Every day while my preschooler eats his breakfast and watches an episode of Octonaughts (or whatever the cartoon flavor of the month is!), I set to packing his lunch for daycare. Every lunch has to have a carbohydrate, a protein, a dairy product, and two fruits and vegetables. They serve organic milk with lunch, so I always cross that off for dairy. I have my usual staples for the main course: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, leftover spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and ham sandwiches. I always toss in a small treat, like a Hershey’s Kiss or a pack of fruit chews.
Where I really get stumped is the fruit and vegetable aspect. I need something that travels and sits in a lunchbox well, but is tasty and easy to eat. Something that doesn’t require prep for me (or the teachers!) and that Harrison will enjoy. There is nothing more maddening to me than sending him to school with something I know he won’t touch.
So I don’t send cauliflower. Womp.
Instead, I keep a rotation of easy-to-grab and preschooler-approved lunchbox ideas:
School brain food! 1 of 8
Click through for 7 easy and nutritious ways to serve fruits and vegetables in your toddler's lunchbox!
Ants on a log 2 of 8
This one is only for the mornings when I'm feeling particularly nurturing and patient. It's also for mornings when I get up early because this one takes prep. Slice the celery, spread the peanut butter, and then add raisin "ants!" We are lucky that his preschool doesn't have a no-peanut policy, so check with your child's school first!
Yogurt raisins 3 of 8
My son LOVES these. They come in larger and smaller boxes, so check your local grocery store. I keep the tiny boxes on hand for lunch boxes, but you can buy them in bulk, and toss a handful in a reusable cup. Tip: Check after holidays as the "holiday raisins" will go on sale, and you can grab the mini-boxes for a discount! I stock up at that time!
Fruit cups 4 of 8
My favorite grab-n-go staple! I always have these on hand for lunch boxes. They're spill-proof, and he can toss the cup, which means less tiny cup washing for me at the end of the day. They're also the perfect portion size for him, and he can pick what flavor he likes — right now, peaches and pineapples top his list!
Carrots and ranch dressing 5 of 8
I purchase petite baby carrots for my 3-year-old. They're a little slimmer and easier to chew than regular baby carrots. I put ranch dressing at the bottom of a plastic container, and then I stand the carrots in the ranch. The carrots don't get soggy, and he is thrilled with getting what he calls "white sauce" to dip!
Leftover vegetables 6 of 8
We tend to have leftover veggies on the regular, and my son adores green beans. So after dinner, I'll divide leftovers into small containers to send over the next few days. Another easy way is to open a can of veggies (corn, beans, carrots), and divide the can into smaller containers.
Fruit pouches 7 of 8
We adore these fruit pouches! They are so convenient, and our son loves them — we keep them cold so they are more like smoothies, as we like to call them. They're usually the first thing he reaches for in his lunch, plus they travel well in other situations — at the zoo, on road trips, or at the beach or the pool.
Back to basics 8 of 8
There is nothing more simple and pure than plain old fruit. Toss in a banana or an apple for no-prep nutrition, slice grapes, or send an orange if your child has patient teachers. I'm personally a huge fan of the banana, as I know he'll eat it and it requires zero work other than peeling.