Making school lunches in itself is a challenge, so wouldn’t it be nice if kids ate them too?
If your little one’s lunchbox often comes back full of perfectly good food, the following tips might help!
Give them the guided tour
Give your child a quick tour of their lunchbox in the morning before leaving. Show them what’s for morning tea and lunchtime. This will allow you to deal with any argument or complaint about the food you have prepared, and to give any instructions, so that your child knows what to expect at lunchtime.
Don’t forget to remind your child that they don’t have to eat it all, but they should at least have a taste. (Here’s a useful article to encourage tasting new foods)
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Oh, if I could just use one word to sum up how to raise a healthy eater and beat fussy eating, it would be VARIETY! This is particularly important in the lunchbox. We humans are creatures of habits, and we can be resistant to change!
Keep changing what you put in the lunchbox to ensure your child doesn’t get too stuck on the same sandwich or snack. Include a wide variety of fruit and vegetables (soooo many to choose from!), and try a weekly sandwich-free day to mix things up.
Ask your child about their friend’s lunchbox. Perhaps they’ve seen something they’d like to try?
Let them choose
Letting your child choose some items for the lunchbox will not only encourage them to eat the food, but also help them learn to make healthy food choices. Ask them to pick a fruit or veg in the fridge, a snack, or a healthy filling for their sandwich. You can also find ideas together by searching online or looking through recipe books, for example a new muffin recipe.
After school, ask your child about their lunch. Did they like it? Was it enough? Is there anything that would have made it better?
It can be frustrating when food comes back untouched, but it’s important to get feedback and find out why. Perhaps they didn’t have enough time. Or they weren’t hungry. Or the sandwich was too dry. Or they had a tummy ache. Or the container leaked. Unfortunately, sometimes they didn’t think they would like it and simply didn’t want to eat it.
Once you know the reason, you can use this information for next time. For example, remind your child that they should at least have a taste. You might also need to adjust the quantity, wrap things differently, change the recipe or give your child strategies to finish their lunch in time.
Keep it cold, clean and easy
A warm lunchbox smells funny. Nobody likes a soggy sandwich, squished fruit or leaking containers. Freeze items such as yoghurt, slices or muffins, and put an extra ice pack on hot summer days. Invest in good containers to keep the yummy food safe, nice and cool. For younger children, avoid fiddly wrapping and cut things up so they are quick and easy to eat.
Keep the quantity in check
I know… it’s hard to find the perfect amount of food to put in the lunchbox. Kids are not always consistent with their appetite, with growth spurts and other factors such as their mood, daily activities, distractions and food preferences.
Too much food can be discouraging for kids. Asking for feedback from your child will help, and if food always comes back, try to play around with the quantities until you get it just right. Funnily enough, you might find your child eats more if there is less food!
If you worry about your child going hungry, you can also add an extra snack just in case (preferably something that will keep if not eaten). During the lunchbox tour, tell your child what to eat first for morning tea and lunch, and that they can have the extra snack if they run out of food.
Do you ever get untouched lunchboxes back? Share with us below.