Often, kids can be hard to please when it comes to food. If it were up to them, they would eat only a few chosen dishes or a limited number of foods that don’t meet their nutritional needs.
Perhaps you’re baffled when they reject the same meal that they used to call their favorite, and they surprise you by throwing it or spitting it out right in front of you. Unfortunately, this may become a daily ritual—and then one day, you may notice that they suddenly go back to loving the food that was earlier refused.
This issue might also come up when preparing a lunchbox, and in this case, you’re left frantically looking for ways to provide the nutrition that your kid needs even when they are away from home. What foods should you include and exclude to guarantee that what you pack will be eaten?
We must do away with the misconception that being a picky eater is a given for young children. Most often, they are simply more sensitive to the flavors, smells and textures of food. It is also difficult to predict what they might like about a specific dish on a given day because their preferences are constantly changing.
When you have a child with an ever-shifting appetite, you might try new foods and new ways to prepare and present meals. You may even have to resort to distractions like TV and mobile phones, which is hardly an ideal solution.
Picky eating habits can range from moderate to severe, but either way, it can become a burden on any family.
Still, the question remains…
When it comes to prepping a lunchbox for a child that’s hard-to-please, a few simple steps can help lower their degree of pickiness.
1. Be a role model
Kids tend to instinctively imitate their parents, so when you are trying new foods together, it’s good to refrain from negative comments and instead, express how much you like the food in front of you. This makes for an overall positive and encouraging experience.
2. Present similar meals to the whole family
Your children are influenced by what goes on at home. This includes mealtimes. Preparing the same dishes you would make for a lunchbox and presenting them to the whole family together will make these foods more desirable for your child. On the other hand, presenting different foods to each individual family member may increase the likelihood of your child refusing to eat a meal.
3. Pay attention to how a meal looks
Presentation is a factor in whether your child accepts a meal. For that reason, it can help to make your children’s meals fun, creative and colorful. When you prepare a lunchbox, there are many ways to capture your kids’ interest and make it more enjoyable.
4. Avoid snacks and sweets
Try not to give your kids snacks outside of regular mealtimes because this can ruin their appetites for main meals. It may also motivate them to refuse some food so that they can eat snacks instead. This also applies to sweet items. If a child gets used to receiving sweets after a meal, they may want to skip the main dish and wait for dessert.
5. Avoid using food as a reward
Using food as an incentive can lead to bad eating habits because children may associate certain foods with the times they earn them, then refuse to eat meals at other times.
6. Include your kids in planning meals and lunchboxes
Children have the capacity for autonomy and sometimes want to make decisions for themselves. Including them in lunchbox planning and prep can give them the freedom to choose their favorite foods from what is available and can greatly encourage them to accept the overall meal. To make this even easier, Puck has a variety of products for your child to choose from.
7. Introduce new foods gradually
Kids are curious, but when it comes to food, they may be overwhelmed by a variety of new experiences and may refuse a new meal altogether. Try introducing new ingredients one at a time, adding them to regular meals and recipes. If your children sees an unfamiliar food on its own, they may be more likely to refuse to eat it.
8. Avoid being forceful and reprimanding
One of the reasons kids refuse to eat their food is because they are forced to eat it. It leads children to form a negative association with certain foods. Avoid high-pressure tactics. Instead, urge them to take a bite or two of a new food, without forcing them to eat the whole thing.
9. Have patience and don’t give up
Handling a fussy eater can be tedious sometimes and winning your child’s approval for new foods can take time, energy and multiple attempts. Try to find innovative lunchbox recipes that are balanced and easy. You’ll will most likely have your patience tested along the way, but the key is to not give up!
If you’ve tried all this and your child still refuses to eat certain foods, don’t worry. Consult your doctor, who can direct you toward other possible solutions. And remember: what your children need most is you, and whatever you do in your own unique way. As far as they’re concerned, you make it special.