My son is 11 and he basically eats bland, boring, carbohydrates. He eats crackers, pretzels, bread, more crackers, and taco shells. He sometimes eats cheese, and he does enjoy hash browns and my wife’s potato soup. The only meat I can get him to eat is hotdogs, which I don’t think qualifies as a meat exactly, but here we are.
I cannot point to a fruit that he enjoys outside of strawberries. Vegetables?… well… forget about it. He’s non-discriminating, as in he hates them all equally. He will also eat cheese pizza without sauce, and candy.
Every day at school he has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because that’s what he’ll eat, and it’s less embarrassing than sending him to school with a bag of goldfish crackers and a taco shell. Yes, he has packed that for school. Yes, he took it and ate it and I didn’t receive a note home. PB&J is also better than him not eating at all, which what happens every time I’ve sent him to school with a healthy lunch.
He started having serious opinions about what he eats at age 2. That means for 9 years my wife and I have been vegetable pushers, and fruit pushers, and all things healthy pushers. My wife is somewhat of a foodie. We are both, for the most part, vegetarians. Our son is surrounded by healthy food, and every time we give it to him, every time we force him to eat it, every time we make it about a reward or a punishment, he literally gags a couple bites of something down, crying the whole time, clearly two bites away from fully throwing up on the dining room table.
We have fought this battle with him day in and day out, in the trenches, for long enough. So he eats what we can get down his little throat.
Now I know that there’s going to be folks who have lots of opinions about how to get my kid to be a less picky eater, because obviously I don’t care enough about my child’s health, and by the time he’s 18 his bones will be dust and his colon similar to a garbage island clogging up the ocean. Mmmm-hhhmmm.
Listen. I’m 36-years-old and when I have the option to pack my own lunch, I still eat like my son does. Sure, I eat vegetables. Sometimes. But most of the time, I prefer to eat bland boring carbs. I snack on them all day, skipping regular meals and eating every couple hours.
In my 20s, I fought eating this way because I was told it was unhealthy. But honestly, it’s the way I wanted to eat. It wasn’t until I was 30 that I just gave in, and you want to know what happened? I lost 25 pounds. My cholesterol went down, along with my blood pressure, and I felt more energized then I had in years. Why? Who knows, but making the transition to eating the way he does was one of the best things I ever did for my health. Go figure.
As parents, we need to pick our battles. Sometimes we need to realize that making a decision that’s right for our family is okay, particularly when it comes to something as simple as feeding our children lunch. And it means that if you see a child eating an “unhealthy” lunch in the school cafeteria, realize that there just might be more to the story, and you might want to shut your judgmental little face.
There are a bunch of reasons a kid might have an “unhealthy” lunch — dietary restrictions, sensory disorders, food insecurity, and so on. What’s in that child’s lunch might be all the kid can eat. Perhaps it’s all the family can afford. It’s not up to you to make grand assumptions about a child’s health when you know nothing about that child.
When I was a child, there was this lunch lady who forced everyone to drink their milk before we could go to recess. One kid threw up on the playground each day because he was lactose intolerant, but was afraid to tell the scary lunch lady.
Moral of the story? Don’t be the mean lunch lady.
And don’t send notes home to parents chastising them for what they pack in their kids’ lunch box either.
This judgmental default setting that so many people have where their first assumption is that the reason for anything — from a child playing on screens to a child eating a bag of carbs for lunch — means that the parent sucks … it really needs to end. Put your judgment in your butthole, where it belongs, and allow parents to make decisions that are right for their individual children. Particularly when it comes to something as simple as packing a lunch.
Because the reality is, nothing is really all that simple with children.