I’ve never thought that my kids are the only picky eaters. As many as 50% of kids are picky eaters at some time. You might have kids who would only eat chicken nuggets when they were toddlers. It’s also possible those particular food preferences have lasted much longer. So, what do you do when you have a picky eater and you still need to pack their lunch? Here are a few tips!
Tips For Parents Of Picky Eaters
Picky eaters can be frustrating, but learning to cope with their unique sense of taste, colors, smells, and perspective about food is just part of the adventure of parenthood. Just remember, their eating preferences do not make you a bad parent. It’s not a reflection of your cooking or who you are as a person. How do you get through it?
Don’t Give Up
Tenacity and fortitude really are great virtues in parenthood. Your child will figure out what they like and don’t like, which will involve an exploration of shapes, colors, and textures. While it’s a wonderful exploration, that also means they won’t have a good experience with all foods. Your goal is to encourage them to “try it.” Then, continue that encouragement.
Food doesn’t have to be boring – at least, not all the time. When you’re home with the kids, you have complete control over the meals you fix and how you present them. So, put some creativity into meal prep.
Make a picnic and eat outside.
Use cookie cutters to create foods that look fun.
Add fruit for color and flavor.
Try dips to see if you can mix up the flavors.
Find ways to make food prep and the meal experience more fun and creative. Explore new ways to present food, and allow your child to be a part of the meal prep experience to foster invention.
This picky eating experience is part of a relationship with food that will evolve over their lifetime. Encourage them to figure out what they like and don’t like, but also help them to understand why healthy eating is important for their health and wellness.
Find A Role Model
There are several ways you can find a role model. I’ve always found fellow moms to be wonderful role models. If your child is involved with sports, after school activities, or other social events, you might get a chance to ask other moms about how they cope with picky eaters (or if their child is even picky). It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one, but you might be surprised by what you learn.
Get Them Involved
Kids sometimes develop picky eating habits because of impressions they have about food. Sometimes it’s something their friends say that turns them off. Or you may have even made a joke about the food that gave your child a negative association with particular foods. So, how do you counteract impressions and feelings about food? Here are some quick tips.
Encourage your child to help with the food prep process, particularly for their lunches.
Allow them to talk about the food. Why do they love or hate it?
Talk about where food comes from.
Help them to understand why healthy eating is important.
Give them the opportunity to pick out new foods and learn how to prepare them.
As your child becomes more involved in their own meal prep, you’re hopefully helping them to develop a healthy relationship with their food. They might still have foods they hate, but they may begin to understand why they dislike those foods. They may even figure out the prep secrets that make the food more tolerable or even enjoyable.
Think Outside The Lunch Box
Your child’s school lunch doesn’t have to fit into a predetermined box. It doesn’t have to be filled with the foods you had as a kid. Focus on your goal, which is probably to make your child a healthy lunch that will give them the energy to get through the day. With that goal in mind, think about what foods your child will eat (and enjoy), particularly in the time constraints of their short lunch period.
Incorporate Their Favorites
If your child loves strawberries (for example), find ways to incorporate that favorite food into their lunch. Get creative, but check in with your child to gauge their perception of what you plan to put in their lunch. Here are a few ideas.
Find strawberry jam they love. Then incorporate it into fun sandwiches.
Add a covered container of strawberries.
Try adding strawberry yogurt to the lunch.
Consider other fun recipes with strawberries as an ingredient.
Even the implication that the food includes strawberries might interest your child, but you’re doing something else too. You’re showing your son or daughter that you’re taking into consideration their favorite foods while creating a healthy and wholesome lunch for them.
Picky eating is not something your child will probably just get over in an instant. When you’re eating meals at home, you might be able to talk them through their food aversions, but school lunch is a bit more difficult. You’re not there, so much of your meal prep is about guessing what they will eat.
If you’re patient, calm, and understanding, you can check in with your child at the end of the day. Listen to what they tell you about their lunch. Maybe it’s not the food itself that’s the problem. Here are just a few reasons the lunch might not work for them.
They just don’t have enough time to eat the entire sandwich.
You’ve given them too many options (they couldn’t decide what to eat).
Their friends begged your child to share, so they gave the lunch away.
The grilled cheese sandwich was cold (they will only eat it when it’s warm).
It was too messy. Maybe the sandwich fell apart, or it was hard to eat.
There might be all sorts of reasons why your child won’t eat what you’ve prepared for their lunch at school. So, remember to check in about whether they enjoyed and ate the lunch. Also, find out if they experienced difficulty with the lunch you prepared. With just a few adjustments, you might make their lunch time easier while making sure they get the nutrients and energy they need.
Top 8 Best Lunches for Picky Eaters
You’re probably looking for easy lunches for picky eaters. Just because they’re picky, though, doesn’t mean that the lunch has to be complicated or difficult to make. Look for healthy lunches for picky eaters that will give them energy throughout the day.
Of course, you also want to give them a meal they can eat and enjoy even in the short time frame they have at school. Here are a few top lunch options that your child will love when they’re picky eaters.
Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
The PB&J is always a lunchtime favorite. I probably ate hundreds of these sandwiches when I was in school, and I do still like to eat them occasionally. Since you’re using peanut butter, you should check with your child’s teacher about the school (and classroom) policy on peanuts.
PB&J is particularly fun because you can try different variations on the initial recipe. You can try different bread or tortilla options but also test out almond butter, honey, jam, and other ingredients to mix it up.
Cheese & Crackers
You’re not tied to sandwiches as your only option for lunch. Craft the perfect lunch with your child’s favorite crackers and cheese selections. Then, add in some veggies or other crunchy healthy snacks on the side.
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Most kids love a good grilled cheese sandwich when you’re at home for lunch. The only question is whether they still enjoy it when the sandwich is cold. It’s still a great lunch; you can add ham or tomato slices to give it an additional twist.
Turkey & Cheese Sandwich
This sandwich is another basic favorite that your picky eater will likely love. You can mix up the taste with a bagel, bread, tortilla, or other options. You can also add lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, or other veggies. Or substitute ham or other meat if your child has a favorite.
Ants on a Log
It’s a favorite preschool snack, but my kids still love it. Just cut up celery sticks. Add peanut butter (you can substitute almond butter or other spreadable fav). Then, add a few raisins on top for the ants. They’re quick and easy to eat, so they tend to work well for lunchtime.
Kabobs are endlessly popular, but they’re particularly fun with fruit. Mix up the fruit selection to take advantage of the ones your child is particularly fond of. Also, look for fruit that’s in season, so the taste will be spot on!
While you’re putting together the perfect, crunchy snackables in your child’s lunch, get creative with how you wrap it up. You can cut bell peppers and carrots into long strips, add lettuce and wrap it all up in a tortilla for the perfect hand-held lunch.
While you might make muffins for your child’s breakfast, why not make a lunch of them? They’re quick and easy to make, and they’re also easy for kids to pick up and eat no matter what age they are. Try adding some secret veggies to the mix to make it even more healthy.
If All Else Fails…
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Just because your child is not eating their lunch, that doesn’t mean it has anything to do with what you prepared. Yes, your child may be a picky eater, so you probably want to make sure you’ve packed lunches for picky eaters. But don’t forget about the other school-and-lunch related variables that could be affecting their child’s eating habits.
Sometimes just organizing your child’s lunch a little differently helps. You could try bento box lunches for picky eaters as a way to avoid school lunches while getting them the quick and easy nutrition they need.
How do you pack lunches for your picky eater? We’d love to hear your back-to-school tips.
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