How to Add More Vegetables to Your Child’s Lunchbox

Do you need help finding ways to add more vegetables to your child’s lunchbox? I have 7 practical tips to keep lunchtime fun and delicious while also adding nutritious ingredients. 

Add More Vegetables to Your Child's Lunchbox

This post was created in partnership with Produce for Kids. 

I’ve been packing lunchboxes for a long time and the number one question that parents ask me is how to add more veggies at lunch. It’s taken quite a bit of creativity and by no means have I perfected it (and even if I did, does that mean they’ll eat it?). However, I’ve compiled my top 7 tips along with lunchbox examples and recipe ideas for how to add more veggies at lunch. 

Whether your children are eating lunch at school or at home, hopefully, you’ll be able to snag a few new ideas to help boost the nutrition in their lunchbox. 

(And PS – If your children are eating at home every day, I’ve gathered 5 tips for stress free lunch prep when homeschooling.)  

(PPS – I know chickpeas/beans are technically a legume and tomatoes are technically a fruit but In this post, I am throwing technicalities out the window.)

 

How to Add More Vegetables to Your Child’s Lunchbox

1. Dip – The Best Vehicle Food for Vegetables

Individual Spring Veggie Hummus Cups

Don’t get discouraged if the raw baby carrots you pack for lunch day-in and day-out continue to be sent home untouched. Studies have found that children are more likely to eat their vegetables when offered with a dip (according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). I think of dip as a “vehicle food” to help the girls eat more vegetables.

Consider this: 

        Lone carrot stick – may or may not eat

        Lone carrot stick dipped into ranch, guacamole or hummus – all over it all day long!

Next time you pack a lunchbox (or serve lunch at home), try pairing dippable vegetables such as carrot sticks, celery sticks, grape tomatoes, broccoli florets or cucumber rounds with dip. You can make own like this Homemade Ranch Hummus Dip from Produce for Kids or use individually sized containers such as Homestyle Ranch from Litehouse (pictured in Ellie’s lunchbox at the top of this blog), Wholly Guacamole Classic Minis or individual hummus containers.

And for a fun “dippable” after school snack? Serve these Veggie Hummus Pots.

Is your child a dipper? Have you tried adding dip to help them eat more vegetables? 

 

2. Keep Canned Food Items On-Hand

How to Add Vegetables at Lunch

Whipping up a quick corn and black bean salsa to add to a lunch takes no time when the ingredients are in the pantry and ready to go. Serve with tortilla chips for a yummy side dish or snack.

The same goes for canned green beans – a staple in our lunchboxes. Because the girls eat them straight from the can, I can add them to a lunchbox for quick packing the night before.

 

3. Prep Your Produce Ahead

Image: Veggies and Virtue

Families are more likely to eat fresh produce when it is washed, prepped and ready to eat. Designate a certain day (or days) to prep produce and store in the fridge in airtight containers. Make sure the containers can easily be reached by the kids so that they can access them when they want a snack or when they’re helping prep lunchboxes.

*Exception: Refrain from washing berries more than a few hours ahead as this will cause them go bad faster.

My friend and fellow mom dietitian, Ashley, at Veggies and Virtue does a great job of this with her snack drawer.

 

4. Boost Your Bento

Add More Vegetables to Your Child's Lunchbox

When prepping a Bento box, designate a fruit compartment and a vegetable compartment. Fill those each time you pack a lunch to ensure at least one to two servings of produce at each meal. It’s an easy way to remember how to add vegetables to a lunchbox!

Looking for fruit and vegetable ideas? Download my easy lunchbox guide to help spark some creativity with what to pack. 

 

5. Skewer It

Nut-free BLT Skewer Lunchbox from Holley Grainger

We love sandwiches and it is easy to get creative stacking sandwiches with veggies beyond the traditional lettuce (such as cucumbers, peppers, alfalfa sprouts, etc) but I’ve found that skewers are a favorite for my girls. These BLT Skewers always go over well and of course Pancake Skewers, Peanut Butter and Jelly Skewers and Pineapple Teriyaki Chicken Skewers are favorites. Looking for more ideas that pack more of a vegetable punch? Give this Sandwich-on-a-Stick recipe from Weelicious or Lunchbox Bagel Kebabs (4 ways) from Mom’s Kitchen Handbook.

 

6. Add Vegetables in Unexpected Places

The BEST Healthy Edible Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough EVER

Don’t “hide” vegetables in food but find creative ways to add it. Have you ever thought about…

Serving Crispy Chickpeas instead of chips?

Using lentils in banana muffins

Adding chickpeas to dessert? *Watch the video below!

Shredding carrots into meatloaf muffins?

Adding beets to pancakes

There are so many resources out there to help you learn how to add more vegetables to your child’s lunchbox! Don’t be afraid to explore something new and bring your child into the kitchen to help you do it! 

How to make The BEST Edible Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (with secret ingredient chickpeas)

 

7. Serve Outside-the-Box Veggies

Have you ever sent corn on the cob to school? What about a baked sweet potato sprinkled with cinnamon? Oven baked potato chips?

While some of the nontraditional “lunchbox veggies” may struggle to stay warm in a lunchbox, take advantage of having your children home for schooling (if this is your situation) and try something new.

Cauliflower Fried Rice, Beefy Burrito Bowls, Black Bean Empanadas or Homemade Hot Pockets may just become a new favorite!

(Tip – Produce for Kids has 25 At Home Lunch Ideas that you should definitely check out!)

 

Bonus –

Need Help Adding Fruit? Make a sweet swap from jelly to fruit!

PB & Strawberry Sushi - Lunchbox

Turn a traditional PB&J into a PB&S by swapping jelly for freshly chopped strawberries to make PB and Strawberry Sushi. For a fun spin (literally!), spread your favorite nut butter on a tortilla, sprinkle with strawberries or chopped apples and cinnamon, roll up burrito style and slice into “sushi” rounds. 

 

About this sponsor: Produce For Kids

As we all know, back to school will be very different this year with some students returning to school, some turning to online learning and others some type of hybrid of the two. Although every family’s situation will differ, lunch will still be an important part of the day whether eaten at school or at home – and that’s where the Power Your Lunchbox campaign comes in.

Power Your Lunchbox, now in its seventh year, along with its health-councious brand partners have health-conscious brand partners have committed to a donation of $14,000 to the United Fresh Start Foundation to increase access to fresh produce for children and families. Since 2014, Power Your Lunchbox has raised more than $150,000 to benefit charities that support families.

This years brand partners include: 

In an effort to help support this campaign, I am once again partnering with Power Your Lunchbox to share my top tips how to add more vegetables to your child’s lunchbox and help spread the #poweryourlunchbox message. 

 

    Need Lunchbox More Help? 

I am here for you! I have enough ideas to get your child from kindergarten to college! 

Visit my HEALTHY LUNCHBOX HEADQUARTERS to find everything you need for back to school, lunchbox packing, nut free lunches and snacks, homeschool friendly snacks and more! Plus, you can find free downloads to guide you along the way! 

A few favorites:

Build a Better Lunchbox: 5 Lunchbox Tips for Success

Lunchbox Ideas for Picky Eaters – Make a YES List

50+ Nut-Free Snacks for School