Family Life

6 Tips to Encourage Your Picky Child to Finish Their School Lunches

Oh my gosh, is it almost September already? That means back to school is right around the corner! It’s time to stock up on school supplies, a new backpack, new clothes, new shoes… I’m actually kind of excited about all that, but you know what I’m least looking forward to? Trying to pack lunches every day that my picky eaters will eat!

6 Tips for Encouraging Your Picky Child to Finish Their School Lunches

Both of my girls will be in school full-time this September, and I’m a little flustered at the idea of two lunches every day. I know I’m not the only one who struggles with this though. With that in mind, I’ve put together some tips to encourage your picky child to actually eat their school lunches.

1. Offer choices

Egg salad or ham and cheese? Carrot sticks or sliced red peppers? Mandarin oranges or grapes? Kids need to feel like they have some control, so offer them real choices. Too many choices can feel overwhelming though, so stick to two lunch options at one time.

Offer choices. Mandarin oranges or grapes for lunch?

2. Shop for lunch supplies together

My kids love going grocery shopping. Sure, it might be a little more work for me, but they love helping me pick out produce, adding groceries to the cart, and putting items on the check out conveyor belt. Not only is this a great opportunity to teach kids about comparison shopping and reading nutrition labels, but when they’re involved in picking out and buying their lunch items, they’re more likely to choose them for their lunch boxes, and then to eat them too.

3. Get them to help make lunch

The same goes with actually making their own lunches. We taught Tee how to make her sandwiches last year, and she loves to take on the responsibility of making her own lunch. She’s so proud of the sandwiches and snacks she makes herself, and she’s correspondingly that much more likely to eat them.

Get the kids to help make lunch!

4. Have fun with it

While I’m not up to those fancy Star Wars themed bento lunches I’ve oohed and aahed over on Pinterest, even I can make a little happy face out of pepperoni and a red pepper slice. Use cookie cutters to make fun sandwich and fruit shapes, or pack a snack of mini crackers and cheese. When in doubt, anything mini is fun!

Make lunch fun! Cookie cutters make fun watermelon shapes.

5. Experiment with new lunch foods

When your child won’t eat the usual lunch options, try mixing it up. Maybe skip the boring sandwiches and pack leftovers from last night’s Indian takeout dinner instead. How about breakfast for lunch – my kids will always eat pancakes! Or try bite-sized fruit and veggie pieces on a blunted kebab stick.

6. Include a treat

I want the kids to finish their lunches, and a little treat now and then keeps their lunches fun and interesting. Mott’s Fruitsations + Veggie fruit flavoured snacks are made from pear, apple, and carrot juices from concentrate and strawberry puree. They’re gluten-free and contain no artificial flavours or colours, so they’re a great treat at lunch, after school, or on our way to karate class.

Mott's Fruitsations + Veggie fruit flavoured snacks

If all else fails, remember that lots of kids are picky eaters, and they and their parents do survive. Keep trying, and take heart in knowing they’ll eventually outgrow their picky eating habits.

What tips and tricks do you have up your sleeve when it comes to encouraging your picky eater to eat their lunch?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation. Nevertheless, all opinions expressed are completely honest and my own, based on my personal experience. Your experience may differ.


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  • I do this with my 8-year-old and it works almost all the time. When he gets to pick what he takes for lunch he usualy eats all of it.

  • As a former elementary school lunchroom/playground aide and mom of 5, I can CONFIRM that these truly ARE good tips. I’ve seen it all from kids’ parents who pack ALL only sugar&junk which they DO eat…but….yikes,HAHA! To the ones who send only ALL the healthiest things, but with no fun element or input from the child…Those kids only eat what they like or try to trade or don’t eat at all or throw parts of untouched lunch in trash so parents will think they ate it. I use to try to change their minds ,for example if they tried to throw out apple, I’d say “WAIT!!! If I can make your apple talk will you eat some of it for me, pretty pleaseee with sugar on top?” They’d giggle & almost always said “OK” so I’d cut 2eyes into peeling & c shaped flap for moving mouth and make the mouth move/talk while saying in silly voice….”I can’t believe you were going to thow me away! That hurt my feelingssssss,wahhhh – I want to be loved and eaten like an apple is meant to be…Wahhhh,wahhh,wahhhhh…” OR sometimes depending on kids’ personality, I’d say “Ok buddy,its me or you….who’s going to bite who? ” then I’d make mouth open/shut and make biting sounds moving closer to their finger and in my voice say ‘OHOH you better hurry up and eat him FIRST & they’d Giiggle and eat it. YAY-

  • I have a 5 y.o picky eater and the information here gives me great ideas to encourage my little lady to finish here meal. Thanks for sharing these tips!