Children Will Eat Lunches They Make Themselves

By Mara McGinnis

Release Date: August 10, 1998 This content is archived.


Children who make their own lunch are more likely to eat it than if their parents make it, according to Janice Cochran, certified dietitian and nutritionist with the University at Buffalo Student Health Center and UB Living Well Center.

"Parents are the gatekeepers when it comes to their children's meals, but they can't force them to eat foods they don't like," says Cochran. While parents should supervise children when they make and pack their own lunch, they should "let children determine what they like and what they will eat."

She warns parents not to forget the importance of breakfast. "Anything, even if it is just a glass of juice, is better than nothing."

• Don't forbid foods. "If a parent says to the child, 'No ice cream at lunch,' then that is what they are going to want at lunchtime," she explains.

• Make it fun by making lunches together. When it comes time to pack lunches, parents can make their lunch while the child makes his or her lunch. "Parents model behavior," says Cochran. "They should try to make it a fun activity, rather than a chore."

• For younger children, make it easy. Peel oranges, cut up apples and cut sandwiches into shapes. Bite-sized foods are easier to eat and are more likely to be eaten.

• Try to mix textures, like crunchy and soft. For example, if including pudding or yogurt, also include pretzels or crunchy vegetables.

• Do not be fooled by pre-packaged, ready-to-go lunch kits. "Not only are they expensive, but they have no fiber and high amounts of sugar, fat and salt," says Cochran, describing them as "store-bought, fast-food meals."

• Be careful with perishable foods. When packing perishables, include an ice pack or a frozen juice box to keep them from spoiling.

• Avoid soda and try to buy juice drinks that are as close as possible to 100 percent juice. "Even if a juice drink is fortified, it is not as nutritious as real fruit juice," says Cochran.

Reporters wishing to interview Cochran may reach her at 716-829-3316 (office), 716-875-9773 (home) or via e-mail at