THE BLOG

School Lunch Project: Rainbow Fruit Skewers

01/28/2013 02:40 pm ET | Updated Mar 30, 2013

Common sense, doctors, nutritionists and even our mothers have long told us to eat more fruits and vegetables. When it comes to packing fresh fruit in our children's school lunch, the difficulty often lies in how to pack it so it stays fresh through the lunch hour and making sure it doesn't go to waste.

Recent changes to school lunch regulations state that fresh fruits and vegetables must be made available in school cafeterias. The problem is that much of what is being offered actually goes to waste.

Parents who pack fresh lunches for their kids often email me wanting suggestions on how to pack a variety of fruits in their kids' lunches. They know that if they send a whole apple in the lunch bag, it often goes uneaten or thrown in the trash after a couple of bites.

I often suggest that fruits and vegetables be incorporated into the lunch in manageable pieces or sent with a healthy dip to go along with it.

Kia Robertson, from Today I Ate a Rainbow, knows a thing or two about packing fresh fruits and vegetables. Her Rainbow Kits make eating fruits and vegetables more fun, and for this reason, I asked her to share some tips with us today.

Tip #1: Make it fun!
Use mini cookie cutters, chopsticks, containers or food picks that showcase fruits and veggies to kids in ways that make them fun and tasty. Put anything on a stick and kids will eat it.

Tip#2: Pack lunch together.
Packing lunches at night after dinner gives Kia the opportunity to spend time with her daughter, Hannah, and gets her involved in making her own food. Teaching kids valuable kitchen skills and getting them involved in the healthy lunch packing routine is very important.

Kia's weekday mornings are hectic and she knows that packing a nutritious lunch at night makes it less stressful before heading out the door to the bus stop in the morning.

I agree. In fact, over 70 percent of MOMables' subscribers pack lunches at night. Kia notes

making lunches in the evening gives me time to spend a little extra time on making lunches fun and colorful. We use mini cookie cutters to turn fruits and veggies into cute shapes. I like to write little notes or draw a funny picture to add a little bit of fun to my daughter's lunch. Using bento lunch containers is the best way to make every lunch look special even if all you do is just toss the food in!

Tip #3: Make it convenient and fast.
I wash all my fruits and vegetables the day I bring them home from the grocery. I often pack them inside small containers or directly inside a couple of lunch boxes so they are ready to "grab-and-go" in the morning.

You could also get your kids involved in making fresh fruit skewers (as Kia does with Hannah), freeze them and pull them out in the morning. This way, the fruit stays fresh and cool instead of a soggy mess by lunch.

Some of the fruits that freeze well are grapes, peaches, berries, oranges, mangoes, bananas, nectarines, pears, cherries and pineapple. Melon, apples and watermelon tend to not hold their texture when they thaw, so avoid freezing these.

How to pack fresh fruit in a school lunch

How to make Rainbow Fruit Skewers:
You're going to need a variety of different fruits and some type of skewer. I like using popsicle sticks to avoid "accidental poking" at lunchtime.

1. Select your fruits in a variety of colors.
Orange fruit options: orange, apricots, peaches, nectarines and papayas.
Yellow fruit options: mango, starfruit, golden apples, pineapple and bananas.
Green fruit options: kiwi, granny smith apples and grapes.
Blue fruit: blueberries or blackberries.
Purple fruit: red or purple grapes, plums, blackberries.
MOMnote: my kids love strawberries so I always add them to our skewers.
2. Assemble fruits into the skewers by alternating colors.
3. Lay flat on a cookie sheet and flash freeze for an hour before transferring to a freezer bag or container. Or, place in refrigerator if they will be consumed shortly.
4. Pack for lunch in your favorite container.