Kid-Friendly Lunch Box Salad
Every kid seems to have their quirks when it comes to food. My youngest didn’t care for soup for the first five years of her life. My oldest wouldn’t go near an egg yolk during the middle school years. And my middle always seemed to choose the oddest menu items when it came to eating out (squid ink pasta, beef cheeks, chicken liver toast).
One of the most universal quirks of kids at the table, though, is the desire to keep all the elements on a plate separate. Let’s call it a deconstructed style of dining.
Enter the kid-friendly lunch box salad. It’s essentially a standard chef salad, only deconstructed, so each element is tucked into a tidy section rather than tossed together.
Here’s what I love about this solution to school lunch:
Set out your lunch container, pull out all the components you need, and you can have this ready to go in about 5 minutes. Slice and dice your vegetables and package up the dressing the night before and it will be even quicker.
You can tailor the salad to what you have in the fridge and what you (and your kids) happen to like. If they won’t go for vegetables, fill it with fruits. If you have a vegetarian, use baked tofu instead of sliced turkey. Don’t like ranch dip? Go for a vinaigrette instead.
The salad has everything needed for a balanced lunch box: protein from the meat and cheese, calcium from the cheese, vitamins and minerals from the vegetables (and fruits), and quality carbohydrates if you pair it with whole grain bread or crackers. You can lean on a quality store-bought dip or dressing, or do up your own using one of these recipes:
It Can Be Made Ahead
This salad will hold up well overnight, so all you need to do in the morning is get it into a backpack.
It’s Good for Grown Ups Too
Sometimes deconstructed-style eating is just as appealing for adults as it is for kids, so no shame in doing one up for your own lunch, too.
Kid-Friendly Lunch Box Salad
You don't have to be a kid to love this salad, but it's nice to know a salad that kids are likely to love. Tailor the ingredients based on personal favorites and what you happen to have in the fridge.
- 2 to 3 slices turkey or ham
- 1/4 cup cubed Cheddar, Jack, or Havarti cheese
- 3/4 cup sliced, shredded, or chopped salad vegetables in any combination (cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, jicama, celery, etc) (swap in some fruits for veggie-averse kids)
- 1-2 tablespoons favorite salad dressing (ranch, green goddess, vinaigrette, honey mustard)
Use a round or rectangular container to assemble your salad. Start by cutting the turkey slices in half and then rolling into pinwheels. Tuck into one side of the container. Add the cheese cubes followed by the vegetables. Cover.
Pour the dressing into a sealed container.
Include a small ice pack with the container to keep things cool along with a fork.
photo credit: Leigh Beisch prop styling: Mikhael Romain