School Lunch Ideas for Picky Eaters
I am in possession of a very picky eater. So picky that his teachers requested that he be changed to packed lunches as he was refusing to eat anything from the hot school lunches and so was hungry and distracted during the afternoon. That sent the problem of his school lunch firmly back to me, but what could I possibly give him that would be healthy, filling and give him the energy he needed?
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At the time he was only agreeing to eat Jam Sandwiches for his school packed lunch. This didn’t seem to be the most nutritious option for a packed lunch idea so I negotiated a truce…. We agreed that if he eat or at least tried what I gave him each day then he could have Jam Sandwiches on a Friday which is our treat day. Then I got started coming up with school lunch ideas for a picky eater.
Trial and Error
If you are in the position of trying to come up with school lunch ideas for picky eaters then my first tip would be variety. I have tried lots of packed lunch ideas some of which he has absolutely hated and others that I have gotten away with despite the fact that they clearly contained vegetables. It is all about trial and error with those fussy eaters. I must say I do also make deals with him. I am not sure that this is the best way to go, but I work on the idea that if I can at least get him to try some new things one day he might eat them. With that in mind here are some of the things that have worked when preparing the school lunchbox for my picky eater.
Top Tip; School Lunch for Picky Eaters
At the kids school they are not allowed to throw anything from their packed lunch away either so I know he has actually eaten it… Although I find this pretty grim when getting the lunch boxes back on a hot day it has really helped me to understand what he has and hasn’t eaten. If you have a fussy eater I would definitely recommend asking for them to not be allowed to throw things away. The school may not be able to accommodate the request, but it is worth an ask as I think knowing what they actually are consuming is half the battle.
I now know that he is often eating the fruit items first so the sweet stuff and then doesn’t have room for the protein. He needs the protein to help with his concentration and so I have been able to adjust quantities of fruit (he can always have more at home after school). I have also explained to him that I will remove any ‘sweet’ items like a yoghurt or fruit roll up if he doesn’t start to eat some of the savoury things. This is something I would never have been able to work out if he was able to throw away the stuff he hadn’t eaten.
MAKE AHEAD SCHOOL LUNCH IDEAS
Pizza Roll Ups
These are a really quick and easy way of getting him to secretly eat some vegetables as I use my hidden vegetable tomato sauce as the base for the pizza pinwheel.
All you need is store bought ready rolled pastry, some passata or a batch of my tomato sauce if you want to get those secret vegetables in, grated cheese and any other toppings that your child would like to include in their packed lunch. We go for diced pepperoni.
Then it is as easy as spreading the tomato sauce on the base, scattering over the rest of the toppings, rolling up pastry and cutting into about 1 inch slices. You will need to make sure that your toppings go right to the edge though as otherwise some of the pizza rolls won’t have any filling. I then freeze them on a baking tray and once they are no longer sticky put them in a stasher bag. They stay in the freezer until the night before I need them and then I bake and he eats them cold as part of his school lunch. I love these as not only are they nutritious and filling they are also a freezable packed lunch idea so they save me time.
At the same time as I am making the pizza roll ups I also do a batch of sausage rolls. I simply buy raw sausage meat (you can just cut open normal sausages if you can’t get that) and put it onto the laid out sheet of pastry. Then it is roll and cut. I tend to keep them fairly thin, but about a couple of inches in length. It is then into the freezer on a baking tray until they are no longer sticky (just make sure they aren’t touching when they go in) and then into a stasher bag until they are needed.
I find sausage rolls are a perfect option for the days when my kids have an after school club as I like to know they have had some protein. I believe you can also freeze these once they are cooked, but for me the pastry goes soggy then so I just pop them in the oven whilst or right after I am cooking the dinner et voila a quick and easy freezable kids packed lunch idea.
Pesto Pin Wheels
Again at the same time as I am doing the pizza roll ups and sausage rolls I also make a vegetarian version. For this you need a pre rolled pastry sheet, pesto (to make it yourself chuck basil, olive oil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan into a blender and press the on switch. It really is that simple. I just guess for quantities and adjust based on taste. I usually also add a squeeze of lemon and pepper), grated mozarella. Cover the pastry with the pesto and sprinkle all over with the mozarella. Bake till golden brown; job done.
As with the other rolls I freeze these uncooked and then bake the ones I need the night before. These also make a great buffet item for a grown up party. I love them!!
I keep banging on about these bags so I thought I would explain what they are. These are silicone reusable bags which I use for everything. They go in the freezer, the microwave and can even be used to sous vide. They have completely removed the need for single use plastic bags in our household and I rather love them!
I guess this is a bit like a bento box idea. I have some tupperware from Sistema which is divided into sections and I use this to create him a bit of a selection of packed lunch items. My picky eater seems to do better when he has a choice and when there are several small items to eat. In his selection box I usually put breadsticks, mozzarella, crackers, a mini babybel cheese, mini snack cucumbers and a yoghurt. The best bit about this idea is that it is a make ahead school lunch for kids. I tend to plan out the lunches by the week and can put this in the pot ready to go on the Monday and just keep in the fridge so it is perfect for that morning chaos!
It seems that almost all kids like pasta so I have also bought my fussy eater a thermos hot food flask which I fill with his favourite pasta meal and then he not only gets something nutritious, but something hot too! I tend to keep it simple and go with my hidden vegetable sauce, chicken and bacon.
I make sure it is really hot when it goes in and that there is lots of sauce. This helps it to stay warm. This is perfect for the winter. If you live in a warmer climate you could still do the same with a pasta salad version of their favourite pasta dish. This does work as a make in advance lunch if I just make enough when we eat it for dinner. It does still need reheating in the morning so it does need to be on a day that you are not behind schedule. For me that is basically never!
Do it Yourself
The last thing that has really worked for my son is sending him into school with a packed lunch that is like a do it yourself sandwich or roll. For some reason the idea of making his own sandwich or roll seems to make him more inclined to eat. When I am rushed for time I sometimes want to just give him a sandwich, but if I do I know it will come back uneaten (he doesn’t even like the Jam sarnies that he previously loved anymore) However, if I give him a roll, a little pot of butter and slices of cheese or ham then it all gets eaten.
I hope some of these make ahead packed lunch and freezable school lunch ideas are useful and help you with your fussy eater. It is so frustrating trying to feed a picky eater, I know. You want them to eat healthily, but you also just want them to eat! I feel your pain. My consolation is that I am told the extreme fussiness found in little kids usually doesn’t continue forever. I await the time when my little boy will be eating me out of house and home. In the meantime if you have any great ideas for make in advance lunch box ideas for kids or in fact any quick lunch box fillers do share… I would love to hear all ideas as next week he will probably decide he hates all of the above and I will be back at square one.