Day 121: tex-mex (and a lunch packing update)

Today’s menu: tex-mex over brown rice, green beans, a cookie, a banana (and I somehow grabbed a muffin — it’s not on the menu)

So as I was going down the line today, I grabbed everything and I got an extra grain — the corn muffin. It wasn’t on the menu and I’m not sure why it was there. But anyway, there you go.

I’ve mentioned before I like the tex-mex and I’m really pleased that this year the menu contains more descriptive words so that I know a little more about what I’m digging into. Today the menu informed me that the meat was turkey and that the rice was brown.

I was able to eat the tex-mex bowl, the green beans, the cookie, and half my banana over the lunch (there was a mushy spot in the middle and I couldn’t go any farther). I saved the muffin for after school. I didn’t feel the need for an after school snack today, which is not typical. I usually indulge in a Kind bar while driving home (my favorite is the Kind Plus Strawberry Nut Delight).

There is always a lot of trash


Packing my son’s lunch and snacks for daycare took an unusual turn when the director asked me to write a letter explaining that my son gets his own food and then getting a doctor’s note saying it’s ok.

I was floored. I need to have a doctor’s note to provide meals for my son? I’m assuming it’s a liability concern. I still was a little peeved. I wrote the letter they wanted for their file and I have messaged my doctor for a note. I wonder if he’s going to think it’s a weird request…

Packing my son’s lunch has been a great choice from him and the family. The menu got weird this week: one day it was nuggets, a blueberry muffin, pineapple bits and peas. I have been trying to mimic their lunches just with healthier options from home. I never realized how many pre-packaged muffins they ate at daycare. I have been getting up early and baking muffins for his lunch. I thought it would be a hassle, but it’s kind of fun and the side bonus is that I get a fresh muffin for breakfast.

It doesn’t take a lot of effort to imitate the daycare’s lunches, but sometimes it gets ridiculous. This week was  nuggets twice!! I just can’t endorse nuggets twice even if they are sent from home. So I sent pasta with sauce and broccoli. I slice up a fresh piece of fruit so that he doesn’t get something out of a can. This week I chopped up fresh pineapple, asian pears, and fresh mango and sent it along.

My son has been sick constantly ever since he started in a daycare center (around age one — we had a different childcare arrangement previously). We have a home nebulizer and he is on a daily medication for possible asthma. After getting very strict on his diet a few week ago, removing (not just reducing) processed food, reducing cow’s milk dairy products to almost nothing, and substituting fresh, organic foods, I cautiously think these changes are making a small difference just after a few weeks…. Fingers crossed!


I’m going to BlogHer Food and I will be speaking on a panel. I’m excited and nervous. They have promised to protect my identity. I will receive no payment (I’m taking paid time off to attend for myself, not trying to “double dip” by taking a vacation day and getting paid for outside activities. It’s on the up and up!). You can follow what I’m up to on my Twitter stream as well as what people are tweeting using the hashtag #blogherfood. If you are going, make sure to say hi to me!

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38 thoughts on “Day 121: tex-mex (and a lunch packing update)

  1. I suppose "Because I'm his parent and I think the food you are serving is junk" just won't cut it? I actually ruled out preschools because they wanted to provide the food. Really, I don't think my kid needed a rotation of pretzels/goldfish/animal crackers/nilla wafers for snacktime daily.

    I'm sure it's a CYA policy, but I really wish daycares/schools would stay out of what we put in our children (I also have major issues on vax exemptions and it's actually a major stopping factor into moving closer to home, TX is flexible, NY is not).

  2. Hi Mrs Q. Here in Australia it's unusual for daycares and preschools to provide food (in my area anyway, not sure about the big cities). We also don't have school lunches. Our kids can order from the canteen if they want, but most bring lunches. Preschools and daycares here are really strict on the food we're allowed to send. Most packaged food gets sent home unopened. Nuts are of course not allowed. Muffins are ok, but icing isn't. They are extremely strict, I just wish it followed over to 'big' school. I, like you, am a teacher, and the rubbish I see in lunch boxes. Some kids come with only 'packages'. I saw one recently with 4 small nutella containers in her lunchbox! She's 6!

    I just wanted to say that I love what you're doing! And if you get stuck, freeze some muffins. It's what I do. In fact, my freezer is full of sandwiches, banana muffins, zucchini bread and anything else to make my mornings easier!!

  3. You need a doctor's note BECAUSE you pack his lunch by yourself? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

  4. Dear Ms. Q, I LOVE your blog!! Although, it makes me completely appalled with the state of school lunch.

    However, I wanted to share with you the AWESOME McGillis school in Salt Lake City, UT. It is a Jewish school, but open to everyone. They post their lunch menu, and they have their own blog to let parents SEE what their kids are eating!! It is real food! And look! Real trays and silverwear, not buckets of plastic garbage.

    I thought you'd be happy to see some school really take the food revolution to heart:

  5. You needed to send a note saying (so far as I can tell) that there will be no health risks to your son by him eating food that you send with him? That's ridiculous! By the sounds of it, you couldn't pack any worse a lunch for him if you sent him with a box of lard.

    There are a lot of studies that show that eating less heavily-processed foods can improve symptoms of asthma and other health problems.

    That's a link from the Asthma UK website. Have fun at BlogHer Food!

  6. Wow, I've never heard of needing a letter *and* a doctor's note for packed lunches. Bizarre, but you're right – it is probably a liability issue.

    Have fun at BlogHerFood!

  7. Our preschool doesn't provide lunch (I would pack even if they did) but they do provide snacks..and they are basically exactly what Shannon just listed above: pretzels, goldfish, animal crackers, etc. The up side is that they will allow parents to provide snacks for the class, you can sign up to bring them in whenever you choose.

    My oldest who is in 1st grade this year has been in school (including preschool for a speech delay) since he was 3 and has NEVER eaten a school lunch. I may do some things wrong or not the best, but that is one thing I am proud of 🙂

    Honestly, I had heard of some schools asking for written explanations of why your child brings their lunch, but I do truly hope they are few and far between.

  8. I too am quite surprised that the center wanted a note about you providing meals for your son. Who do they think feeds him when he's not at the center?! Sheesh. Like the above poster, I would have been sorely tempted to put a jab in there about the quality of the provided lunch, although I probably wouldn't have been able to go through with it. for thought. My son is in in-home care right now and I pack his lunch, although I know my nanny supplements with her own food. This is fine, because she's even more health conscious than me! But it never occurred to me that a daycare wouldn't want you to pack in your own food. Good to keep in mind if our childcare situation changes.

    As for the main topic, I am quite surprised at how much better the meals seem this school year. Yeah!

  9. A doctor's note to send your own food with your child to daycare? That's insane! You should need a doctor's note to eat the daycare food, not the other way around…

  10. I think it is strange that they would require a dotor's note. But perhaps they are worried that your concern over the food is related to a health problem that you have divulged? I am thinking it is a liability thing. But I would totally do the same thing. You are lucky you have such a good eater.

    I have also started to bake muffins for my kids weekly. But I have started something new this fall–coconut oil. I have switched out the vegetable oil in the recipe for coconut oil because of it's health properties and I won't eat processed polyunsaturated oils any longer (corn, canola, soybean, cottonseed, etc) because there is too much controvery over their safety. Barlean's makes a great organic extra virgin coconut oil. Here in NYC a container is about $16, which is pricey. So far I bought it a month ago and I have only used about a third of it even though I am using it almost every day between muffins, oatmeal and cooking. With all the antimicrobial properties found in Coconut oil I am banking that it will help my kids stay healthy this winter. Cross your fingers!!

    I wrote about it last week:

  11. The doctor's note is most likely to fulfill a state licensing guideline. In the case of my sons' daycare, a note explains that they are part of the state nutrition program (could be federal, I'm not sure) and can't allow in outside food or they loose that source of funding. A doctor's note would allow them to be exempt from that. Try asking the teacher or director if that's the case.

  12. The doctor's note seems over the top to me too. I did ask her and she seemed to evade the question. It seems silly that I would sue if my son choked on food I sent from home, right?! 🙂

    Have a great weekend, you guys!

  13. If somebody told me my kid needed a doctor's note to eat the food I cooked, my first reaction would be "I'm not that bad of a cook, am I?"

    I'm sure they're just covering their butts in case your son has an allergic reaction or something. This way they can say "It's not our fault – she sent the food and we have a note to prove she wants him to eat it"

    I can see putting in writing from you, but from a doctor? Exactly what health condition do you need before you eat healthy diet?

    Please share your doctor's reactions to the request.

  14. If you really need a note to explain why you pack his lunch, just print a copy of this webpage and show them how chicken nuggets are really made!

    I saw the page this morning and about died! It's no wonder I really put forth the effort to make sure my family eats healthier.

    My oldest is in 9th grade and won't pack his lunch anymore, but he's such a healthy eater that I don't worry about what he'll get from the school cafeteria. He always chooses a salad with chicken and fruit over processed junk.

    My daughter would eat the processed junk if her lunches weren't packed every day. She's in 3rd grade and all of the other kids eat school lunch so she feels left out. I do occasionally let her eat what the cafeteria hands out, but we plan in advance by looking at the menu and talking about what's healthy and what's not.

    We're expecting our 3rd child in December and I know that I'll be making lots of organic baby food for this one to eat just like I did for the other two.

    Your blog has really inspired me to ensure we follow the right, healthy path with our foods. Keep up the good work!

  15. It is a state/fed licensing thing. Depending on the daycare they may get monies from the state for their program like the school lunch program…Send in the note and your doctor should have no problem sending in a letter as well.
    Also Daycare snacks have to be within certain guidelines…as well as inexpensive. That is why Apple juice is served so much as it counts as a fruit. pretzels, goldfish, cheese its, are a grain, Milk is rarely served as part of a snack as it is so expensive, compared to $1. a gallon apple juice.

    I agree with The Table of Promise about the coconut oil! Good Stuff!

  16. Are you serious?? A doctor's note to say that he can eat the lunch that you give him? I am floored and frankly that would really not make me happy. Somehow I'm sure you don't have to do that. By the way, the tex-mex didn't look too bad.

  17. About the muffins, you can bake them over the weekend and keep them in the freezer. I have three different kinds of muffins in my freezer right now and it's so handy to add one in my daughter's lunch a couple times a week. They thaw by lunch time, at least the regular-size ones do.

  18. I had asthma and a ton of food allergies when I was a kid. Restricting my diet helped, and both my asthma and allergies have gotten much better as I've aged.

  19. Just a thought about serving chicken nuggets and other less than ideal foods several times a week. I say prepare what you want and include only one chicken nugget (or bite of whatever they are serving) in the lunch you send. That way it's not a huge part of his lunch, but he's still not being left out.

  20. My daughter goes to a home daycare that is part of the federal food program so parents who choose to send their child there have to agree that the food will be provided by the daycare and not send any. There's a menu up every week and the food has been great – my daughter tried hummus which she'd probably never have had a chance to try at home since I hate it (turns out she hates it as well; I didn't tell her I didn't like it until after she told me she didn't). As for one poster's comment about schools keeping out of what parents put into their children, I had one parent who told me her doctor wanted her child putting on weight (definitely agreed with that because the child was stick thin); however I don't think the doctor meant that the child's entire lunch should consist of 2 packs of reeses peanut butter cups and a soda which is what his mom sent in every day.

  21. Keep up the packing! Healthy food practices get attacked non stop! I have been making the switch to healthier less processed foods and pasture raised beef for my family and we are being heckled by other family members! It's sad that home cooked and healthy foods have become so taboo!

  22. Turkey and brown rice are both nice to see. And the banana is a lot easier to eat than the oranges they often serve. I'm starting to agree with other commenters who have said your lunches this year seem to be getting better compared to last year.

    I wonder whether the muffin was added after the menu was written because of the FDA grain requirement. Maybe the cookie wasn't large enough to qualify as a 2nd grain serving.

    It has to be incredibly frustrating to have to jump thru a bunch of hoops just to be allowed to send your child's food to daycare. We live in a litigious culture and I think this, unfortunately, is one of the consequences. Hang in there, Mrs. Q (and other parents who must cope with this)! You're doing the right thing for your child and that's what matters the most.

  23. I hope your child feels better soon! (but healthy diet; fresh fruits and vegetables do help! And staying off processed food…Great way to get your body back in shape!) 😀

  24. I never realized that day care providers can get gov't funding for providing lunch. That has to be why providers ask for letters from parents and notes from doctors. I would imagine that the day care providers who won't allow any food from home have that policy because they need the subsidy for each and every child in order to make the numbers work for them. Providing day care tends to be a labor of love and not terribly lucrative. I've never heard of anyone getting rich running a day care business.

  25. Mrs. Q,

    I live in downstate IL, and I was actually surprised when you originally wrote about packing your son's lunch that you hadn't been required to provide a doctor's note outlining whether it was on medical or religious grounds. Although the actual DCFS regulation doesn't require that, I know that many DCFS licensing reps for day cares tell them they need it. I have always packed my daughter's lunch for daycare (she just turned 2) and have always had to provide a note. If interested, you should look up the actual regulations. Let me know if you have any questions. I actually went to battle with a previous daycare on this issue.

  26. I just found out the other day that some schools in the Washoe County School District (Nevada) don't even have kitchens- they have "warmers". I guess that's a hint about the quality of food being served to those kiddos…

  27. Best wishes for your son.

    And, enjoy your experience with Blogher Foods. You're on an interesting path…I wonder where it will take you. 🙂

  28. I Just checked out the McGillis Kitchen school lunch photos/menu and got so hungry looking at their school food! Awesome … real food for real kids. Since when does eating cheap food equate health? The government schools need to take a lesson from this private school. Maybe if enough public school parents volunteered at lunch hour … the gov. could afford to offer real food. For pete's sake … it used to be done. We need to extend the lunch hour as well.

  29. I bake muffins and freeze them, too. The current batch in the freezer is pumpkin, some fiber and vit. A for my veg challenged kid. I use a mini-muffin tray and get 24 out of a recipe. The little ones really thaw fast. I, too, have switched to using coconut oil for most of the fat in my baking. Even though it does smell like coconut (it's nice) I haven't found that it flavors things. Keep packing — your son will be exposed to so many good things!

  30. I haven't made any muffins in awhile and I may have to go make some.

    The last time that I was a camp counselor I made a batch of muffins to take to supplement the breakfast offerings. I think that it saved quite a few of my girls because that was something that they could identify and know that there was some nutritional value to them.

  31. (!)

    I'll bet $10 that you weren't hungry for your snack because your meal today came with… ready? Ready? FIBER! Yaaaaaaay for Mrs. Q's improving lunch menu! Turkey and BROWN RICE tex mex. I cheered and clapped a little bit when I read that, and then grinned ear to ear when I heard that you weren't hungry later. Imagine all those little bellies that also felt nice and full all day!

  32. I hope your sin feels better soon. Have you heard about probiotics? I believe there's a book by that name which is useful, but basically the thinking goes we used to eat a lot more fermented foods, which have good bacteria in them and make our guts stronger. I know your son isn't really eating dairy, but yogurt and kefir have very little lactase in them, so you might consider them (just check to make sure they're not full of sugar! I like to get the plain stuff and then add fruit). There's also kimchi and other fermented foods that aren't dairy. I can't guarantee it will help but the book references studies which suggest it will, and I enjoy my fermented foods – seem like they can't hurt.

  33. It's a federal subsidy thing. If you're packing your kid's lunch, they need to exclude him from being included in the official head count so they won't get funding for someone not eating. Most daycares and preschools do need a note from a doctor or religious authority if it's for medical or faith reasons. In addition, if something were to happen to your child while he was eating your food you packed for him, the daycare is not held liable, hence the note from you. So if he chokes and needs emergency medical care, you cannot sue the daycare. It's usually in the daycare's insurance policy.

  34. Mrs. Q – I was so glad to meet you this weekend, and I appreciated your panel discussion on what you are doing. I do not have children myself, but I am angered that kids are not better fed at school (or at home). Thank you for doing what you do!

  35. My son had chronic breathing issues also. We took him off milk right before he turned two and he hasn't seen the doctor in six months! Hope the same works for you.

  36. So…I understand the licensing issue…though I think we're asking the wrong questions now. Shouldn't we be following up with: "Why in the world is our system so screwed up that it would penalize day cares/preschools/etc. if there are children who bring a lunch from home???" The whole point of school lunches as a program was to ensure that children who couldn't afford decent food from home would get the same nutritional opportunities as their better-off classmates. Now we've turned it into some sort of bureaucratic (and dogmatic!) nightmare that disapproves of the same homecooked, parent-selected foods that were supposed to be the gold standard to begin with! It's just sick. And by the way, Mrs. Q. — I hate to say it — but if you get continual flak about sending good food for your child, and you have to jump through more hoops after this, I'd look for a facility that does the lunch thing differently. We found that lunch battles were usually just the tip of the iceberg, with our kids' daycares.

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