25 Sep 2015

School Dinners and Picky Eaters

When Becky was a baby and we first started the weaning process, I was determined to give her the biggest variety of food you could imagine. I was cooking all sorts of meals from scratch; Annabel Karmel would have been proud! 

I spent a fortune on fresh ingredients and fed her everything from organic chicken to avocados and lychees – basically, my child was going to be a gourmet, a healthy, happy eater with a nutritious, balanced diet that would help her develop and grow.

And initially she was. She was eating well and loved her food, and I was secretly high fiving myself for a job well done. Picky eater? Pah! Not my child!

Fast forward two years, and Becky went from a baby with a healthy appetite and natural curiosity for food to the pickiest eater ever. I don’t know how, or what caused it, but all she would suddenly eat was Cheerios (with milk as well as dry), pasta – plain, or on a good day with pesto and peas – or chicken dippers and chips (I curse the day I gave her this meal for the first time, it probably spoilt her taste buds). Oh, and toast - plain or occasionally buttered. And that’s about it.

To this day she has remained picky and completely wary of trying anything new. I cook healthy and balanced meals full of vegetables and proteins and the right food groups, as good nutrition is extremely important to me. After years living with an eating disorder, I know everything there is to know about good and healthy foods, and I try to incorporate this into our lifestyle. But Becky is totally not interested. She will not for the life of her try anything I cook regularly for me and John, so most of the time I end up making her extra dishes (I know, I know, I’m silly, but I don’t want her going hungry) or just give her that slice of toast with some cheese at dinner time.

Luckily, though very much to my frustration, she has been eating really well at nursery. I don’t know whether it’s peer pressure or whether they just had a certain knack with kids and picky eaters (or whether their cooking is just better than mine!) but her daily reports always said that she‘d eaten everything and often even had seconds. Seconds!

A complete contrasts to home, where she will do anything to avoid eating. Snacking – yes. Sweets – yes. But a proper meal, she’ll do anything to get out of, or she’ll spend ages just poking her plate and moving one thing from one side to the other. I just don’t think she’s that interested in eating. I think in her world it’s almost a waste of time. At least I knew that she had eaten well at nursery, so I could live with the fact she was a picky eater at home.

But now she’s at school and my concern is somewhat intensified. At school, no one is going to watch whether she’s eaten her school dinner in the given time. If she spends half an hour just poking it, it’ll go in the bin by the time the school bell rings, and no one will be none the wiser whether my little girls has had some food or not.

It really worries me. Becky is a petite, delicate and skinny little thing and smaller – and definitely much lighter - than most of her friends and classmates, and while that is certainly not a bad thing, I do worry for her nutrition.

I'm even considering making her packed lunches, but a) there really is no guarantee she would eat them and b) in all honesty, I could totally do without the hassle. I’ve got so much to think about and sort already, I really haven’t got time to be doing that every day, too, on top of everything else, when she gets perfectly nice school dinners. And I’m sure that it wouldn’t make any difference to whether Becky eats or not. If anything, I would probably have to stick to giving her the same things over and over, whereas the school does offer a well balanced choice of foods that actually sound rather yummy.

So whilst I do worry about Becky’s nutrition, there’s not much that I can do right now other than ask her every day whether and what she’s eaten, and trust her when she says that she’s at least tried some – and not just the pudding.

I just really hope she grows out of this phase soon and that she’ll learn to embrace new foods and realise just how much lovely and tasty stuff she is missing out on.

Have you got any experience with picky eaters and school dinners? Would love to hear your thoughts and tips. 

* Linking up with #ShareWithMe



  1. My daughter is a very fussy eater. I don't think this has improved much since she started school! She does try a few more things but I know she often ends up eating bread and she eats very few of the veg there because she only eats raw veg not cooked. I'm trying not to worry about it. She gets a good breakfast and two bits of fruit as a snack in her bag. She eats loads at dinner time. I find out what she had for lunch by asking her! I do worry about her being hungry at school but I think she would tell me if she was and I think your little girl will soon realise she needs to eat more quickly at school.

    1. Thanks Morna! There isn't much that I can do about it anyway, I just have to hope that she will just get on with it as she did at nursery. She does get a good breakfast and has the toast and fruit snacks at school, which I know she eats, and I can monitor her dinner, so hopefully we can ride this out.

  2. Thankfully I don't have any experience of a picky eater...mine's like a rubbish bin and will trough through as much food as possible (but slowly - he'll be the last one sitting at the table at a party - mostly because he's distracted, looking round, talking, eating seconds). I asked him if he had enough time for eating and he says yes.

    At ours, they do keep an eye on what children are eating, so if they don't like a meal, they'll make sure they have something that they'll eat (whether it's a jacket or a sandwich). And if the child still isn't eating then they will report back to parents - although I'm not sure what the parent can do if they're not in school.

    Fingers crossed she eats as well as she did in nursery, and I guess speak to the school to see what they keep an eye on.

    1. Yes, I will do, maybe they are keeping an eye on it and I'm just not aware of it. Thanks Emma! I'll do another post in a while to report back how we're getting on. She can always tell me what she had for pudding, but not for lunch, the little monkey. Typical! :-)

  3. My son was just like your daughter, a great eater who then turned amzingly picky. At nursery he also ate very well and it wasn´t unti he started school that his pickiness got worse. He was on packed lunch as I thought I could control what he was eating, but it made things worse! Suddenly his meals became very repetitive. I only packed things I knew he would eat, which were diminishing and because his best friend was on the school lunch table, he´d leave half his meals to get out to break time quicker. I then switched him to school lunch and I was amazed when he suddenly told me he had tried all these new foods that I could not get him to eat at home! The down side is that he only likes all these things the way the school makes them! Go figure. It hasn´t helped things at home but it certainly hasn´t made them worse and I know that he is eating at school! #sharewithme

    1. Thanks Jane, that's really good to know and confirms my suspicions that there is little point in giving her packed lunches, which would be very repetitive. Hopefully things will pick up. There isn't much that I can do other than explain to her that nutrition is important so she has enough energy to play and learn. :-)

  4. I was the pickiest eater ever growing up, smaller than everyone and just nibbled here and there and I grew up fine darling and I think no matter how good we do in the begining we are all who we are and turn into. I did the same as you and I have one amazing eater and one semi-picky eater and as long as her doctor doesn't think she is way below weight I wouldn't worry she won't starve herself and my momma always told me don't fret if they are eating something no matter what it is. Give plenty of vitamins if you can. We do juice plus the gummy kind for the kids because it's vegetables and fruit ones so you can give her those to balance just a thought?! lol Looks like you are doing amazing as mommy though. :) Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme


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