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Veg Out! 5 Fresh Ideas for Healthy School Lunches


My girls head out the door each weekday with packed lunches. If you were to look inside their lunch sacks, sometimes you would see shining examples of kid-friendly, healthy school lunches. Other times — not so much. I usually pack lots of fresh fruit, but things get pretty dodgy when it comes to vegetables. Plain carrots are a solid bet, but everything from bell pepper spears to sweet cherry tomatoes often goes untouched. This sets up a stressful cycle where I then feel obligated to push vegetables during dinner. Unfortunately, there’s about a zero percent chance that my kids will eat their entire recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vegetables in a single sitting. So what’s a parent to do?

Veg Out! Fresh Ideas for Healthy School Lunches
My goal this year is to get the veggie game going in their daily lunches. This means experimenting with a variety of flavors and presentations to keep the vegetables kid-friendly and new. Repetition also plays a huge role in getting kids to accept new foods, so if things don’t fly at first, make flavor adjustments and keep trying. Play with flavors by pairing sweet with salty, adding crunch, or a drizzle of honey.

For inspiration, I’ve rounded up a few healthy school lunch ideas that are a cinch to throw together. I’ve also road tested my creations to make sure that these vegetable-centered sides would actually fly with my girls, and they’ve been a surprising hit.

Head below for 5 fresh, vegetable-centric ideas to try in your own kids’ lunches!


Cherry Tomatoes with Chèvre and Pepitas

Fresh School Lunches: Cherry Tomato Salad

Sweet cherry tomatoes are a great addition to the lunchbox. Here, they get a simple flavor boost from creamy goat cheese and crunchy toasted pepitas.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time: 3 minutes
Serves: 1

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 – 2 tablespoons chèvre
1 – 2 tablespoons, toasted, salted pepitas

1. To toast the pepitas, heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the pepitas. Shake pan gently as pepitas cook. Pull from heat when pepitas start to pop, after about 3 minutes. Toss with a pinch of sea salt.

2. To make the salad, toss the halved cherry tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic, and a tiny pinch of sea salt. Crumble on the chèvre and pepitas.


Cheesy Kale Salad

Fresh School Lunches: Cheesy Kale Salad

A big hit of cheese makes this savory kale salad a big success with littles.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Serves: 1

3 or 4 kale leaves, tough stems removed and cut into thin ribbons
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
squeeze of lemon
sea salt
1/4 cup shaved or grated Parmesan

1. Drizzle the olive oil onto the kale ribbons. Add a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon juice. Massage everything into the kale with your fingertips. Add the cheese and turn to coat so that it’s well dispersed in the salad.

2. Massaged kale salad is surprisingly hearty and will keep well covered in the fridge for 3 days, so consider making a bigger batch.


Carrot Salad with Honey Mustard and Raisins

Fresh School Lunches: Honey Mustard Carrot Salad

This salad was hands down the favorite for my girls. They really loved the crunchy carrots and faintly sweet dressing.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Serves: 1

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon each mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt
2 – 3 medium sized carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut into matchsticks
2 tablespoons raisins

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mustard, honey, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Toss carrots and raisins with dressing.

2. This salad improves with time, so consider making a bigger batch. Salad keeps well covered in the fridge for 3 days.


Creamy Pepper Spears

Fresh School Lunches: Creamy Bell Peppers

Sweet peppers get a kick of creaminess in this simple salad. If your kids are a fan of dip, try sending the Greek yogurt and lemon in a separate container.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Serves: 1

1 sweet bell pepper, sliced into thin spears
1 tablespoon Greek yogurt
sea salt
squeeze of lemon

Toss pepper spears with Greek yogurt. Add lemon and sea salt to taste.


Salty Sweet Ants-on-a-Log

Fresh School Lunches: Sweet and Salty Ants on a Log

Stringy or tough celery is a deal breaker for lots of kids. Avoid celery rejection by looking for crisp celery and opting for the more tender inner stalks.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Cook time:
3 minutes
Serves: 1

2 stalks celery, trimmed and sliced into 4-inch spears
2 tablespoons sunflower or nut butter
2 tablespoons toasted pepitas and sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons raisins

1. Toast sunflower seeds and pepitas by heating a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and the sunflower seeds and pepitas. Shake pan gently as seeds cook. Pull from heat when seeds start to pop, after about 3 minutes. Toss with a pinch of sea salt.

2. Spoon nut butter into celery stalks. Add raisins to some and toasted seeds to others.

Read more from Elizabeth and Brian on Brooklyn Supper.
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