Vary your strategies to solve the case of the reluctant eater

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 January, 2012, 12:00am


I'm having difficulty getting my daughter to eat her lunch at school. She often eats the snacks, but the healthy food comes home untouched. She says she does not have enough time to eat her food in the classroom and sometimes has to eat it in the playground. I spoke to her teacher, who said she would talk to the lunch supervisor, but it has made little difference. How can I encourage her to eat lunch at school?

Having enough time to eat lunch in school is frequently a concern for parents. Children are typically given only 15 minutes to eat, which is not long enough for some, especially younger ones. Year One and Two children usually get a little longer.

It can be difficult for teachers to monitor lunch issues if they do not personally supervise the children, but it would be worth following up your conversation with the teacher soon. You could talk to the supervisor.

Remember, it is important that your daughter does not consistently miss playtime while eating lunch, as she will be denied vital exercise and socialising opportunities. Talk to her about the importance of trying to eat within the allocated time and suggest that as long as she eats some of her lunch it is okay. Also make this clear to the teacher. It may also help if the teacher talks to your daughter. Often children are more willing to listen to their teachers than their parents.

Try to give her portions that are manageable so she feels she can eat most of it. Vary her lunches to make them interesting. Ask her what she likes, as children tend to be more compliant if they feel they have some choice. Involve her in food preparation if she is interested. Make the food look attractive, and try putting different foods and snacks into containers with small compartments. This can be much more appealing to children and works well with finger food such as chopped fruit or raw vegetables.

If you employ someone to prepare the lunch, make sure you give clear instructions and provide a menu. Monitor this regularly.

I hope the school is encouraging a healthy eating policy and reinforces this in its teaching about food and nutrition. Try to encourage your daughter to eat a variety of fresh fruit. If she is not keen on vegetables, disguise them by chopping them into tiny pieces or mixing them in sauces. If she prefers raw vegetables such as cucumber or carrot sticks, give her tasty dips.

Encourage your daughter to eat a good breakfast. Nutritionists say it's the most important meal of the day and will kick-start her body and brain. Research has shown children who eat a balanced breakfast are generally able to concentrate better, work faster and have more energy. At home, be a positive role model by eating as a family whenever you can.

Julie McGuire teaches at an international school