Honestly, I’m just happy to get the meals packed with at least one daily serving of fruit or vegetables included. However, it’s become apparent to me and my youngest daughter — as well as the judgy kids at her lunch table whose parents would never serve prepackaged fruit — that it’s high time I add some nutritional fun and variety to her lunches.
So, I turned to an expert. Angelea Bruce, a registered dietitian at Sharp Memorial Hospital, encourages parents to both model healthy eating habits for their children and provide them with a variety of healthy food choices to create balance in their meals and snacks.
She shares her top five tips to add fruit and veggies to kids’ packed lunches so they won’t just eat them, they’ll love them!
- Take a dip
Kids love to dip their food. Peanut butter, hummus or guacamole are both tasty and nutritious, and can be purchased in pre-packaged, individual portions.
- Shape ’em up
We’re talking about the fruits and veggies. Use small cookie cutters or your superior knife skills, if you’ve got them, to cut slices of cucumber, zucchini, apple or melon into fun shapes.
- Stick to it
Stick chunks of fruit on ice pop or lollipop sticks. Kids love anything lollipop-shaped and brightly colored — then again, who doesn’t? Or, you can really go for it and do a full kebab of tasty treats.
- Name those noshes
Give fruits and veggies fun names — cherry tomato “bombs,” broccoli “dinosaur trees” carrot “magic wands” or other creative captions — and write them on bags full of your creatively clever snacks.
- Show them you kale
Feeling adventurous? Try homemade kale chips. Believe it or not, they taste like potato chips and are easy to make — and kids gobble them up.
Store in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
Yields 4-6 servings
Heat oven to 350° F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Using a knife or kitchen shears, take 1 bunch of kale and carefully remove all the leaves from the thick stems; tear into bite-size pieces. Place the kale pieces in a mixing bowl and gently toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a sprinkle of salt (to taste). Evenly spread the dressed kale in a single layer on the parchment paper. Bake until the edges are brown, but not burnt, about 10 to 15 minutes.
With these five suggestions, I have my daughter’s fruit and veggie servings covered for a week’s worth of school lunches, plus inspiration for many more. And while I’m packing her lunch, I think I’ll go ahead and toss them into my own. You can’t beat celery dipped in peanut butter to happily — and healthily — get through the day.