Your daughter scarfs down peanut butter sandwiches on weekends, but the ones she totes to school come home uneaten. Your son adores snacking on baby carrots but begs you to pack Pringles in his lunch box.
What gives? To young students, school lunch is less about food than about socializing. “The cafeteria is one of the first places they experience peer pressure,” says Anne Lucchetti, Ph.D., a family communications specialist at Texas Christian University, in Fort Worth. Your child may not want her classmates to deem her lunch — and by association, her — totally uncool. To help make her midday meal more palatable (and stop wasting a perfectly good sandwich):
Get her involved. Jody Mace of Charlotte, NC, lets her son Charlie, 7, help shop for and prepare his lunches. “They get eaten because he chooses them,” she says.
Consider a compromise. If you feel strongly about not allowing your child to have sweets, that’s fine, and she’ll learn to live with it. But packing a small treat, like one Hershey’s kiss or an oatmeal cookie, might slake her sweet tooth and get her to pick up her sandwich, too.
Let go. There’s only so much you can control about your child’s school experience. Unless her anxiety about the cafeteria scene is responsible for her inability to eat (in which case a talk with her teacher is in order), trust that she’ll have better-balanced meals at home.
And don’t take it personally if she rejects what you pack for her. You probably threw out a few apples in your school days, too!