Parent’s Survival Guide

Parents survival guide to : Lunch Box Burnout.

Children are officially one month back and it’s about this time of year parents already begin to feel lunchbox burnout. Like many parents who have a fussy eater in the household, I too understand the frustration, stress and pure fatigue that can go into trying to think creatively about what food you could put in the lunch box but with the realisation that your children probably won’t go near anything new and the lunch box looks the same nearly every day.

Even more annoying is when the food children normally do eat for lunch, returns home untouched. “Why didn’t you eat your lunch?” is a common question many parents ask,

“I put in all the food you like”.

The common reply “I didn’t have time”.

I asked my son Alex that very question his third week back to school. This was now three weeks in a row his moroccan hummus came home without a slight imprint of a breadstick. I was puzzled as he would eat it at home and I wondered why not at school. Alex explained

“When I opened my hummus at lunchtime the kids at my table didn’t like the smell of it and started saying get that food away, it’s disgusting”

Wonderful I thought another food banned from the lunchbox. I simply smiled and said

“No problem we’ll just eat it at home.”

For fussy eaters, a lunch box can be a great way of building their confidence with food and helping to break down barriers. We are creatures of habit, most of the time when we go food shopping you do so on auto pilot. Throwing trusted and recognised brands into the trolley.

Again without consciously realising it we to tend to prepare food the same way and lunch boxes are no exception.

Fussy eating children can become very accustomed to only having a sandwich cut a certain way or only eat a certain brand of food. So here are my top 5 tips for bring back lunchbox harmony.

Tip 1

An easy place for parents to start tackling this problem is by making a slight noticeable difference when preparing the food. These are little changes you can introduce everyday. So for example  if your child eats cheese, most people might cut it into sticks, instead try cutting it into small triangles or small cubes. If a child normally eats red cheddar cheese try adding in a piece of white cheddar. Change the way a sandwich is cut by cutting into triangles or pinwheels. If they eat crackers, try intruding a one that loos the same but has a different flavour.

Begin in small steps only making one noticeable difference at a time. This is because if you change to much all of a sudden, children could go into food mayhem meltdown mode and refuse to eat anything because it looks different.

Tip 2

Cutting the food into small manageable pieces so children don’t have to work to hard chewing the foods, as small mouths can get tired from chewing. If chewing is challenging they could  swallowing large pieces of food which effects the food breaking down and the nutrients being absorbed properly.

Tip3

Another common food habit is children asking for fruit like apples and pears to be peeled. It not always due to the fact they don’t like the colour. Young children can find chewing skin very difficult as it is more fibrous. You can freeze the skin then add it to a smoothie.

To encourage children to eat the skin try cutting some fresh apple when they are eating at home wafer thin so the skin isn’t as difficult to eat.

Tip 4

Introducing new foods into the lunch box. It is also a good idea to add in a food children are not very keen on or have never seen before. The focus is not to eat it the food but to become use to seeing it helping them become more familiar with this new food. It’s important this new food is kept in a different compartment so it is not touching off any other food they eat or they might reject eating everything else.

So don’t include this new food as part of the food that forms the main part of there lunch, except they probably might not eat it at the beginning and only provide them with a tiny amount of the new food. It will most likely be left in the lunch box and that’s ok.

Tip 5

Another area of concern from parents is lunch boxes coming home nearly untouched even from children who aren’t necessarily fussy eaters. So why do so many child say the reason they can’t eat their lunch is because they don’t have the time. The answer is a bit more scientific then you might think.

When we are excited or upset it we get a surge of adrenaline, which can switches off our hungry hormones.  When children are told it’s lunch time, most schools get them to eat at there desk then they are allowed to go outside to play with there friends. This excitement gives a boost of adrenaline which will effect their hungry. If the reverse was done by children playing first in the fresh air and then eat after, they would be more focused on eating the food and naturally feel more hungry.

I always love hearing your thoughts, comments, feedback or questions. You can reach me at louise@foodoppi.com

Until next time, thank you for reading.

Louise x