Nutritious lunches for school that boomerang

We've done posts here in past years about packing nutritious lunches for kids that kids will eat, and have gotten some wonderful ideas. One of the biggest takeaways (ha--little meal joke for the Brits) from those conversations for me has been to let the kids themselves decide what they want to eat, even if it's a little unbalanced (because it'll all even out over the week anyway).So I've packed lunches that consist of grapes, an apple, and a bag of baby carrots, if that's what my son wanted.

Which is all well and good. Except that lately those lunches have been returning in the afternoon completely untouched from my younger child. And in the past few days I've had no fewer than two real-life and three online conversations about this same phenomenon: Children Who Choose Their Own Lunches But Don't Eat Them.

I've discovered two causes for my son's not eating his lunch: 1. He eats the hot lunch at school instead, and 2. He's too busy talking to eat. I'd be upset about 1 if the lunches at his new school were crap, but they're surprisingly healthy. And there's really nothing I can do about 2, and I suppose it's my own fault for being a talker myself.

One issue, as I see it, is with the waste. It's just a waste to spend my time and money packing stuff he won't eat, only to pull it out of the lunchbox that night (or have his dad pull it out of his lunchbox at night). Plus it's a food waste, too.

But the real thing that annoys me is that if he picked it, he should eat it. So I'm about to tell him that if any lunches come back uneaten this week, he's made his choice to eat school lunch and I'll stop packing anything for him.

But I know this isn't something that would make all of you comfortable. How do you deal with uneaten lunches? Is lunch important to you? Or are you not as concerned as long as your kid eats breakfast or some other big meal every day? Thoughts?