School Lunchbox Tips and Tricks to Avoid a Daily Battle

Emily Manning

Emily Manning

February 4, 2022

School lunchbox tips and tricks

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Does your child bring their lunchbox home untouched and then claim to be starving? Do you stress over what to pack that is filling, healthy and varied? Packed lunches are consistently the issue that seems to get most parents seeing red! If you’re one of those parents, here are a few simple lunchbox tips and tricks to help you deal with the stresses of this daily routine.

We recently hosted a live video talk on our Instagram account with Deirdre Doyle, owner of the award-winning The Cool Food School, who teaches children about food through her fun, online course, in schools and preschools, and at live events nationwide. Deirdre shared her top tips for healthy snacks and lunchbox ideas for kids.

Below, Deirdre provides answers to the key lunchbox questions asked by parents and shares her top lunchbox tips to help make your school mornings easier.

Lunchbox Tips and Questions Answered

Why Does the Lunchbox Come Home Uneaten?

lunch box recipes essentials for starting school

Often, the fact that the school lunch comes back home again untouched is nothing to do with the food that has gone into the lunchbox. There are lots of other factors at play:

  • Not enough time to eat. In my experience, lunch time is limited and kids simply don’t have time to eat their lunch.
  • Kids are busy and distracted chatting to their friends, playing games, etc. Or they may be distracted thinking about school work or something the teacher or a friend said, so they don’t feel hungry for lunch.
  • Peer pressure. Kids may remark on each other’s lunches. If this is negative, they may no longer want to eat their lunch.

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What Should I Put in the Lunch Box?

This is the most common issue parents face. Do you find yourself planning something super Insta-worthy, but then actually making the same sandwich day in and day out?

We’re all looking for the Holy Grail of variety, healthy, interesting lunch box bits that our children will delight in eating – but the reality often gets in the way. Don’t stress, here’s why…

  • The school lunch is only one meal in the day. Your child will also eat breakfast and dinner, and most likely an after-school snack too. If you’re worried about the lunchbox being boring and not nutritious enough, bump up the fruit and vegetables in other meals during the day.
  • An Instagram-worthy lunchbox provides no nutrition if it’s not eaten. Your boring sandwich or repetitive lunchboxes provides nutrition and energy if it’s eaten. Go with what your child will eat rather than what you would like them to eat.
  • Putting a new food in the lunchbox in the vague hope that they’ll eat it in school is likely to backfire on you. Children need repeated exposure to a new food to accept it, and school is not the place for that! Start with a new food at home gradually until it is accepted and then, if it’s a success, pop it into the lunch box!

Here’s a quick overview of what I consider lunch box essentials:

  • A protein to fill them up – this can be meat, cheese, egg, beans, seeds or whatever your child will eat
  • Some form of carbohydrate for energy – bread, wraps, bagels, rice, pasta, noodles. I err on the side of wholemeal everything
  • Fruit & Veg – one or two portions
  • And water to drink.

Don’t Miss…

Pack a punch with plenty of goodness and deliciousness with these easy and healthy lunchbox bars – they’re perfect for hungry kids!

lunchbox bars container

How Do I Get Them to Eat…?

My top tip for getting my children to eat their lunches is quite simple – they make their own!

This has a slew of benefits for them and for me! But first, you must follow the “division of responsibility” in feeding or your child could be going to school with a six pack of crisps and a butter sandwich!

The Division of Responsibility in Feeding

Developed by American feeding guru Ellyn Satter, the division of responsibility in feeding strategy, in a nutshell, advises:

The responsibility of the parent is:

  • to provide and prepare the food
  • provide food regularly in a pleasant environment

The responsibility of the child is:

  • to eat
  • to eat what and as much as they want

So what this means is that if you don’t want your child to bring a six-pack of crisps to school, don’t provide a six-pack of crisps t0 choose from. Only provide your child with the food that you want them to eat, then allow them to choose what they want to eat.

This holds true not just for making lunches but across all mealtimes. It is not our responsibility as parents to bribe/cajole/threaten our children to eat – it is simply our job to provide the food and our child’s to then decide if they want to eat it or not.

So when you have established this simple strategy in the house, lunch making becomes easy. I provide a range of foods I want my children to eat like good quality protein, wholemeal carbs and plenty of fruit and veggies. They decide what they want and make their lunches every morning. They eat them because they chose it. Plus, I don’t have to make the lunches so it’s a complete win/win!

School Lunchbox Tips and Tricks to Avoid a Daily Battle - Mykidstime

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Published On: February 4th, 2022 / Categories: School / Last Updated: March 16th, 2022 / Tags: , /

About the Author: Emily Manning

Emily is the coffee-loving Editor of MyKidsTime. Mum of one daughter and two naughty Tibetan Terriers, she is particularly partial to Curly Wurlys and unable to resist pretty stationery and new cookbooks. As an avid foodie and domestic goddess-wannabe, she is most likely to be found in the kitchen.

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