Packing a school lunch your picky eater will actually eat can feel like a daily battle. Every morning, it's the same story: you spend time packing a nutritious and balanced lunch, only to have your child come home with an empty lunch box. If this sounds familiar, don't worry - you're not alone.

In fact, according to a recent study, 83% of parents say their children are picky eaters.

Picky eating is normal for kids, and there are plenty of strategies you can use to encourage your child to try new foods. With a little trial and error, you're sure to find what works best for your family. In the meantime, here are five tips to get you started.

1. Involve your child in lunch planning and preparation

One of the best ways to get your child to eat their lunch is to involve them in the planning and preparation process. Ask them what they would like to see in their lunchbox, and let them help with tasks like packing their own snacks or sandwich fixings. Not only will this make them more likely to eat their lunch, but it's also a great way to teach them about nutrition and healthy eating habits.

2. Focus on variety

When it comes to packing a lunch your picky eater will enjoy, resist the urge to pack the same old PB&J every day. Instead, mix things up by including a variety of colors, textures, and flavors in each meal. For example, pair whole-wheat crackers with sharp cheddar cheese and applesauce for a sweet and savory snack; or include a hard-boiled egg with celery sticks and grape tomatoes for a balanced mini-meal. By offering a variety of food groups at each meal, you're more likely to please even the pickiest of eaters.

3. Think outside the lunch box (literally)

If your child is tired of traditional sandwiches or doesn't like eating finger foods, there's no need to despair - there are plenty of other options available. Tortillas can be used to make wraps or quesadillas; rice or pasta can be transformed into salads or cold noodle dishes; and leftover chicken or beef can be made into hearty soups or stews. With a little creativity, you're sure to find something that will please even the most finicky eater.

4. Sneak in some nutrition education (aka "hidden vegetables")

If your child is resistant to trying new foods, one way to approach things is to sneak in some nutrition education - aka "hidden vegetables." Try pureeing carrots or squash and adding it to pasta sauce; chopping up spinach or kale and mixing it into macaroni and cheese; or stirring shredded zucchini or sweet potatoes into pancake batter. By incorporating nutrient-rich foods into familiar dishes, you can help your child develop healthy eating habits without overtly forcing them to try new things.

5. Don't give up! (and don't force them to finish everything on their plate)

Finally, it's important not to give up - even if it feels like all your efforts are going nowhere. Just because your child doesn't like something today doesn't mean they won't like it tomorrow (or next week). And if they really don't like something? That's OK too! It's more important that they learn not to force themselves to eat something they don't enjoy - otherwise, meals may become a dreaded chore instead of a pleasurable experience.

Packing school lunches can be challenging - especially if you have a picky eater at home. By involving your child in the planning process, offering a variety of foods at each meal, thinking outside the lunch box (literally), sneaking in some nutrition education ("hidden vegetables"), and not giving up (or forcing them), you're sure to find success eventually!