5 Back-to-School Lunches for Picky Eaters

If your kid’s lunch box is full of food they can’t stand, chances are, it’s going straight to the trash can or returning home untouched. Obviously, for the parent packing said discarded lunch, that's beyond frustrating; after all, nobody can perform well with an empty tank. Our best school lunch strategy for picky-eaters is packing foods they’re familiar with, packaged in a way they won't get bored with.

Building balanced lunches for the kiddos is all about variety, simplicity and getting in enough protein. The simpler the better when it comes to these lunch-box items, so keep veggies and fruits in their natural form (but cut up for ease) and keep sauces to a minimum. Hey, less work on your part. 

There could be hundreds of reasons why your child is turned off to a certain food, but sometimes it’s as simple as the way the food is packed. Using ice packs in every lunch box will keep their food at a desirable, fresh-out-of-the-fridge temperature. Using small, reusable containers rather than plastic baggies or aluminum foil will keep the food from getting squished or slimy as it sits. If nothing is allowed to touch in your child’s lunchbox, consider utilizing a bento box with separate sections designated for each food item. 

Read more: Our Favorite Back-to-School Chicken Dinners

Does your child love freshly sliced apples but refuse to eat them once they’ve turned brown? We’ve got a hack for that. Rebuild the apple’s shape after you’ve cut out slices and secure them back together with a rubber band or sheet of plastic wrap. This will prevent the inside of the apple from oxidizing, and will keep the apple slices looking and tasting freshly cut. 

Simple Buttered Noodle Box

Buttered noodles might already be on rotation at dinnertime for your picky eater, but at least you know they’ll likely be a hit at lunchtime too. Complete the packed lunch with sliced watermelon, carrot sticks and a (separate) container of ranch dressing. Familiar condiments like ranch and ketchup can be packed in small to-go containers, or you can grab a few individual packets of them whenever you eat at a fast food restaurant. Top it all off with graham cracker and peanut butter sandwiches, which provide some fueling protein as well as a salty-sweet fix for dessert.

Ham Rolls and Fruit Skewers

Rolled up lunch meat is a simple way to serve a lot of protein, and stacked crackers and cheese will never disappoint. A fun way to add in a serving of fruit is by creating pineapple and strawberry skewers, but you can swap these fruits out for any berries or melons that your child will tolerate. Serve these skewers with a dollop of chocolate hummus for dipping. (They’ll never have to know this rich dessert is made of chickpeas!)

Build-Your-Own Pizza Kit

A stack of pepperonis, a fluffy hawaiian roll and a string cheese make for the perfect deconstructed pizza. This trio is great for kids who don’t like their food to touch, but if they are willing to mix and match, the pizza kit makes for a great lunchtime food craft. Pair this meal with a prepared fruit snack, a sweet treat, and a frozen water bottle to keep the lunchbox cool until it’s time to eat. 

Read more: 5 Easy Money-Saving Tips For Packing Your Kids’ Lunches

Mini Peanut Butter-Waffle Sandwiches

If your kid is big on breakfast, prepare an easy breakfast-for-lunch meal of toaster waffle sandwiches. Mini waffles from the freezer aisle are the perfect size for peanut butter sandwich sliders. Add honey for extra sweetness or marshmallow fluff for an extra-special day. Either way, your child will love these familiar flavors. Yogurt is another item you can pack frozen to serve as an ice pack, allowing it to the perfect cool temperature by lunch time.

Meat and Cheese Pinwheels

Pinwheels are a fun take on a standard meat and cheese roll up. They’re colorful, easy to eat, and they let your child see exactly what’s inside before wanting to rule it out. Peanut or almond butter packets are easy to throw in alongside a handful of pretzels for extra protein, and easy-to-peel clementines are a serving of fruit that requires no extra packaging.

So when it comes to feeding picky palates, think deconstructed meals and simple ingredients. These lunchbox meals will keep your child full and focused until they’re ready to graduate to more adventurous flavors.

Read more: The One Trick That Will Get Your Kid To Eat Basically Anything

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