Don’t worry you’re not alone! In fact some studies have shown that up to half of all children surveyed were reported as fussy by their parents. Whilst much of the research into fussy eating focuses on the toddler and pre-school years, some studies have found a peak in fussy eating around 5-6 years of age. Other studies have found consistent levels of fussy eating throughout childhood. No matter which study you want to refer to one thing is clear, fussy eating is a fairly normal part of childhood.
Key concerns I’ve heard from parents of fussy eaters usually revolve around their child not getting enough variety and struggling to introduce new foods into their diet.
With that in mind here are my top tips for packing a lunch box for a fussy eater
1. Make a plan - try using a packing guide and sitting down with your child to make a list of everything they accept in that category.
2. Make small changes to accepted foods - if your child is fussy to the point where you are only able to pack the same foods every day, try making small changes to the way that food is presented. For example cut it up differently, use a sandwich mould or empty packaged food straight into the container. These changes may seem insignificant, but they are teaching your child that their food can still taste acceptable to them, even if it looks slightly different. Winning their trust like this helps them to gradually expand their diet and stops them rejecting more food as they get sick of eating it.
3. Don’t sweat what comes home - Children can have a variety of reasons as to why they don’t eat everything in their lunchbox. What’s important to remember is that you should always adhere to the “division of responsibility”. This means it’s up to parents to decide what our children are offered to eat, but it’s up to our kids to decide whether to eat it and how much. Children are well in tune with their appetite. Don’t erode this ability by insisting that they finish the contents of their lunchbox. Over time this can lead to non hungry eating, and problems with their ability to regulate their weight.
4. Pack less to eat more - If your child is a reluctant eater, having to face a large portion of something (particularly in the busy and often overwhelming school environment) can be really off putting. Try packing less food, you may be surprised to find that it actually gets eaten!
5. Try it at home - Exposure and role modelling are two of the best tools you have up your sleeve to introduce new foods to your child. If your child only ever sees cucumber sticks in their lunch box they are probably going to be pretty reluctant to try them.
6. Make your snacks count - If you have a fussy eater you may well need to work a little bit harder to get some of the key nutrients and food groups in. This is often best done by switching out store bought snacks for nutrient dense options you’ve made yourself at home. The recipes you’ll find at Nudie Rudie contain fruits, vegetables, seeds and whole grains that can really make your lunch boxes pack a nutritional punch.