I’ve been thinking about school lunch more than usual this week in light of the hullaballo over a Chicago school principal banning children from bringing sack lunches from home.

Preparing school lunch is a lot of work, and packing a nutritious one, even more so. Vegetables are one important element that often gets overlooked. And it’s no wonder. They are kind of a pain to prepare, aren’t the favorite amongst most kids, and often come home untouched.

That said, it’s hard for kids to get enough vegetables in their diet without eating them at lunch. I find variety ups the likelihood that said veggies will get eaten. Mixing it up is also beneficial from a nutrition standpoint because every vegetable offers something different on the vitamin/mineral front. Little carrots carved into the shape of bullets, while incredibly convenient, offer only a slice of the nutritional spectrum.

Here are a few ideas for adding variety and inspiration to lunchbox veggies:

  • Cheesy :: Package up leftover cooked broccoli with a lemon wedge. Add a little container of grated Parmesan for sprinkling come lunchtime.
  • Tangy :: Douse sliced cucumbers and peppers with seasoned rice wine vinegar.
  • Nutty :: Include a small container of Asian peanut sauce for dipping along with sugar snap peas or other crunchy favorites.
  • Spicy :: Pack up jicama sticks with a wedge of lime. In another teeny container, add a dash or two of chili powder for dipping.
  • Salty :: Wrap up half of a cooked corn on the cob with a little shaker of salt on the side.
  • All Mixed Up :: Combine fruits and vegetables together: apple slices and carrot sticks, celery and orange segments, grapes and cucumbers, and so on.

I’d love to hear your ideas for lunchbox vegetables.