What is the Problem With Lunch?

Our current menu has been in place for less than a year but I think there are too many items that the children do not eat.  Many of the menu items had brought rave reviews when they were first introduced last year but lately the children have been eating very little.  I will admit that I am a little perplexed by their lack of interest in eating lunch.

I’ve never had much trouble getting these preschoolers to eat in the past.  It was usually the school-age children that were the pickiest eaters. Often they had not been here as preschoolers and they were very finicky about what they would and would not eat.  For them, fruits and vegetables were usually the most contentious items – sometimes limited to apples and carrots or none at all.  The preschooler’s enthusiasm over all food groups could sometimes entice the older children to try something new.

This year I have no school-age children here for lunch on school days and the preschoolers seem to have become apathetic about almost every lunch menu item.  Recently I’ve been trying out some new recipes to see if I can inspire them to eat lunch regularly.  I haven’t been very successful.

Soup and rice were items that these preschool children specifically requested yet they don’t eat them — ever. Potatoes of any kind have never been popular with this group.  So far pasta dishes are proving to be unpopular. They usually like spaghetti but lately even that is just barely acceptable.

Tuesday’s have traditionally been ‘sandwich day’ here and this is the one day of the week that everyone will eat lunch. The curious point here is that most of them don’t finish a whole sandwich and they used to often have seconds and they are not finishing their veggies either.

I began to think that maybe they just were not hungry so I tried moving morning snack a little earlier in hopes that this might improve their appetite.  The children who attend school in the morning have a snack there and I am unable to change the time that they eat.

Afternoon snack has now become the most popular meal of the day – I assumed that this is because they are really hungry by then. They often ask for seconds of afternoon snack even when the menu item is something that they were blasé about in the past.

I started this post with the intention of highlighting some of the lunch recipes that I have tried and would hopefully add to the regular menu.  However, as I’ve been writing I’ve also been reflecting and speculating.  I was trying to come up with an effective transition from the children’s poor appetites to the introduction of new recipes – hopefully some they really like.

Then I had an epiphany. What if the appetite problem isn’t related to the type of food or the length of time between meals? What if they are not hungry at lunch because I changed the schedule and we no longer playing outside before lunch?!?

Seriously?  I cannot believe that this didn’t occur to me before.  I know the value of outdoor play but I was so focused on the food that I didn’t even consider this.  It also explains why afternoon snack has become so popular since we now go outside for the period between nap and afternoon snack.

I’m still changing the menu.  The current menu has been in place since last January and many of the meals were chosen to accommodate our ‘we have to pick-up the kindergarten child before lunch’ schedule.  Since we are now here and inside before lunch I have more prep time available.  It may be more difficult to determine which items the children like or dislike but at least now that I have realized that the lack of outdoor time before lunch is also a factor to consider.

So, since this post is long enough already, stay tuned for a separate post about new lunch menu recipes – and don’t forget to go play outside — it is essential for a good appetite!

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