Packing a school lunchbox for a fussy eater can be challenging. Parents want to offer a variety of food in their child's lunchbox but they also don't want it to come home completely uneaten and for their child to be hungry at school.
Registered Nutritionist and founder of Nutritious Kids, Hayley Heaney, has put together a few practical tips to help parents introduce new foods into their child's lunchbox and increase variety.
Always have a food in the lunchbox that you know your child will eat. The last thing you want is for your child not to eat at school. Provide enough of the food so you know they won’t be hungry, but not too much so that they are too full to try anything new. Also, try not to overwhelm them with too much food. Be realistic in what you expect them to eat, and you might want to try serving it in smaller sizes so that they can eat it quicker (as I’m sure they just want to run off and play with their friends).
Let them help pack their lunchbox the night before. I find mornings way too crazy but you could do mornings if that suits you better. This allows them to take ownership and also, they won’t freak out if you’ve put a new food in their lunchbox that they knew nothing about. You could talk about the new food that you are putting in. Let them know that there is no pressure for them to eat it but it’s there if they would like to try. Don’t be disheartened if it comes home uneaten, the goal is to expose them to new foods and to help them become more comfortable with the thought of trying them.
Do some cooking together on the weekend, for example mini quiches, muffins, bliss balls, chopped fruit and veggies sticks - things that you could put in their lunchbox. Let them become familiar with the new food first and then allow them to pack it into their lunchbox. This again gives them a sense of ownership.
Change it up! We don’t want your child to burn out on the few foods that they will have in their lunchbox. Try to alternate them so that they don’t get sick of the same thing and so that you don’t run out of options for things to pack. You could also try changing the appearance eg: using cutters or wraps instead of bread.
Try not to comment on what they have or have not eaten. If you can see that they haven’t eaten much, then focus on boosting their dinner or you could offer your child what is left in their lunchbox for afternoon tea. I often put the veggies back in the fridge and use them the next day. My son has a great insulated lunch bagthat is still half frozen when it comes home, so the veggies are still nice and cold. Some days they will eat more than others, we just need to keep up with the strategies and slowly start to see they are more willing to try.
Hayley is a Perth nutritionist and founder of Nutritious Kids as well as being the proud mum of two energetic little boys. Hayley created Nutritious Kids to help families struggling with fussy eating and support parents by using evidence-based strategies to encourage their child to try new foods and create healthy, happy mealtimes.
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