Your job in packing lunchboxes is so much easier when your children happily eat cold leftovers from last nights dinner.
“How do you get your kids to eat cold left-overs?” is one of the most common questions I get asked.
And, I sometimes get comments left on my lunchbox pictures of: “My kids would never eat that cold.”
Let me tell you this: at one point, my children didn’t eat cold left-overs either. It was a work in progress that took about 4 months.
But now they do, my job in packing their lunchboxes is so much easier and they have so much more variety too.
So today, I am going to share with you how I went about transitioning them into liking cold leftovers. Then, I’d like to set you a challenge to work on during the school holidays. Does that sound like a fair trade?
My Tips for introducing cold left overs
I use a technique introduced to me when I was studying to be a Health and Wellness Coach. It’s called “Adding in and crowding out”. (I cover this in more detail in The 5 Minute Healthy Lunchbox System eCourse).
The idea is this: You keep giving them what they like, and add in what you want them to have. Then overtime, you crowd out what you don’t want them to have, and keep giving them what you want them to have. If you’re patient in your approach, this can be done without it really being noticed.
Let’s take a look at how I got my family (yep, hubby too), to eat cold baked dinners. (I chose this meal for our family because everyone loves it – half of the battle is already won when they really like the meal).
1. Choose what it is you would really like to get into their lunchbox
My focus was getting things like roast lamb, roast chicken, sausages, meatballs etc into the lunchbox for extra protein sources, because it’s the protein that keeps them full.
2. Start with finger food for afternoon tea
Serve what they are used to having. For us, this was rice cakes or peanut butter with cheese and some carrot and celery sticks. If your children are used to having chips or cookies, start with that. If you can, serve it on a plate so it’s all laid out in front of them.
3. Add in something new
Around day 3, add something new to the finger food on offer.
For us, I started to add in some cold ham (getting them used to the idea of cold meat as a finger food).If your children have chips or cookies, add in some real food they like (eg. carrots, edamame, even fruit that you know they will like). If it doesn’t get eaten, don’t make a fuss about it, just keep putting it out. (And be prepared to have it for lunch the next day yourself!)Research shows it takes children 7-12 attempts at a food to really determine if they don’t like it.
Be patient and consistent with putting out the new foods.
4. Add in something new and slightly reduce something else
After another few days, add in something new again. For us, I started to add in some cold chicken to finger food whilst slightly reducing the portions of the other foods. Enough of a reduction so the amount of food on offer was not a lot more, but not enough that they noticed their normal food choices disappearing. You can even use this idea of putting a platter of finger food in the middle of the dinner table too. You know your family better than me, go at a pace that works for your family.
5. Keep doing step 3 for as long as it takes.
My focus was cold left-over meats, so I started adding in whatever left-over meat I had from the weekends roast dinner and meat we had during the week. Overtime, your children start seeing this extra food as finger food.
6. Pop a bit in the lunchbox
Once it’s accepted as an afternoon tea finger food, pop a little bit in the lunchbox. Follow the same “add in and crowd out” philosophy for whatever foods you’d like to introduce.
Like I said, it does take time but as the saying goes “you’ve got to spend a little time to make time”. It is a far more efficient use of our time to make extra whilst we are already cooking dinner and pop it in the lunchbox the next day.
I’ve been using this method lately to get my kids to eat cabbage and brussels sprouts for dinner. Here’s a pic of what I have been doing for dinner one night a week for a while now.
Last week, this was declared by both of our kids as their favourite meal now. It’s what I call a peace meal – you know the sort where it goes smoothly without any whingeing and fighting. And yes, they are both now eating cabbage and brussel sprouts – even when it’s not served like this. Winning!
School Holiday Challenge
Believe it or not, but the school holidays are a perfect time to test out transitioning foods. So now you know how I got my family to eat cold left-overs, I dare you to give it a go with the goal of making your life easier.
So here’s the challenge:
- Choose 1 food – either a cold leftover or any food you want them to start eating.
- This week, start adding it in as a finger food.
- Follow the tips above to “add in and crowd out”
- Post your progress to The Root Cause Facebook page and be in the running to win a Yumbox Panino!
If you would like more educational support like this, plus 12 weeks of menu plans and shopping lists, and over 140 recipes and loads of other resources, join us for The 5 Minute Healthy Lunchbox System eCourse. Learn more and Enrol here.
It will change your life, and your family’s health.