There it goes, all the energy devoted to making a beautiful healthy lunch…in the garbage again!

As parents, our mornings are busy. Nevertheless, most parents take good care of offering a variety of healthy food items. Moreover, they must obey the school policy, which is not always easy. So what a disappointment when, for some obscure reason, the lunch comes back basically intact… But first, be thankful for your child’s honesty. Throwing the food in the garbage at school would have been a lot easier, so this is already a sign of a good parent-child relationship where trust is in the equation, so there is still hope!

Let’s analyze a bit further those ‘obscure reasons’ and resolve the lunch issue once and for all.What makes a child not want to eat? Depending on the age, the causes may differ, but in general asking yourself the following questions might give you a hint:

  • Is the child eating lunch normally at home, for example, on weekends? If not, it may be that lunch is simply not his or her best meal, and it’s just a matter of appetite. If the child is growing fine, catching up with snacks or at other meals, you may not have to worry.

  • Is the food offered at lunchtime very different from the food offered at home? School policies can be the issue here, or maybe your own policy. ‘Healthy food’ can be perceived as ‘boring food’ by children, especially teenagers. Either you change the menu, change the perception regarding healthy foods, or change your vocabulary and stop labeling food as healthy or unhealthy. Let’s just eat because it’s good!

  • Does your child have a say regarding the menu? Imagine if you have to eat something you didn’t choose every workday for 12 years. Just having a choice makes it already more interesting, which is why getting your kids involved in lunch planning and preparation is one of the most effective ways to get closer to an empty lunchbox.

  • Is the context of the meal adequate for your child? Some kids do not eat when pressured. Others have to be encouraged to eat. Get informed, ask questions. The problem may not be in the lunchbox but in the head.

  • Is the child attempting to get attention by not eating? It is something children tend to do, especially if, as a super-parent, you adapt by offering every member of the family a different lunch…If so, now is really the time to get everybody up and cooking! Change the pattern by sharing your knowledge and responsibility. They will thank you later when they have kids of their own!

  • If the problem persists and you have no clue, get support from a nutritionist.
Whatever the reason (or reasons) might be, you will always find your way around with good communication. Even little children will give you clues if you take the time to ask. Try the Family Counsel for meal planning every week. It works when everybody really has a say, and it’s a great tool for learning negotiation skills. And once all these great ideas come to life, why would you be the only one involved in the process? Everybody eats right? So, everybody cooks!

About the Author:

Marie-France Lalancette, registered dietician, is the director of Nutrition Familia, which offers nutrition counselling services to the whole family. For adults, Nutrition Familia offers the “Stop dieting, Start living program” to help reintegrating a healthy lifestyle after a long diet history. She is the author of Adieu regime, bonjour la vie! published at Editions de l’Homme and has 17 years of experience in healthy weight management and 7 years in pediatric nutrition and perinatality.