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Parents, your vacation from packing lunches has ended. Now that school is back in session, it's time to sharpen your pencils and get ready for another year of attemping to get your kids to eat vegetables.
Here are 11 strategies—from real parents—for keeping your cool.
- "I have a system—two vegetables, one fruit, one piece of dried fruit, and something savory—and I lack the inclination or creativity before my first cup of coffee to vary from this." —Deb Perelman
- "If we're trying out something new, I'll tell Toby it's a special recipe, even if it's a stretch (like, 'Grandma's Special Broccoli' or 'Cheesy Quesadillas Just Like We Had at that Taco Place in San Francisco!!!') to get him more excited about eating it. For us, thankfully, it has worked like a charm." —Joanna Goddard
- Turn kids' lunch intro a meal for yourself: "One of the best things is that the brown rice and beans I pack for their lunch makes a fantastic breakfast for me. I fry an egg and place it right on top drizzled with a little Sriracha. And everybody wins." —Karen Thornton
- "We try to make something for them that we ourselves would like to eat, hoping that this will make them adventurous eaters along the way." —Nadine Redzepi
- "We settle on one thing and she eats it for months until she gets bored. Then we find something else." —Melissa Clark
- "Allowing our daughter to be involved—or to even make her own lunch—results in more food eaten/less wasted." —Sarah Carey
- "I've kind of given up on making him try new things all the time, and instead just try to cover the bases and give him things I know he likes. A key part of my lunchbox strategy is to load him up on protein." —Carla Lalli Music
- "Asking her for ideas always helps because then I feel she is more open to trying new flavors. I would be lying if I said that she always comes home with an empty lunchbox, but mostly, we get thumbs up." —Prerna Singh
- "There is no homemade Pirate's Booty, Goldfish crackers, or pretzels in this house. Those experts live at BJ’s, in bulk, and make my life easier." —Kelsey Banfield
- "When feeding my son, I make sure to include a grain or whole-grain pasta, a protein like legumes or avocado, and some fruit. (My husband and I make big batches of grains and beans at the beginning of the week, roasting sweet potatoes in fall and winter.)" —Christine Muhlke
- "My overriding lunch-packing philosophy can be summed up in one word: leftovers. Whatever is in the fridge from a previous meal is now an option for a portable lunch." —Katie Workman
Photos by Deb Perelman, Yossy Arefi, Carla Lalli Music, and Prerna Singh