daughter went off to first grade this fall, and, for the first time ever, I do not have to pack her lunch. Hooray! However, this also means my six-year-old now makes her own lunch choices at school. Not so “hooray.”
I now worry about my sudden lack of control in this area. What if Sofie eats nothing but bread and ice cream every day? Maybe peer pressure will take hold and she’ll decide it’s not cool to eat veggies. Anything could happen.
The good news is that her school has a healthy menu of food selections. Every day there is a sandwich bar, a salad bar, soups and fresh fruit. Dessert is served twice a week, a parent-approved reduction from previous years. The other days, Sofie makes “rainbow yogurt” — vanilla yogurt mixed with fruits of her choice.
The milk is local (Rhody Fresh), and we have reached an agreement where Sofie can choose chocolate milk once a month. I have never allowed it before, but I don’t want chocolate milk to become the forbidden fruit, so much more tempting by being off limits. When she first tried it in September (such a big build-up!), she reported that it tasted “only okay.”
The daily hot meals sound mouth-wateringly delicious (see sample below), and, to my surprise, Sofie tells me she has tried several of them including baked cod, roasted potatoes and pork loin. Huh? If I told her that’s what we were having for dinner, the complaints would be flying left and right.
Perhaps the freedom to make her own choices has made my daughter adventurous. Perhaps we’ve coddled her at home by not offering enough variety. (How many times did I give her macaroni or hot dogs for lunch because it seemed the easy option?) Perhaps she’s positively influenced by the other girls at school. Perhaps I worry too much.
I knew there’d come a time when I’d “lose control” of her diet. (And, God, I hope she doesn’t ever start to diet.) I have to trust in the food values we’ve imparted—both consciously and not—in Sofie’s first six years. She knows about eating the rainbow, about balancing carbs with protein, about getting vitamins through food. She’s pretty good about trying new things. She likes to eat.
That’s important, I think. Food can be such a loaded subject, especially for girls. I want Sofie to enjoy food for the sake of food– without any of its psychological or emotional implications. I want her intuition to guide her toward making healthy food choices… most of the time, at least. Because there will always be days when nothing beats a butter sandwich.