Eat Your Veggies, Kids! (or How to Have a Healthy Lunchbox Day)

I’ve regaled you with accounts of our journey toward better eating. We have cut down our intake of processed foods, starting eating more organic produce thanks to a weekly produce co-op, and trying to dance that fine line between good old-fashioned home cooked food, a busy life, and taking advantage of convenience items that buy me time.

It’s a challenge, to be sure. I don’t have it all figured out. And unfortunately, no one is embracing the wealth we have in eggplant, but I’m gonna keep on trucking.

Here are some steps that I’m taking to try to get my kids to eat more fruits and vegetables:

1. Make their favorites plentiful and available.

Picking up a fresh produce box each week has really helped keep us supplied in fresh fruits and vegetables. The grapes, plums, asian pears, and apples have all been fabulous. Though the apples were a bit tart, they were great in applesauce and pies. Having a regular supply of my kids favorite fruits encourages them to eat more of them.

2. Try something new.

Last year eggplant and swiss chard made their debut on our family’s menu. This year, it’s been bok choy and sorrel. Truth be told, I’m usually the one who eats most of it. Me, and my wild foraging teenager. But, everybody tries it. They have to. I make them eat at least one bite every time I serve it. I figure familiarity breeds tolerance. Or something like that.

3. Add vegetables in small quantities.

Last week I had a variety of vegetables that I needed to use up before the new delivery came. I was tempted to make ratatouille. Again. But, we’ve had it a lot over the last year and the freezer is full. Instead I sauteed the squash, eggplant, peppers, onions, and garlic in olive oil and divided the mixture into smaller containers.

I froze the vegetables to add into soups, chilis, sauces, and egg dishes later with other ingredients. I’m hoping they’ll blend in with the crowd and that a few more than normal will slip in unnoticed.

4. Offer choices.

Last week, I offered two choices for soup night: Vegetable Beef and Cauliflower Broccoli. (I also had a good dessert waiting in the wings.) I stuck to my resolve to have the kids eat one bowl of soup. FishBoy7 had the hardest time of it. Neither soup appealed to him so I had to basically babysit him until it was gone. But he did it and he was so proud of himself he did a touchdown dance afterward, kissing his arms and everything.

See? Eating your veggies empowers you.

The others tasted each soup and chose one based on their preferences. One child ate both kinds; another discovered that he really liked the cauliflower and broccoli. The others got to practice eating with thankfulness.

5. Bake with it.

While we’ve loved the plums we got in our produce box, it is easy to tire of something if you have it too often. If it’s bakeable, though, you can redeem it. I baked up this plum cake that was absolutely delicious. It didn’t last but a few hours.

Fruits are naturals for baking, but veggies can do double duty, too. Zucchini, squash, and pumpkin all go great in baked goods. Waffles, pancakes, breads, muffins, and cakes all welcome them in to tasty goodness.

6. Pack a healthy lunchbox.

Whether your school is at home or away, serving a healthy lunch is key to fueling our kids to succeed throughout the day. Dr. Praeger’s is a company that I only recently learned about. The company sent us some samples of their frozen vegetable entrees, like spinach bites, potato crusted fish nuggets, and pizza bagels. My kids loved them, as did I. My favorites were the spinach littles in the shape of dinosaurs. I could eat the whole box myself!

One of the things that I loved about the different entrees we tried was that I could pronounce all the ingredients. That is a definite plus in my book, a great way to blend that healthy food choices with a busy life.

Dr. Praeger’s offers all-natural and nutrient-rich options that are a great way to help kids eat sensibly, maintain a healthy lifestyle and make smart food choices. Yes, a certain Mr. Seven questioned why we were eating spinach dinosaurs, giving us a great “teachable moment” to talk about good things to eat.

Dr. Praeger’s is currently working to teach children how to make smart food choices and providing them with healthy options should be a priority. By launching Dr. Praeger’s Healthy Lunchbox Day, they are working to encourage families to pack a veggie-rich lunch at least once a week on Wednesdays and help kids develop healthy eating habits for life.

You can “like” Dr. Praeger’s Facebook page and get weekly tips and tricks on how to pack a great, healthy lunch for your kids.

Win a sampling of Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods

This week 3 LifeasMOM readers will win two free product coupons for Dr. Praeger’s.

To Enter:

Leave a comment, telling us what YOU do to pack your kids a healthier lunchbox.

This giveaway will be open until Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 8 pm PST. Winners will be chosen at random and notified via email. Please respond within 48 hours to claim your prize.

This giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winners: vLmiller04@, danihighley@, phoward336@

Disclosure: I have been provided with review product and compensation for my time spent writing. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments.

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  1. I am awful about getting my kids to eat veggies. They normally do pretty well with fruit. They do like carrot sticks!

  2. I offer dip if it’s something they wouldn’t normally like – a little ranch dressing goes a long way until they are familiar wit something.

  3. Veggies can be tough – thankfully my two year old twin boys like broccoli. The rest, well….that’s a challenge. I love Dr. Praeger’s veggie patties and have served those to my boys with success – I would love to try the spinach littles too!

  4. Kim Stachowiak says:

    My son has a very limited number of veggies he’ll eat (my daughter though eats most veggies and they both love fruit). B/c I’m sure that seeing carrots, red peppers, and broccoli on his plate day after day would make him sick of those, I do lots of sneaky chef tactics by mixing sweet potatoes into taco meat, cauliflower into mac and cheese, etc. I wish he’d eat the real thing, but at least he’s getting some extra veggies.

  5. I would love to have my kids try animal shaped spinach – that’s brilliant! I only wish I had discovered that idea myself years ago :)! We eat at home for lunch but I find variety is the key along with some incentive that’s sweet and not-so-good-for-you but hey, gotta start somewhere, right?! Hee, hee.

  6. My 4 year old goes to preschool and they really emphasize healthy snacks so she knows that is all she is going to get. I usually pack fruit and some sort of cheese and crackers.

  7. My son will hardly eat plain vegetables, but if they are mixed in with something (like soup or fried rice) he enjoys them. He also, inexplicably, loves kale chips.

  8. I have also started buying a produce box, but ours comes every other week.

  9. I try to make their lunches exciting by including a variety of fruits and veggies in a variety of ways.

  10. We homeschool so you would think it would be easier to make lunches healthy and good for you. Sometimes convenience food just seems so much easier. My kids earn “bonus points” when they try something new, especially in the veggie department. The points earn them dessert (just a little!) or some extra video game time or a dollar store treat.

  11. We call honey-mustard dressing “kids dip” and my 2 year old will eat anything as long as she has her “kids dip” to go with it!

  12. sally mcquaid says:

    Because my children think they could live off cheese whenever I make them there always requested cheese sandwhich or quesadilla I add a spead of pureed veggies. They almost never notice it. I also place a couple raw veggies (familiarity towards tollerance) just in case they want to try them.

  13. It’s hard in my house – one kid who’s a vegetarian and the other who has become the pickiest of eaters! But I try and offer something from the main food groups in their cold lunches each day, and because we aren’t together at school, I don’t try out “new” foods or things they don’t like (certain fruits and veggies), they just get wasted. They both love nuts, so almost every day they have almonds or walnuts as part of their lunch in lieu of a main protein, as well as a dairy (cheese stick, yogurt, etc.) and gluten-free crackers, corn chips or homemade granola bars. Most days it works pretty well, but pickyboy still brings home a few uneaten things. It’s a work in progress :)…

  14. I offer my son a few healthy choices and let him pick what he wants in his lunch box. No need to send things that I know he won’t eat b/c healthy only counts when it gets eaten.

  15. I portion fruits and veggies into small containers when I come home from the grocery store. Then when I’m making dinner, I pull out several options, and let the kids pack their own lunches. The trick is to only put out enough of something for 1 or 2 of the kids to have it…so I might put out two containers of carrots, and one of broccoli. They’ll all reach for the broccoli at once, creating a demand that I am more than happy to satisfy 🙂

  16. Rebecca scott says:

    I keep lots of different fruit to choose from and offer dips for the veggies.

  17. For my 5 y/o I always stick veggies in his lunch box. So far he’s eaten most of what I packed, even the chard leaves and radish slices. The 2 y/o is tricker but he is becoming less of a vegetable avoider. I’ve been making a casserole with cooked greens or broccoli, eggs, and homemade ricotta. This week’s has Kale in it which is a bit strong but he’s eating it bit by bit.

  18. I make smoothies packed with spinach and blueberries and freeze them. They are perfectly thawed by lunchtime!

  19. I bake alot, make my own convenience foods, sneak in oats, flaxseeds, and veggies whenever I can!

  20. misty gorman says:

    i cut the sammies into fun shapes, i even have a star wars cutter! we always include a fruit/veggie with their lunch. i don’t ever send anything packaged or processed and my kids don’t really ask for it either. i would love more ideas:)

  21. We always have some fresh veggies chopped up in their lunches and for an after school snack. They love slices of bell peppers.

  22. I’ve found that if I have a bag of baby spinach on hand, it is EASY to throw it in just about anything. I add it to pasta dishes a lot, but lately I have also added it to Rotel dip and homemade chicken noodle soup. No one even noticed it, and we’re all just a little bit “greener” for it!

  23. Oh yeah! Another thing I’ve been experimenting with is pumpkin spiced applesauce. My kids eat WAY too much applesauce to make it from scratch these days, so I’ve been buying unsweetened in huge quantities when I can get it for cheap. I’ve been warming it on the stove with pumpkin and spices to taste. My kids are in love, and they’re eating a vegetable without even knowing it!

  24. I only pack my kids a sandwich, fruit, and water. That way they are so hungry that they eat everything I give them! 🙂

  25. we don’t pack lunch yet since my daughter isn’t old enough, but i eat a salad pretty much every day and she has seen me enjoy them, so the fact i continue to offer them to her results in her wanting to try them as well. i’ve always offered fruits and veggies and she does well at eating them so far. i hope it stays that way!

  26. I mix foods he loves with ones that are healthier, like in a trail mix or smoothie. Usually it does the trick!

  27. I let my daughter choose a fruit to bring for lunch usually apple, banana, grapes something like that. Now veggies are harder to incorporate…

  28. My daughter is only 2 so no packed lunches yet but I’ve been making sure to include more vegetables in her snacks, which she always gobbles down quickly.

  29. My healthy lunch “trick” is to let my kids pack their own lunches with things they choose. They think they have the power. Never mind I’m the one providing the choices so I can make sure they are good options. Thankfully my kids like most veggies, especially asparagus. Spinach dinosours? I’m so buying those!!!

  30. I offer dip with fruit (carmel or yogurt) & veggies (ranch or hummus) to get my son to eat more. I also use my juicer to make healthy juices to go with lunch.

  31. That is exactly what I do – pack their lunch. I don’t feel the school lunch is very healthy so that is why I pack my kids’ lunches.

  32. I try to feed my son 1 veggie, 1 fruit, 1 protein and 1 starch for lunch. I have learned that he loves hummus and loves dipping his veggies in it, and then eating the veggies! Though it is a work in progress, (he is only 2), I hope that it will only get easier feeding him healthy food!

  33. I help pack his lunch so that I make sure he gets some healthy choices that he likes.

  34. On your eggplant surplus – one of my favorite ways to eat it is to slice into 1/2 inch circles, put a thin layer mayo on both sizes, coat with seasoned breadcrumbs, and bake at around 350-400 until both sides are golden. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and tasty! Plus, even though they’re totally soft when cold the next day, they’re still pretty good.

  35. My kids like a limited amount of veggies–peas, carrots, canned green beans, corn on cob, sometimes roasted broccoli–so I try to serve one of those at most lunches (usually just the peas or carrots), but always with fruit which they love. We have a co-op box too, and I do the same thing, serve up the veggie, and I’m usually the one eating most of it. But I’m hoping it’s setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. I never knew what swiss chard or bok choy was until we started the co-op a couple of years ago. Eating these yummy vegetables has really changed my life!

  36. Stephanie says:

    I cut up veggies into cute shapes. I bought inexpensive shaped veggie cutters with our “bento” lunch boxes. Today’s cucumber slices had heart shaped holes punched through the centers where the seeds used to be.

    On days when my son trends toward too many carbohydrates, we make a food chart on a dry erase board. Once we’ve depicted all the foods he’s eaten that day, he is willing to choose his next course from an underrepresented category.

  37. I made some baba ghanoush with roasted eggplant, and we liked that almost better than hummus! (reminded me a lot of hummus)

  38. Uggh i am in a struggle to get my 3 year old to eat…Everytime he sees veggies or even a sliver of it in a carrot cake he says yuck…

  39. I pack my kids a healthy lunch by including small portions of a vegetable, a fruit, a protein, a bread or cracker, and a small treat. Their lunches are not big but it is enough to fill them up and I’m satisfied that they are getting a little of everything they need instead of just eating all bread.

  40. We like Dr. Praeger’s veggie burgers. Haven’t tried the others though. Lunches contain a lot of finger foods — small tomatoes, cucumber slices, cheese or hummus, crackers, etc. Packed in a bento, it goes over well.

  41. I pack cut up fruits, veggies or sometimes both as sides in lunches. My kids love hummus & shredded veggie wraps in their lunch as well.

  42. I make the lunch so I make the choices about what to include… thats what insures our lunchbox is healthy.

  43. I have two very picky eater (one is a bit better then the other) One that eats no veggies at all!
    I started making muffins with veggies, So far we love pumpkin, zuchinni, and for fruits bannana! and Now I have him on a kick of eating apples.
    Every day for snack he gets Rasins.
    wonder how they would be with carrot muffins??
    Would love to win this and get my picky eaters to be not so picky!

  44. Rebecca W. says:

    I just keep trying new things.

  45. It’s hard to add more veggies to our meals. I try to include a salad in our lunches everyday and I’ve been adding pureed vegtables to sauces and mac & cheese.

  46. They have to have at least a piece of fruit and a whole grain.

  47. make a fun dip, homemade ranch is a favorite around here

  48. I let my kids pack their own lunches but always had healthy choices available for them to choose from.

  49. I offer dip with veggies, they are most likely to eat them with a little ranch dressing! Fruit – no problem, my kids love it!

  50. PatsyAnne says:

    Veggies – YUCK VEGGIES! Well I do what I have to do – I sneak them in, I make them look like something else, I bribe, I play games and I make comprimises. Lunchbox: carrot/celery matchsticks and a small dipper container of tuna or non-chunky chicken salad – peanut butter with apple and celery adding a plastic knife to use for “smearing” the pb – their favorite soup (Campbells Vegetable – healthy request) with added veggies (xtra carrots/steamed peas/chopped broccoli) to these I add zucchini cake with organic choc chips or carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Since I only have 3 rotating lunches they have become boring and I need new and exciting lunchbox ideas. Come to me Dr. Praeger!

  51. Since they have such a short time to eat, I pack a small carrot, 2 celery sticks, & top them with 2 small chocolate covered blueberries. His teacher tells me that each day he eats them up. If he eats them every day, then at the end of the week he earns a small but special dessert that Friday night.

  52. I always pack a fun veggie like cucumber stars or grape tomatoes and draw a smiley face on it.

  53. When my kids pack their lunch they know they have to include a fruit and vegetable but they get bored with the same choice.

  54. First off what a lovely post, I have a picky 2 year old and I WOULD LOVEEEEEEE to try any of these products out! Thanks.

  55. I would love to see your recipe for Vegetable Beef soup – I’ve been looking for a good one for a while! Thanks.

  56. We participate in a bi-weekly fruit/vegetable co-op, so we always have lots of that kind of thing around. I just make a point to have at least one fruit or vegetable in every lunch bag that goes out the door. It was a conscious decision.

  57. I do well in incorporating a fruit into every lunchbox, but I fall far short in the veggie category. Perhaps I should go cut up the celery stalks right now to be filled with PB in the am.

  58. Each of my children knows that they have to select a fruit to add to their lunchbox each day. I’ll have to work on adding veggies, though…

  59. Shannon L says:

    My daughter’s school has started serving fresh, healthy food for breakfast, lunch and snack. But I have a hard time getting my two dds to accept new food. The rule is they have to take two bites of everything served before leaving the table.

  60. I pack a lunch and two healthy snacks on most days. Muffins filled with fruit and/or veggies (this week’s morning glory muffins have both — and avoid the “won’t eat carrots” era we’re going through) are a portable option for us.

  61. I give the kids choices with fruit and veggies. My daughter is easy but my son is a WHOLE other story. I have an agreement with him that if he eats all of his healthy lunches during the week, that he can take a lunchable of his choice on Friday. So far, it has worked!!

  62. Carrots and healthy ranch dip, edamame, cherry tomatoes, garbanzo beans, annie’s pasta in a thermos–there are tons of ways to have your children eat healthy. In our house we do not have “kids” food and “adult” food. We all eat healthy.

  63. I always make sure she has a protein and a fruit – oddly enough i hadn’t thought about a vegetable until a couple weeks ago – I’m still working on that 🙂

  64. We have a veggie rule – you have to eat as many veggies each day as you eat sugary foods.

  65. I try to keep out fresh fruit so they can see it.Most of the time thet want what they see.

  66. I’ve never heard of this company and I’m going to search down these Spinach Littles. We generally get a balanced lunch with hummus, toasted wheat bread to dip, carrots, cheese and some sort of fruit. The veggies are the most challenging part – carrots are the only thing they’ll really eat raw, but they get tired of them and I have to cut them really small to feel comfortable sending them to pre-school.

  67. I always put fruits and veggies on their plates, even if they think they don’t like them. Sometimes we are all surprised!

  68. My daughter is still little yet, so I always make sure that I have string cheese with me so she has something healthy and protein packed to eat.

  69. We homeschool but I too try to offer a couple good choices, 2 soups or 2 side items, etc., veggie-wise. I also offer dips, such as Ranch, honey mustard, ketchup, whatever….kids love to dip. I also offer good desserts or some kind of privelige (to play Ipod games) as an incentive.

  70. Hummus, dressing, or cranberries seem to distract from disliked foods.

  71. we eat at home together – we all eat veggies together 🙂

  72. Heather Abbott says:

    My son packs lunch every day – he has a peanut/tree nut allergy, so he is afraid of eating in the cafeteria. One thing we do to make him eat healthier is he is required to have at least 1 fruit and 1 veggie, but he gets to pick what it is – for example grapes and carrot sticks, or apples and cucumber, etc. He also has started doing fruit as part of his sandwich – apple pear thinly sliced on turkey and cheese is a big hit or ham, cheese and pineapple. With sandwiches, we always choose a healthier bread rather than white bread and also pick whole grain goldfish or pretzels, rather than chips. And yogurt is a must have in our lunchbox.

  73. Fruit for (almost) every lunch…and fewer desserts.

  74. I always pack fruit for “dessert” in my son’s school lunch and we always eat a fruit after lunch and dinner. He’s pretty good with eating most green veggies since we started from an early age.

  75. We are good on fruit, but still working on the veggies

  76. We talk about how veggies make our bodies and brain work better. That is enough motivation for my 10-year old! It helps that he likes most veggies anyway….

  77. I include lots of fruit and whole grains since my son likes them. Veggies are harder!

  78. Amanda R. says:

    I love to buy a big bag of romaine lettuce at Sam’s and then make all sorts of salads out of it for lunches (chicken caesar one day, taco salad the next).

  79. My children typically get a sandwich (or other main item like cheese and crackers or soup in a thermos), fruit, something crispy/ snacky, and something sweet. I would like to sneak in another fruit or veggie, but since I’m not there to monitor their lunches, I’m afraid it might go straight into the trash. I try to sneak some into baked goods (pumpkin and other squashes as well as apple sauce work great for this)

  80. Danielle Budd says:

    My son is not yet two so veggies can be a little hard. I try to mix spinach, carrots, and squash into soups or casseroles. The only veggie he’ll eat all on his own is cucumbers. He eats those like chips every day.

  81. Since he is 5, we stick to the basics…grapes & mini carrots.

  82. Veggies are tough. My son won’t each many, so I usually rely on fruits. He is an apple fanatic, so you can imagine he is a very happy boy these days!

  83. I have discovered a way that gets my kids eating lots of fresh veggies. My kids come home for lunch & despite my best intentions, I never have it ready when they walk through the door! So I always lay out a plate of colourful, raw veggies which they can start with. Because they are famished, they make short order of those vegetables. Although it started because of my lack of organization, I now do it on purpose!

  84. My daughter prefers her veggies cooked over raw, but I need to send cold lunches for the most part. So she gets mostly fruits….but I do use zucchini, carrot, etc in muffins regularly so I guess that’s better than nothing!

  85. I enjoy preparing plenty of fruit and veggies in a colorful platter for my kids to enjoy, they love it “picnic” style! And making healthy pita bread pizzas or healthy soft tacos is pretty easy and also fun for kids. 🙂 creedamy [at] yahoo[dot] com

  86. AllieZirkle says:

    I try to make veggies available, that’s usually where the issue is, having available prepped veggies and fruits.

  87. I always include fruit and limit the choices of other items so that at least the majority of the lunch is healthy.

  88. I struggle with getting the kids to eat vegetables. I usually can get them to eat some carrot sticks or celery by offering some peanut butter to dip them in.

  89. My 3-year-old’s favorite lunch is “sandwich faces” – a piece of bread with peanut butter, and fruit or veggies to form a face. he’ll often eat the face pieces and ask for another face before eating the bread and peanut butter

  90. amanda l h says:

    We usually don’t have too many problems. We make our son try a bite of everything and more often than not he likes it!

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