We are a few weeks into term 1 and if you are feeling discouraged by what is coming back in your child’s lunchbox - you are not alone! Packing a lunch box for a fussy eater and seeing it returned mostly untouched can be soul-destroying. As a paediatric dietitian and mum of two I am here to tell you - it is better to pack a boring lunch box that you know your child will eat than a colourful wish box that you know your child won’t eat.
Kids need calories to get through the school day and if that means we rotate between honey and cheese sandwiches, pasta and sausage rolls that’s OK! I know that even the preferred fruits and veggies go mostly untouched in my kids' lunchboxes. My 8 year old loves carrots but won’t touch it when it’s in her lunchbox. She prefers foods that are quick and easy to eat so she can go and play with her friends.
There could be a number of reasons your child is not eating the foods in their lunchbox:
- Your child feels overwhelmed by too many choices
- There are not enough “preferred foods” in the lunchbox
- Your child doesn’t have enough time to finish their food before the end of breaktime
- The food doesn’t look “appetising” after being thrown around in the lunchbox
- The fruit or veggies are warm or bruised / gone mushy by breaktime
Try these 3 things instead:
- Only offer 3-4 different foods (always preferred foods) - the less options the better.
- Don’t send foods that you know your child won’t eat in the hope that they will try it at school - this often backfires since the food will look less presentable than when you offer it at home!
- If your child is a slow eater, cut the sandwich into smaller pieces or make sure the foods you send are easy for your child to eat.
Here are 3 ways that I ensure my kids have their fruits and veggies throughout the day without relying on their lunchbox choices.
- I offer it for afternoon tea when they get home from school. If your child goes to after school care, talk to the providers and find out if they offer fruits and veggies - then ask for a list and check that your child's favourites are on there every day. If not, make a few suggestions and chat to your child about the importance of having a few fruits and veggies after school.
- I ask my kids to help me prepare veggies for dinner and inevitably they will have a few bites (carrot, cucumber, tinned sweetcorn, capsicum) are all easy options that don’t require cooking.
- I make a smoothie for breakfast or offer a fruit before school.
Tell me, which foods come home in your child's lunchbox?
We recommend that you seek professional advice suited to your child if you have any concerns about your child’s eating.