Parents have so many pressures on them when raising kids and the pressure around lunchboxes seems to be another stress that we just can’t avoid. Families who have neurodivergent kids have extra challenges already so let’s take the pressure off by not expecting a perfect lunchbox or perfect eating.
K – Keep offering foods your kids like on rotation.
Can you imagine opening a lunchbox and seeing foods you are not familiar with? Chances are you wouldn’t eat them – and neither will your kid. Let’s keep those familiar foods appearing in the lunchbox so we can feel more confident that food will be eaten. To ensure that they don’t get bored of these foods though, try rotating them from day to day or make small changes to the way they look. This could be the shape (triangles vs squares) or colour (green vs red) or even change what container it is in.
I – Involve them in the planning, shopping and packing (when possible).
When any child is involved with knowing what is going into their lunchbox, there is always a greater chance that food will be eaten. Because good food is food that is eaten! With your child, try writing down all the foods that could possibly go into the lunchbox. Look at pictures, go shopping and trial foods at home before they go into the lunchbox. Have them help pop the foods in when it’s time to pack.
N – Nutrition across the day is OK.
Ideally a child’s lunchbox could include something from all food groups, however, this is easier said than done. Sometimes cheese gets sweaty! Or fruit is never on the menu anyway! Remember that each lunchbox does not have to be perfect and don’t expect them to eat it all! Reduce pressure on yourself and on them. There can be many reasons why even favourite foods come home – was there a stressful incident? Too much talking at lunchtime? Too hot/cold to enjoy the food? Trust their appetite and trust they will make up for any missed foods at other times of the day.
D – Deconstruct – making lunch easy.
Consider how the food is presented as well. Some kids just don’t like combined foods like sandwiches or wraps. It is perfectly ok to have these deconstructed and separated in different areas of the lunchbox or in different containers. Try keeping the foods in easy small pieces that make it quicker to pick up and eat. Trial out containers to ensure that your kid can open them easily.
Lunchboxes don't have to be stressful! Eat Smart Dietitian's are well versed in understanding how to support you and your child!
Healthy Lunchbox Week is from the 4th - 10th February. For more information click HERE.
Written By Natasha McGregor