There is a girl in Dylan’s class who brings the most amazing lunches from home. Her bag always includes a selection of Tupperware-type containers filled with wholesome servings of things like quinoa and kale chips. Once I saw her eating beets. BEETS.

I personally have zero experience with this type of child. A third grader happily tucking into a bowl of beets is pretty much as exotic and incomprehensible to me as those heptapod aliens that communicated via squirts of mystical space-ink in Arrival. Like, yes I see that this young human appears to be willingly consuming a vegetable, but I’m going to need a team of physics professors using about ten whiteboards to decipher what it all means.

Here’s what Dylan takes to school every day of his life: a peanut butter sandwich made with cinnamon bread, an Annie’s fruit snack, and a bag of pretzels or chips. Every. Single. Day. I used to make him eat the school lunch because I thought he’d sort of be forced to try new things or maybe get motivated by his friends eating their lunch, but then I joined him for lunch a couple times and saw that he was reluctantly nibbling about a molecule of whatever he decided was least offensive from the cafeteria menu and throwing the rest away. Then I tried sending in different types of lunches — how about some applesauce? Whole wheat bread, at least? A CLIF BAR COME ON KID WORK WITH ME HERE — until my last fuck was lying in the trash along with everything else.

So now he gets his motley collection of processed carbohydrates and he’s happy as can be. Every now and then I read some pearl-clutching article about how parents are sending their kids to school with these terrible unhealthy lunches and I figure the author must have ended up giving birth to a Beet Kid because otherwise they’d know that you can die on that Whole-30-shaped hill or you can send in the goddamned Cool Ranch Doritos because at least they’ll get eaten.


34 Responses to “The picky child and school lunch”

  1. Kristi on May 1st, 2017 2:21 pm

    Laughing out loud at this. I HAVE A BEET KID! Kindergarten son, “mom can I have the leftover brussel sprouts in my lunch?” Me, “no they will stink out the other kids and I don’t think they will stay warm”….nuclear meltdown ensues. I also have the Xerox lunch kid. Do not deviate from the pattern of assorted carbs or above mentioned nuclear situation will ensue, times 4.
    I love that you aren’t a beet kid mom. Carry on fellow normal person.

  2. Tara on May 1st, 2017 2:34 pm

    LOVE THIS! I have 2 “beet” kids and 2 “I can’t eat school lunches or I will die” kids. Kids 1 and 3- Mom can I take cold pizza/leftover potato soup/tuna casserole for lunch — Kids 2 & 4 – Peanut butter and nutella sandwich on the whitest break possible, cheeze-it crackers, a hostess cupcake, a juice box (and sometimes he trades for soda from his friends) – as long as they come home not starving-raving-ravenous-cranky little people, I’m cool with it, judge-on cool moms who can rock the bento boxes.

  3. Judith Rosa on May 1st, 2017 2:42 pm

    I am laughing too. My twins were weird and ate almost everything. Except beets. Now they eat even that too. (They eat insects, frogs, etc now that they are “civilized” middle-aged men and I am the one making faces but that’s another story.)

  4. Wendryn on May 1st, 2017 3:25 pm

    I don’t have a beet kid (she *hates* beets – genetics are fun!) but we do send strange things to school because until very recently she wouldn’t eat PB&J. She hated peanut butter. I still don’t know how she survived this long. She will eat sushi, Brussels sprouts, avocado, and lots of interesting things, but if a speck of cooked greens touches her food, it’s unacceptable. Oh, and apparently sesame seeds are out, too. She gets bento boxes of interesting foods because I’m desperately sifting through things she might eat and I come up with weird things. Right now, she’ll eat potstickers, but only with chicken.

    Kids are weird.

  5. Tricia on May 1st, 2017 3:43 pm

    So funny and relatable. I had a child who ate pbj for years….no meat, and a select few vegetables. So yes, lunch was pbj, Doritos, and a fruit snack. Only as a tween did he begin eating real fruit. Hang in there!

  6. Olivia on May 1st, 2017 3:43 pm

    My oldest is like that. Well, she has three “entrees” she rotates, tuna or ham w/ crackers, or PBJ. Add a bite of fruit, a gogurt, and chocolate animal crackers.

    I’m scared for when my youngest starts kindergarten in the fall because he’s even pickier.

  7. MelissaC on May 1st, 2017 3:59 pm

    I love this post!

  8. Katherine on May 1st, 2017 4:06 pm

    My son’s favorite food is a tomato. Followed by bell peppers. My husband won’t touch either. haha. You just have to roll with getting food in them, I think. And meet them where they are a bit, no?

  9. Jen on May 1st, 2017 5:07 pm

    My kids are really picky eaters, but then they eat weird stuff like dried seaweed. I have no idea what the formula is for proper eating, but I send them to school with tried and true carbs and an apple to make it look like I’m actually trying.

  10. Jeannie on May 1st, 2017 5:17 pm

    I alternate between the “you must have a fruit and a vegetable in your lunch” and the “whatever, kid, just take whatever you will eat so that I don’t pick up a feral beast.” So yeah. I get it. Getting the veggies in is getting *a little* easier, but they would happily eat a carb and fruit snack only lunch.

  11. Janet on May 1st, 2017 5:42 pm

    I love this post, but you’re allowed to send peanut butter? I envy you. My grandaughter’s preschool was nut-free, and her grade school now is too. In my little bubble, I thought all schools were.
    Last week on spring break I gave her a real peanut butter sandwich (not sunflower seed) and she devoured it. “Grandma, I forgot how good real peanut butter is.” So I know what summer lunches will be!

  12. Jill on May 1st, 2017 5:42 pm

    I have a kid that must take a specific thing on a specific day (pizza on Monday, Nutella on Thursday) – that I have to keep straight or she loses her crap. And I’m sending one to kindergarten in the fall terrified if her lunch is not exactly the same way every single day she’ll cry and refuse to eat. I love my children, I do, but I hate feeding them.

  13. jennbb33 on May 2nd, 2017 4:58 am

    I have ceased trying. Now I just wonder what the hell they are buying at the school, when I have to re-up their school breakfast and lunch accounts when they are overdrawn by $50 each. WTF???? Are you buying lunch for the table, guys? Picking up the tab for the taco of the day???? I feel like I should be done with parenting now. I am done. Doneski. Finis! Endo!

  14. el-e-e on May 2nd, 2017 5:20 am

    Oh, yes. This is a club I can join. fistbumps all around.

  15. April on May 2nd, 2017 5:34 am

    That’s us here too. One child will take alternating types of sandwiches, at least, but the other won’t even eat sandwiches and so many other things I’ve stopped asking for help on what to send him. He gets a granola bar (with no nuts or pb, not bc he’s not allowed but bc he hates them), a fruit, a favorable kind of chip and raisins and an applesauce pouch. NOT applesauce he has to spoon. That’s gross.

  16. Anonymous on May 2nd, 2017 6:20 am

    My son is going to start kindergarten in the fall and I will be right there with you an the xerox lunch. Simon is like 73% peanut butter already.

  17. Mary Clare on May 2nd, 2017 6:30 am

    What drive me bat-shit crazy is the proclaimed LOVE for some food (then I stock up on said food) and the next day’s huge protest about the food being in the lunch box/ refusal to eat it. Kids.

  18. Shawna on May 2nd, 2017 6:43 am

    You would be so screwed in my kids’ school – no peanuts or nuts allowed in the entire school, whether there’s an allergy in the classroom at all. Other things are verboten depending on the specific allergies in the class, AND in the class they swap rooms with halfway through the day.

    Unfortunately, the sesame seed allergy in the OTHER class means no using my son’s standard fallback lunch this year, hummus.

  19. Shawna on May 2nd, 2017 7:00 am

    In years past I’ve pretty much surrendered by June, which is the point at which I allow things like chips pretty regularly instead of as a treat once in a while. In June I’ve also sometimes bought pepperoni pizza (a favourite food) on Sunday and just let the kids have cold pizza strips every day until it runs out by about Wednesday. (Thursday is pizza day at the school and the only hot lunch option available at all during the week – there is no “school lunch” available to buy normally.)

    This year though the kids (11 and 8) have been making their own lunches all year, so I’m not sure that there are standards to relax in June this year.

  20. Elizabeth_K on May 2nd, 2017 7:00 am

    Our kids eat weird food, no PB, so I bring a PB and an apple to work every day, just to show them what childhood is SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT (I also still drink a soda, just like I did in middle school and high school). They ask me, “Mom, did you eat [brussel sprouts, kale, whatever it is] when you were growing up?” and I try to contain my laughter and explain that I refused to eat ANYTHING that wasn’t Kraft Mac & Cheese. Kids.

  21. sandy on May 2nd, 2017 7:30 am

    My now very healthy, in shape, 6 foot one 24 year old law student son went to elementary school with a ketchup sandwich made on wonder bread every. damn. day. Talk about picky!! I feared a call from the school regarding this lunch. The kid now eats asparagus and broccoli and all good stuff on the reg……but he literally survived on totino pizza rolls etc for the majority of his child hood. He also was a star athlete, so go figure! I say pick your battles wisely. :)

  22. Courtney on May 2nd, 2017 11:52 am

    Ugh both my kids are this way. My daughter (4) eats more stuff generally, but they both get the same meal for lunch every damn day. My son (7) can’t have PB at school, so we send sunbutter sandwiches, and he’s so picky that he’s lost the taste for PB entirely and won’t even eat it at home. They’re also both going through a phase where they’re dropping foods they used to eat, so that’s fun. They’re also strong as oxes and super healthy and active, so I’m not worrying too much.

    At one point, their teachers recommend mixing up their lunches a bit because “they always get the same thing.” My husband and I died laughing.

  23. Heather on May 2nd, 2017 1:04 pm

    Thank you for writing this!! My son takes milk and a thermos of plain noodles every day for lunch. We’ve tried lots of things, but this is the only lunch he will actually eat, so….

  24. mjb on May 2nd, 2017 1:34 pm

    I have a beet child too. He will only eat carbs and unprocessed vegetables, very few meats. People think he’s unpicky because he eats 2 red peppers every day or a big bowl of cooked broccoli, but trying to get protein in that kid is like pulling teeth. Now he reads nutrition labels and will only hit the bare minimum, and is scared of sugar. It’s a battle either way, from my experience so far.

  25. Shawna on May 3rd, 2017 6:02 am

    mjb: have you considered tofu? My 8-year-old LOVES it in pretty much all forms, but in particular the Green Door Tofu and Veggie Stirfry. Bonus, it’s got red peppers and broccoli, so your son would have extra reason to like it!

  26. Suzanne on May 3rd, 2017 6:59 am

    This post and all the comments are so comforting. My daughter eats a sunbather and jelly sandwich every day for lunch. Except on the days she eats at home, when she will eat nothing but a punchable. Whatever. Protein, carbs, and I try to sneak a fruit. At least she’s eating something. FINE BY ME.

  27. Amber on May 3rd, 2017 10:17 am

    My oldest daughter is 11 and has been a vegetarian for the last five years, but she is generally pretty averse to eating vegetables. Any vegetables. And most cheeses. Nothing with sauce, so I can’t even sneak the veggies in there. The rest of us eat meat, but three nights a week I make the most delicious vegetarian meals, mostly in hopes of her eating a GOSH DARN VEGETABLE, which she will push dejectedly around her plate before announcing, “Mom, this seems DELICIOUS, but can I have some ramen?”


    p.s. Lunch is always a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pretzels, juice, and a fruit. So: SUGAR-CARB LUNCH. ARGHGHGHGHGHGH At least there’s protein in there?? :-(

  28. Mary on May 4th, 2017 8:24 am

    My buddy Tom is a 43 year-old man who, I shit you not, takes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a snack-size bag of chips and a cookie to work for lunch every day of his life.* He’s a well-adjusted, happy, successful computer scientist working at his dream job, though currently traveling through SE Asia.

    I mean, it’s possible to be a delightful, contributing member of society and eat PB&J every day.

    *Sure, eats other stuff at other meals.

  29. Corinne on May 4th, 2017 11:09 am

    My daughter (11 now) has been a picky eater since she started on solid foods. Once when she was in daycare, the teacher sent home a note that said “[Child] doesn’t eat much of her lunch. Can you please try to add some foods she likes to her lunch?”

  30. Beth on May 4th, 2017 11:21 am

    Sandy’s comment has given me a glimmer of hope. My 8 year old son takes the same lunch every day too – a turkey sandwich (but not really a sandwich, meat and bread are separate), apple, and chips. He’ll sometimes eat a few strawberries. But – overall – he is super picky (dinners aren’t much fun either). Maybe someday that will change?

  31. Andrea on May 4th, 2017 6:04 pm

    I’ve got pickypickypicky eater, I like a big variety of stuff, and I will try new things, eater, and super-adventurous eater. I think he just does it to see what reaction he gets from the rest of us. When pickypickypicky was 3 he “gave up” peanut butter. Just announced that he gave it up. 22 years later he doesn’t eat it, unless in a peanut butter cup, but he will eat peanuts.The only green things he eats are green grapes and granny smith apples. He would/does eat turkey or roast beef, so a sandwich on “icky white bread for picky children” was sent most days for lunch. With an apple or orange, sometimes some carrot sticks, and pretzels or goldfish crackers. Even in high school he’d take goldfish. I did invest in a wide mouth thermos that really kept things hot til lunch, so he would take soup or pasta (naked noodles, with butter and parmesan thankyouverymuch. I sent a hot dogs, occasionally. (judge away)I’d cook the hot dog, fill the thermos with hot water, and put the hot dog in. Bun in a bag, with the other go-withs, and he was happy. Although the first time I did it he came home and told me he really liked the soup I sent. I didn’t send soup, so was very confused. Turned out he actually drank the hot dog water. Laughed a lot over that. He’s still picky, but he has managed to expand his menu and palate a little bit. In response to Mary with the 43 year old friend, my son is 25 and 6 feet tall, and finishing up his masters in aerospace engineering, so clearly the limited diet did not stunt his growth or intelligence.:)

  32. Philip on May 13th, 2017 11:45 pm

    I lived on PB&J sandwiches for at least the first three years of elementary school, because that’s what I wanted, and I certainly didn’t trust the school lunch to be anything other than yucky. (At home, I would also have a few different kinds of Campbell’s soups, but I don’t recall there ever being the suggestion of bringing some in a thermos.) In fourth grade, Mom finally persuaded me to at least occasionally try the school hot lunch by pointing out that Fridays were pizza days, and then adding in the hot turkey in gravy, and gradually some other things. So, Dylan will likely improve with age, and he won’t starve in the meanwhile.

  33. Amber on May 15th, 2017 6:42 pm

    What? Nobody else spent the 80s eating plain ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread (no crust), dunkaroos, and gushers?

  34. PamelaWardTX on December 22nd, 2020 4:24 am

    it’s cool that there are such parents who help their children during the difficult school path. As for me, when your parents help you is much better than when you yourself have to cope with all the tasks or buy homework from sites ✏️ that will provide help with homework.

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