7 Tips for Plant-Based School Lunches (That Kids Will Love!)

As summer draws to a close, you’re probably simultaneously looking forward to heading back to school, yet dreading one thing – lunches. If you’re like many families, you probably have a hard time keeping kids interested in their lunches without having to spend hours on planning. We’re here to help with some tips to make your lunch planning a breeze.

School Lunch Tip #1: A great container

Rather than trying to match five containers to lids each morning, invest in a few compartmentalized metal or BPA-free plastic lunch containers, plus a few separate containers for dips and sauces. They’re easy to use, don’t take up much room in backpacks, and keep food separated so you can put everything in one place. Check out Eco Lunchboxes for some ideas. Bonus Tip: Make a “spot” for containers to go to after school and have your kids learn to put them there each day – it will save a ton of time and frustration!

School Lunch Tip #2: Start with a list

Make a list of the food your kids like/love to eat, rather than starting with what you would really like them to eat. Remember, you’re not around to make sure they eat the food, and it’s better that they eat throughout the day than don’t. List fruit, vegetables, dips, sides, snacks, legumes/nuts, etc. until you have a good list to start with – then you can make sure that you include a few of these items each day.

School Lunch Tip #3: Make it easy

Avoid foods that need peeling or any kinds of prep – odds are your child is going to choose the simplest foods to eat first and might not get to the more difficult ones. For really young children this might mean pre-opening packages foods (like granola bars) and avoid “hard” foods to prepare for a bit.

School Lunch Tip #4: Aim for variety

Many of us remember growing up with the same sandwich (or choice of two sandwiches) every single day. Boring! It’s much simpler and easier to get kids to embrace plant-based eating if they enjoy eating the food, which means changing up the mix every day, or at least swapping out a few options, so they don’t get tired of their lunch.

School Lunch Tip #5: Cover the bases

The main point of plant-based eating is to be healthier, right? Unfortunately, there are many unhealthy vegan options out there that promise convenience, only to be high in salt and sugar or low in nutrients. Be careful what you purchase. Sticking to whole foods from the main food groups can help your child get the necessary energy and nutrients they need to have a successful school year. And don’t forget a water bottle! Here are some ideas for lunch items:

Main Side Snack
Cucumber/hummus sandwiches Grapes & seeds Granola or energy bar
Sunflower butter/jam rolls Roasted chickpeas Fruit rolls
Vegan cheese/veggie quesadillas Fresh fruit Celery logs (w/ sunflower seed butter and raisins)
Apple/nut butter sandwiches Roasted chickpeas Crackers & “cheese”
Tahini/red pepper rolls Dried fruit/seeds Grapes and sunflower seeds
Quinoa/rice bowl w/ black beans Fresh fruit Muffin
Pasta & veggies Grapes Trail mix
Avocado sandwich Dried fruit/seeds Granola or energy bar
Grilled “cheese” Avocado chocolate pudding Energy balls
Bean burrito Apple and sunflower nut butter Healthy cookie
Banana/nut butter rolls Kale chips Veggies & hummus
Veggie burger Dried fruit/seeds Granola or energy bar

  Bonus Tip: Leftovers are okay! So is soup – if you have a good thermos.

School Lunch Tip #6: Plan ahead

Don’t get into the habit of making everything the morning of, especially if you have a few kids or have to get to work on time. Things like dried fruit, seeds, sauces/dips, bars, balls, cookies, and muffins can all be prepared in batches ahead of time and stored or frozen – so all you have to do is grab them in the morning. The same goes for pasta dishes, burritos, rice bowls, etc.: there’s no reason why not to make a bunch and freeze them a few weeks or a month at a time.

School Lunch Tip #7: Let Kids Help!

Yes, you want your kids to eat healthy, but you also want them to learn to make healthy choices on their own (and, of course, eventually learn to take care of themselves) – so let them help plan and put together their lunches! Start by posting a list of lunch items and let them add to it if there are foods that they would like to bring. Show them where lunch foods are kept and start by letting them pick their snack in the morning. Eventually, they can help make sandwiches and sides, so you don’t have to! As a bonus, you’ll find that they’ll be much more interested in their lunch if they helped to decide what is in it.

150+ Plant-Based Recipes

For more easy and delicious plant-based recipes that everyone in the family will love, pick up a copy of The 22-Day Revolution Cookbook - available for pre-order now! Take these ideas and make them your own. And begin planning so you can have a successful, plant-based lunch school year!