Every parent with a child at school is well aware of the daily struggle of what to pack them for lunch. Not only is it hard to be creative day after day, but if your child is a fussy eater, it makes the task even more of a challenge.
Although many parents may say that their children are fussy eaters, true fussy eaters can be a nightmare to feed, and parents of these children are often concerned that their kids aren’t getting enough essential vitamins and other nutrients.
What makes kids fussy?
Most children are fussy eaters at some point. Some grow out of it, but others don’t. It’s not a fun time for parent or child and leads to many mealtime battles.
The reason for the fussiness can be anything from pushing boundaries and exploring their independence (what will happen if they say “no”?), to genuinely not enjoying the flavour or texture of the new food or just the way the food is presented.
Regardless of the reason, however, children do need to eat and parents need options to avoid mealtime disagreements.
Coping with fussy eaters
Independence is a big factor in fussy eating because children like to have control over what they are eating. So, allowing them a certain amount of control over what they’re getting for school might be the key to getting them to eat it too.
Try to involve your child in both the planning and preparing of their lunchbox as they’re more likely to eat it if they’ve packed it themselves.
Keep it simple: Children do need variety, but not so many options that they feel overwhelmed and only choose the familiar. Keep it simple and gradually add more adventurous options.
Always keep it healthy: As hard as it may be, try to keep “treats” as healthy as possible, and if possible avoid food as a reward. All this does is insinuate that the sugar-laden biscuit or sweet treat is a “nicer” option than the healthier food.
Fill the gaps: A good quality multivitamin would help to ensure you fill any nutritional gaps in their diet.
Thinking outside the lunchbox
Sometimes, just presenting the food in a different way, or giving the child more than one option can be the key to getting them to eat more adventurously.
Aim to give them enough variety to tempt them, and make sure the lunchbox is balanced with food that is fresh and contains a protein, carbohydrate and a fat portion.
Try these ideas to spice up lunchboxes:
Roll ups or wraps: Swap boring sandwiches for cheese and ham wraps or “roll-ups”.
Bagels and English muffins: Served with cottage cheese or peanut butter and honey, these can make a nice change to a sandwich.
Fruit kebabs and dips: Pack some melon, strawberries or apple with dips such as yogurt or nut butter. If your child will eat them, try carrot sticks or cucumber with hummus, cottage cheese, guacamole or salsa.
Fruit smoothies: Blend a yoghurt or almond/coconut milk and fruit smoothie the night before and freeze it, so that by lunchtime it is defrosted and ready to drink.
Homemade muffins: Bake some bran muffins with banana, apple sauce, nut butter or dark chocolate chips.
How much is enough?
Ensuring that your child eats enough of the right foods should be every parent’s goal. But how do you know how much “enough” is when it comes to the macronutrients and micronutrients, i.e. carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals?
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Lunch box ideas; Nutritionist Resource; http://www.nutritionist-resource.org.uk/content/lunch-box-ideas.html
What’s for lunch? Nutrition Australia; Published 2008, Updated 2013; http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/whats-lunch
Lunchbox ideas – Children; NZ Nutrition Foundation; reviewed January 2014; http://www.nutritionfoundation.org.nz/nutrition-facts/nutrition-a-z/lunchbox-ideas-children