Packing vegetables for school lunch doesn’t have to be boring. Well, at least not all of the time. It’s easy to fall into a baby carrot rut when filling lunch box after lunch box (after lunch box), but there are plenty of creative ways to pack vegetables in school lunch, like the 7 ideas we found last year. In fact, they were such a hit that I’ve found 8 more this year.
Yay for getting kids to eat their veggies—or at least to enjoy the presentation. Hey, baby steps.
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When in doubt, skewer it! It’s hard for kids to resist little veggies when they’ve been speared with a tiny sword. You can pretty much skewer any vegetable to make a healthy, snack-able item, but the Mini Caprese Skewers at Skinny Taste (top) use halved grape tomatoes to shape little hearts, which earn major bonus points for being super cute.
It’s still a mystery to me why the actual vessel is more important than the food itself, but I’ve learned to stop questioning anything that works. My girls get giddy when I serve snacks in tiny bowls or cupcake liners like the ones above at Super Healthy Kids. Nicole uses these reusable silicone baking cup / cupcake liners, which I will immediately be buying after I write this.
Having a few made-ahead items for your school lunch rotation is always a good idea. The versatile Vegetable Fritters at My Lovely Little Lunchbox are loaded with fresh, colorful veggies. You can make a big batch and store them in the freezer, plus it’s a one-bowl recipe. These are too good to be true!
If your kids are pasta lovers, think about getting a spiralizer to turn veggies into a pasta-like meal like this Tomato Basil Zucchini Pasta With Goat Cheese and Asparagus at Inspiralized. Serve this “pasta” cold, simply dressed with tomato sauce and cheese for a healthy, hearty lunch that has the same appeal as plain pasta with marinara. And, hey, even if you don’t have a spiralizer, try tossing cold pasta with your kid’s favorite sauce and veggies. It works!
Is anyone else’s child as obsessed with rainbows as mine? That’s why I’m crushing on these Rainbow Veggie Pinwheels at Dinner at The Zoo. Cut colorful veggies into long strips and wrap them in a tortilla layered with cream cheese or hummus. And as Sara suggests, you can add some yummy shredded chicken too.
Change things up by ditching the bread and making these bite-sized Meat and Cheese Cucumber Sandwiches at Coach Calorie instead. They’re simple, fast, and you can feel less guilty when you pack other carbs like pretzels or goldfish.
There are a lot of fancy ways to get crafty with your vegetable and fruit, but it’s a stretch for me to even consider most of them. These Veggie Flowers at Recipe by Photo are an exception, though, since they actually seem doable. It may not be an everyday thing, but they are pretty adorable.
Though visual presentation is key, sometimes renaming vegetables gets the job done. A (brilliant) marketing friend of mine renamed certain foods to combat her young kids’ aversion to green vegetables. Green juice became dinosaur juice and kale chips became dinosaur chips (her kids were very into dinosaurs at the time). Her biggest success was when she starting calling broccoli “elf trees.”
If raw broccoli is too much of a stretch for the lunch box, make a big batch of Garlic Parmesan Roasted Broccoli at Damn Delicious and pack the tasty leftovers, which have great flavor at room temperature. Roasting mellows some of the strong broccoli flavor and you can tell your kids that the the cheese is fairy dust. Sometimes you don’t need fancy knife skills, but just a little imagination.
Writer’s note: I wish I could claim that the slogan “lettuce turnip the beet” was mine, but it’s the work of cool gal Elektra Printz Gorski.