Back To School With A Picky Eater


Back To School With A Picky Eater

Lunch at school or daycare can be challenging, especially when you have a picky eater. Here are some tips and tricks to make mealtimes more enjoyable and less stressful during the school year.

Written by Lillian Williams, MS, CCC-SLP, Lead Speech Language Pathologist at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Center.

  • Schedule and routine

    • Keep foods and drinks at the table while at home, just like at school. Avoid distractions like snacking in front of the tv.
    • Plan your morning routine to allow time for breakfast at home before school.
    • Keep your after-school schedule consistent. Have a snack ready when they get home and have dinner a few hours after that.
    • Always have water available between meals and snacks.
  • How to pack a lunch

    • Include at least one food you know your child enjoys! This does not mean you always have to send the same peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but offer at least one food you know they will eat most of the time.
    • Try to include something in their lunchbox from each food group. Send a protein, a fruit or vegetable, and a carb or starchy food along with a healthy drink each day.
    • Try not to send too many foods. A lunchbox full of ten different foods might seem safe because “surely they’ll eat something,” but too many foods can be overwhelming and lead them to avoid everything.
  • Get creative and have fun

    • Serve fruits and veggies with a dip or sauce, use cookie cutters to cut foods into new shapes, or send a fun new utensil to explore.
    • Pick new foods to try that are the same shape, color, or texture as a food they already enjoy. The more familiar a new food looks to a favorite food, the more comfortable your child may be with trying it.
    • Have your child help pack their lunch. If they are involved in preparing their food, they may be more motivated to try it once they see it later in their lunchbox.
    • Get social! Having the same foods as their friends can often be the best way for kids to get courageous and try new foods.

Back to School with a Picky EaterMany kids grow out of the “picky eating” phase, but if your child is avoiding foods with certain textures, entire food groups, or not able to feed themselves, ask your pediatrician to refer you to East Tennessee Children’s Hospital Rehabilitation Center. Our expert team of speech and occupational therapists have been helping picky eaters and their families for 85 years and counting. 


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