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You plan, prepare and pack their school lunch. It’s a labor of love meant to fuel kids’ best learning and development. Except, they don’t eat it — and you’re feeling fed up.   

When lunchboxes boomerang home, day after day, seemingly untouched, what can parents do? How can we avoid the infuriating routine of packing quality food that inevitably ends up in the trash?  

If you’re tired of bickering over the untouched lunch, here’s my 3-step plan for improving the odds it’ll get eaten.  

Step 1:  NEVER ask your child “WHY” they didn’t eat their lunch.  

There are only two answers to that question. 

“I didn’t like it.” or  “I didn’t have time.”  

Both are probably accurate and you will not elicit change coming at it from this angle. 

Step 2: Ask for kids input instead of invoking defensiveness.


“What did you have to eat today?”

“Did you even open the bag of carrots?”

“Why didn’t you finish your sandwich?”

“You said you wanted a turkey and cheese roll up? You didn’t even touch this!”

“I see you ate the pretzels/goldfish/chips, but nothing else.” 

Instead, engage your child in collaborative problem solving by intentionally asking for their input. 


“How can we change your lunch to make it something you like better?”

“What green food(s) would work in your lunchbox?”

“Let’s make a list of crunchy veggies you’re open to trying at lunch.”

“It seems like protein foods are coming home untouched. What different proteins can we try in your lunch next week?”

“Tell me some foods you’d like to have in your lunchbox this week.”

Step 3: Send your kid packing! 

Set aside 10 minutes to pack your OWN lunch alongside your child packing theirs. You’ll be modeling healthy habits for your child and improving your nutrition as well!

Enthusiasm for consumption correlates with ownership of creating the meal. Get your child involved in packing their lunch daily.  If it’s too time consuming for them to pack the whole thing, ask them to pack one item from the category of things they’ve been most reluctant to eat.  

Keep the conversation going as you adjust lunches week to week. Change what you put in their lunch based on the feedback they give you in Step 3. When certain foods still come home entirely untouched ask a question like: “I’m noticing cucumbers coming back home in your lunch. What other green vegetable would work better for you?”

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