Tips for Planning School Lunches When you think about dinner, keep lunches in mind. It is…
If you’re not familiar with the Division of Responsibility in Feeding (sDOR), I would highly recommend that you learn it and give it a try! I can assure you that it’s a total game-changer (it really REALLY works!) and will finally take the stress out of feeding (for everyone).
This philosophy is based on the fact that kids are naturally intuitive. If given the chance, they will eat as much as they need, grow in the way that is right for them, and will learn to eat the food their parents eat—that is, if parents fulfill their roles in the sDOR.
Simply put, you decide what goes into your child’s lunchbox, making sure that there is variety and balance, and then your child decides whether and how much they eat out of it. This might seem obvious, but what I tend to see in my practice is that when children don’t like the foods that their parents send, their parents start to cater to them by sending only foods that the child likes or wants. Although this might seem like the path of least resistance, it doesn’t give kids an opportunity to learn to love new foods. It actually perpetuates picky eating habits! It’s your job as the parent to choose the foods. When it comes to the when and where – that’s taken care of by the school day schedule.
Ugh. There’s nothing quite as frustrating – I get it! First of all, know that it’s normal and that your child’s overall nutrition likely isn’t affected. Think about it this way: your child’s lunch is a snapshot of what they consume in a week. If you took stock of everything they ate over the period of 7 days, it’s very likely they’re meeting their nutritional requirements! Kids’ eating patterns can be erratic and unpredictable, and are based on SO many factors. We need to trust that they are getting what they need (because they likely are – they don’t need as much as you might think!).
Disciplining a child or getting frustrated at them for not eating their lunch foods might unintentionally shame them, and/or deter them even more from eating their lunch foods. Even though it’s frustrating, wasteful, and sometimes worrisome, we need to keep our child’s long-term relationship with food as the top priority. We want our kids to have positive experiences with food, regardless if they eat it or not.
So, instead of reacting negatively, get curious…
Here are five tips that might help your picky eater have more success with school lunches.
You can find these everywhere now. A bento box allows you to separate foods into their own compartments (most kids don’t like their foods touching, especially if they’re going through a picky eating phase!), offers opportunity for lots of variety and colour (the more options and variety, the more your child will eat overall – think about how people eat at a buffet!), AND it’s better for the environment because you don’t have to use as many baggies or as much plastic wrap.
This sounds silly, but it’s really important! Your child might not be eating much because they can’t get into it in the first place!
Although you’re ultimately in charge of what is packed in their school lunches (remember the sDOR), offer some structured choice (see my “rule of 5” below). For example, you can offer your younger children (under 7) two choices for their fruit “would you like a nectarine or would you like grapes tomorrow for lunch?”. If your kids are at the age that they can pack their own lunches independently (around ages 7-8 and older), you can teach them about the rule of five, and have options from each category for them to choose from. Getting kids involves and allowing them to have a bit of control, will increase the chances of them eating more of their lunch.
The rule of 5 means that there are at least 5 items in your child’s lunch for balance: