Three Steps to Easy, Vegan School Lunches


It’s that time of year again. The school bus is turning the corner, and the children are off to another year of learning and growing. If you have been home with your kids all summer, you are probably ready for a bit of a break. If you have been frantically figuring out which camp your kid will go to for each week of summer, you are probably breathing a sigh of relief at knowing where they are going to be during the day for the next nine moths.

However, no matter your situation, you are probably sweating a little when you think about all the lunches you have to pack. If you are a vegan family, there is rarely a hot lunch option to fall back on, so lunch duty is up to you. But how is any parent supposed to keep up with packing healthy, yummy, and creative lunches for kids for an entire school year?

When my son first started school, I had elaborate plans for packing lunches, and high hopes that some of them would be Pinterest-worthy. What I learned very quickly was that simpler is better, both for me and for him. He would go through phases where he wanted the same thing for lunch day in and day out. For three weeks, it was all peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Then it was all hummus and crackers. As much as I wanted him to get more variety, I also realized that a) I was lucky when he ate his lunch at all, and b) he ate a diverse group of foods at breakfast and dinner, so if lunch was a little boring (but still healthy) he would be fine.

As this school year gets going, I’ve got my game plan for lunches that won’t break the bank or make me lose my mind. Sure, they won’t always be beautiful and Pinterest-worthy, but they will nourish my kids and leave me with some energy to spare. Here is my three-step process for getting my little vegans ready to go for lunch

Pick your spread

Every lunch I pack has some kind of protein or fat-rich spread to keep my kids going through the day. When it is allowed, peanut butter is often a favorite. Almond butter or sunflower butter work, too. Hummus, avocado, and tofu-herb spread also fit the bill!

Pick your “bread”

Of course the kiddos always want their carbs! Depending on what we have in the kitchen, I pick out something that goes with the spread. Sometimes it is as basic as regular bread with a peanut butter or hummus sandwich.  Tortillas also work well because you can lather on spread and other goodies and wrap them up really easily. Other times the “bread” might be crackers or even pretzels that the kiddos then can dip into their “spread.”

Pick your veg (and fruit!)

Of course I always want some true plant-powered goodness for my kids. The most popular veggies in our lunches are carrot sticks, bell pepper strips, and tomatoes. When I’m making a tortilla wrap with hummus, I will throw in a bell pepper and carrot strip or two. When I’m making an avocado sandwich I might add a slice of tomato. When it’s a “cracker and dip” day, I’ll add a little pile of carrot sticks and cherry tomatoes. The kids also love fruit, so I often put one of the trifecta (bananas, grapes, apples) of fruit favorites in their lunches. Bananas can go in peanut butter or almond butter sandwiches. Apple slices can also join some crackers as “dippers” for peanut butter. Grapes will always be enjoyed on the side!

What does this three-step process look like in real-time? It starts with Sunday where I check and make sure we are loaded up on some kinds of spread, and whipping up a batch of hummus or going to the store for almond butter if necessary. I will usually also chop up bell pepper strips and carrot sticks and wash grapes and apples so they are all ready to go. I also make sure all my small (2-4 oz) lunch containers are cleaned up. These are super helpful for holding dips, fruit, etc. Then, in the mornings, I just set out the lunch boxes and start filling them up. If I’m on my game, I will ask the kids what kind of spread they want today, but sometimes they just have to get what they get. On my rushed mornings, I throw some hummus or nut butter in a container, add crackers and a container of fruit and call it a day. Such is parenting life. The important thing to remember is that the lunch doesn’t have to be perfect, gorgeous, or even very neat. It has to be enough food to give your kids energy, and making it should not sap your energy for the day ahead. Pick your spread, bread, and veg, and you are on track for a great school year!

Posted in Family Life

Marie Levey-Pabst is a vegan mother of two, educator, and life-balance consultant who helps parents create a more balanced and joyful life at Create Balance. She loves developing new recipes, biking, and reading whenever her kids let her. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.