This is… Nuts

"Duh" Warning on Almonds at Walmart

“Duh” Warning on Almonds at Walmart

Quick peek into the hallway. Is she here? No. Awesome. She must be in the classroom with the kids already.

“Come on Mark, let’s put your lunchbox in the fridge!”

I dash to the kitchen. Quick check here too—sometime she is having her morning cup of coffee here. Nope. All clear. Now I just have to take Mark to the classroom and hopefully, she will be busy.

Yes, I’m purposely avoiding one of Mark’s teachers.

Very mature of me, I know. And it’s my fault too.

She is a nice person and she obviously cares a lot about kids and their well-being. A few weeks ago, as I was dropping Mark off, she took me aside:

“Oh, I wanted to ask you… you don’t put juice in his sippy cup, do you?”

I could have lied right there. Yes, I fill the cup with diluted apple juice. Mark was going through a phase where he didn’t want to drink water and I’d rather him to drink something than nothing at all during the day (and empty a bottle of juice at home in the evening).

But I didn’t lie because Mark was holding my hand and he was listening. Oh, it’s not the lying part that was bothering me—but I was fairly certain that he would have corrected me (“Mark drinks juice!”).

So I did the second best thing I could think of and I somehow heard myself uttering “yes, I give him juice. It’s… organic. Actually, I make it myself. It’s a special blend. Super healthy!”

The teacher looked at me with newfound respect for a second and was on the verge of saying something… but luckily (!), a kid fell from a toddler-size chair, started crying and the conversation ended abruptly.

And now I’m fairly sure she wants to quiz me about my special homemade juice blend. I can’t really admit that Mark’s juice comes from a carton. Bought at Walmart. On sale. Didn’t even read the label, fuck yeah.

I’m an idiot. And a bad liar to boot.

Look, I don’t usually lie but there is a lot of pressure around the lunchbox we, parents, have to provide every day.

Assembling a lunchbox is a minefield.

For a long time, when I took care of Mark, his on-the-go lunch was a peanut butter sandwich on rye bread, apple sauce or a yogurt, a cereal bar or a cookie and a banana. “Okay, so we just give him that?” Feng asked as we were getting ready to start with daycare #3, a centre that, unlike daycares #1 and #2, didn’t provide food.

“Uh uh,” I said. I had read the paperwork in the admission package. There were precise and detailed guidelines based on the Health Canada’s Food Guide: I had to make a “small nutritious meal” and encourage a “healthy and balanced diet”. For instance, lunch must be composed of one serving of meat and alternatives, one serving of vegetables and fruit, one or two grain products, one serving of milk and alternatives. One snack should have one serving of grain products and one serving of vegetables and fruit.


Quick test… are tomatoes fruits or veggies?

Worst part is, I’m fairly sure that the nice folks who wrote the Food Guide did so while eating Tim Horton’s donuts and drinking copious amount of super sweet vanilla latte. Yeah, I taught French at Health Canada, I remember there were absolutely nothing healthy in the cafeteria there. Hypocrites.

Hell, maybe they were drunk.

I was facing a double challenge: assembling a lunchbox that met the requirements while providing food Mark would actually eat. He isn’t too picky but he is only two and a half and favours sweet easy-to-eat foods over vitamins and proteins.

“Meh, just give him the usual. You worry too much. Nobody is going to check,” Feng advised.

Ah. Innocent soul. Of course I would be judged as a mother on my lunchboxes. When was the last time parenting was judgment-free? Oh, right. Ne-ver.

And I wasn’t being paranoid: on Mark’s first day, I stuck around with him to ease the transition and I witnessed the teachers opening the lunchboxes and writing notes to parents. “Jane was missing a serving of fruit” and “Jake needs to have a serving of meat and alternative.”

Told you so!

I have three rules with food: don’t label it as “good” or “bad”; enjoy what you eat and don’t make food an issue. I wasn’t sure how my philosophy was going to fit with the Canadian Food Guide and the daycare. And I took good note of the sign in the hallway that asked parents to provide “a tray of fresh fruits when celebrating a birthday”.

Seriously, fresh fruits? Who wants to celebrate anything with fruits?

And to complicate matters even more, there is the issue of food allergies—we were entering a “healthy eating zone” and a “nut-free area”. The daycare, like many public places in Canada, enforces a nut ban. Obviously, I can’t send Mark to school with a peanut butter sandwich, that’s a no-brainer (of a declaration of war…). But the ban extends to many kinds of spreads, such as Nutella and even nut-free butters alternatives because they look, smell and taste so much like real peanut butter. Many snacks (cereal bars, pastries, baked goods, etc.) have advisory labels that warn “may contain nuts” or ““produced in a facility that also uses nuts” and they are banned, even if nuts are not the main ingredient.

“But how about the food we cook?” Feng asked.

I don’t know. Since we don’t have food allergies, I don’t pay attention to allergens. I won’t give Mark noodles with roasted peanuts, but I can’t guarantee the lunch I cook is completely nut free, and our kitchen certainly isn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the need to minimize risks for kids who have allergies and I’m sure it must be a headache for parents. Mark can eat nuts at home. But I can’t help wondering how far we can go with bans (should we also ban gluten? Eggs?) and I’m always afraid I will unintentionally pack a product with nuts.

Around Easter, parents were asked to bring treats for the kids’ party.

I volunteered for drinks.

No, I didn’t bring my “special juice blend”…

Now, if you excuse me, I have to go dice cheddar, shred ham and make my world’s famous jam sandwich for tomorrow’s lunch.


About Author

French woman in English Canada. World citizen, new mom, traveler, translator, writer and photographer. Looking for comrades to start a new revolution.


  1. Oh mais quel casse-tête !!! Bien contente finalement que Michoco déjeune tous les jours à la maison… Je comprends les recommandations de santé publique (surtout vu les mauvaises habitudes prises dans certaines familles), mais de là à ce que la crèche devienne la police de la bouffe… dans ces conditions il valait mieux qu’ils gèrent les repas eux-mêmes… L’intolérance au lactose de Michoco semble rentrée dans l’ordre. Depuis qu’il ne boit plus aucun lait, il accepte 1 laitage tous les 2-3 jours sans problème de digestion, etmange du beurre, mais je ne comprends pas trop le sens d’éviter à tous toutes les allergies des autres d’autant que ne pas consommer du produit allergisant peut renforcer l’allergie… et qu’il y a des effet de mode… en France en ce moment c’est le gluten ! Michoco mange de la floraline tous les soirs, et des arachides presque depuis sa diversification puisqu’à chaque coin de rue on lui en offre des poignées, et il va aussi bien que Mark !! Pour le jus de pomme, tu nous donnera ta recette blended et bio un de es 4 😉

  2. Martin Penwald on

    Ah, mais c’est bon une petite salade de fruits. Melon, pommes, poires, raisins, kiwi, mangue, ananas, avec un filet de rhum, c’est excellent. Bon, alors, le filet de rhum, c’est peut-être pas une bonne idée, en y réfléchissant bien.

    Sinon, pour le sandwich, dans une baguette correcte (on en trouve au Save On Food dans l’ouest, parfois dans les Walmart aussi) : tapenade d’olive et de tomates séchées, camembert (de Port-Neuf, pas de Beauport, je me suis gouré l’autre jour), tomate (qui est un fruit. Je gagne quoi ? ), jambon serrano.

    À la base, je suis d’accord pour le jus de fruit, tout est beacoup trop sucré ici, mais en coupant à l’eau (1/3 ou 1/4 de jus et le reste d’eau), c’est tout-à-fait raisonnable, voire moins écœurant. Et surtout, de l’eau qui est restée longtemps dans un gobelet en plastique, c’est pas bon. À ce compte-là, autant ne pas mettre de boisson dans la boîte et fournir des verres d’eau aux enfants lors du repas.
    Tu n’as plus qu’à te mettre à la conception de jus, donc.

    • Il y a des jus corrects en fait, suffit de regarder les étiquettes. Plus les jus/céréales montrent des fruits en photo sur les boites, moins y’a de vrais fruits dedans. Logique… Regarder les étiquettes, toujours ici.

      J’aimerais bien ton sandwich, ça m’irait tout à fait. Mark n’est pas encore un fan de baguette, trop de croute. On mange du bon pain ceci dit, pas du Wonderbread de merde.

      • Martin Penwald on

        Et pour le petit déjeuner, une tartine avec du miel au citron. Il y en a du local qui vient d’Innisfail qui est très bien.
        As-tu essayé de mettre du coca dans la gourde ? Attends-toi à recevoir une visite de la protection de l’enfance.

  3. My mother did the same thing to our apple juice when we were kids. She wanted to make sure we were drinking enough water. For years, I had to dilute apple juice with water or else I didn’t like it. I only started drinking the real thing recently! I’ll probably end up doing the same thing if we end up having a kid.

    • I love grapefruit juice and I don’t dilute it. But I don’t see anything wrong with drinking juice as long as it’s actual juice, not fruit-flavoured sugar water!

  4. Thinking about it, I’m so glad that my daughter eats in canteen at school. She eats well and gets to socialise with friends. Less headache for me.

    • I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes (too much icing) but at least, that’s a normal option! Any cake. Just not, you know, apples and bananas.

  5. Over here school is only half the day and yet we are supposed to provide the kids with a “lanche”. I prefer to see it as a “snack” rather than “lunch” because my kids always leave the house at 7.30am with a good breakfast in they stomach, plus I don’t think they really need to eat anything before noon. A teacher still managed to complain t me that “the kids” didn’t eat the quarters of apple I gave them! “I don’t mind, they have lunch when they come back home afterwards”, I said. “but you see”, she replied “we try to teach them to share with their friends!”… So the problem wasn’t that my snack was not popular with my kids, but with the other ones!!! If she thinks I am going to buy popular junk food for the other kids, she is greatly mistaken. (I don’t care if the other kids eat junk, but I think that “sharing” a snack at that age is a terrible idea).

    • I don’t think kids need to share food at this age. I mean, learning to share is great and I’m sure they have other chances. Like, you know, with toys. I always offer snacks if Mark is having something at the park but most parents decline, which I completely understand since we all have a different schedule–maybe the kids are about to have dinner, just had a snack, etc.

  6. I would be a terrible Canadian Mom.
    I would definitively insult any teacher who tries to tell me that I should follow the gigantic comnpanies-screwed bullshit that is the guide alimentaire canadien to feed my kids.
    Have you seen what is actually “one serving of meat or alternative” officially? A bloody joke. And by the way, Harvard recently settled the fact that milk products (or alternative) is NOT a food group.
    Don’t mess with my family diet, you ignorant teachers, or I will bite (literally).
    (sorry for the rant, imagine when I’ll have actual kids 😉 )

    • Nah, I get annoyed too. To me, it feels like a “oh, it’s not broken, let’s fix it anyway!” I started putting one piece of cookie (like a small waffle, a chocolate chips/banana cookies, etc.) in his lunch bag because I’d rather him to have it during the day than getting all his treats (which ARE part of a normal and balanced diet!) in the evening with us.

  7. Oh this is like my experience in Japan with their bento lunch boxes. Japanese bento boxes are a work of art, and Japanese moms love to show off, even producing bento boxes that are in the shape of Hello Kitty and other cute faces. Google “bento box” and you’ll see what I mean. Filipinos on the other hand don’t have this culture, and my mom didn’t have the time to make this art. So needless to say, I had the ugliest lunch box in school in Japan, and my classmates were definitely not impressed.

  8. Uuuuugh, packed lunches are the bane of my existence. I can’t imagine what your preschool would think. At the beginning of the year I start out well but by this time of year, I’m into lunches of kool aid, chips, and a slice of buttered bread. it’s just too discouraging making sure they get a nice fruit and vegetable in every lunch, only to bring it back home again so I can eat it later. Grrr!

    • I hear you. I do the best I can but my lunches tend to be repetitive because I hate throwing food away and I want to make sure he eats something.

  9. Great finish, didn’t see that coming, witty as always.

    In India we don’t have the advisory labels about allergies, this is something we learned from American TV shows, really, I hope they taught us well (lol)

    I am amongst the people with most allergies, in here. I have been mostly on my own exploring this minefield of allergens. All this allergy business is as complicated as twitter for my parents generation.

    You know Juliette, my experience, what really rids allergies, Ayurveda, for real. I wonder if it is practiced in Canada.

    • Yes it is! I’m familiar with it and I believe in it as well. “Alternative” medicine isn’t cheap though, because it’s not covered by provincial healthcare systems. That’s the main issue.

      What kind of allergies are you dealing with?

      • Oh well, mostly it is my asthma, which is triggered with seasonal change and further with yogurt or tangy fruits. And some other funny allergies, like if I touch my nose I go into a sneezing frenzy (lol, it is really a sight) or my skin goes all red and angry if I scratch even a little bit.

        That is good news that Ayurveda is over there; is it regulated? Because in India it isn’t regulated, any Tom-Dick-&-Harry can open a fancy shop and pretend to be some guru prescribing ayurveda medicines, quite lucrative if you have a knack for BS-ing 🙂 So it takes time and effort to find the real ones, with proper education and certification, they are the real magicians. I found one recently. He didn’t even charge me, I insisted, but he said get well and we will talk about it later. I owe him big time.

        • I don’t think it’s regulated in Canada either, sadly. That said, Canada is very much a word-of-mouth country where referrals are valued, so I’m sure you can find a reliable practitioner if you ask around.

  10. It all drives me a bit nuts – and I am about to go back to work in one of those places! What can they do – really – if it isn’t precisely as they have asked? Nothing! It is all a bit ott.

    • Yeah, I think they are more relaxed than I had thought at first. It’s more of an informal rule I guess, but it’s strange when you aren’t used to a food police.

  11. Are u freaking kidding? (Trying to curb my cursing. they checked the lunchboxes?!? Crap i am doomed lol !!!

    Lol still laughing in my head at “special blend”

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