27 Easy Ways To Include Veggies In Your Kids Lunch

By Penelope Henderson, MSc, RNutr/ 09/07/2023
Strips of vegetables, egg muffin and berries in a silicone case inside a lunchbox

Veggies for your kids lunch don’t have to be a few boring chopped veggie sticks every day. There are a lot of easy ways to include them from raw, cooked, leftovers and many many more ideas. By including variety you are offering exposure to vegetables in different ways which will help with fussiness too.

So if you are feeling stuck for inspiration then check out my 27 ideas for back to school lunches. You will find new ways to use vegetables and make those lunches enticing again!

Why Do Veggies Matter?

Veggies matter for lots of reasons but most importantly of all they contain vitamins, minerals and fibre which are important for our immune system. 

It is recommended to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day, so at least half of these (2 -3 types) should be vegetables every day. 

If you would like to know more about how to make up a balanced lunch then you may like to check out How to make healthy lunchbox ideas for toddlers to delight them

Do you need to eat vegetables at every meal?

You don’t need to eat vegetables with every meal and snack but offering at least 2 – 3 portions a day is a good guide to follow. So think of it as a portion of vegetables with 2 meals and 1 at snack times.

3 piles of chopped veggies (courgette, pepper and tomato)

Should You Force Your Kids To Eat Vegetables?

Never force your kids to eat vegetables or any food for that matter. Pressuring kids to eat, from gentle persuasion through to forcing them will no doubt make them eat. However you are not letting them engage with that food in a pleasurable way or enjoy eating them because they want to. 

By forcing them to eat  it makes that food less desirable and the resistance will continue. It is far kinder to take a responsive feeding approach. By this I mean letting your child decide if they want to eat and how much. You get better results in the long term. 

How Can I Get My Kids To Eat Vegetables?

You simply can’t make them eat vegetables but there are lots of way to make them more appealing whether they are on their own or put into a recipe so they are less visible. If you have a fussy eater then I have lots of ideas on how to make a packed lunch they will eat in this blog

These include: 

  • Chopping vegetables into smaller pieces
  • Use foods quick to chew
  • Add some fun stickers to lunchbox
  • Get them involved in making their lunch
How can i get my kids to eat vegetables? this infographic gives 4 ideas including 1. chopping into smaller pieces 2. using foods easy to chew 3. making food fun 4. get them involved

Here are some ideas for how to use veggies in your kids lunch.

Veggie Ideas For Kids Lunches

  1. Savoury muffins or buns – such as carrot, courgette, sweet potato or tomato buns
Tomato buns in silicone cases
  1. Sconescheese and tomato work really well in scones. Substitute the chives in this recipe for chopped tomatoes. 
  1. Cakes – I wouldn’t recommend cakes as the only source of vegetables as they usually contain sugar but they are another way to add vegetables if your child prefers vegetables disguised. Try this carrot cake 
  1. Browniesbeetroot brownies or black bean brownies
  1. Salads –  simple lettuce salad with different leaves. Or add some chopped vegetables. My favourite combinations are spinach with tomato and feta. Green beans and sundried tomatoes are easy to put together. Or if they love pasta then a pasta salad with some raw veggies could work well.
  1. Sandwich fillings -are one of the easiest ways to include veggies in your kids lunch. Choose a protein for the filling and a vegetable that will complement it. Some examples include:
  • egg and tomato
  • avocado and feta 
  • spinach and feta
  • cheese and salad
  • tuna and cucumber
  • ham and cucumber
  • chicken and avocado
  1. Crackers – avocado crackers or sweet potato crackers
  1. Dips tomato, pepper and chickpea dip, bean dips
  1. Flapjacks – instead of sweet flapjacks you can make savory versions with sweeter vegetables like grated carrot and tomato. Try this recipe
  1. Soups -Most vegetables work well in soups. I tend to make soups out of leftover vegetables with some stock. Other family favourites include: 
  • mushroom, 
  • leek and potato, 
  • broccoli and cheese 
  • roasted pepper and tomato
  • Butter bean soup
  1. Waffles – You can add some pureed vegetables into the waffle mix and reduce the amount of milk so it’s not too wet. Try sweet potato or carrot waffles
  1. Quiches -Quiches or flans make a good base for vegetables, with egg and pastry they make a balanced lunch. Good vegetables for quiches include leek, asparagus, broccoli, courgettes, peas, tomatoes, sweetcorn and many more that are not too wet. Try this asparagus and feta quiche
  1. Pastries – Bought puff pastry makes a quick and easy base for making vegetable rolls which are like sausage rolls but with vegetables instead. Potatoes, chickpeas and beans work well with pastry as they don;t make the pastry soggy. 
  1. Frittatas – are essentially filled omlettes with fillings like potato, other vegetables and maybe cheese or meat. Try this bacon and leek frittata.
  1. Smoothies – Want to hide some vegetables in your kids lunches? then it’s possible with smoothies although be careful with this as you may lose trust with your child if they find out. Try this green smoothie recipe which contains spinach.

Once you have made your smoothie, pop into a reusable smoothie pouch and its ready for their lunchbox. 

  1. Pizza – The quickest pizza to make is a pitta pizza as it uses a pitta bread base which you top with tomato sauce, mozzarella and vegetable choice. If they like it plain then the tomato sauce provides some nutrition. 
  1. Egg cups – are vegetables mixed with egg and baked in muffin or bun tins. Try these mini versions.
  1. Pancakes – Try these super spinach pancakes for a super green colour.
  1. Omelette wrapped in a tortillas – these are thin pancake style omelettes with tortilla and some vegetables on top. Try this ham and cheese one with tomatoes. 
  1. Sushi – The seaweed on sushi is high in salt so i wouldn’t recommend your child having too many. You can make sushi with rice and vegetables like chopped cucumber and carrot for the filling. Try this rainbow vegetable sushi
  1. Pasta sauce – If they love pasta then a smooth green pasta sauce is a great way to add some greens to their diet. This works fine cold too.

Effortless Ways to Include Veggies in Your Kids Lunch

When I am in a rush to make packed lunches then my go to way is to include easy vegetables to eat. They require little or no preparation, so they are quick veggies you can russell up in no time!

Little pots of raw vegetables including carrot and cucumber sticks as an effortless way to include veggies in your kids lunch
  1. Raw vegetables – using a mix of raw vegetables for kids will make them more colourful and attractive to eat. You could include any of the following cut in different ways. These are great vegetables to snack on raw and easy vegetables to make for lunch.
  • Sugar snap peas
  • Baby carrots, carrot sticks or grated carrot
  • Pepper cut into strips
  • Cucumber strips
  • Radishes
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Tinned sweetcorn
  • Celery sticks
  • Avocado strips
  • Peas. Fresh peas from their pods are delicious. Alternatively frozen peas can be put into a luncbox and they will have defrosted by lunch time. 
  • Courgette strips (cut using a peeler)
  • Edamame beans or soybeans
  • Lettuce shredded

If you are having difficulty getting your child to eat these then my top tip is to add a dip alongside them so they have something to dip into. This also makes it more inviting for kids. Dips to try include hummus, yoghurt dip, tomato sauce or guacamole. 

Cooked vegetables 

A mix of vegetables being sauteed in a frying pan.
  1. Leftovers

Why not try cooked vegetables for lunch? Any vegetables that have been cooked from the night before could be added to their lunchbox. However some may be not so nice when they are cold as the texture will have changed. It really depends on your child but I would suggest the following ones; 

  • Corn on the cob
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans (runner beans, broad beans. French beans)
  • Butter beans
  • Roasted kale
  • Roasted or sauteed courgette
  • Roasted beetroot
  • Carrots (roasted, pureed, sauteed)
  • Cauliflower (roasted, pureed or sauteed)
  • Mixed vegetables
  • Pea puree or whole
  • Sweet potato chunks
  • Roasted butternut squash strips
  • Spinach sauteed
  • Asparagus boiled or roasted
  • Fried rice with vegetables
  1. Lightly steamed vegetables

Vegetables that have been steamed or cooked briefly will soften a little but still retain a good crunch or bite rather than being slimy. I suggest using the firmer vegetables that will hold their shape if you are serving on their own. These include green beans, broccoli florets, asparagus and carrots

Veggies for a toddler lunch

Toddlers can eat the same vegetables as the above but because they are younger you need to be careful with sizes as anything the size of £1 coin is a choking hazard. So either cut smaller into quarters or serve large pieces they can bite off. 

A board with some whole cherry tomatoes and chopped tomatoes as an idea for veggies for lunch

Toddlers can also be quite picky at this age so if you can think about serving vegetables in a fun way then it can make it more appealing for them to eat. These include: 

  1. Cut into fun shapes – use a small veggie cutter or cookie cutter to cut fun shapes out of flat vegetables. Works best with carrots, cucumber and peppers. 
  2. Veggies on skewers. These could be raw or cooked but make sure they are not a size they  could choke on. For example cherry tomatoes need to be cut into quarters. 
  3. Rice rolls – raw veggie strips such as carrot, bean sprouts and peppers rolled in rice paper. 

Best Toddler Lunch Ideas

Looking for some more nutritious easy meals for toddlers? or maybe you are a busy mum stuck in a rut with the same boring meals and concerned they are not getting enough variety?

Then get unstuck with these 21 easy meals for toddlers, so you don’t have to think or worry about their nutrition. Includes nutritious, balanced meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Grab the FREE Guide.

Easy Vegetable Recipes To Make Ahead For Lunch

Skewer recipes

These all require no cooking, just chopping into appropriate size pieces and putting on a small skewer like a bamboo stick or pick stick and storing in the fridge for a day or two.

  • Cherry tomato and mozzarella skewers.
  • Watermelon, feta and tomato skewers
  • Yellow pepper, tomato and mozzarella
  • Olives, feta and peppers
  • Strawberries, feta and tomatoes
  • Grapes, cheddar cheese and tomatoes
  • Sandwich skewers (chunks of bread, cheese and vegetable of your choice)
  • Egg, tomato and lettuce
  • BLT (Bacon, lettuce and tomatoes)

Muffin recipes

Muffins are great to make ahead as you can make in batches and freeze until you need them. They can also be a way of adding vegetables without much taste. So here are some muffin recipes for toddlers who hate vegetables.

Tips For Packing School Lunches

  • Use Canned Fruits and Vegetables in the Lunchbox – If you want a cheaper option then canned vegetables will be the best option. Tinned sweetcorn, butter beans and chickpeas taste the best from a can and don’t require additional cooking. You can throw into a salad or dip. 
  • Prepare their lunchbox the night before – It’s less stressful than sorting it out in the morning when you need to rush out the door. 
  • Use a lunchbox with separate compartments or use lots of small pots. –Having everything in compartments or separated makes it easier for them to pick foods out. Also if they are in smaller pieces it will be less overwhelming to eat.
  • Use reusable packaging – invest in some reusable packaging for different foods inside their lunchbox. For example silicone cases, small pots with lids and smoothie pouches. These make some foods more colourful and attractive to eat. 

For some children who prefer the look of ready made branded foods in colourful packaging. Having some colourful pots and smoothie or yoghurt pouches makes them look similar to bought. 

  • Involve your child in making their lunch – Younger children can be involved in the process of planning as well as making lunch. They will enjoy making sandwiches or cutting fun shapes out of vegetables. Skewer vegetables onto sticks too. 

Being involved in making lunch will expose them to foods and can help them to be more familiar with vegetables if they have put it together themselves. 

  • Avoid putting hot food straight into lunchboxes –If you have made some foods in advance don’t be tempted to put them straight into the lunch box and chill them or they will go soggy. 
  • Give variety – veggies for your kids lunch need to include variety. Whilst it’s easier to just give your child the same vegetables and foods most days, try to mix it up with new things. By offering a variety you are exposing them to new foods and ways to try them, which helps as part of a balanced diet. 

Conclusion

Do you have any suggestions of veggies for your kids lunch? If so I would love to hear them. Please comment below.

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MEET THE AUTHOR
Author Penelope Henderson

Hi I’m Penelope Henderson RNutr Registered Nutritionist specialising in children’s nutrition and responsive feeding therapy.

I am a mum of 2, with over 15 years of experience in nutrition. I support parents to feel confident in how and what to feed their child. I hope you find my recipes and nutrition posts useful, so you can enjoy stress free cooking and mealtimes.

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