picky eaters

Lunch Strategies For Picky Eaters

We have the perfect eating solution for picky eaters.

Wait for it…
Wait for it…
Almost there…

Just repeat after us:
“There’s no place like home… There’s no place like home.”

Then click your heels three times, and remember that lunchtime at daycare or preschool is probably NOT the best time to get picky eaters to try something new.

The Struggle Is Real

Adam’s dad now knows that new food introductions should take place at home—not at school. But the food struggles continue because he still won’t eat chicken salad… And trying to get him to eat anything the color green is virtually impossible.

The following conversation takes place, in some form, almost every night around the dinner table:

Adam: What’s for dinner, Dad?

Adam’s dad: Oh, your favorite. Chicken nuggets, rice and lima beans.

Adam: Lima beans? That’s not my favorite. Grrrooss!

Adam’s dad: Well, that’s what we’re having. And if you eat everything on your plate you can have a scoop of chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Adam: OK, but I only want three lima beans.

Adam’s dad: You’ll eat everything… then dessert.

Adam: Yes, Dad.

Adam then scarfs down the chicken and rice. The spoonful of lima beans rests alone, pushed off to the side. Adam stares at them, hoping they’ll magically disappear. He thinks to himself, Maybe if I plant them outside, they will grow into a giant beanstalk. Then I won’t have to eat them!

Minutes go by…

A stalemate.

“Come on Adam, eat your lima beans and I’ll give you two scoops of ice cream.” Dad ups the ante.  

Adam weighs his options. This is a good deal. He quickly shoves all the beans in his mouth, gags a little, and swallows them quickly. He proudly shows his father his empty mouth by sticking his tongue all the way out. Two scoops of chocolate ice cream are headed his way.

Have Realistic Expectations

The following conversation takes place the next day while driving to school:

Adam’s dad: You have chicken, a bean salad and orange slices for lunch. Oh, and your favorite granola bar for snack. But I want you to eat all your lunch, especially the bean salad.

Adam: OK.

Adam’s dad: I mean it, the bean salad too. If you eat it all, we can play video games after school.

Adam: OK, OK.

At lunch time, Adam eats the chicken and the orange slices, but throws the bean salad into the trash.

On the way home that afternoon, Adam’s dad asks if he ate the bean salad at lunch.

Adam says brightly, “I sure did, Dad!”

Support For Picky Eaters

At Oak Village Academy, lunch is a time where our staff encourages all students to eat the nutritious and tasty lunches their parents pack for them every day. We treat food with respect… and we discourage wastefulness at every opportunity. Of course, we come across a picky eater or two, but we do not pressure or bribe our students to eat their lunches. Still, we find that most of our students are ready for lunch after all the morning activities. They also need the nourishment for their afternoon schedule. Communication is always key between our staff and parents, and we address all eating issues with our parents first. Everyone has foods they don’t enjoy and won’t eat… but we hope all our students will go home with empty lunch boxes at the end of the day.  

Here are some strategies for picky eaters from the Mayo Clinic that we encourage you to practice:

Pack a lunch they will eat.

If you know your child will eat chicken strips, cheese slices, peeled apples and raisins for lunch, then by all means pack it for them. That’s a proper lunch, and we encourage our students to eat their entire lunch.

The experts agree: Don’t bargain or reward over food.

Rewarding a child for eating their vegetables is not the best practice, according to the experts. Making deals like Adam’s dad did in the car is not the best tactic. Our staff are trained to encourage students to eat, but we never bargain, reward or pressure students into eating.

Give choices.

Allowing children to be part of the process in making their lunch could go a long way in developing good eating habits. Milk or juice? Carrots or celery? Pasta or rice? #TheLesserOf2Evils

Try a flavor adjustment with sauces or spreads.

Did you know that young children’s taste buds are far more sensitive and have more taste receptors than adults. This means that they experience flavor more intensely. Adding seasonings, sauces and spreads to certain foods can help. Sunflower butter on celery sticks. Ranch dip for carrots. Cream cheese for cucumbers. Be creative… But again, try these at home first.

Explore The Oak Village Academy™ Difference

At Oak Village Academy™ preschool in Cary, NC we learn the natural way by encouraging indoor and outdoor learning environments with low child to teacher ratios. Contact us to learn more: info@oakvillageacademy.com or (919) 377-1802