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Suitable packed lunch ideas for fussy eater?

(28 Posts)
Cakedoesntjudge Tue 17-May-16 13:31:39

Apologies in advance as this is long to provide the background.

Ds (now almost 6 and coming to the end of year 1) ate everything when I was weaning him, there was nothing I found that he wouldn't eat, but gradually he just started refusing more and more foods once he hit about one and a half.

He won't eat any veg except for sweetcorn (this includes any form of unprocessed potato - though unhealthier options such as potato waffles and alpha bites are sometimes acceptable. Obviously these have to come from a packet in the freezer because if I make them they are the work of the devil). Nothing spicy or with herbs, nothing involving bread or bread-related products, nothing hot - if it's cooked this will provoke a breakdown and the food must be allowed to go stone cold before he'll even make eye contact)

In fact thinking about it, it's quicker to list what he does eat:
Picnic eggs
Cocktail sausages
Occasionally pasta or rice as long as it's plain
Most fruit

He sees me, his dad and surrounding family eating healthily (I have checked this with his dad as we are separated), we have tried saying no puddings unless he clears his plate, then tried ok if you try one bite of x then that's fine, this results in about an hour of very upset crying and if he actually brings himself to put something in his mouth he retches instantly. I have tried sticker charts and ensured he understands why it's important to eat healthily, I've tried hiding veg by blending it/hiding it in food, tried making it into fun things, tried growing our own and getting him to help make the food. Tried taking him to the supermarket/showing him recipe books to encourage him to pick something he fancies. Tried saying ok well if you don't eat it you go hungry. For about a year I put a lot of emphasis on the healthier eating, but I do now go with gentle reminders that eating more healthily should be an aim for everyone - I have read about a gazillion articles and am well aware of the school of thought that making it a big issue makes it worse so I don't. Nothing has worked (I am open to suggestions). GP isn't concerned as he will eat fruit. However he is slightly overweight (this isn't a massive issue as far as I'm concerned. He has registered at 99th percentile since he was born and he isn't massive, he just isn't slim, I just am conscious that if his attitude towards food doesn't change, it will become a bigger problem later on in life). The GP did mention that and say to restrict the amount of fruit he has because of the sugar content.

When he started school we got the list of acceptable lunchbox items - usual sort of list. With his limited diet there's not much I could pack that he'd actually eat and I hoped that if I signed him up to school dinners that he would try new things if he saw his peers eating them. This has worked a tiny bit. He loves the school meatballs and spaghetti and the lasagne - obviously will not touch this at home. But there remains a lot of things he doesn't like. He is desperate to take packed lunches but when I explain to him what he would be allowed to take in he says he wouldn't like that either. I asked the school when he started to let me know if he wasn't eating enough and I'd try and find enough that he'd eat to fill a lunchbox. They've never said anything and I've checked at a couple of parents evenings and they've said its not been a problem, so I presumed everything was fine.

This morning I was completing his lunch options at school. He got particularly upset about one day where the options were sausage and mash or salmon salad and new potatoes. His teacher saw and came over and decided to make the ever-so-helpful and unreasonably judgey suggestion of "well that's fine, mum can send in a packed lunch that day, I know it's a bit of extra work for you mum but I'm sure you can cope with it for a day. To make him happy" rude.

He was ecstatic, I am now panicking hugely about what he can take in that he will actually eat. As it happens, he's with his dad that day so I text to let him know and he called and said he'd been meaning to talk to me about it as he went in to have lunch with them the other day, ds ate 3 bites of jacket potato grudgingly and then the cheese, flat out refused to touch the salad. After he went to play his dad went to speak to the dinner ladies who told him that was normal for ds and although they tried to encourage him to eat more and try new things he never does.

So my request for advice is two fold really -
1. Can anyone think of anything we haven't tried that has helped with their fussy eaters?
2. What an earth can I put in his packed lunch? At the moment I can only think: ham, a selection of fruit and a yogurt.

I'm getting to the point where I am beginning to find this quite a problem, if it's a phase it seems to be lasting years and just getting worse and I am a bit sick of all the judgey comments I've started to receive from people who presume we just don't make the effort to address it. Not to mention being really bothered that his teacher thinks I don't provide a packed lunch purely because I can't be arsed.

irvineoneohone Tue 17-May-16 16:19:17

My ds is a really fussy eater. When he stated school I tried hard to put healthy lunch in his lunch box.
After a while, I given up. Now he takes same thing every day.
Tiny sandwich, few boiled veg and sausage.
I realised, it's better he eats something at lunch, otherwise he will be too hungry after school and eat too much snack.
Like your ds, my ds doesn't eat anything hot. But he does eat relatively healthy at home, so we treat lunch as bit of extra.

ihearttc Tue 17-May-16 16:27:00

DS1 is 11 and has plain cold cooked pasta (which I think is revolting but he likes it!) and some mini cocktail sausages or ham plus some crisps and fruit.

Verbena37 Tue 17-May-16 22:52:34

Not wanting to worry you but from experience it seems as though your DS is showing signs of sensory issues and selective/avoidant food disorder.

I would take him to the GP with a list of food he will eat and ask for an appointment with a paediatric dietician.

You say he won't eat hot food....this is particularly true of children with sensory processing disorder (SPD).

There is a Facebook forum called Living With SED (Selective Eating Disorder) and it's been brilliant in helping me realise my child isn't just a 'fussy' eater. To me, your DS doesn't sound like a usual fussy eater either.

Every single day, my DS (11) eats half a Nutella sandwich and a Kitkat, as long as nobody has juice out next to him, in which case he wont eat any of it if he can smell orange squash.

He ate most things when weaned and was breastfed until 2 yrs but at around 12/18 months, the foods he ate suddenly started decreasing until he only ate a handful and not in any quantity.

He ha just been diagnosed with high functioning autism and SPD.

Perhaps your son is so my fussy, but when I read your post, it mirrored my DS's eating habits almost to the letter.

Verbena37 Tue 17-May-16 22:55:33

Oh and you do sound quite stressed about it.....asking him to clear his plate before anything else. The paediatric dieticians said stressing over food issues was the worst thing people can do. Try not to discuss or make food an issue and you might find he relaxes more.

If he is barely eating, your main aim is to get calorific foods into him.....forget about healthy eating to a point and try adding calorific stuff to the food he will eat....proper butter, whole milk, full fat cream cheese and yoghurt etc.

Verbena37 Tue 17-May-16 23:10:54

Sorry, I didn't mean for my posts to sound worrying, harsh or judgey. I was writing fast and then I re read and it seemed a bit abrupt. I didn't mean to be.

Cakedoesntjudge Wed 18-May-16 07:47:29

verbena it didn't come across as worrying harsh or judgey to me smile just helpful, so thank you.

I do get secretly very stressed about it if we are out to eat with others/at other people's houses because I feel as though people get very judgey about it, though that's probably all in my head!!

The thing is, he'll eat A LOT of what he does eat, he's a bottomless pit lol so the unhealthy side of it does worry me a bit. Not massively, because I think at 5 I don't want to be stressing about things like that. Me and his dad were both very overweight when we met and have spent years working really hard to change our eating habits/exercise more which we had become pretty good at just before he was born. I just don't want him to grow up like I did.

I will go back to the doctors and raise this with them, I didn't take a list in with me before - I just started listing the things that came to mind that he wouldn't eat, so that's not a bad idea. Thank you smile

irvine that doesn't sound too bad to me! You're right, I think I'll just make it my main concern that he's at least getting enough, whatever it is.

iheart I wasn't sure on the schools policy of cocktail sausages. I'll have to check because that would make life a lot easier. If he's allowed picnic eggs and those then that with some ham/chicken and some fruit would be something I could live with!

Thanks everybody flowers xxx

Cakedoesntjudge Wed 18-May-16 07:50:33

I meant to add, I no longer let him see me get stressed about it and it's why I stopped doing the whole "you must eat x or eat all of that before you get anything else" because it just made mealtimes so so miserable. My mum had always been a big advocate of that suggestion and then when she witnessed how mealtimes turned out when employing that tactic she said it just felt so horrible and heartbreaking.

So now I am very careful about not letting him see me get bothered about it. If he doesn't eat enough of a meal I'll go get him something he will eat instead without making a big song and dance about it. I know there's a million people who'll disagree with that but at least that way I know he's had a decent meal.

Verbena37 Wed 18-May-16 08:25:58

Are there any other aspects of his behaviour that stick sensory issues? Clothes seams not feeling right, not wanting to brush teeth, not being near normal smells etc?

Dancingqueen17 Wed 18-May-16 12:23:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Leeds2 Wed 18-May-16 18:34:15

Would he eat crackers for lunch, rather than bread?

Hard boiled eggs, rather than picnic eggs. Although I think the school would allow picnic eggs.

Bowl of cold rice with sweetcorn mixed in.

MadSprocker Wed 18-May-16 18:38:35

He sounds a bit like a natural low carb eater. Perhaps look for inspiration from the lo carb thread. I would fill his lunchbox with fruit, bananas are really filling, and include a selection of protein and a yoghurt.

irvineoneohone Wed 18-May-16 19:07:19

At my ds's school, only restriction on packed lunch is sweets/chocolates, nuts and fizzy drinks. all the other things are allowed.(including cocktail sausages)

Misty9 Wed 18-May-16 20:37:01

I would have thought that most of the foods you listed that he will eat could go in a lunchbox? I'm gluten free and often have a rolled up slice of cheese (gouda slices) and ham. A bit high on the salt content though admittedly. Then yogurt, some fruit and picnic eggs for example?

I too would pursue a bit more help via the GP as it sounds more sensory than fussy.

SpaghettiMeatballs Wed 18-May-16 20:53:01

You may find that allowing him to have a packed lunch a few days a week will help him. I've found introducing a sense of choice with fussy DD helps.

DD is still at pre-school so has lunch and dinner there. I make a single packed lunch (similar limited selection as your DS although she will eat sandwich thins) and ask her to choose whether she is going to have it at lunch or dinner.

I've been surprised to see that she has improved since we started doing this. Maybe she feels listened to but it's good to hear she is making an effort with the chosen nursery meal. As a result she's got better at eating sandwiches and has started eating rice and eggs!

Perhaps you could try allowing DS to choose the two 'worst' days at school and see if introducing choice helps at all?

Elisheva Wed 18-May-16 21:31:39

Don't worry about variety - I kept trying to vary what my son had in his lunchbox as I thought he shouldn't have the same every day, but he likes to have the same thing. He has a slice of plain bread, a yoghurt, a satsuma or raisins, malt loaf or a plain cake, and water.
The other thing he really likes is little pots of breakfast cereal, he also likes the baby rice cakes and bread sticks.
Find a lunch that works and stick with that! I think knowing what is going to be in their lunch reduces some of the stress/anxiety.

tartanterror Wed 18-May-16 21:50:28

Be very thankful for the fact he eats a lot of what he likes! You may not think so but that puts you in the enviable position of being unlikely to have to worry about weight and growth. I agree with the other posters who have suggested that you look into Sensory Food Aversion and consider looking up the Mealtime Hostage facebook page. The best thing you can do for yourself is get to "zen" as quickly as possible. You are unlikely to be able to influence this issue quickly and applying pressure tends to make things worse. Using Division Of Responsibility (DOR) by Ellyn Satter helped us calm things considerably at home - but our DS relies on food supplements and nearly starved himself last year. If you can see if you can self refer to your local Speech & Language service - our local team deal with extreme fussy eating. Ignore other people's helpful remarks - they normally have no idea about the stress and upset you are having to deal with! Try to accept that you are in a different category and relax as much as possible - as long as weight is following standard curves he will be OK and give him some decent vitamins to make you feel better. We used Vegepa fish oil capsules (chewables squeezed into smoothies) and Floradix (different vitamin and mineral liquids) for a long time but have now switched to prescription supplements in place of the latter. Good luck and look after yourself smile

tartanterror Wed 18-May-16 21:52:14

PS Look up the feeding disorder Avoidant & Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and consider buying this book

tartanterror Wed 18-May-16 21:53:51

Sorry another PS - the DOR has led to some new foods being added to his diet but it is at a glacial pace.

zeeka Wed 18-May-16 21:58:05

How about cold plain pasta (I do cold pasta sometimes), some sausages/picnic egg, fruit and a yogurt?

You could get one of those sistema lunch boxes with the separate sections or just box/wrap up each thing separately.

I echo the point made about not worrying about same thing most days... Mine have very similar lunches most days. I'm a bit too tired to be imaginative in the evening when making packed lunches!

wiltingfast Wed 18-May-16 22:10:10

Has this teacher landed you with making lunch when he should be eating school lunch shock

And you say he has been eating some school lunches?

That is your opportunity to start expanding his palate. Well known that peers eating around you encourages you to eat too.

I appreciate the die is set now but you might consider trying to stand more firm next time. Tough I know!

Sounds like you've tried loads so I'll keep my other comments brief! I did read a great book by Ellyn Satter found it v helpful. The strategies worked for us and our ds ( same age as yours) is much much better than he was.

Even now I talk about some food taking time to like and you might have to try it a lot. That all food is good. I describe accurately and honestly what the food in question is like. I praise any effort at tasting enormously.

It's a slow slow road though. Did I say slow? It is SLOW. I read that book when ds was about 3!

Peasandsweetcorn Wed 18-May-16 22:54:23

DS had a very restricted diet for a couple of years as a toddler although we seem to be coming out of the worst of it now. He would eat bread and cheese but not combined as a sandwich so I just gave them to him separately. He would also eat cold, plain pasta which, to me, seems vile but he seemed to think was fine so his lunches regularly consisted of that with some cheese sticks, a slice of ham & some cucumber with fruit for pudding. It ticked the key food groups, just not in a way most people would enjoy.

LooseAtTheSeams Thu 19-May-16 10:09:10

Just wanted to echo the sistema recommendation - it may help if all the food is separate. All the things on your list can be sent to school apart from the sweets, I should imagine. Totally agree that the packed lunch should only be occasional though - sounds like he was doing well with the school dinner compared with what he would eat before.
A friend of mine used to have to send her daughter to school with a packed lunch that contained very little apart from chocolate mini eggs and orange juice. it took time but she gradually kept adding different food until it became more typical! she ate a lot of chicken and rice at home as well.

JustABigBearAlan Thu 19-May-16 10:24:10

Could you not talk to school again? I too have a fussy eater. He started school this year and was very panicked about having school lunches. He would much prefer a packed lunch. I decided we wouldn't go down that route though, and would give school lunches a try. Same as you, my thoughts were what on earth would I put in a packed lunch that he'd actually eat(!) and I'd also read advice on here that school lunches might help him eat more.

Well it does seem to be working. I admit I was sceptical as it hadn't worked at nursery (he'd come home having eaten practically nothing). What has helped us is having a very understanding ta. She sits with the fussy eaters and encourages them. I have no idea how, as if you put too much pressure on ds he'd never eat, so she's obviously not too strict, but just very encouraging.

He still doesn't eat much. A good day might be three pieces of pasta, some sweetcorn and a bit of chicken, but it's sooo much better than I could ever have imagined.

I get that this massively depends the school, but I think if you were to chat to them and explain your concerns, along with the fact that you're so worried you're going to see a doctor, then maybe school might help a little more? At the very least, they'll know not to suggest a packed lunch if you've explained why you want him to have school meals.

notagiraffe Thu 19-May-16 10:33:22

I agree with PPs who say variety doesn't matter. As long as he gets something from each food type. You have loads of good ideas in that list. I'd do picnic eggs with a pot of plain pasta, a side pot of sweet corn, an apple and a yoghurt. That's every food group covered, with food he enjoys.
Another time, plain pasta in a pot, plain sweet corn in another, cubes of cheese and ham, or ham and slices of cheese rolled together if he likes that, a pear and a yoghurt.
DS2 has ASD and ate cheddar on wholemeal, sliced apple, carrot sticks and plain crisps every single day for seven years at primary. His brother had all sorts of nice stuff but he got what I knew he liked. Now he eats a massive variety of things. He just liked the security of same foods at primary.

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