Lunch I Pack for School Is "Absolutely Disgusting." Help!

Updated on September 18, 2010
S.L. asks from Meridian, ID
41 answers

My son just started first grade. Kindergarten was half-day, so this is the first time he's had lunch at school. He picked a super cool insulated lunch box and stainless steel water bottle to haul his food in, and was very excited about taking lunch to school. He helped me choose what to pack for the first day, but could only eat half of his admittedly large sandwich. His juice also came back untouched. But that was just the beginning of our lunch troubles.

The entire first week, he always ate the fruit and pudding, but probably ate a total of 2 sandwiches. He drank about 1 1/2 bottles of juice over that time, as well. He tells me that he doesn't eat his sandwiches and drink his juice because they're "absolutely disgusting." He even came up with the theory that "bacteria have affected the taste." Meaning he thinks it tastes like it's rotting. Eew!

We're talking apple juice, his favorite for ages. And he told me that he didn't like the jam I'd used on his PB&J, so I bought the kind he wanted, but he ate even less of that "custom" sandwich than ever, and said it was horrible. This is the food he's eaten regularly for the past 6 years (meaning his whole life!) He says I don't pack enough food, but when he brings half of it home untouched, why would I pack more? Also, he comes home starving every day.

I don't want him living on applesauce and pudding cups, nor pigging out when he gets home, which ruins his appetite for dinner. I also don't want to make dinner at 4:15, which is when he gets home ravenous.

One theory my friend and I came up with involves his highly likely but as of yet untested giftedness. This friend's daughter's psychologist says that she copes with the stress of trying to fit in with the class and behave, even though she's bored stiff, by freaking out about the textures of things. She can't handle certain fabrics touching her, etc. She can't control most of her life, but she CAN control what things touch her. I'd never heard that explanation of a sensory processing disorder, but it makes sense to me. My friend and I started wondering if my son's problems with eating lunch have a similar root, that after an entire morning of trying to behave despite his intense boredom, he sort of "freaks out" at lunch.

I've done some online research about this problem, but only found suggestions about kids not having enough time to eat, or that they're too talkative to eat. The kids always explain that they like the food, but the packages are too hard to open, or they wanted to go out to recess so they skipped lunch. Never that they complain that their food is disgusting.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Do you have any suggestions? Since I don't know if it's related to giftedness or not, I'd appreciate any advice I can get, whether it takes his brains into account or not.

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So What Happened?

First of all, thank you so much for your ideas. I think I'll try sending just a sandwich and no treats for a while. I know it's only been 2 weeks of school, but I have tried a lot of your suggestions already. He doesn't want to help with packing because he wants it to be a surprise. He hates soup and ice cold drinks, and has eaten food out of baggies regularly. I'll ask him if he thinks his food tastes like plastic.

I think it's funny that someone mentioned ham and cheese quesadillas, because once my dad was visiting and stuck some ham in his quesadilla, and DS said it was so nasty that he has refused to eat a quesadilla ever since!

I was looking into buying a thermos-type thing to keep food hot, but I'm going to shop around a bit before I shell out $12 for a Spiderman one that he won't like in 2 years.

#2 This goes for all posts on just about any forum I've ever been on. Please read the question carefully before you reply! I never said that I think he has a sensory issue. And he wants more food--I'm not packing too much. He also has no problem with packages, that was what another mom said that doesn't apply to my situation.

#3 (this is off-topic)
I am so tired of hearing people tell me that my kid probably isn't gifted! The whole "they'll even out by 3rd grade" argument is a bunch of bull, because by third grade, most gifted kids have learned that being smart is something they should hide so they can fit in, and that school's boring and they can't do anything to change it. That's exactly what I did. I was in the gifted program, his dad was in the gifted program. He's reading 6th grade books and taught himself to multiply when he was 4. He knows all about viruses and bacteria and how vaccines work, can describe how things decay, and designs his own science experiments. His teachers are all blown away by him and totally confounded. His kindergarten teacher was considering suggesting that he go to 3rd grade for some subjects. His pediatrician has fun asking all my boys all sorts of things. It's a game to him to see just how smart they really are.

And of course, since I live with this constantly, his smarts come first to my mind when I'm worried about a problem he's having. It's the first thing everyone notices about him, and the dominant character trait that causes problems for him and us.

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answers from Sacramento on

I would start off by cutting back on what you send to where it's just a main item and a tiny snack. That way, he really has to focus on that main item.

Think of new ways of presenting the food. For instance, instead of a sandwich, how about the peanut butter and jelly on saltine crackers, making up a bunch of mini sandwiches. That way, no warm bread. Or send him with a polar insulated cup filled with a cold Instant Breakfast drink or a Thermos with soup.

I suspect another boy made up something about bacteria and it stuck with him. Boys constantly try to gross out each other and I bet that's what started all of this.

Good luck!

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answers from Anchorage on

My son kept claiming he did not have time to eat his sandwich, until I stopped packing the "goodies", and sent only an apple and that sandwich, than all of a sudden he had time to eat. Now he knows that if he does not eat the good part of his lunch, I do not pack a dessert. It sounds to me like this "disgusting" thing is simply an excuse not to eat.

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answers from Orlando on

Don't give him applesauce & pudding in his lunch. Just give him a sandwich and a drink for a few days. See what happens.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

I'm sure your little boy is smart ;-) but I'll betcha what is going on was the same thing with my equally smart :-) son last year in first grade. He was yakkety yakking too much to eat his food. (We started packing b/c I discovered that when he "bought" every day, he had about 5 mins to eat by the time he got through the line!) He always found time to eat his treat--but not his main course. So I just started packing a main item and a drink. Guess what? It was gone when he came home....hmmmmm....
Once he consistently started eating his main course, I started adding a SMALL treat--one cookie, cut up fruit, or a tiny candy. All gone!
He's eating wthout your supervision and figures he can pick and choose, and what kid wouldn't choose pudding over a "disgusting" sandwich?! lol
Recently my son has been requesting Chciken Cool Wraps from Chik Fil A and I give him one half per day. He loves them! (But my kid basically eats anything which made the phantom sandwich reappearances all the more mysterious!) Good luck.

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answers from Lincoln on

I went through this as a child. I HATE sandwiches that have been sitting in a lunch box all morning. They taste different. The juice also tastes different when its been sitting in a lunchbox then if it comes straight from the fridge.
Try sending little cups of peanut butter and jelly separately from the bread and pack a plastic knife. (the little lidded cups that they use for sauces at restaurants, you can buy them at Sam's). I would only send enough for half a sandwich. Also try putting an ice cube (they make long reusable ones made for putting in a water bottle) in his bottle of juice to help it keep extra cold and yummy until lunch.
If that doesn't work then start sending stuff other than sandwhiches. Crackers, cheese, sliced meat, etc. in individual baggies. Food is different after its been sitting for a while. I doubt its a sensory thing.

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answers from Charlotte on

Sensory disorders are different from emotional problems. Sensory disorders are from an immature nervous system. So I wouldn't call your friend's daughter's problem a sensory disorder. It's an emotional problem masking as a sensory disorder.

Don't overthink this idea with your own son. Put smaller things in his box. If you put sandwiches in there, cut off the edges, and cut the rest of the sandwich in 4 squares. No more peanut butter and jelly - he's "against it" now. Put apple slices with lemon on them to keep them from turning brown and grapes in plastic baggies.

A big hit with my boys was ham and cheese quesadillas. We cooked a plate full at a time, cut them into fours, and sent 4 of them at a time instead of sandwiches when they got tired of sandwiches.

When the weather gets cold, you can send soup in the thermos. I would give him milk money instead of sending juice. Juice is sweet, and that's what he wants.

Keep experimenting, BUT, tell your son you are tired of him saying your food is disgusting and that you don't want to hear it anymore. Tell him that if he doesn't start eating the food you send, he'll have to eat the school's lunch. Don't send junk, S.. Call his bluff - he's trying to get the sweet stuff he wants by not eating food he has historically liked. You see, he is looking at other kids' snack type foods and is working you to get what they have.

You'll get him to eat what you send eventually if you don't let him manipulate you.

All my best,

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answers from Chicago on

Greetings! As a teacher this does not sound like an intelligence or sensory issue to me. No matter how smart or "gifted" your son is peer pressure plays a major role in every child's life starting as early as 3! My guess would be one of 2 things:
1. Another child made a comment about something he was packing for lunch (like it was gross or "only babies eat that," etc.) Therefore making it less appealing to your son so he doesn't eat it to fit in with others.
2. Most of his friends eat the school lunch and he doesn't like being "different"

The only other thing I can think of is, some of the other posts are right some brands of sandwhich bags leave a plastic taste on the food. Talk to him about what goes on at lunch time. Ask him what his friends eat (buy or pack lunch?); does he have enough time to eat;or whatever else you can think of to get to the root of the problem. It is most likely something simple; I wouldn't jump to conclusions about a sensory disorder before really focusing on the problem.

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answers from Denver on

1. You're overthinking this.
2. He's *just now* getting used to the whole lunchbox idea. Give him some time to warm up to it.
3. Have HIM help you pack what he's going to eat. He picks it, his choice, done.

My DD will sometimes eat a sandwich, sometimes not. Sometimes it's yogurt, sometimes it's cheese and crackers, other times it's celery with PB in it.


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answers from Minneapolis on

Try other things and let him be part of the process..not just picking the jelly, etc. Make him shop with you, find fun ideas and prepare it together. He will have a sense of accomplishment (or the know how much work you put into the stuff he isn't eating!)

Just try to make sure he has a protein item, grain and 2 fruits and/or veggies. And liquid milk is best. I am a home child care provider on a USDA food program (similar to school lunch programs but for childcare) and these are the elements required for meal service participation. Maybe trying to have all the stuff start off seperate will help?

So maybe cubed meat/cheese (real cheese not processed) with some sturdy pretzel sticks (fun to make mini kabobs himself by stabbing the meat and cheese hors'dorves!), then 2 easy fruits like grapes and an applesause cup...or cut up whatever fruit he likes (melons, etc)...or some veggies and small portion of dip if you can make it travel well. Then MILK...children should have milk with meals, not juice. School should have a milk option, right? Milk tickets, etc?

But you can do all sorts of things rather than sandwiches that are gobbed together. My daughter never liked that when young either.

So we did mini bagels (or half of a big one) in berry flavors or cinnamon with small things of cream cheese we found at the store....cubed meats and cheese with crackers/pretzels...or we made home made lunchabels and she would build them herself at school...wraps or pitas....grilled chicken...a small thing of lite ranch dressing (then I would send carrots and cauliflower for her to use the rest of the ranch with to dip the veggies). All of her stuff had to be seperate then..nothing saused or mayo'ed or mushed together..she needed the control if nothing else to do that part. She always wanted those darn lunchable things..but they were unhealthy and we found ways to make our own versions. She really liked that! And having convenience packs, so there were no containers needing to come home and be opened (other than torn open) was many of them just went into the trash anyways...plastic silverware and a good napkin or 2 (she always was concerned about how clean the tables were???? So she wanted one ON the table for her food too..but thats likely from watching me...I do that!).

Set limits on the junk (one cookie...or get some 100 calorie packs of the treat stuff, etc).....create a system if having him help works. Like have a basket of the 100 calorie pack type things.....and he gets ONE (his choice).....then make sure there ar ethe fruit and veg options..he must choose 2 (the serving size is like 1/2 cup? its not that much really)..then the protein item..again, a reasonable size and have 2-3 options that he helped choose for the weeks options. So pick something from each category, add any dips, etc needed, your napkin and your milk money and off you go!

Make him help and shop...I really believe that will make a difference, no matter what the issue is.

Good luck!

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answers from Houston on

I am clearly the mean mommy here. If my daughter doesn't eat an acceptable amount of her lunch...but somehow manages to finish all her snacks...she is served the left-overs for dinner. If it continues, I cut back on the more desirable snacks and their quantities. Even my probably not gifted three year old can figure out that it tastes better at lunch than it does at dinner. It isn't as though I am packing something she hasn't chosen or scarfed down on another occasion.

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answers from Savannah on

My MIL said my husband went through a similar thing like that when he was a kid. All of a sudden he hated foods that he'd always loved. He never said it was infected with bacteria though....which is curious to me. I wonder if someone mentioned that to him---another kid possibly.

She said she just continued to give him those foods and if he came home with it not all eaten that he had to finish it before he got snacks or another meal. Kindof sounds harsh a little...but apparently it worked. a week later he was back to eating his old favs.

It could be related to your son's inability to control stuff. Was he in pre-k at all or is this his first time in school?

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answers from Chicago on

You have a lot of great suggestions here, but I'll add my two cents!

1)If you have an insulated lunch box, get a couple of frozen 'ice' packs (the small kind, filled with blue gel) and put a frozen pack into the lunch box in the morning. This helps the cold stuff stay cool and also you can show your budding scientist that it will keep the bacteria from growing!

2)The one thing I have found is that no matter how hearty an eater my son can be at home, at school, he eats small. Lunch at school is usually VERY short- many schools have an issue about this- and also recess is right after lunch. So half your packed lunch gets thrown out because your kid cannot wait to get on the monkey bars!

I pack my son a half sandwich, cut into two quarters. Smaller food is more fun, easier and faster to eat. I got a bunch of bento boxes and little tupperware type containers and do everything in miniature. Even baby carrots- I cut them in half. Tiny broccoli trees- I steam them quick so they are tasty and soft and fast to eat. Make everything small and small portions. I also get yogurt tubes and freeze them. But remember, small portions!

If you're worried about your kid getting hungry, see if they have a snack time in the morning class? Our school does, fruit or veggie snacks only, and it is very popular. I usually tuck an 'emergency' granola bar into my son's backpack too, in case he is super hungry walking home.

Check out for some fun creative bento ideas. I got a lot of great ideas from there and my son actually EATS them all :)

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answers from Houston on

My kids won't eat sandwiches at lunch either. They have told me that they are soggy or mushy, etc. I stopped sending sandwiches. My kids take peanut butter on crackers or celery, cheese and crackers, bagel with butter or cream cheese, or a small bag of dry cereal in place of the sandwich and then usually some fruit and a granola bar.

If you can, go to lunch sometime with your son. I'm guessing you are going to see most kids not eating their sandwiches :-).

Good luck,

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answers from Los Angeles on

Do you keep a coldpack in there to keep things cold? If his juice is lukewarm and he knows that bacteria forms in warm foods, it may taste disgusting to him b/c h'es thinking he's eating warm bacteria ridden food... not sure what else it could be...

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answers from Seattle on

Kids are often affected by other kids. Do you think that maybe someone in his class has said that his food is "disgusting" so now your son doesn't want to eat? I highly doubt it has anything to do with his "giftedness" since this was all stuff that he was eating before.
You tell him that lunch is what you packed and when he gets home he will have ______ for a snack. So he better make sure that he eats enough. Pack him a healthy lunch and have a healthy snack. He chooses if he wants to be hungry or not.
(my son is in 2nd grade, 8, and only eats a half a sandwich a day...along with a serving of fruit, some chips, a bag drink (or milk) and a small dessert. Maybe you are just sending him too much food)

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answers from Boise on

This might sound odd, but could it be, since he is SO smart, that he is also a worrier? If he knows about bacteria and viruses could he freaking himself out to the point of being worried that something about his lunch if off? Smart kids don't always have sensory issues, but they are often more perceptive and are frequently worriers. It is also possible that instead of it being a texture issue during lunch time that he is freaking out, like you said, but more about why the texture is different then when he ate at home (bread gets soggy or its warmer or something). I have tested a fair share of gifted kids that turn out gifted, and have never had parents or the kids complain about taste issues. Could it be more of an OCD issues?

In just terms of not eating, my son is in a similar situation, he hasn't eaten much of his lunch for the last two weeks (full day kindergarten) and is not eating the things that he ate when he was in full day daycare or at home. I ended up getting a thermos and putting in mac n cheese with a ton of ketchup on the side yesterday, and for the first time he ate! I also know that he ate on Tuesday when we had him get the hot lunch. I remember being in school and hating the lunch my mom sent becuase PBJ or sandwiches get hot and squish and taste bad by lunch time. My son is saying the same thing. So, instead we are sending home made version of lunchables, mac n cheese and more bento style lunches until he settles in and then we might try sandwiches again.

Good luck with him! Sounds like you have a very smart little guy on your hands



answers from Charleston on

I felt like I was writing your post myself when I read it! My daughter says exactly the same thing. I do believe that by the time they go to lunch the food is warmer and less appealing. I have had to forgo making sandwiches as they come home untouched. I am now sending apples & peanut butter, cheese slices and fruit cups. All in separate containers. I also freeze the juice boxes or water which helps everything else stay cool. She has told me she just can't eat or drink it if it's not cold. I've also had good luck sending in leftovers from dinner the night before like spaghetti or pizza in a thermos. I've gone through about 6 lunchboxes since kindergarten (she's in 2nd grade) as she says they begin to "smell" after a few months. (This is with me washing them out daily) My husband and I don't smell anything, but she says it makes her sick to her stomach. I now use the brown bags for a change when she's not taking a thermos. It could be a sensory/gifted thing - never thought of that angle, but it makes sense. Good luck and if you come up with any other good ideas, let me know too! :)



answers from St. Louis on

my daughter finally told me that her sandwiches weren't so good because the bread was soggy by lunchtime. A thin layer of butter on the bread creates a barrier so that the bread doesn't soak up the moisture of whatever is in the sandwich (jelly, ham, turkey....)
Just a thought - it helped my first grader eat her sandwiches again.



answers from Pocatello on

A couple ideas that work for our family...
First, think food groups. You can come up with a list with your child if you think that would help. A sandwich can be on bread, whole wheat ritz crackers, graham crackers, tortilla, etc. (grain) My kids like peanut butter, so that counts as the protein, though sometimes we also pack nuts. For fruit 1/2 a banana or grapes, or apple chips for a treat. Veggies are baby carrots, and it's fun to pack a little container of ranch or peanut butter for dipping. Treat is a cookie or small candy. Drink is a bottle of water, juice box, or buy a milk.
Our rule is kids must eat at least half of their lunch, PERIOD. They are welcome to eat more, but required to eat half. If they don't, I will jolly well come sit with them while they figure out how to obey. (never had to follow through on this) Oh--and I do pack small lunches so they can be successful. They are required to drink the drink, period. Or they can pay me since drinks are the most expensive part of the lunch. Not an option. Kids under 3rd grade are required to pack what they don't eat home so I can monitor. I say things like, Great! You ate all your ____. Or Wow! You didn't eat much fruit, would you like a different kind?
And Friday is our favorite day, where everyone must eat lunch backward and have dessert first. :) Hope this helps!



answers from Boise on

ha ha! my kids are in first grade and are doing the exact same thing to me! They are saying all the same stuff as your son. I think the real reason is that when they finish their lunch, they can go outside on the playground, so they are racing through their lunch, eating the yummiest, fastest to eat stuff and then running outside. I am giving mine the same types of food they have always loved and suddenly it is "disgusting" or "rotten" or "not enough". Crazy! I am laughing at your post.



answers from Washington DC on

I know I'm late on this one but after reading the So What Happened section, I wanted to add something. My boys use thermos(es) to keep food hot or cold. Because of the expense, I purchased 16oz plain looking kind. I also didn't want a character-theme thermos that would become outdated. My boys didn't really complain that they had a plain thermos. And if need be, Dad or I can use thermos.

One last thing, my boys each had weird food things, but one of them was more extreme than the rest. We struggled through it, and now he takes care of his lunch stuff. He even makes a grocery list so I purchase exactly what he wants for lunch. I have no problem going to the grocery store as long as I don't have to deal with the food issue.

Good luck.



answers from Sarasota on

First of all- the whole bacteria thing is HILARIOUS!! and DOnt you just love how dramatic kids are "disgusting" I heard that too !!
Is there a lunch program at school?? Honestly~ I tried it all with my kids so what I do is put money in their lunch account and we go over the school menu- on the days where the school food is 'disgusting' We make a sandwich at home. My kids also outgrew PB & J.. they both like just peanut butter or ham and cheese sandwich.. Also, I dont use sliced bread- my kids like cuban bread or hoagie rolls. They dont eat with mayo- sometimes light butter but not too much which honestly is healthier! and i dont buy the same snacks all the time either-- kids get bored frequently!
my Daughter is in 1st grade and in gifted- and I agree with you! It is a challenge keeping them entertained but its awesome!
Hope this helps!



answers from Springfield on

Wow. My daughter is exactly like this and she is in third. Please post updates of what works as I would like to try some new things with lunch.

She has straight A's and only expresses herself at home and around people she really knows, so the teachers and her doctor never see it. She is bored at school and learned to draw detailed pictures while waiting. K-2 has been so repetitive that we do things at home with her.

We didn't even consider the G/T program because it is geared towards a different kind of learner, those who do not succeed in a traditional classroom. We were looking for an advanced program for those who will be in the AP classes and dual credit/college courses in high school. There is nothing around for them.

Our daughter was tested at the end of K. Some kids repeated the test at the end of 1st. We completed a ten page form as did the teacher. The GT coordinator then sent us the score and we decided what we wanted.
The official test took place over three mornings.



answers from New York on

Check out I suggest this to everyone with packed lunch issues. Anyway she has photos and recipes of everything she packs in her sons lunch. Might give you some inspiration.
Also, her son's lunch box is sorta a box with small comparments that you put a lid on. Maybe that would help with not liking how things are packed etc.Also he wouldn't have any packaging to open?... Good luck!



answers from Seattle on

ROFL... oh my. I caught this late... but had to reply.

Sammies DO get "gross" in a lunch box. First off... they get warm. When we're used to the temp that they're made at home, and then they've been sitting getting warm it throws us. Secondly... they get MUSHY. The bread absorbs the liquid from the mayo, meat, veggies... and absorbs the oil from the meats, cheeses, etc (which is a separately defined feeling of yuck). So all of this combines for a totally different sensory experience... but in addition to that MANY gifted kids are also super tasters. That mingling of flavors from sitting AND the heat as they sit at room temperature subtly alters the flavor of foods. I think it's a totally logical idea that he proposed "that they bacteria have altered the taste", even if it's not wholly accurate. He's found an anomaly and is trying to sort out the why. His answer scared him... because most bacteria that grows on food is pathogenic. The idea of eating something that not only tastes and feels "off" but that may also make one violently ill is MORE than enough reason to avoid it.

My son was much the same way... so sammies are home-treats. Instead I would zap a pasta dish and put it in a twist and seal ziplock container, or use frozen PB&J "uncrustables" (because they *always* are the same version of "off"... couldn't make them at home, because kiddo KNEW what our bread was supposed to taste like, along with the center), which would still be cold but not frozen by lunch time. Leftovers from dinner the night before would also work (because he's used to eating left overs, and everyone knows leftovers are different than just made it, so they didn't create the disconnect that a left sitting around at room temp for 6 hours -possibly after sitting in the fridge all night- lunch).

Personally I think your kiddo is being perfectly normal, and not strange at all. (But then giftedness and supertasting runs in my family). He's used to a fresh lunch, is no longer getting one, and is trying to reconcile the differences.

Can you two run an experiment together this weekend, maybe? Come up with several different lunch options... store them for 5+ hours and then try eating them (possibly also using a thermometer to temp them) to see which lunches would be preferable/acceptable?



answers from Chicago on

Just a suggestion, but you might want to think about the plastic in the "super cool insulated lunch box".

We had this issue one year with my daughter and anything that was just in a baggie (not a ziploc) was coming home cuz it 'tasted funny' so I thought she was crazy. After a couple days and out of frustration, I switched mine with hers one day (I have a lunch bag that is NOT insulated, just neoprene, cuz it goes right into the fridge at work). Imagine my surprise: Couldn't each the apple slices, couldn't eat the goldfish crackers, couldn't eat the tortilla wraps. They all tasted like warm plastic.

So, we got her a different lunch box and no more issue.

One additional note - we never pack sandwiches cuz of gross soggy factor. It's always been tortilla wraps with laughing cow light swiss spread and a piece of meat - nothing will spoil that way (you are lucky and can still send pbj - but pbj on a tortilla is GREAT).
I also would think that the stainless steel bottle would give juice an aftertaste if it got warm as well - and if you put ice in, it may 'sweat' and get condensation all over the lunchbox. We buy the HonestKid (from the HonestTea Co.) juiceboxes. They have like 1/2 the sugar and NO artificial sweetners or high fructose corn syrup. They aren't real juice, but I don't care - one for lunch won't hurt her. I freeze it and then put that in her bag with a napkin wrapped around to absorb the 'sweat'. It serves as the freezer pack that doesn't make the bag heavier and it's just the right temp for lunch. She drinks water the rest of the day out of her stainless steel water bottle that they refill at the drinking stations.



answers from New York on

I was like this too actually. I hated the way the food tasted after it sat for a few hours. GROSS! Even the juice takes on a gross taste. I ended up buying lunch almost every day and that was my parent's solution.



answers from Erie on

I agree about packing less. Typically my kids get water only, I freeze it in the bottle the night before and then it's mostly thawed and cold when they eat lunch. And no more pudding, no more sweets. I don't pack that stuff in my kids' lunches b/c they always eat that first. You can pack the sandwich items separate and let him assemble it there, if it's a deli sandwich. You can send whole grain crackers and dip or peanut butter, with a side of fruit or veggies. You can pack a thermos with hot soup or spaghetti and meatballs, or mac and cheese, or make up a bento-like meal (google bento boxes and look at the suggesttions). But most importantly, try to focus, and ask him, what he WILL eat.



answers from Washington DC on

Maybe try changing the bread. My daughter isn't a fan of sandwhiches in her lunch either ... unless I make it on a bagel or croissant or hoagie roll or something like that. Something a little less likely to get "smushy" in the lunch box than regular white or wheat breads.

I definitely agree about the cold pack in the lunch too. I personally think sandwhiches taste better when kept cool. And might reassure the kiddo on the "bacteria" issue.

And one last thing ... this could be and probably is a phase. there's a poem or some such that floats around now and then about being a mom and one line in it goes "You hope ketchup is a vegetable cause it's the only one your kid will eat". Been there done that :) I think every parent has.

Hope that helps :) I've got a kiddo with aspergers and I'm a super picky eater myself :) Feel free to contact me if you want and I'll see what else I can think up :)



answers from Little Rock on

I don't know if this applies to your son, but I have noticed that my boys won't eat breakfast before school or on Sunday Morning before church. They will however eat a huge breakfast on Saturday. During the summer, they eat breakfast every morning without fail. My husband and I have decided that the difference is excitement about school or Sunday school and the feeling of being rushed. This might apply at school lunches as well. They have a limited time to eat and of course they get to have recess immediately after. So they are feeling rushed to eat and excited about play time. My kids often tell me they don't like the breakfast they chose (and usually love) if they feel rushed or want to move on to the next project. It is not really that they don't like it, it is more that they don't want to take the time to eat it because there is something they want to do more. For this reason, I quit packing school lunches and starting having them eat the school lunches. This way, I don't know if they ate it or not and so I don't worry about it. My oldest has a severe case of ADHD and his medicine takes away his appetite. I suspect that he does not eat lunch and I know he does not eat breakfast. He comes home famished and begging for food before we even get back home (he is in a private school). My 4 year old never ask for a snack or anything when he gets home and his snack box is always empty (he has both a school lunch at about 10 a.m. and snack that I provide at about 1 p.m.).

Your son may also be seeing the variety of foods the others are bringing or the school lunches and wishing he had something different. This may make his lunch look icky in comparison to him. Say the kid on one side of him is eating pizza and the kid on the other side is eating left over lasagna and the kids across from him are eating something equally exciting. His PB J sandwich looks blah in comparison and he loses his desire to eat it. Try offering a variety of choses or start having him buy his lunch. If it is the cost you are worrying about, try figuring how much money you are spending on a single lunch in comparison to the cost of a school lunch. I found that I was spending about the same on a packed lunch as it cost to just have him buy the school lunch.

Also, most schools do not allow PB anymore due to severe peanut allergies. Both me and my oldest son is allergic to Peanuts. If your school allows it, it is one of the few. You might want to check with the school about their policy concerning Peanuts and peanut products. Some people such as myself cannot even breath peanut products without have a severe asthma attack and ingesting it can be deadly for some such as I.



answers from Billings on

I don't know about giving alot of advice as I am not there yet. However if you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich using peanut butter and both pieces of the bread and then putting the jelly on keeps it from getting soggy. My DH used to hate taking PB&J until I showed him this trick! He thought I was a genius lol!


answers from Jacksonville on

Interesting theory. I have never heard that before.
My daughter is very "selective" of her food choices, always has been. But she eats a wide variety of things nonetheless... just unfortunately, not too many that pack well for school lunches (she loves ribs and grilled chicken!). She tends to take the same old same old every day (PB & J mostly, or Ham or turkey rolled up in a ziploc - she doesn't do sandwiches except for PB &J). She IS gifted. I sort of figured she was at an early age (around 3) but finally got confirmation when she entered public school for the first time last year going into 3rd grade. I have never considered before whether giftedness might relate in any way to her pickiness with food. She is a very precise child and most things are black and white to her (she likes it or she does not... there is not much "maybe" in her life). She told me this morning that her Special K cereal tasted like peanut butter and we should buy a new box. ?

Sooo... I suppose there COULD be some correlation....
But my first thought is what your friend mentioned just generally (with or without the gifted application): He's working hard all day to keep his emotions in check and lunch is the one thing he can control. Or "safely" say that he doesn't like. I mean... he can tell you he doesn't like school.... but you're going to make him go anyway. He knows that. He also may actually LIKE school, but he isn't going to realize/understand that keeping himself "in check" all day uses a LOT of his emotional energy and he needs to blow of steam or whatever in some way. Lunch may be his way.

I WILL say, however, that he may well eat PB & J at home just fine (and for years)... but when it is made in advance and packed for a few hours, the consistency of the food (and it's appearance) can change... that might make it less appealing. I usually spread a thin layer of PB on BOTH sides of the bread and then add the jelly on one side before closing it up. That way the jelly doesn't soak into the bread and look gross by lunchtime. :)



answers from Dayton on

My first thought was, "Is the idea of buying a lunch and eating it on a tray intriguing to him?"

Some other things that you could look into are a good thermos where you could send him with things like spaghetti, soup, chilli, macaroni and cheese. If he is worried about bacteria (what a clever boy) and you had something that kept the food hot then he wouldn't have to worry about growing bacteria. It would also give him a change of foods. Today we sent my daughter with a soft taco instead of her normal sandwich.

I agree with the other posters about limiting the treats. Our daughter gets a sandwich (or main dish when we can find a good thermos) fruit, veggie and yogurt.

Congratulations on your super smart boy! I bet he is a hoot to talk with!




answers from Salt Lake City on

I would see if he would eat the lunch at school. I too have a 1st grader and he doesn't like sandwiches and that is basically what you can put in a cold lunch for school. Give it a try for a month or so and see if he likes it. I tell my son the couple of choices they are having and he gets excited to be able to choose what he is going to have. I think it weights itself out and you wouldn't have the trouble of finding new things to put in his lunch. They have different choices now days in school lunch. Good luck.



answers from Boise on

Argh. Eating at school just always seems to be a problem, and each kid reacts so differently. Have you seen the Bento Box lunch box? Check out or (I'm suggesting those from memory, so you may need to google them). Nice thing is that they are not overly large, rigid so that food doesn't get squished, easy to look after, and you can perhaps fill some containers with your son in advance while making some into surprises. My granpda, who was a farmer, always used to say that kids will eat when they're hungry... But I can tell you that sometimes that just isn't so. I can kind of see what you mean about his hugh mental activity possibly contributing to the problem, too. I wonder if he will settle in soon and then lunch time won't be such an issue? Eating is certainly one of the three biggies over which kids have conttrol, not eir parents (sleep and toilet being he other two) and of course kids need to know they have some control over some things in their lives. (Is he really bored at school already? That sounds like something that would need dealing with sooner than later, for sure. It's terribly sad to see bright kids give up on trying because they are so bored so quickly. It does happen and unfortunately the bright kids are often overlooked early on because they are relatively easy, don't need to be taught, etc, but that's no better than ignoring the kids who need extra help.). Anyway, here's hoping a little time will help with the lunch issues!



answers from Chicago on

I'm LOLing a bit because if I sent my 9-year old with sweets in a lunchbox she'd eat the sweets first, then not be hungry for the sandwich. But of course she'd be staving later on! You're not around to make him eat his sandwich so obviously he wants the sweets first.

You got great suggestions, and I'm sure sending him the lunchbox without sweets will help a lot!



answers from Minneapolis on

I wouldn't over-think this. I've pitched in at lunch time at my son's school. They all compare lunches and fixate on who has the "best" and who has something "icky".

A.) Assume you are using a cold pack?
B.) Try something new...I have seen kids pack:
.....cold pizza
.....toaster waffles
.....tortilla wraps
.....chicken nuggets
....cheese n' crackers
....frozen yogurt (it is perfectly thawed by lunch time) with granola to stir in.
C.) Pack an "unusual" fruit. My kids are thrilled when the apple/banana is replaced with a plum or blueberries or .
D.) Let him try the lunch the school is serving. You may think it is unappetizing but it just may be he needs to try it to realize just how good the PBJ is.

BTW -- You attend a school that still permits PBJ? That is a rare thing indeed.



answers from Chicago on

You have lots of answers so I haven't waded through all of them. This might be repetitive. Sorry if it is and I tried to avoid anything you might not be interested in hearing. But I have worked in schools many, many years and one thing that always bothered me is how quickly they shuffle kids through their lunches. Even long ones can become short if a child has to go to the bathroom, or a teacher requires complete quiet. So they wait.So sometimes I see lots of whole sandwiches or puddings thrown in the garbage. When it's time to go, it's time to go. I was horrified when I first saw something like that. No child can finish a big beloved sandwich, have his treat and juice,too and compete with the child's twinkie next to him or a lunchable. It is sad. And it happens in all age groups. i understand that there is a time frame to finish, but sometimes kids just give up and go for the good stuff to have that. You are facing a number of years with this, when kids are told to sit down, be quiet and sometimes kept from starting because everyone is noisy. Then at the end they have to get up perhaps table by table to get rid of what's left.That takes time, too. Perhaps the same sandwich, half of it maybe, would still be alright, giving him time to eat it and still get all the nutrients. Sometimes others make fun of their friends lunches. We are accustomed at home to eating and relaxing and enjoying our food, at school it is timed and if you are not done you are out of luck. So they know what to skip. And in some schools, where there is food made and you can buy seconds I have seen children throw out whole lunches so they can have nachos with cheese, an ice cream bar or some sort of nutritious chips (??) Of course it could be giftedness. Or it could be that our society simple has to hurry everyone along and like the driver who impatiently waits for the light to change our tummies hurt, we get nervous and maybe it just doesn't look so good anymore.



answers from Chicago on

My kids have had the same complaint. They will eat everything else but not the sandwich. If you make a sandwich and then leave it in a bag or container for a few hours, honestly, it can get nasty. Any wet ingredients makes the bread mushy, including jelly. Apple Juice can get metallic-y when it starts to warm up. One thing I have been looking into is making healthy bar snacks like granola or even breakfast bars so my kids get a healthy lunch. So far I have 2 recipes at home from the Food Network website and I will make them once I can get some time. For a drink, we freeze the drink-either carpi sun pouches or a bottle of water, so that they stay cold.
My husband even hates to take a sandwich to work because he says they taste bad--and then he complains about having to pay for lunch. :)



answers from Columbus on

Never heard that gifted theory. Hmmmm.

Seen lots of kids with this problem at lunch. Very common. First time that they are eating in a loud enviornment, with all kids of noise and social opportunites abounding, and the excitement (or dread) of recess looming any second...time is so hard to pace right when you are 6. Some schools have found that this age group does much better if they play first, and eat after recess. You could try to advocate for this with your school district, but don't expect it to happen over night, but I am sure that you will find plenty of other parents with the very same concern, and groups are helpful to any cause.

In the mean time, try something that is prepackaged such that it does not "rot." Soup, or little tubs of pasta or something like that in a small thermos, even leftovers from last nights dinner in very small portions. One sandwich that even the pickiest of my children could not resist was a whole wheat hot dog bun, slathered with peanut butter, and a banana in it (like the hot dog, and the peanut butter is the ketchup and mustard, but spread out) Wrap it in tin foil so that it does not get squished. Cut it in half if this is too big. His friends will get a kick out of it, and if it looks cool, he may eat it. One more peice of fruit and whole wheat with protien, whats not to like for us too? Pampered chef has a sandwich cutter that makes the same kind of sandwich that you can get in the freezer section (cuts and seals the sandwich in a circle) This makes the sandwich smaller, and maybe if he cannot see the stuff inside, he won't think it is rotten. Again, it looks cool, and cool trumps rotten any day. You can grill these for grilled cheeze too.

Another idea is to try breakfast foods. If you can get him to eat french toast, make french toast strips with whole wheat hot dog buns (one of my tricks to get my kids to eat whole wheat) cut one bun in half, pull the bun into four pieces, soak in as much egg as you can, and serve with a small tupperwear container of syryp to dip in. I would put a string cheese package in to be sure that he gets protien. French toast sticks could go into a thermos or frezer gel container (some have the gel in them to keep stuff cold) and that way, you can tell him nothing will rot.

If he likes peanut butter, give him a small tupperwear container with a few tablespoons in it. Then crackers, apple wedges, and a banana to dip. Cheese and these kinds of finger foods are good too.

Even if you do all this, he may still send home more than he eats. I try to get my non lunch eater to eat what she left at lunch for her afterschool snack, so I pack her so that it is going to last until then. One other down side, even if they ate all thier lunch, they might still come home ready to eat everything in sight, so common. The key is to find a snack that will take the edge off without spoiling dinner. I find that a balance of protien and carbohydrates helps a lot, and homework goes better too! And last, once they get into middle school, they can eat a whole meal after school and sitll eat dinner...espeically if you have one in a sport. This issue probably won't last long!


PS giftedness is not reliablily identifiable until the end of 3rd grade. He may very well be a quick learner, but that could be different from being gifted once the pace changes from learning to read and write to writing and reading to learn as they end third, begin fourth. I would let that one be, especially when it comes to food.



answers from Washington DC on

May I suggest to go and see what goes on at Lunchtime at school ? When my kid brought home every lunch I packed and was starving at the end of the day I went and checked out what was going on. I found that she wanted to be like her classmates and get the school lunch. I was not happy about it but she needed something to eat.

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