Back to School Advice for Parents of Picky Eaters

Do you have a picky eater?


Parents often face daily struggles when it comes to picky eaters and packing school lunches. What do you pack for a child who only eats certain foods? How do you make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need? Picky eaters exist, but there are ways to ensure your child eats what they need to grow healthy. With creativity and advanced planning, you can ensure your child has a nutritious and delicious lunch daily.

How to get picky eaters to try new foods

If your children resist trying new foods, don’t force them, and don’t make a big deal out of it. Just let them know that fresh foods are available if they want to try something new. One way you can help your kids try new foods is by offering them different options in their lunch boxes. Here are some tips:

Start with the familiar foods.

When packing your kids’ lunch box, always include their favorite food and throw in one or two new items they haven’t tried before.

Let your children help in the lunch box preparation

Ask your kids what they want to see in their lunchbox daily, and then get them involved in the lunch-packing process. This is to make them feel they have a say in what goes into their lunch box. You can start by shopping. Let the kids choose fruits and vegetables from the grocery they like, but show them some healthy options they haven’t tried before.

Next, let your kids help with simple tasks for food preparation like washing or peeling fruits and vegetables, mixing ingredients, adding toppings to sandwiches, etc. Introduce new food items by letting them do taste tests.

Don’t be frustrated if they want the same food every day

Giving your child his favorite food daily is okay, but you can add some tweaks. For example, don’t freak out if your kids want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich daily. Add side items like fruit, a cheese stick, or sliced cucumbers to complete the lunch box. Introduce a new thing like a vegetable, fruit, or dessert. This way, you already have the basic item in the lunch box and add a side dish as a variety.

Make a list of food options

Sit down with your kids and list all the foods they want. Next, list foods they might be willing to try at lunchtime. Don’t be frustrated if they don’t agree with everything you suggest, but at least that’s a start. When your mind goes blank on what to pack for lunch, you can refer to that list for options and ideas. Try different food variations, so your child doesn’t get bored.

Be creative in packing their lunch box

Throw in a note, a sticker, or silly drawings. Make your kids excited about their lunch boxes every day.

Lunch box ideas

Creating different and unique lunchboxes for each child can encourage them to try new and healthier foods. What goes into a lunch box? You might also want to check the U.S. dietary guidelines to come up with nutritious meals for your kids. Here are some suggestions:

Protein-rich foods: hard-boiled eggs, cheese cubes or strings, sushi, chicken salad and crackers, egg salad sandwiches, tuna sandwiches, tacos, burritos, chicken rotisserie, tortilla wraps with a variation of fillings like turkey and cheese, jelly, and cream cheese; deli meat slices, rolled ham, turkey, or roast beef, peanut butter burritos, chicken nuggets with dips, canned fish, lentils, tofu, red rice, bread, DIY Lunchables, etc.

Grains: bagels, whole grain crackers, french toast, mini pizza, pita pockets

Pasta: spaghetti, meatballs, homemade mac and cheese, ravioli, lasagna, cold pasta salad

Fruit: apples, sliced oranges, mandarin, pears, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon, dried fruit,

Vegetables: carrots, black olives, snap peas, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, cucumbers, pickles, edamame, bell peppers, celery, etc. Include dips for vegetables like guacamole, pasta salad

Snacks/desserts: pretzels, popcorn, nuts and trail mix, pumpkin seeds, rice crackers, pita chips, seaweed snacks, cheese, dried fruit or raisins, yogurt, crackers, pretzels, healthy homemade muffins, granola bars, banana chips, waffles


Here are some tips, tricks, and advice from real moms packing lunchboxes for picky eaters.

“They can take the same thing for lunch every day, if that’s what they will eat. No need to send the sacrificial baby carrots if your kid won’t eat them.”

-C. McNeils

Find a few things they like and stick with those. Just because I don’t want to eat the same exact lunch everyday doesn’t mean my kids don’t want to. No need to change things up if they’re happy.

-N. Mitchell

I found that looking at the menu and trying to pick some things that might appeal led to my one kiddos trying lots of new foods. We also started trying to make sure that lunches were balanced, so we created a shelf in the pantry of “sides” you could choose from to bring. So-maybe squeeze applesauce and granola bar. Same with the fridge.


When I pack, I make sure to pack things that they are comfortable with and I know they will eat. In my opinion, school lunch from home is not the time for introducing new foods. Hope that helps!

-L. Siegal

There are various ways to get your kids to try new foods, so it’s essential to find the right lunch box ideas that will work best for them. What is necessary is to make sure your kids are getting enough fruits and vegetables. You can plan ahead of time to ensure that your children, especially the picky eaters, have a healthy diet all year round.