Fussy eating advice

Why I put this note in my daughter’s lunchbox

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against dinner ladies personally. They’re on a mission to get the children to eat their lunch and they do it with gusto and good intentions. But in the process, they break every rule in the Getting the Little Blighters to Eat book. My daughter tells me tales from her primary school lunchtimes that make my toes curl!

You have to finish ALL your lunch before you can go out and play, they say. Eat your sandwiches first before you start on anything else … Your mum won’t be very happy if you don’t eat your apple, will she?… Less talking, more eating! Sometimes they issue these commands to children individually. Sometimes they ring a bell and bark them out to the whole hall!

Does it work? Does it heck! It just makes the children super sneaky! I hear about all the tricks and tactics they use:

  • They ‘accidentally’ drop food they don’t want to eat on the floor.
  • They ask if they can put their banana or orange peel in the bin and put the whole fruit in.
  • They scrunch up their sandwiches really tightly in the foil to make it look like they’ve eaten them.
  • They ask if they can go to the toilet and put the food in the bin there.
  • They secretly swap food with each other so they end up with their most preferred items. (One day, one girl gave out all her ham sandwiches in exchange for three satsumas!)

My favourite – or unfavourite – story is the time my daughter, aged five, had a slice of Soreen Malt Loaf in her lunchbox. The dinner lady assumed it was the ‘sandwich’ part of her lunch and told her to eat it first. But it’s sweet! protested my daughter. Don’t be silly! said the dinner lady. Just eat it. So she did, upset and angry that she’d been made out to be a liar and had to eat it first when she liked to save it to last. What could I do? she squeeked. I’m just a kid.

I’m not a kid though. I could do something. I wrote a note on a piece of card for my daughter to keep permanently in her lunchbox. When a dinner lady pesters you, I said, Just hand her this.

Dear Dinner Lady

We have an approach to mealtimes at home which I believe encourages my daughter to be a happy, healthy eater. We leave it entirely up to her to decide whether she wants to eat something or not, how much she eats, how fast or slow she eats and what order she eats things in. I would be really grateful if you could leave her to do the same at school lunch times.

Thank you so much!

It worked like magic. After a while, she didn’t even need to hold up the card. They knew to leave her be. Leave that one alone, they may have whispered to each other. She’s the one with the weird mum! Who cares? From then on, she could eat and enjoy her lunch happily and peacefully without any pressure, which you’ll know if you’ve read Getting the Little Blighters to Eat, works a whole lot better!