I know a lot of us parents struggle with what veggies to include in a lunch box without defaulting to baby carrots and dip each day. While that is a fine option, older kids may get burnt out of that offering and younger kids likely can't (safely) crunch their way through it.
That's why I have created this list.
With 25 ideas for how to include a variety of vegetables in each lunch box, you could literally offer a different option each school day of the month! I know this list will help to spur on some new ideas, get you out of a "what to offer" rut, and help your family shop for some fun new offerings this school year.
Be sure to grab my FREE shopping list at the end of this post with the brands I like for each of the products recommended, as well as all the recipes for the items listed.
So without further ado, here is a collection of kid-friendly veggie-based food options that are perfect for packing in lunchboxes -- safe for even those who are still learning to crunch and munch through raw veggies!
10 Effortless Ideas that Require Minimal to No Prep:
Frozen Peas: Try tossing frozen veggies in and letting them thaw before lunch time.
Grated Carrot Straws: Raw carrots are a choking hazard in kids under four, so consider buying grated carrot straws for your kiddos to try instead.
Freeze-Dried Veggies: You can find these most easily online in single veggie varieties or medley packs.
Kale Chips: You can make your own or buy them pre-made to increase the shelf life a bit.
Cooked (or Jarred) Beets: You can roast your own or buy those that are pre-cooked and in vacuum-sealed pouches.
Baked Sweet Potato: Bake whenever the oven is already on for something else and then keep it in the fridge to have all ready to dice up and add to a lunchbox.
Zoodles: Spiralize your own veggies, or take the shortcut and buy premade ones! Serve raw or cook quickly then include al-dente in a lunch box
Peek-a-boo Sugar Snap Peas: Create a slice down the spine of sugar snap peas so that your little one can open them up and play peek-a-boo with all the peas inside! I promise this novelty trick works wonders.
Canned Corn: Buy the no-salt-added organic corn and you can literally drain and send it as is! No rinsing or cooking required.
Sneakz Organic Milk: If you are already in the habit of sending a juice or milk box instead of just water for a beverage, consider tossing in a box of Sneakz Organic. With a 1/2 serving of vegetables in each milk box, this is an easy, unexpected way to get carrots, cauliflower, sweet potatoes, spinach, and beets in your kiddo's lunchbox.
5 Ways to Include Leftovers:
Roasted and Steamed Veggies: Make extra steamed or roasted carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini spears, etc. to include in the lunch box the next day.
Cauliflower Rice: Sick of sandwiches? Include cauliflower rice with a leftover grilled meat and veggie kabobs.
"Would-otherwise-go-to-waste" Veggies: Have veggies that went untouched on your child's plate the night before? Add them to a egg frittata recipe or serve them up as mini egg muffin cups.
Rainbow Spring Rolls: Use rice paper to roll up a variety of veggies in a spring roll for dinner the night before, then send extra rolls for lunch the next day. For a bonus, tuck in some avocado or include a dipping sauce on the side.
Smoothies: Do you have a little extra green smoothie or cauliflower smoothie? Include in a pouch or leak-proof squeeze container.
5 Recipes for Cold Favorites
These are awesome recipes you can prep ahead and enjoy throughout the week. Or, store some in an airtight container and stash in the freezer for another week when you run low on veggie-rich options or ideas!
Carrot Muffins: These are a staple in our house!
Zucchini Muffins: This one just came out in a cookbook I am drooling over...so good
Fruit and Veggie Mini Muffins: This recipe is such a smart way to get
PB&J with Beet Berry Jam: Use a non-nut butter if your school requires it, but just don't forget to get those beets in your berry jam as a sweet way to boost the nutrition in this kids classic.
Apple + Kale Toddler Puffs: Seriously so easy to make and yet they maintain that light, airy texture toddlers love!
5 Recipes for Heated Favorites
I know a lot of parents and kids wish they could have warm, comforting favorites sent for lunch -- especially as the school year progresses and weather starts to cool down. That is why I was SO excited to receive a OmieBox this year (affiliate link). With a space to keep warm foods warm, this lunchbox opens up a whole new world of opportunities, including kid-friendly ways to offer vegetables!
Hidden Veggie Mac n Cheese: Get that go-to orange color of mac and cheese without all the processed ingredients, but rather from REAL veggies!
Spaghetti: I love spaghetti sauce as a flavorful, family-friendly staple for getting veggies in. Add to whole grain or bean-based noodles, or put on top of zoodles!
Tomato Soup: this is perfect to serve with a side of grilled cheese
Tater Tots: These tend to be a toddler favorite for their soft texture and starchy taste. Consider baking up some of the more natural, nutrient dense "tots" or buying pre-made "puffs" that have sweet potatoes, or kale, or a combo of veggies!
Cauliflower Pizza: I am kind of amazed how well my kids (who notice ANYTHING "different!") took to this pizza crust alternative! Make your own or buy premade.