Vegetarian School Lunch Ideas

Kid Friendly Lunch Box Ideas & Healthy Recipes

Pack Lunch

School is starting and kids need all kinds of stuff! Clothes, school supplies, and lunches.

I don’t know if you’ve checked out school lunch menus, but last time I looked, they weren’t very veg friendly. In fact, my stepdaughter says, even if you aren’t a vegetarian they still aren’t worth eating.

So I’m learning to pack lunches.

Michelle is old enough to pack her own, but I still have to figure out what she can eat. I also have to figure out what she WILL eat. You can send it to school with ’em but you can’t make ’em eat it.

When looking for school lunch ideas, here are some of the things I think about:

Kids get a very short lunch period. Anything they take will have to be eaten inside 20 minutes. It won’t be refrigerated while it waits to be eaten, and kids aren’t likely to have access to a microwave.

And lunchtime is also social time, so kids eat during pauses in the conversation if they eat at all. Pretty lousy eating conditions if you ask me!

But nobody asked me. So I have to think up lunches that are healthy, appealing, and super quick, that won’t get soggy while sitting in a locker.

I aim for a main dish and two sides. Ideally, everything can be eaten with hands – such as nut butter sandwiches, cold veggie burgers, or hummus wraps for the main dish. Even a slice of quiche can be finger food – or leftover homemade pizza (or even sometimes not homemade pizza).

Or, you can send a tub of hummus, egg salad, chickpea salad, or tofu salad along with crackers or chips. That way, you avoid soggy sandwiches (yuck!).

Sometimes I’ll send something that requires a fork, such as pasta salad, or cold pasta tofu & veggies. Nothing complicated or soupy.

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You might be tempted to pack soup in a thermos, but I am told by veteran lunch packers that this doesn’t work. The other kids think it’s weird, and your kid will end up not eating the soup – plus resent you for making him or her a target of ridicule.

Gosh, I really don’t miss school!

The sides can be pretty simple. Remember – quick, finger food. I try to pack one healthy snack and one treat. Veggies and dip is a healthy and popular snack. Fruit is good – but don’t send pears or bananas – they bruise too easily. Grapes are good finger food and survive well in a container. Yogurt is easy – just grab and toss into the lunch bag. My stepdaughter likes apple slices with peanut butter. That and some chips or a couple of cookies will finish a lunch nicely.

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The lunch bag is not the place to introduce new foods, or push healthy but hated dishes. You won’t be there, and kids are good at making things disappear – without eating them!

One trick I’ve learned to influence lunch bag choices is to prep things in advance. When a sleepy teenager is putting together a lunch, she’ll go for what’s easy. If the veggies are already chopped, veggies and dip it is.

Do what you have to do, but don’t stress too much about lunch. You can make sure your kids are well nourished by focusing more on breakfast and the after-school snack.

Getting a groggy child to eat breakfast can be a challenge, but it’s so important. That first meal of the day gets the metabolism going, which helps give them an appetite at lunch time.

I have taken to making a fruit smoothie at night so that it’s there in the morning, as easy as reaching into the fridge. You can also bake and freeze granola bars or low sugar muffins in advance, to grab and take. If you have more time, you can scramble some eggs or tofu and wrap them to go.

The after-school snack is another opportunity to get in a healthy mini-meal. When they get home, kids are starving. If you have something healthy already made up, that’s what they’ll go for. This works better if you don’t have junk food on hand because kids will always grab it first.

Nuts and raisins are a good combo, and you could get fancier and make up a trail mix. Crackers and cheese will work, or crackers and veggies and dip – like hummus or egg salad or nut butter. Grilled cheese or a pizza bagel for the kid who’s growing a foot this year.

I think it’s important to remember that lunch is just one meal. Try to get some protein into your kids for long lasting energy and keep your snack selections on the healthy side of tasty. You’re doing great if you accomplish that much.

Keep trying at every meal and I’m sure you’ll succeed in raising healthy kids.

Wish me luck and I wish you the same! Zoe Keeland, Veggie Mom

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