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1St Grader Is a Very Picky Eater! Help!

My daughter will be going to school all day long this year. My problem is she is a very picky eater!! At home it is pb&j sandwich or chicken nuggets or hot dogs. There will only be 7 days out of the month that she will eat at school. SO my question to you all you great moms, is what can I make at home that she can take to school and eat. Anyone have picky eaters at school. If so what do you make for them? Everything that she does like that is on the go sorta has to be warmed up and I know that can't happen at the school. SO I need ideas. Thanks so much for all your help!!

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Has she always been a picky eater? Have you talked to her ped.? She could have some sensory issues with food.

You could start making what the school has for lunch, for her dinner. We get the school menu a month in advance, so if you copy theirs for awhile she might be okay.

My daughter is entering the third grade and has probably eaten school lunch 10 times in her life. Every other day, she has an Uncrustable ~ usually the grape jelly kind. I let her pick out what she wants for lunch. And she eats it. Yes, I know she does because the lunch room monitor is her grandma! It seemed silly to pay for school lunch that I know she won't eat and for her to go hungry. If she wants pb&j every day ~ who cares? There are much worse things in the world.

You pack her lunch and give her what she would like to eat in her lunch. You could also tell that it's okay try new things. When she eats at school tell at try one or two bites of the school food. Then she find what she likes and tell eat food she likes.

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Why not starve her out until she learns to eat normally? It sounds like you are giving her a heart attack diet! Peanut butter is only healthy in small amounts. It's high in natural fat, not bad fat in small amounts, very bad in large. Chicken nuggets and hot dogs?! These are treats, not actual meals on a regular basis.

She won't starve to death if she picks at her school lunch. But I am very worried about her health if she really is eating this way.


3 moms found this helpful

Here are some great articles:

http://www.askdrsears.com/html/3/T030800.asp "Feeding Toddlers: 17 Tips for Pleasing the Picky Eater" It has good ideas for introducing new, healthy foods to kids.

http://www.askdrsears.com/html/4/T040200.asp "ABC's of Teaching Nutrition to Kids" I thought this one was especially good because it teaches parents how to make learning about healthy food fun for kids. It talks about how to educate kids so that they make healthy choices on their own later on and so they know which kinds of food are healthy and why. The only thing I didn't agree with was that he suggested rewards, but everything else was pretty good advice. The article talks about referring to "grow" foods for kids.

The food that you mentioned she eats has very little nutrition. As I'm sure you know, her growing body need nutrients and vitamins to grow and develop properly. She needs to be eating fruits and vegetables in her diet. I know that is easier said than done though. However, you are in control over what kinds of food comes into your home. If another hot dog or chicken nugget never enters the door, then she will have to choose something else to eat.

Your taste buds change according to what you eat. If you only eat highly processed, low-nutrient food, like she does, then that is what you will crave. If you eliminate or cut back on those foods and eat mostly whole, natural food like fresh fruit, whole grains, fresh vegetables, etc, then that is what she will begin to like. I have tried this myself and trust me, it works. A great book to read is "If It's Not Food, Don't Eat It" by Kelly Hayford, C.N.C. It's really entertaining and is cheap on Amazon.com.

Remember, if the unhealthy food never enters your home, she won't be able to eat it. It can take up to 12 times of introducing a new food before someone gets used to it, so don't give up on offering healthier choices too soon. Most parents with picky eaters find this strategy helpful: offer her what YOU and your husband are eating for dinner, if she doesn't eat it, then she doesn't have too. But, next time she is hungry, that same meal is what she is to be offered again--whether it's an hour or two later, when she decides she is hungry, she gets her same lunch or dinner that was offered the first time--there are no alternatives or snacks (unless it's the next morning, then you wouldn't serve last night's dinner for breakfast). If she knows that pb&j, chicken nuggets and hot dogs are always an alternative, then she will never try something new. I work with children at a child development center and at meal times, they never ask for an alternative because they know there isn't one. They eat what they are given.

Sorry this isn't advice on new food suggestions for lunch, but I just thought I would give a bit of advice on the possible underlying issue as well. Hope this helps a little (those articles and book are great, I hope you try them)!
Best wishes!

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.,

My 8 year-old-son is a very picky eater as well, but when he started going to school, I let him have lunch at school one day a week, and then two days a week, so he could try something new different from home. He was a little bit reluctant at first, but the second week he liked because he was doing the same as his classmates. He started trying new things that never wanted to try before at home like broccoli, carrots, pears or grapes, etc...
Now, he is going to be a 3rd grader, and he is eating more different things, he is planning having lunch 4 times a week at school, which is great.
When my kid is not eating at school, I put in his lunch box, cheese sticks, slices of apples (I add a little bit of lemon juice because he does not like when the apples get brownish, the lemon juice will not have a taste after minutes you add it) multigrain crackers, pieces of cooked ham, orange juice or 1% milk, cold little sandwiches with margarine and colby jack cheese (he does not like melted o grilled cheese!!) frozen or liquid yoghurt... I put an ice pack in his lunch box when he has lunch at school.
It is not easy to deal with a picky eater, but sometimes is because we allow them to be picky eaters, and the best is to teach the kids to eat healthy food, never is too late. Kids never starve themselves (I learned that already with my younger one), remember that you are the MOM. I hope this has helped you. Good Luck!

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I agree with Suzi. Especially about hot dogs. They are loaded with nitrates that children's kidneys have a hard time filtering out. Peanut butter can be healthy only if you buy all natural. Make sure it doesn't have partially hydrogenated oils in it. Just tell her that she has to eat what is at school, and that is final. You're the mom. She won't starve.

1 mom found this helpful

my son is a picky eater but knowing what they serve aat school he still wants to buy lunch, he eats or not, he is the one to go hungry if he doesnt get accustomed to certain foods. He actually has learned to like some foods, he hates pasta of any kind so that kinda is a big deal as they serve a lot of that, a day or two a monh he wants a turkey and cheese sandwich or PB&J made at home and thats ok, on days he buys and doesnt eat much he is really hungry when he gets home. A good snack is the mandarin oranges in the individual containers. They'll survive being hungry until they learn to eat more things

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I have a picky eater going in to kindergarten, ours is all day. I was worried about this too, but he went to the 4 week summer school in June, and I was surprised that he did as well as he did. He didn't always eat everything, but he tried some things there that he threw a fit over at home. This is a time when peer pressure is helpful. He has the same likes as you mentioned, and is really not good at eating fruits and veggies. He likes apples, but not much else (I sneak stuff in on him in casserols). At school he tried carrots and liked them, and they encouraged him to try more stuff. At home I put a bite of fruit or veggie that I make for meals, whether he likes it or not, on his plate and he has to eat it. I set a timer when the fit gets bad and if he doesn't take the one bite, or at least try in a set amount of time (5 or 10 minutes), he doesn't get a snack that he wants later. Believe it or not this works. He usually decides he likes the stuff, or that it isn't that bad. He may not ask for more, but on occasion does... That happened with scrambled eggs, ham and cheese...a thirty minute fit of "I don't like it", then when he tried it he loved it. After this is when we started using the timer... He knows now that it is the rule and if the timer gets set we're done discussing it. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.,

I agree with one of the posters that hot dogs are so full of stuff and I wish I would have known that when my kids were little. But I also agreed with the post that said once she gets to school, it will open her taste buds just due to peer pressure. I remember one of my kids came home one day asking why I didn't buy kiwi because she LOVED it. News to me!
While I never had a picky eater, I can honestly say that I didn't really tolerate it either. Both kids ate what was served, no special meals or food just for them. I did NOT have the rule that they had to eat everything or clean their plates, (I think there are enough issues around food in this society) but they did have to take a bite.
No they will not starve and remember it may take up to 15 tries before kids or adults may even learn to like new foods. Most people will stop after the child says "Yuk" for the first time.
I can tell you it is still a process in our home even with the kids at 18 and 14. But they (husband too) have learned to love asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, mango, papaya, even odd things like tofu and calamari!
Don't give up, keep trying.

L. K

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My kids always took their lunch until last year, about idway through they decided to buy ther lunch & made them promise to eat it. I didn't want to pay for a lunch & have them go hungry because they wouldn't eat it. Let's face it, school food is not all that great even when it is something you like:)
I used to send those cracker sticks with cheese, handi-snacks, yogurts/gogurts,ham/cheese/crackers, fruit snacks, puddings, dry cereal, fruit & grain bars, granola bars, poptarts (alot of time they didn't have much of a main course, but I tried to send healthy snack things)

I also bought these metal thermoses (they were
kid sized & decorated @ Target & Toy R Us) & I would heat up ravioli, soup, hamburger helper, even chicken nuggets & put it in there & it would still be warm at lunch.

Hi K.! I too have picky eaters. I have found that buying a Thermos is a great tool. In the mornings, put boiling hot water into the thermos and put the lid on loosely. Then, heat up the meal of choice. Drain the hot water and then put the meal of choice into the thermos and seal it tightly. The food stays warm until lunch and the child is happy! My mom also did this for me when I was little. Good Luck! Kati

Has she always been a picky eater? Have you talked to her ped.? She could have some sensory issues with food.

You could start making what the school has for lunch, for her dinner. We get the school menu a month in advance, so if you copy theirs for awhile she might be okay.

I have a very, very picky 8 year old and we've had this same battle since he was in 1st grade. He never buys his lunch, because he won't eat it, then comes home with a horrible headache from not eating. Some of the things I send him are: peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese cubes, pepperoni bites, salami, crackers, yogurt cups, grilled chicken strips and a cup of barbeque sauce, chips and salsa. It takes some planning, and I know those aren't the healthiest lunches, but he has to eat something. I figure I can balance out the meals at home at dinner and breakfast. It's only 5 of his meals during the week. Not that big of deal. I'm not sure if you'd ever have the opportunity, but our school allows us to bring the kids lunch and eat with them, so I try once a week to bring him a sub sandwich, quessadilla, taco, even McDonald's, or something and eat with him. It's a fun way to meet some of his friends (plus, I can make sure he eats his lunch:))

I also have a picky first grader. I send her pbj on the Wonder kids bread, and she eats things like cheese, bananas, granola bars, pudding. I also sometimes send her chips or a dessert. The first few days last year I told her not to throw anything away from her lunch. I wanted to make sure she wasn't just eating the junk and throwing away her sandwiches! Also, if the school lunch has at least one thing included that she will eat, then I will let her eat school lunch. That way I know she gets at least something to eat, and I'm hoping that someday her friends will convince her to try some of the other things. At our school, the young kids eat an early lunch, so they also get a snack in the afternoon. That helps a little too, so I know she isn't starving!

on one of the other replies, I noticed a comment about schools not allowing PB....& this is true. A lot of the school districts now serve sunbutter or no nut butter at all. My son is allergic to peanut, & at age 11....for the 1st time in his life....he reacted to peanut by proximity...not by eating it. It was a scary moment for all of us.
On another note, it is true that if you don't stress over this, then all should be well. In fact, your child will either choose to eat the school lunch to "fit" in OR will choose to actively participate in packing her lunch from home. Either way she will be learning autonomy & exercising her freedom of choice. Huge steps forward on both your parts.

I bought a thermas that is microwavable at Target. It cost $15.95. I put low sodium Progesso Italian Wedding soup in it (my 7 year old daughter's favorite soup), spegetti o's, etc. in it. Just pop it in the microwave with whatever and seal it shut with the lid. It stays warm until lunch time. My daughter also loves boiled eggs. I put one in her lunch with cherry tomatotes another favorite of hers and a healthy dessert. I do this when we are not using the thermas.

I had the same issue with my daughter. I quit making her lunch because it kept coming home and I had to throw away..
The school got upset....I told them she would eat when she got hungry. Imagine, that is exactly what happened. She started eating the things they had available at school....

Are you sure they won't heat up food at her school? Her teacher should be able to put it in the microwave for a few seconds, I would ask (very nicely of course!) You could also have her help pick out ingredients to make her own lunchables and wraps- there are all different tortillas and spreads that she could do, maybe even different fruits in p.b. I would also ask her what her friends eat, and try to appeal to that side of her nature! Good luck!

My oldest daughter is going into 3rd grade and is the same way. (Her younger sister eats everything, so I know it is not just about what we are doing "wrong". Some kids taste buds are just more sensitive, but eventually they learn to try new things.) So don't give up on introducing her to other healthy choices.

We have had to be quite creative with Peanut Butter. We found a high quality honey whole wheat bread made by Bakers Inn and that ups the nutritional value greatly. (Plus it is soft and a bit sweet too.) We also make "PBJ wraps" with organic hoeny whole wheat wraps. Peanut Butter on whole wheat Ritz crackers with a cheese stick and fruit is good too. If she eats cheese, there are lots of things you can do with that!

As far as hot dogs go, a healthy alternative is the Morning Star Corn Dogs made with tofu (in the freezer section). Both of my girls love them! (You could heat up the mini ones and send in a thermos type container.) Also turkey dogs would be healthier than regular hot dogs, and I think Lunchables makes something with hot dogs too. (Although it would not be warmed up.)

But I do think asking for her ideas ahead of time is a good idea. Make a list of all the things that she will eat (especially the healthier items), and let her assist in making a lunch menu. (And usually when kids begin going full day they will have a snack time, so she will have another opportunity to eat then too.)

Don't worry. It will all work out. I told my 8 year old how taste buds change every seven years, and I do think it is true becasaue she is beginning to like new healthy choices she didn't like before!

Good luck!

I think it is good to gradually try to get healthier things in their diet. Starting full day 1st grade will be stressful enough w/o the pressure of not liking lunch. My son packs lunch almost every day and so do some of his friends. He ate a lot of pb&j but got kind of bored with it so he wanted to try some of the school lunches and likes to pick things out at the store that he would enjoy packing. Good luck and don't stress out.

I feel your same pain, my middle child is 7 and going into 2md grade ( Extremely picky eater ) it is definitely new to us and we have two other children a 12 yr old and a 13 month old that will eat anything and everything. I have struggled with all knowing grandparents that have accused us of being too lenient and of "spoiling" our daughter. I have always made sure that what she will eat is as healthy as I can make it, I felt I had to post after reading some of the other posts! some are incredibally helpful and kudos to those women! Honestly though I was Just at my daughters pediatrician today and discussed some of the picky eating and she assured me we werem't spoiling our daughter that some children did have more sensitive taste buds, even undiagnosed allergies to certain foods, and that with all likelyhood she would out grow her picky eating. ( My sister ate cheese and hot dog minus the bun w/ BBQ sauce for several years when we were kids and she eats well balanced meals now as an adult.)
Also for every adult that spouts the phrase that a child will not starve themselves...they have never had to deal with autism, my niece is autistic and will only eat certain foods, if she doesn't get those foods she will either forceablly vomit the food back up or refuse to eat...her will power is stronger than any adults I know of.
Good luck to you, and I do know the thermos thing works I have sent a hotdog in a thermos and chicken nuggets and they are still warm for lunchtime = D

B. SAHM of a 12 year old son, a 7 year old daughter and a 14 month old son

You can preheat the hotdog and chicken nuggets at home and send them to school with her. Does she have to eat them warm? Will she eat them cool out of her lunch box? Try getting her used to that now before school starts. Why will she only be eating at school 7 days out of the month? Is this not a public school? Is it a private school? If it is the latter they may heat it up for her, check it out and see. The little girl I watch is a vary picky eater and she takes nuggets to school and eats them from her lunch box chilled with an ice packk, she's done that with hotdogs too. If she likes certain fruits, pack some of that. Check the lunch menu, you never know when they'll have something she likes and she can just purchase lunch at school. Good luck and God bless.

Hi K.,

You are getting a lot of great advice and suggestions here. Listen to them ! :o)

The bigger deal you make over it, the bigger issue it will become.
Of my three kids, only one gave us trouble like this. He was not picky at all, but he just wouldn't sit still long enough to eat. ADHD was to blame. Totally different issue than picky.
We all ate the same thing at the same time, so if someone didn't like what was served, there was no substituting. This greatly discourages "pickiness" because as our pediatrician told us "Kids won't starve themselves. They'll eat when they get hungry." Make sure you are offering the healthy food you want them to eat, but if they don't eat it, be FIRM about NO treats or substitutions between meals.

Now my daughter has trouble with her five-year-old being a picky eater. She won't listen to my advice, so she struggles to get the kid to eat and spends tons of money on "fun" foods to entice her. I babysit this same child daily, and I have to tell you, I don't have these problems with her. She eats what I put in front of her because if she doesn't, she knows Gramma has no sympathy for her when she whines about being hungry later, and she knows Gramma will not give in and give treats unless she has eaten her meal.
I have actually seen her eating a meal with no problem at all, then her Mom walks in and suddenly she went into whining and gagging over what was on her plate. These little geniuses know how to work us !
Now she is going to kindergarten (all day, so she has breakfast AND lunch at school) and she is sometimes eating what they give her (she buys at school) and sometimes not, but gradually she is eating more of what they give her because the other kids are eating it.

Again, even HER pediatrician says "she won't starve herself."

One other thing I would like to say. So many parents now tend to give kids full adult size portions, and expect their child to finish it.
Moms, please ..... take a look at the small size of their little tummies. Put a few spoonfuls of what you want them to eat on their plates. When they finish that, give them more if they want it. Give only a half sandwich at a time, then the other half if they are not yet full.
They not only don't need as much food as an adult, but when they have too much on their plates, it looks overwhelming to them, and even the best eaters can balk at what looks like a mountain of food to their little eyes.

I wish you all the best. :o)

You pack her lunch and give her what she would like to eat in her lunch. You could also tell that it's okay try new things. When she eats at school tell at try one or two bites of the school food. Then she find what she likes and tell eat food she likes.

My daughter is entering the third grade and has probably eaten school lunch 10 times in her life. Every other day, she has an Uncrustable ~ usually the grape jelly kind. I let her pick out what she wants for lunch. And she eats it. Yes, I know she does because the lunch room monitor is her grandma! It seemed silly to pay for school lunch that I know she won't eat and for her to go hungry. If she wants pb&j every day ~ who cares? There are much worse things in the world.

I have one going to kindergarten that is a picky eater, she'll be going all day. We had a test run over the summer, she went to a day camp with big sister and had to bring her lunch. It was PB&J almost every day. I got the whole grain white bread and let her eat PB&J every day. My daughter will also eat quite a bit of fruit, so I sent plenty of grapes and strawberries wtih her. And we found that she likes Nutri Grain creal bars, so I would also send those. And of course she loves cheese puffs - but I stopped sending those because she eat just the cheesey puffs and not the sandwich. If you are going to send PB&J check with your school first - I've heard that some schools will not allow children to bring peanut butter because other kids may have peanut allegies. Good luck!!

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