Sometimes it is hard to know what to pack in a picky eaters lunch box. My little girl who is only 3 actually eats all kinds of food, and will eat anything you give her.
For sure, you’ve had your share of lunch boxes that turned out to be not so successful. Ever had the food get ruined? Unfortunately, I can relate. I have a seven year old picky eater and plenty of food has been left uneaten which means I’ve wasted money. Below is a list of some tips that can help you avoid these problems and improve your child’s attitude towards meals by packing the perfect lunch box.
What To Pack In A Picky Eaters Lunch Box
Contrary to what some parents think, children have good reasons to be picky eaters. And while we do want to encourage our children to try new foods and eat what is good for them, we also want to make sure that they eat well at school. Being hungry will not help them concentrate!
Guidelines for School Lunches
- Include Nutritious Foods: Become familiar with the food groups in either the food pyramid or the new “MyPlate” recommendations. There is no rule that specifies what foods from those food groups you have to send to school with your child. Nor is there a rule that says you have to have something from each group in the lunch. It’s not a bad idea to try to represent those groups in your child’s lunch, but if it’s not possible every day, then you can make up for what is missing either at breakfast or at dinner.
- Include Foods Your Child Likes: There is no point in sending your child to school with lunch you know she isn’t going to eat. Instead, consider the foods that she does like and then figure out ways to send them to school. You may have to get a little creative sometimes, but with a little thinking, you can find ways to pack them. For example, if your child likes raw carrots, put some carrot sticks or baby carrots in a baggie and put them in the lunch bag.
- Think Outside the Lunchbox: Getting creative about school lunches means you have to think outside the usual lunchbox ideas. For example, my son liked a cucumber salad made with sour cream and vinegar (without the dill) and liked it on white bread, so I would pack the two separately and include a plastic fork and spoon so he could make his own sandwich. He got a vegetable, grain, and dairy that way. Here are some other ideas on how to pack a nutritious lunch.
Choose Whole Grain Bread for Sandwiches
Make sandwiches with whole-grain bread. If your kid doesn’t like the grainy or heavy texture, try a brand with a lighter texture. Some kids, on the other hand, prefer the heavier texture and even the bits of grain in some whole wheat brands. Whole wheat bread is often sweeter than white bread, so some kids actually prefer it.
Crackers and Tortillas Are a Great Alternative
If your child doesn’t like sandwiches, consider packing some whole grain crackers. It is an easy way to include grains in your child’s lunch. If your child likes tortillas, pack one or more of those. They can be fun to turn into “wraps” with the other foods you include.
Raw Vegetables on the Side
Some children do not like cooked vegetables but will eat them raw. Raw vegetables are sometimes sweeter than cooked ones and they have a completely different texture. Tasty raw veggies include:
- Green beans
- Green peppers
- Cherry tomatoes (although tomatoes are technically a fruit)
Fruit as a Lunchbox Dessert
Most kids like fruit, so be sure to pack some. An apple might be nutritious, but if it ends up in the garbage, it won’t do him any good. A convenient option is individual serving packages of applesauce or sliced fruits like peaches or pears. Fresh fruit is the best choice, but sometimes you can include a juice box. You can also slice the fruit and include some yummy fruit dip.
Dairy Products for Lunch
The most obvious choice for a dairy product is a thermos of milk. However, there are other options, including:
- Cheese sticks or chunks of cheese
- Cream cheese
Lean Protein for Healthy Kids
There are many sources of lean protein, from both animals and vegetables, that are easy to pack in a lunchbox, including:
- Deli lunch meat
- Pieces of chicken
- Leftovers from last night’s dinner, like roast beef
- Marinated tofu
- A hard-boiled egg
- A jelly sandwich made with French toast
How to Pack a School Lunch
Are you new to packing lunch for kids? Here are some great tips so you are successful for the first time:
- Pack sandwich items separately and let him put the sandwich together himself so it doesn’t get soggy, or eat the items separately. That includes any condiments.
- Get an insulated lunch box to keep the food fresh and safe.
- Include a napkin and any necessary utensils! It’s hard to spread cream cheese on a cracker without a plastic knife!
EASY LUNCH IDEAS FOR PICKY EATERS
Even if your kiddo only likes a few kinds of food in their lunches, there are all sorts of ways to mix and match their options and give them just what they need to make it through the day.
When coming up with toddler lunch ideas for picky eaters, it’s also good to consider how long certain foods will take to eat. Lunch periods don’t last forever, and if your child is a chatterbox, they might not have time to eat all the great things you packed for them. The easier to chew, the better!
This lunchbox staple is sure to please any picky eater! To change up this classic, try adding different nut butters like almond butter or granola butter. If it’s the jelly they aren’t crazy about, try adding a little honey instead. Or, just go for plain ol’ peanut butter.
You can also play with different kinds of bread. For example, you could test out whole grain bread, a bagel or putting their favorite fillings inside a pita pocket. Add some bananas and apples and you have a real pita party!
The easiest, tastiest option of all would be adding an Uncrustables® sandwich to their lunchbox. Simply toss it in with their other favorite sides, like carrot sticks and string cheese, and you have another easy, yummy lunch in the books. Try our Peanut Butter & Strawberry Jam Sandwich for a thaw and eat lunchtime favorite.
Give your kid a little bit of everything they love for lunch! Choose salami, turkey or ham; strawberries, blueberries or apple slices; snap peas or baby carrots; and a slice of flatbread or some crackers. You can also add a few slices or cubes of cheese, or a container of yogurt.
It’s hard to go wrong with a wrap! Choose your child’s favorite deli meat and cheese, wrap it in a soft tortilla, and you’re golden. You can even roll up peanut butter and sliced fruit like apples or bananas, or pack a breakfast burrito filled with scrambled eggs, cheese and bacon.
To save on prep time, pack Uncrustables Roll-Ups for your kiddo! Our Turkey and Colby Jack Cheese Sandwich Roll-Ups are made with 100% real cheese and have ten (10) grams of protein per serving. Just like our original Uncrustables sandwiches, they thaw inside your child’s lunchbox and are ready to eat by lunchtime. Pack them alongside a cup of yogurt and strawberries or hummus and celery sticks for a lunch that rocks.
The Soup ‘n’ Side
If your child loves your simple homemade tomato or chicken noodle soup, let them take it with them for lunch! Just pack it in a small insulated mug to keep it warm and pack a slice of flatbread or whole grain crackers for dipping. An orange or other fruit could be a sweet way to finish out the meal.
The Breakfast Club
Who says breakfast foods can only be for breakfast? Eggs, bacon and cheese are excellent (or should we say, “eggs”-ellent) in wraps as breakfast burritos. There are plenty of healthy muffin and quiche recipes that could even help you sneak in some extra vegetables, too. Add an orange, strawberries or a sliced banana as a side, or a hard-boiled egg.
I didn’t expect a bento box to be the solution for my picky eaters.
I grew up eating everything that was served to me. Lox, spinach, broccoli, asparagus…all vegetables actually. Every type of fish or cheese too. Since day one. The term “picky eaters” was something completely foreign to me. Everyone in my family ate everything that was served to them. Happily, I would like to add.
Sure, the fact that my mom is a great cook helped. But that’s not it. We were never forced to eat something, or to “finish the broccoli.” We just ate because we liked it and we ate only as much as was necessary to fill us up.
My familiarity with the term “picky eater” expanded tremendously when I got to know my adorable children.
And yes, this is a topic that I am very passionate about and on which I could probably write a 12 page essay. But, I will not bore you, I promise. I just want to point out something I understood when it came to raising Child D.
Child D reached playgroup age right about the same time that bento boxes became all of the rage. Suddenly lunch was an event and everyone went crazy preparing them. At the time, I was just starting to get to know Esti Waldman. Her adorable daughter (who happens to be my daughter’s age) was getting these colorful fun lunches everyday, in a bento-style box. It didn’t take long before Child D announced “Ma! I want fancy lunch like Naava!!”
So Mom found out what “fancy lunch” stands for and Mom ordered lunch boxes on Amazon, listening very carefully to which ones Esti W. recommended.
And lunch has never been the same again.
Fast forward a few years: Child D grew up and now I don’t pack lunch for her anymore. But, I notice, she is my healthiest and most adventurous eater. She will literally taste anything, without having to be persuaded.
I came to the conclusion that this happened, thanks to the lunch boxes. Hear me out. I will explain.
Child D was exposed to many different foods at a young age, an age where children still trust the parent and will eat anything, because that’s what they do. I would fill up her lunch box daily with the usual foods (cream cheese sandwich, yogurt…) and then add something interesting to change it up. A pickle, a cut up mango, a bit of cottage cheese. Sometimes some celery. Or a hard boiled egg straight up.
This helped her develop a liking to all kinds of foods. And I enjoyed getting creative with her menu. She learned about textures and flavors. But mostly, she learned not to be afraid to try something.
I am in the process of testing out my theory on Child E who is currently 20 months old. He’s been eating his lunch the bento way since this past summer (even when eating at home) and he loves it. So far so good.
I think I am onto something.
I will keep you posted.
In the meantime, have a look at what I sent for lunch this week. You might pick up an idea or two for your own toddler’s lunch.
Monday’s Lunch (find this box here):
Good for you pancakes (recipe in Our Table page 96) with sugar-free maple syrup, mini kirbies (also known as cutecumbers. I get them at Costco and I love them because they don’t require peeling), mozzarella string cheese, and one halved hard-boiled egg.
Tuesday’s Lunch (find this box here):
Norman’s Greek kids yogurt (my son loves those, and I like the shape; it fits so well in the lunchbox) a bit of granola to sprinkle onto the yogurt, a celery rod filled with almond butter and topped with sunflower seeds, macaroni (yesterday’s dinner leftovers), cubed mango, and blueberries. Make sure to add the cute little picks (see below).
This is our favorite lunch box of all time. It used to belong to Naava Waldman. Naava outgrew bento lunches too and now we get to enjoy this cute pineapple. Sadly, it’s not available for sale anymore.
Starting from the top right: Blueberries, Stella D’oro cookies, and pomegranate seeds.
Cubed sandwich, fish stix and ketchup, and gherkins. Check out our video on how to cube a sandwich easily.
Thursday’s Lunch (find this box here):
Waffles with sugar-free maple syrup (not gonna lie, those were breakfast leftovers), peeled tangerine, and a yogurt.