It can be hard to pack a lunch when your child only eats a few things. Articles like 10 Easy, Healthy Lunchbox Ideas and A Week of Easy Lunch Menus provide a starting point, but moms of picky eaters need a little more help! Here are two suggestions for a new way to think about your eater, plus some lunch food alternatives.
Sort Out Why Your Child is Picky
Before setting up a lunch menu, Circle of Moms members suggest figuring out what kind of picky eater you have. Knowing that can help you make some decisions about how far you can push your child to try new foods.
Some kids, like Bernadette C.’s son, are "picky" because they have food allergies. Other kids, like Colleen B.’s son, have autism and are very fussy eaters due to sensory issues. These kids are reacting to things parents may not notice, like textures or strong smells.
Still other kids simply have a limited repertoire of foods they’re willing to try. They like what they like and they’re sticking to it. That’s the case with Aimee S.’ son. "He can be very stubborn and has been known to throw up things he doesn't like or want to try," she says.
What Foods Will (or Won’t) Your Child Eat?
The next thing to do is to really look at which foods are winners and which are losers for your child. This may not leave room for a lot of variety in your child’s lunchbox, but for many moms of picky eaters the goal isn’t variety– it’s getting your child to eat.
You might be surprised how helpful it can be to simply ask your child what she doesn’t like about lunch. That’s what happened to Circle of Moms member Kimberly S., who found out it’s the bread on sandwiches her kids don’t like. After this discovery, she started packing PB&J on crackers, or a cheese stick wrapped in lunch meat.
A number of other Circle of Moms members also say that their picky eaters don’t like sandwiches or lunch meat, but are willing to eat tortillas, bagels, pizza, and even cheese.
Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters
The best advice Circle of Moms members give about packing a lunch for a picky eater is that you need to think outside the lunchbox. Here are some of their suggestions:
- Roll Ups or Wraps: "Wraps can be great, tortillas come in lots of interesting colors and flavors," says a member named Coleen. A lot of moms simply put cheese on the tortilla or put sandwich filling in the tortilla. In fact, mom Nicole H. says she started wrapping everything in tortillas. For whatever reason, her son will eat more that way.
- Cold Pizza: Of course, you won’t always have leftover pizza, so mom Amy B. suggests making a single-serve frozen pizza the night before, and packing it for school. If your child doesn’t like cold pizza, try Maria M.’s tactic: Find a container that keeps food warm and pack pizza bagels.
- PB&J "Hotdog": Angie G. has an ingenious way of combining fruit and protein for her picky eater, something she calls the PB&J hotdog. "You put peanut butter on the hotdog bun, then a slice of banana and drizzle some jelly on top," she says.
- Cold Chicken Nuggets: A lot of picky eaters like chicken nuggets. Pack them cold, says mom Melissa M. Add a yogurt and some carrots, and she’s got a lunch her son will eat day in and day out. Your child won’t eat cold nuggets? Try Danielle B.’s idea of putting them in a thermos to keep them warm.
Most importantly, get your child involved in making lunch. If you make her part of the process, she will also become part of the solution.
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