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Building a Better Lunchbox: How to Win the Battle Against Picky Eating

Are you the parent of a “picky eater”? Do you find yourself struggling to pack a lunch that your child will actually eat? If so, you're not alone. Many parents face the challenge of trying to get their little ones to eat a healthy and balanced diet, and it can be especially difficult when it comes to packing a lunch for school. But don't worry, there are some simple tips and tricks you can use to make lunchtime a little less stressful and a lot more enjoyable for both you and your child.

Involve your child in the process

One of the best ways to get your child excited about their lunchbox is to involve them in the planning and packing process. Sit down together and make a list of foods they like and don't like, and brainstorm new options to try. Let your child pick out a lunchbox and a water bottle they like, and take them shopping with you to pick out healthy lunch options that appeal to their taste buds. By giving your child some control over what goes into their lunchbox, they are more likely to be excited about trying new foods and less likely to resist what you've packed.

Offer a variety of textures and flavors

Many children often have a strong aversion to certain textures or flavors. However, it's important to keep offering a variety of foods so that they can develop a taste for new things. Try including a variety of textures, such as crunchy carrots or celery, smooth hummus or yogurt, and chewy dried fruit. Offer a mix of flavors, such as sweet fruit, salty nuts, and savory deli meat or cheese. By offering a range of textures and flavors, you increase the chances that your child will find something they like and also expose them to new foods.

Keep it simple

While it can be tempting to pack elaborate lunches with lots of different components, sometimes simple is best. Pick a main dish, such as a turkey and cheese sandwich or a quesadilla, and pair it with a few easy sides, such as fruit, veggie sticks, or a granola bar. Avoid overwhelming your child with too many options or complicated foods. Keep portions small and manageable so that your child doesn't feel intimidated or overwhelmed by what's in their lunchbox.

Incorporate new foods, but don’t be pushy

Introducing new foods to kids can be a daunting task, but it's important to do so slowly and without pressure. It can take many exposures to a new food before a child will try it, and forcing them to eat something they're not comfortable with can actually backfire and make them even more resistant to trying new things in the future. Instead, try introducing new foods in a low-pressure way, such as by including a small portion of a new food alongside familiar favorites. Encourage your child to explore and interact with the new food, but don't force them to eat it. Over time, they may become more comfortable with the new food and eventually give it a try. Remember, every child is different, and it's important to be patient and persistent when it comes to introducing new foods.

Most importantly… don’t call them a “picky eater”!

It's important to avoid labeling a child as a "picky eater," as this can actually reinforce picky eating behavior. When a child is labeled as a picky eater, they may feel like they're expected to be picky and that it's part of their identity. This can make it even harder to introduce new foods and can lead to a negative cycle of picky eating behavior. Instead, try to focus on the positive and praise your child for trying new foods or for enjoying healthy options. This can help to build their confidence and encourage them to continue exploring new foods. Remember, every child is different, and it's important to be patient and positive when it comes to helping them develop healthy eating habits.

Here are five simple lunch ideas to consider packing for your child:

  • Turkey and cheese wrap: Spread hummus or cream cheese on a whole wheat wrap, add turkey slices, and top with shredded cheese and sliced cucumbers. Cut the wrap into bite-sized pieces and pair with a small container of berries and a few pretzels.

  • Bagel and fruit salad: Toast a whole grain bagel and top with cream cheese or almond butter. On the side, pack a fruit salad with cubed watermelon, grapes, and sliced strawberries, along with a handful of trail mix.

  • Quesadilla with fruit and veggies: Heat up a cheese quesadilla on a whole wheat tortilla and cut into wedges. Serve alongside sliced bell peppers and baby carrots, along with a small container of apple slices and almond butter for dipping.

  • Ham and cheese skewers: Thread cubed ham, cheese, and cherry tomatoes onto skewers and serve with a side of whole grain crackers and a small container of hummus for dipping.

  • DIY lunchable: Pack a DIY lunchable with whole grain crackers, sliced deli meat, and cheese cubes, along with sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes. Add a small container of grapes or a fruit cup for a sweet treat.

If you're still struggling with packing a lunch for kids or have further questions, consider consulting a registered dietitian. A dietitian can work with you and your child to develop a personalized nutrition plan that takes into account their individual tastes and preferences, as well as any medical or dietary concerns. They can also provide guidance on how to introduce new foods, offer recipe ideas, and help you navigate the sometimes-confusing world of vitamin supplements. With the help of a registered dietitian, you can feel confident that you're providing your child with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive. Don't hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation today!


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