Not Your Ordinary School Lunch

Food Network stars reveal their kids' favorite lunchbox treats and dish out the secret recipes.

Lunch, Fall

Ellie’s Bright Bites
Leave it to Ellie Krieger, host of Healthy Appetite, to make sure every color on the fruit-and-veggie spectrum ends up in her daughter’s lunch. The recipe name, Rainbows and Butterflies Pasta Salad, comes from the multicolored vegetables and, of course, butterfly-shaped pasta. Bella, who turns 7 in September, likes trying to get every color into each bite, Ellie says. “Drop in a blueberry yogurt or my Blueberry Punch so they’ll get all the colors.”


Jamie’s Bag of Tricks
Jamie Oliver has fought to improve school lunches in his native Britain, and he follows his own advice when he’s making “pack lunches” for his daughters. Steal some tips from the father of three: Poppy Honey, 7, Daisy Boo, 6, and Petal Blossom Rainbow, 4 months.

Make lunch interesting with a salad bag: Take a plastic bag, decorate it with stickers and fill with veggies. Teach the kids to add the dressing to the bag, then shake it over their heads to toss the salad — they can mix it right at the table!

Include one fruit juice box, not from concentrate. Freeze it to make a “lunch-box fridge” to keep food safe while it sits in the coatroom — by lunch, the drink is like a slushy.

The worst thing at lunch is a soggy sandwich. Try this trick: Spread butter edge to edge to “waterproof” the bread before adding the meat and fillings. Use funny cutters to shape the sandwiches.


Tyler’s Food in a Tube
As a father of three (Miles, 13, Hayden, 2, and Dorothy, 1), Tyler Florence has plenty of tricks for getting kids to eat well, like a high-concept lunch box: He stacks the meal in an empty tennis-ball canister. Just chill a small can of all-natural ginger ale or a bottle of water and place it at the bottom of the tube, then add an apple or a bag of popcorn, and the sandwich. “Customize it with stickers, and you have a cool lunch container for a healthy meal,” he says.


The Neelys’ Meal for Teens
Pat and Gina Neely’s two daughters, Spenser, 20, and Shelbi, 14, make their own lunches these days, but Gina has fond memories of packing special treats for the girls. “Spenser was a fan of fruit cups or sliced Granny Smith apples, and Shelbi always wanted a Fruit Roll-Up. If they helped me with a dessert, they would take leftovers to share with their friends,” Gina says. “And we’d always put little notes in there: ‘I love you’ or ‘Good luck on your test.’” Like most kids, the girls often wanted a turkey sandwich. Here’s how Gina and Pat put a twist on it:

Photographs by Hallie Burton