Ever since school started two weeks ago, our first-grader has come home with at least 75 percent of his lunch still completely intact and untouched. (We’re wondering – where does he get all of his energy if he’s not eating? But that’s a side issue for the moment.) When we try to get to the root of the problem, his chief complaint is that he simply doesn’t have time to eat. The lunch break is a half-hour and it encompasses the eating time and the time for a bunch of squirrel-y 1st-grade boys to run around and get out all of their energy. Usually it’s the latter that takes precedence.
Concerned, we started to ask around among readers and friends in other schools across the country, and we learned that we were not alone. For one thing, lunchtime is just getting shorter. Numerous requirements and cutbacks in the rest of the school day have crowded out the lunch “hour.” Plus there are fewer opportunities for physical activity (i.e. P.E. classes) during the school day, so there’s a lot of pent-up energy by the time lunch/recess rolls around.
So what do you do if your kid never has enough time to eat lunch? Lucky for us, there’s a discussion about this very topic on Parent Hacks this week. Through some of the comments on that discussion, and from our own conversations, we’ve put together a list of suggestions for getting more food into your kid during the school day:
- Cut food into small, bite-sized pieces. The food is easier to eat that way, and visually, it may appear more manageable to your little one.
- Pack nutrient-dense foods (hard-boiled eggs, chopped grilled chicken, carrot sticks, or nuts if your school will allow them) instead of light snacks that won’t give them long lasting fuel (potato chips, puffed cheese or rice snacks).
- Have your child assist in packing lunch – This will give them some control and will help you understand better what she is able to (or is more likely to) eat.
- Be ready for them to have a large, hearty snack (or finish the remainder of their lunch) when they get home.
- Make sure that the meals they are eating at home are nutritious and well-balanced to compensate for the lack of nutrition during the school day.
And remember – it’s only the beginning of the school year. There’s plenty of time to get your child settled in and adjusted to new, healthy routines.