Moms are being lunchbox-shamed — why experts say that’s not OK

Moms are being lunchbox-shamed — why experts say that’s not OK

Moms have been shamed over the lunches they pack for their kids. (Photo: Getty Images)

lunch-shaming instances have even made the news, from the Colorado mom who was called out for sending her 4-year-old to school with Oreos — “Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack,” the school warned in a letter sent home with the child, who was denied the cookies — to the Australian mother whose post about her child’s school’s crackdown on “unacceptable” raisins went viral in 2017. This summer, another Australian woman spoke out after her daughter’s teacher lectured her for including cookies in a lunchbox packed with fruit, veggies and meatballs.’ data-reactid=”32″>While the fat-shaming note was reportedly left in the lunchbox by mistake, the Texas woman, identified only as Francesca, is certainly not the first mother to be scolded over what food her child brings to school or daycare. Some of the lunch-shaming instances have even made the news, from the Colorado mom who was called out for sending her 4-year-old to school with Oreos — “Lunchables, chips, fruit snacks and peanut butter are not considered to be a healthy snack,” the school warned in a letter sent home with the child, who was denied the cookies — to the Australian mother whose post about her child’s school’s crackdown on “unacceptable” raisins went viral in 2017. This summer, another Australian woman spoke out after her daughter’s teacher lectured her for including cookies in a lunchbox packed with fruit, veggies and meatballs.

The Eating Instinct and co-host of the “Comfort Food” podcast, agrees.’ data-reactid=”59″>Virginia Sole-Smith, author of The Eating Instinct and co-host of the “Comfort Food” podcast, agrees.

“Lunch is complicated,” Sole-Smith tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Kids’ appetites are tough to predict because they change often with activity level and growth fluctuations. And lunch can be a pretty stressful meal — you’re in the cafeteria, it’s loud and crowded, it’s almost always too short and kids are easily distracted. For those reasons alone, it’s totally reasonable for parents to want to pack the ‘easy’ foods they know their kids will like so the food part of the meal isn’t an added stressor. Add on food allergies, sensory challenges, the family’s grocery budget and how much time they even have available to pack lunch and all the more reason why tossing in some Oreos or goldfish crackers is an affordable, easy way to give your kid a good lunch that will comfort and nourish them.”

Sole-Smith says lunchbox-shaming — which she says unfairly targets moms — does more harm than good.

“Nutrition-policing kids’ lunchboxes doesn’t make kids eat better,” she says. “It just embarrasses the child and the family getting singled out. We have lots of research to show that shaming or pressuring kids to eat in certain ways backfires heavily.”

She adds: “We shouldn’t be grading parents on how much/how little/how ‘well’ a child eats.”

Parenting experts tell Yahoo Lifestyle that shaming a kid’s lunchbox can have a negative impact. (Photo: Getty Creative stock image)

While Sole-Smith doesn’t think it’s a teacher’s place to oversee a child’s diet, there are more tactful and positive ways to address what may be an ongoing issue.

“If a teacher is really concerned about a child’s lunchbox, he or she should never mention it to the child or send a note home,” she suggests. “Call the parent and voice your concerns respectfully — and frame them as questions; maybe, ‘I worry Susie isn’t eating enough lunch to fuel her for the afternoon. Do you think it would work to send bigger portions?’ Or ‘I wonder if there’s a fruit Joey likes that would be easy to add to his lunchbox to round things out?’

“Really, though — I don’t think teachers should be weighing in on nutrition,” Sole-Smith adds. “They have plenty to do already and they don’t have the training for this; if parents are worried about how to pack a healthy lunch their child will eat, they can ask their pediatrician for a referral to a family dietitian. But in most cases, parents know plenty about how to balance nutrition goals with the food their kids will actually eat — and we should trust them to do what works for them!”

Ultimately, parents should focus on passing muster with the biggest critic of them all: a picky child.

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