I sympathize with parents who struggle with school lunches every year.

Here is a new strategy, based on the Habits Approach, that might just change your life.

Three Questions Every Parent Needs to Consider

  1. Do you have a plan, or a set of rules, for deciding what you pack for lunch? If yes…
  2. Is your plan teaching your children how to eat the way you would like them to eat? Or, is your plan reinforcing how your kids already eat?
  3. Do you talk to your children about what you are packing and why?

Like most parents, you probably have a school lunch plan…sort of. 

  • Yes, I include at least one veggie.
  • Yes, I send food I know my kids like.

However, if school lunches are a problem, you may be inadvertently reinforcing your children’s bad eating patterns rather than changing them.

If you pack a veggie every day but your kids don’t eat it, then sending that veggie isn’t teaching your kids to eat—or to like— veggies. Instead, it’s teaching your kids to pick through their lunches and discard what they’re not going to eat. (I call this Seek and Destroy.) Or it’s teaching your kids it’s ok with you if they waste food. Or it’s teaching your kids…

If you pack the same food every day (because you know it will get eaten) then you are reinforcing monotony as a style of eating rather than variety as a style of eaitng.

I could go on, but you get my point.

You need a new plan. One that teaches your kids how to eat. This requires a mindshift. Stop thinking about nutrition and start thinking about habits.

And, you may need to start talking to your children more about what you pack—and why.

No matter their age.

The recipe for success: Combine equal parts CONVERSATION and STRUCTURE. Mix and Serve!

Research shows that parents need to strike the right balance between compassion/warmth and structure. In the next two posts I’m going to give you

  • 4 rules that set the Structure that leads to good eating habits
  • 4 rules that set the Conversation that shares control and produces the right amount of compassion/warmth

I’ll talk more about the rules in the next few posts. For now, know that the rules are based on teaching your kids the three habits that translate nutrition into behavior.

Three Habits Translate Nutrition into Behavior

  • Proportion Eating foods in relation to their healthy benefits. This means eating truly healthy food the most frequently, eating moderately healthy food less frequently and eating sweets and treats the least frequently.
  • Variety Eating different foods from day-to-day
  • Moderation Eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full and not eating because you’re bored, sad or lonely.

Talking to your kids is not optional. It eliminates all the confusion and struggle.

Read You Can’t Make Me Eat It!.

Some final thoughts…

1) When it comes to school lunches you already know everything you need to know about the food. 

You can stop searching the Internet for the best recipe, the “funnest” sandwich ideas. That’s going to free up a lot of time. Yes, a good recipe can be a lifesafer.  Yes, those cute lunchboxes can give your kids a thrill. But these things won’t change how your kids eat.

2) Packing a successful school lunch is a parenting issue, not a food issue.

That’s why knowing what to pack doesn’t help you solve problems, such as…

  • My child only eats the crunchy snacks.
  • My child only eats three bites of protein.
  • My child often hates something today that she loved yesterday.
  • My child only eats cheese and crackers, so that’s what I send.
  • My child won’t really eat anything at school.

Sound familiar?

3) And finally, teaching children to eat right is a process which often feels like a dance. There’s a back-and-forth between parents and children, that often seems like you’re mindlessly whirling around the room. When done right, however, you’re actually steering your kids towards healthy eating habits.

This isn’t just about lunch. Anything you teach about lunch will translate into better eating all the time. I promise.

In the next post, I’ll give you the rules.

~Changing the conversation from nutrition to habits.~