Lunch boxes for sensory eaters

With school returning after the summer holidays, it’s time to start preparing the dreaded lunch boxes again. Healthy eating or “nude food” policies create added complexities when preparing lunch for your child.  If your child has sensory issues or is a fussy eater, it can make lunch boxes even more challenging! 

Having a good lunch makes a difference to the quality of learning, concentration and behaviour of your child at school. I have worked with children who have gone from needing to repeat a year to no longer needing to because of a change in diet. 

Here are some tips for creating school friendly-lunches:

Use a bento-style lunch box

Using a B.Box or LunchBots bento-style lunch box provides your child with all their lunch in one place. There is only one lunch box to remember, one lunch box to open and close, which makes lunchtime less overwhelming. It’s also visually appealing. They allow you to include safe foods with small amounts of new foods, and all the food is kept separate – a must for some with sensory issues! Involving your child in grocery shopping and packing their lunch may also increase the chance of the lunchbox coming home empty.

Stick to safe foods with small amounts of new foods

There is a lot going on at lunchtime, and you don’t know what has happened between drop-off and lunchtime that might be causing some big emotions. Food is much more than just nutrition – it’s comfort as well, and fed is best. So it’s important to include safe foods they’re likely to eat and small amounts of new foods. Once they’re comfortable with the new food, you can start transitioning away from the original safe food.

Communicate with their teachers and the school

Eating is just as much about the environment as it is about the food that’s being consumed. It is important to keep open communication with the teachers and school about where your child is at with their eating habits so they can be as accommodating as possible.  This is also important when investigating why your child is not eating their lunch – Are they too busy playing? Are they getting distracted? Did someone comment on their food? 

Create a routine and use lunch boxes on weekends

I know this might sound like more work but hear me out… Many children with sensory issues love routine, and on weekends, your child is more relaxed and in a different headspace than they are at school. This is your opportunity to introduce some new foods that you want to include in their lunchbox during the week. Use it as an opportunity to have them involved in making it and have a conversation about how it might feel and taste, then leave them to it. There’s no pressure to eat it or not; it’s about exposure. So make a lunchbox as you would for school and leave it on the bench for them to eat when they’re hungry.

Be kind to yourself 

Making lunches day in and day out is hard work, even more so if your child has sensory issues or is fussy. Don’t be afraid to pack the same thing every day if it means they’re going to eat it. And if you’re struggling, know you’re not alone. There will be days the lunch box comes home empty, and other days it will come home full. And often, it will have nothing to do with what you put in it, as many environmental and social factors impact eating! There are many Facebook groups you can reach out to for support, and you can always contact me for an individualised approach. 

This article is not intended to be medical advice and is purely for education purposes.