10 answers

Picky 5 Year Old Starting Full Time Kindergarten

My 5 year old son has started full day kindergarten. He brings his lunch to school, but he is a really picky eater. We are now down to chicken nuggets, grilled cheese and mac and cheese....none of which I can pack in his lunch box. I tried cheese sandwiches, but he wouldn't eat it. Does anyone know of foods he might be interested in that can be packed? Plus, how do I get him to try new foods...or do I just keep packing a healthy lunch and hope that when he gets hungry enough he will eat what I pack?


What can I do next?

Featured Answers

Howabout those 'Uncrustables'? Smucker's makes frozen PB&J with the crust cut off. You put it in his lunchbox frozen & it'll be defrosted by lunchtime.

Howabout individually wrapped string cheese?

More Answers

You are absolutely doing the right thing by continuing to pack healthy lunches. Don't give in to the junk food/easy foods. My children especially my son are both picky eaters. My daughter would eat mac and cheese for every meal if I would let her. However, I just keep offering things to her over and over. She now eats lettuce and tomato on turkey and cheese sandwiches. She prefers provolone to american cheese. She likes carrots w/ ranch for dipping. Loves sliced apples, cantelope and bananas and yogurt. My son on the other hand is a bit more picky. I swear he didn't eat anything this weekend, but I just keep serving him what we are eating and if he is hungy he will eat it. He now eats corn on the cob, green beans, and on occasion peas. Loves bananas and yogurt. He will eat applesauce but won't touch an apple. Will eat bread and ketchup from a sandwich, but won't eat the meat or cheese.

Good Luck, just keep trying.

There's a GREAT book called "Child of Mine" that talks about nutrition and feeding your children. The one thing I always reflect on is this philosophy on the division of responsibility when it comes to eating. As a parent it is your responsibility to provide food at consistant times each day. As a child, it is their responsibility to eat -- or not. The book talks about not making meal time a battle but rather a pleasant family time. Even if my kids say they are not hungry, I make them a plate, put it in front of them and have them sit with the family for dinner. There is no discussion of other options.

Having said that, when my daughter started Kindergarten last year, she had never eaten a cold lunch. Only because I had always prepared hot lunches. I feel for you. I guess because I felt responsible for creating this issue of her only wanting to eat a hot lunch, I used to actually go to the school at lunch time with a hot lunch. There were some days where this just didn't work so here are some of the things I packed:

always a fresh fruit and a milk
crackers with butter or a tiny peanut butter on them
buttered bread
cottage cheese
a fresh veggie - snap peas, carrots, beans and ranch dressing to dip
rolled up lunch meat - ham, turkey, roast beef or salomi
a slice of cheese
pretzals with little container of cream cheese to dip the pretzals in
spinich dip and crackers

I tried to keep it as healthy as possible.

About 3 mos. into the year I started signing up for 1 or 2 days of the hot lunch. She didn't like it but then was more appreciative of the cold lunch I would pack if I wasn't dropping off her hot lunch. This is when I started adding a treat with her lunch like a cookie or small piece of candy (from Easter basket). This really encouraged her to like the packed lunch. I never brought anything treat like if I dropped off the hot lunch. Finally towards the end of the year I had transitioned to only bringing her lunch 1 time a week at the most and not even every week.

School just started this week and even though she's requested already that I bring her lunch to her - I've told her, you are in 1st grade now and old enough to eat a packed lunch or the hot lunch from school. I secretely have to resist the urge to bring her what I know she will eat because I know in the long run I am not helping her.

Sorry this is so long. I hope it helps!

T. S.

Pack what is best for him (healthy, but still kid friendly) and he will eat when he is hungry. This is a battle you MUST win. Do not cater to his pickyness...it will have ridiculous, lasting consequesces. This may sound harsh, but here's where I'm coming from...I now have a 13 y/o (8th grade) who is THE pickiest eater and I'm at my end. I really wish I had known how important this battle was to win "way back when". I thought I was being a nice mom and always fixing what he likes best (I was a single mom for 6 years, so I frequestly made 2 different things for dinner). Now, he only likes "certain" kinds of lunchmeat, "special" kinds of bread, won't touch peanut butter & jelly, or even just a peanut butter sandwich (but peanut butter on saltines is okay...go figure). Always want's "designer food" like lunchables. It's nuts. I don't make a lunch for him anymore...he's now responsible for that...

But more important, it is also a power struggle. This is an area where your son isn't old enough to make his own decisions, so he needs to obey mommy. Just like at dinner time, we don't make a different dish for each family member based on their preferences, but everyone eats what mom makes, well the same is true for lunch...this is what mommy has made, so this is your lunch. "You have 2 choises for lunch (or any other meal for that matter) take it or leave it". It's not a restaurant.

Now, that being said...you can do things that make lunch fun and that will help him. Try to gear his lunches to what he likes, but make sure it they your choices. For example, give him chocolate milk in his thermos, instead of plain. Or juice once in awhile. Slip in a little sheet of stickers as a treat, or a big smiley face on his sandwich. Cut it into shapes with cookie cutters (dino's, stars, different size circles, etc.). If you make lunch fun sometimes, it will be less of a battle. You can also let him help make his lunch. When my 13 y/o helps with dinner, he always eats it without fuss, because it feeds his pride, as well as his tummy. Another thing you can do to help you son have some "choice" or "control" is to let him make choices between 2 things. Ask him, "Would you like grape jelly or strawberry jelly on your PB&J?" This way you are telling him he's having PB&J (your choice) but he's feeling like he has a say because he's choosing the jelly. Limit choices to 2 or 3 at the most. Otherwise you'll be there all day...

I hope this helps. Believe me...I KNOW how frustrating it is. I also have a 2 and a 4 y/o and believe me...they eat what I give them or go hungry. They know mom means business and it has taken a LOT of stress out of our lives (except of course, the 13 y/o...)

Sorry...I seem to have written a short novel here...

Hi N.,

Another mom recently told me about Lunchables - she said that all kids like this. I'm not sure how healthy it is but it is probably okay for one or two of your son's weekly lunches. Even so, I'd keep putting a variety of healthy food on the table and in the lunchbox. For vegetables, try dips. Kids like to dip stuff. You could cut up some carrots, celery and cucumber that he could dip. Apple slices with caremel sauce dip. You could pack the mac & cheese in one of the themos containers designed for hot food. Maybe you could get the nuggets in this thermos container as well. I saw that container at Target near the lunchboxes. Also there are some healthy fruit cereal bars designed for children by Earth's Best from Whole Foods.

Hope this helps a bit. Good Luck with your little picky eater.


You sound like me with my middle child. Lauren went to full time to kindergarten too. She started with half days, and then they took the kids that needed extra help, and Lauren was one of the yougest and always has been delayed somewhat. Imagine that, now, she is the top of her class and on honor role and usually high honor role too. She was also very picky. SHe has gotten better though. Do they have the option to buy their lunch there? That might be something to think about. Lauren did not at that age though, because I was afraid she would not know what to do or how to do it, but they do have people there helping the younger ones. Anyhow, we also once in a while would get a lunchable. They have the nuggests ones and pizza if she likes pizza. We did not do it all the time though, because alot of them are unhealthy. I used to send her with a pbj sadwich and she likes that. I would sometimes put a pudding or yogurt in there too. I would fix her a plain ham or turkey sandwich and then I found out that alot of the time she was not eating her food, so I talked to the person that watches them to make sure she was eating most of her food so I knew. Because we really dont if we are not there. That worked out good and it ended up being one of her teachers looking in on her.

S. Bailey CLD

N....my 7 yr daughter is a pickey eater too. All she will take for lunch is pbj sandwiches...we have tried various approaches none that work long term.. One friday she left her lunchbox on the box after school, and so monday she had to take hot lunch(a gentle reminder to her not to forget it anymore), and when she came home and i asked what she had for lunch, she actually ate something for hot lunch. i said, see you lived to tell me about it, so things other than pbj arent so bad are they..she kinda rolled her eyes and agreed with me..thats one way we got her to try other things..another thing i have started is that when she refuses to eat dinner because its not something she likes(i dont make seperate dinners for everyone in the house), then her punishment for refuses or her punishment for wasting food is she has to take hot lunch the next day at school..this has helped greatly with the wasting food and complaining that she doesnt like something and had gotten her to eat other things..but still her preference is pbj over hot lunch..the way i look at it now, as i have struggled with this starting the 3yr now, is is she doesnt like it, and doesnt eat, she wont starve..i tried the putting turkey sandiwches in her lunch and they came home not eaten..every once in awhile i throw a new kind of sandwich in and see if she will eat it...i dont do it alot, since its too costly to waste food, but then she just might be that hungry on that day and eat the new sandwich and decide it wasnt so bad...hope something helps...K.

Howabout those 'Uncrustables'? Smucker's makes frozen PB&J with the crust cut off. You put it in his lunchbox frozen & it'll be defrosted by lunchtime.

Howabout individually wrapped string cheese?

I feel your pain. I have twp picky eaters,7 and 4, and both are picky about different things. I have learned that if they don't eat or at least try something new each meal, then they lose a privilege, which for them is electronics(gameboy,gamecube,playstation, etc...)My seven yr old has an easy gag reflex which means if he really hates the taste of something he might throw up so I don't push it as far as school lunches. I make sure he eats a good breakfast and give him a healthy snack after school. I have found that all of my boys like fruit and grain bars(any brand) and if they want their favorite foods then they have to have either a piece of fruit or a fruit and grain bar before they get the "good "stuff. Not at the same time or they will eat what they want and say they are full. I hope this helps. I really like the idea of string cheese and something different each day.Good luck.


A couple of my friends were having this conversation a while ago and someone suggested the kids cookbook,'Pretend Soup'. Apparently it worked wonders with getting a 3 year old to try and enjoy lots of new foods. They have now bought a similar book called Salad People. They are written by Mollie Katzen of Moosewood fame but are simple recipes designed for kids to help with and to enjoy.

Hope this helps,


Target and Walmart both have nifty thermos-type insulated "bowls" that have lids that unscrew and even have a compartment for a spoon in the top... would be easy to pack mac n cheese in that!
Otherwise, how about packing things that aren't traditional.. some cheese cubes or slices, grapes, applesauce, crackers, carrot sticks, slices of turkey or ham, etc. he is still getting food groups without it being a "sandwich." Try him with different cheeses too if he doesn't like cheese much... my daughter has discovered that she loves Havarti and grapes for lunch!

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