By Cathy Monaghan RD MINDI Paediatric Dietitian.

September is here and so too are a barrage of articles on school lunches and lunch boxes. If your child has a limited variety of foods I know this can feel stressful.


Don’t feel pressured to provide a lunch box that is worthy of its own Instagram account. Lunch is just one meal of the day and often your child doesn’t have much time to eat. Keep it simple! 

Your child is getting more and more independent, but they still depend on you as a parent for the structure of meals and to decide what is on the menu. 

You have probably heard of Ellyn Satter’s division of responsibility in feeding; ‘you provide and your child decides’. This theory applies from feeding an infant to an adolescent. 


Here are some key points to remember:

  1. Your child needs the structure and routine of having 3 meals and sometimes a sit-down snack, they may not require snacks everyday.

  2. Try to avoid food and beverage grazing -except water, no munching along with homework or in front of the TV.

  3. Aim to sit down and eat as a family, particularly at main meals. Don’t talk about or focus on how much or what your child is eating. This could end up causing feeding to become a  battle ground! Keep mealtimes easy,  pleasant and take the opportunity to catch-up and connect with each other.

  4. Aim to be family friendly in your meal planning so everyone can be successful. Be considerate without cooking different meals. Buffet style meals are handy so that there is something that suits everyone.

  5. Let your child serve themselves and eat their way – fast or slow, much or little, some of everything or 1 or 2 foods . Let them eat in any order.

  6. Children like to eat with their hands, forget about table manners for the moment!

  7. Let them have more of any food.

  8. End the meal on a positive note. “Praise the effort and not the result”- Jesse Itsler. ‘Thanks for setting the table’, ‘thanks for sitting at the table’ etc. Always find a positive!


After revising the key points to providing structure and routine as part of our role as a parent during feeding,  you are probably asking “what foods should be on the menu?”

  1. First of all, don’t overthink it. Keep it simple! We want to make sure our child has sufficient energy and nutrients to grow in a way that’s right for them, concentrate during school and partake in activities that they enjoy. This can be achieved by providing balanced meals and snacks. 

  2. Try to avoid building an expectation that your child will eat the same amount every day. Everyone’s appetite can change. They may feel more hungry if they were more active at school or are going through a growth spurt. Other days, your child may have reduced appetite. Either-way, it generally balances itself out over a couple of weeks. 

  3. Try to avoid pressure to finish meals, bribe by saying “you can have dessert if you finish your vegetable”, or holding back on second servings if your child is still hungry. Allow your child to listen to their own hunger cues rather than you telling them to ignore how they are feeling. 

  4. Serve meals “buffet” style rather than plating their child’s food. Guiding your child to serve themselves encourages them to trust their own hunger and satiety. This process contributes to raising intuitive eaters. 

If you need more specific help, please get in touch for a 1:1 Consultation.