We would all love to have our children eat everything we pack in their lunchbox, but unfortunately this is usually not the case especially when it comes to fussy eaters. As a busy parent, it can be really frustrating trying to keep up with your child's ever-changing likes and dislikes. One day they might love their veg, and the next refuse to eat it!
Over the years, I have found that the best way to include variety in my girls lunchbox is to keep including new types of foods, and most importantly not to give up!
The following strategies will help you include new foods and get your child, picky or not, eating a more varied lunchbox. You can also find more healthy recreations of your child's favourites inside my Lunchbox Made Easy book!
1. Give your child control
Get your child involved! Getting your children involved in the kitchen is a fantastic way to get them more comfortable around food. Having a voice in what they will be eating means that there will be no surprises come lunch time! However, it is super important to make sure that they understand the food groups and choose something from each category.
Getting children involved in making up their lunch
2. Offer a variety of foods
By pairing 'comfortable' preferred foods with 'uncomfortable' less favoured foods your child will feel less anxious and be more likely to give new foods a try! As mentioned previously, it's important to encourage your child to choose from each food group and to add variety each day.
3. Separate foods
Use individual pots for the different elements of your child's lunch such as sandwiches, snacks, dips etc. Avoid a lunchbox with compartments that don't have separate covers. Juices from foods like fruit can easily run across to things like sandwiches making them soggy and undesirable. Even worse, 'comfortable' and 'uncomfortable' foods may end up touching which can be a fussy child's worst nightmare!
4. Avoid offering the same foods again and again (food jagging)
By providing the exact same food over and over again you can cause food jagging. This is when your child eventually gets burnt out by certain foods and will no longer want to eat them. To avoid this, try to have at least a two day gap before you offer the same foods again in the same format.
5. Use vegetable alternatives
It's not easy getting veg into the lunchbox, especially if your child isn't a fan of them. So, a great way to increase your child's veggie intake without them even knowing is by making delicious vegetable spreads like my Basil & Courgette Pesto!
6. Batch cook
Stock your freezer with homemade healthy options for meals and snacks. Recipes like my Apple & Banana Muffins and Quick Bolognese are perfect to batch cook, and you can get all the pots you need to batch cook for the entire family in the Ultimate Batch Cooking Set!
7. Use an assortment of colour
Children love colour! A colourful lunchbox built on a variety of foods will be more appealing to a child and get them eating more nutritious kinds of foods.
8. Recreate your child's favourites in a healthy way
There are bound to be restaurant meals or shop bought snacks that your child loves and will eat without any fuss at all. So why not recreate these in a more nutritious way at home! For example if your child is a huge fan of crisps, why not try offer them some Veggie Crisps or some delicious Roasted Chickpeas? By serving up new foods in a familiar way, they may be more inclined to give it a try.
9. Give second chances
If the lunchbox comes home and it's not empty, encourage your child to eat any untouched food when they return home. Praise them for finishing anything but never force them.
10. Never give up
Most importantly, keep trying and never give up! Your child will gradually increase the variety of foods they will eat. Remember, patience is key!
At first it may be difficult to broaden the range of foods your child eats, so why not start off by introducing one new food each week. In our house, we call it 'Try it Tuesday' as every Tuesday I serve up something new yet familiar to my girls. Some of my favourites have been Zoodles with Pesto and Chicken and Butternut Squash Lasagne, both of which are now a staple in my household!
Follow my Mummy Cooks Instagram (@mummycooks) for inspiration on what to try. I'd love to also follow your journey so make sure to tag your posts with #TryItTuesday and share your photos with me!