Having a picky eater can turn lunchtime into a repetitive cycle, where you find yourself serving the same few foods day after day. This monotony can be exacerbated when you need to pack their lunch for school, daycare, or vacations. Finding food they'll eat amidst their preferences and dislikes becomes a challenge.  

Every picky eater has their unique preferences, but there are some common themes, textures, and flavors they tend to gravitate towards. It's around these common preferences that the lunch ideas can be crafted.   

Here are some easy-peasy tips to make life simple for you and your little one!  

Reinventing the Basics:   

Instead of sticking to plain PB&Js or cheese sandwiches, experiment with new flavors and bread options like tortillas, mini bagels, or crackers. Get creative by cutting their food in fun shapes with cookie cutters or turning them into bite-sized "sushi" rolls.  

Focus on textures:  

Though it's unlikely that your child will enjoy every lunch option on this list, you can get a very decent idea of which will work best by considering what your child usually eats. For example, they could enjoy other soft textures if they enjoy bread and noodles. As an alternative, try sliced apples or carrots if your kid enjoys crunchy meals. 

Eat lunch with your child:  

This isn't always possible, but prioritizing it will help you both. Focus on spending time together rather than what they are eating. Taking the pressure off them during meals can have huge effects, which basically could be chatting with them in a friendly way, without putting all the focus on what they're eating. This helps take the spotlight off them and lets them eat what they like at their own pace. 

Don't expect them to eat everything:   

It feels so good to a tender parent's heart when your kids eat their meal and fill their tiny bellies, but most meals are probably not going that way, especially with a picky eater. Making this slight mindset shift can save you a lot of frustration.

Playing with Presentation:   

Small tweaks in prepping and packaging can make new foods more appealing. Bite-sized foods packed into Bento-style lunchboxes and fun, frilly toothpicks accompanying fruit and cheese cubes can make mealtime more enticing.  

Making favorites healthier:   

Boost the nutrition of their favorite dishes by sneaking in veggies or swapping in whole grains. For example, add roasted broccoli and tomatoes to kid-favorite mac and cheese or incorporate veggies into pasta salad.  

Introducing new foods:   

If your child is resistant to certain foods, try adding small, bite-sized portions to their lunchbox and reintroducing them periodically over several weeks. Sometimes, repeated exposure can help them develop a taste for new foods.  

Homemade snacks:   

Making homemade versions of their favorite snacks ensures they're nutritious and free from excessive sugar and additives. Granola bars made at home can be just as tasty and fueling as store-bought options. 

Adding color to meals:   

Brightly colored produce like raspberries and cherry tomatoes can add visual appeal to an otherwise bland lunch. These pops of color might entice your child to try new foods.  

Sampling everything:   

Offering a variety of foods in small snack-sized portions, including treats alongside proven favorites and new items, encourages exploration and experimentation.  

Heating up lunch:   

Preparing a hot lunch, such as soup or a pasta dish, can make even disliked ingredients more appealing, especially during colder months. Investing in a good thermos allows for easy transportation.  

The power of dips:   

A flavorful dip can make any meal more enjoyable. Dippable options like veggies with hummus or spinach dip are always a hit and can make healthier foods more enticing.  


By incorporating these strategies and meal ideas, you can help even the pickiest eaters finish every last bite, putting an end to uneaten lunches and ensuring they're properly fueled for their day ahead.

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