Question: At mealtimes, a lot of children are refusing to eat the main meal, so educators are requesting sandwiches be prepared for them instead. How can we create a menu where all children are at least eating some of the main meals?
There are a few strategies you could try
- Offer a variety of foods. If you are having chicken and vegetables for lunch, ensure the vegetables are not mixed together. For example, serve carrot, corn and potato in separate bowls. Encourage the children to try all of the veggies, but one is better than none. Similarly, if you are offering pasta or rice with a sauce, put the sauce on the side.
- Offer fruit before the main meal. At my service, we found that the children were not eating lunch because they were rushing to get their fruit, so we switched it.
- Ask families for their children’s favourite meals so they can be added to the menu.
- Limit offering bread as an alternative. Children are familiar with bread so they will likely opt for it given the opportunity. If families request bread (without dietary reasons), let them know you will encourage the child to eat a different meal first.
- If you have children with dietary requirements, avoid giving them something completely different to the other children – try to offer them the same meal with alternative ingredients.
- Ensure meal times are relaxed and social, so they are a pleasurable experience. If they aren’t, critically reflect on why and make changes.
- Do a menu review and give feedback to the cook – let them know what the children liked/ didn’t like.
Consultant, Community Child Care Association