Good luck...I have the same questions as these ladies:)
My son will only eat an apple butter sandwich. I change the chips daily from pretzels, cheetos, and plain chips. I put in an apple sauce or raisins or some piece of fruit. My son is lactose intolerant so i put in juices. He eats more food than this but most of it has to be cooked so those aren't an option. I don't know what else to pack him since he is picky. So I am pretty much in the same boat as you on this momma.
We buy my son's lunch at school,but he barely eats at all anyway:) They have 2 snack times,so i'll send 2 small juices(Fruitables have fruit and veggie in it),baby carrots,crackers,pretzels,raisins,he went thru a hummus phase,aplle slices,cinnamon bread,Weight Watchers has small snack cakes he likes the carrot cake ones. He is a very picky eater and sometimes survives on milk alone.
Well, I would START the school year trying to pack his favorite things. I would also show him exactly what I packed and show him how to open lunch box etc (if needed, some kids would not need this, but woth reviews so he knows) Here is why I would do that at first. He will have enough "new things" to deal with so I would make sure he had his favorite things and that his lunch was something he could count on being "routine" or "expected"
As time goes on, I would stretch the variety etc.
With my son, he has a huge lunch pail form pottery barn and I can put a big freezer brick in there or thermos for hot soups. I send a lot of choices and since the cold pack is big, if I unpack it as soon as he gets home, the food isn't spoiled.
I send things like cheese sticks, odwalla fruit smoothies (loves the mango tango) bananas, pita and hummus, etc. The easier it is to eat, the more likely he will eat it! He now can heat things up at school, but when he couldn't I would heat a bean and cheese burrito to really hot, then wrap it in wax paper and foil, then wrap his napkin around it. They stayed warm enough for lunch and he really loved that!
Is he able to help make choices and pack his lunch??? Then he is sort of "invested" in it and may like eating it more. Can always put little notes in there too.
Be careful w peanut butter, so many kids are allergic. Check w the school.
My son likes deconstructed sandwiches, so I send rolls, turkey meat, cheese all seperate.
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