School Lunch Ideas

Posted on: September 10th, 2013 by
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School has been back in session for a few weeks now, and the same ol’ PB&J just isn’t cutting it anymore. It’s losing that charm that it had on the first day back when your little tyke pulled it out of their brown paper bag, inhaled the smell of soft bread, and took that first gooey bite. Now bits and pieces of chewed-on sandwich are making their way back home in the lunch bag, complete with sticky jelly smears and peanut butter smudges that you dutifully clean off so you don’t have to buy a new cartoon character lunch sack before the first quarter of the school year has even ended. So now that your child refuses to eat the easiest and simplest (and most obviously vegan) lunch item on the planet, what do you do?
Here are some ideas I have pulled together to help me through the same scenario you are facing:

1) Throw a stripe of refried beans and a touch of red enchilada sauce on the edge of a tortilla and warm it in the microwave for 20 seconds; long enough to make the tortilla pliable but not heat up the beans too much. Fold it up, tucking the sides in, and fit it into a sandwich bag. My eldest lives for these burritos! Add some sliced black olives and your kids will think you’re a goddess.

2) You can always spread your nut butter of choice between two apple slices, or spread it on celery sticks (stick a row of raisins on top for that magical childhood treat “ants on a log”), or use it to make a sandwich with mashed or sliced banana (a real winner at my house!).

3) Do your kids miss egg salad sandwiches? I have a recipe for a veganized version here! See the bottom of this post for a brief photo guide to making them.

4) We make these no-bake peanut butter balls (feel free to substitute with cashew or almond butter) that are an awesome source of protein and healthful energy for a kiddo at school. I have included the recipe on the site so you can whip some up. Bonus: these are SUPER easy to make, so make a family event of it and have the kids help. After all, aren’t they old enough to help make their own lunches? 🙂

5) About once every week I skip a sandwich and throw some salad with dressing into a medium-sized container with a plastic fork. My kids are starting to love salad since we have it more and more often. I’m not sure how this would have gone over in the beginning, but now it’s a great way to break up the monotony and keep them healthy.

6) Try the lunch meat substitutes that are available if your kids like cold cuts. Only one of my three kids likes the faux-lunchmeat, but he requests it every day (with mustard and jelly- weird). There are several varieties out there and we only found two brands that we like, and only two flavors within those brands. But keep trying if this is what your kids are yearning for. Though keep in mind that though these slices are vegan, they are still highly processed and not a good thing to use as a dietary staple. We use only two slices per full sandwich.

7) If the faux lunchmeat thing works out, try rolling it in a tortilla or large lettuce leaf with some mustard for a change of pace.

8) Leftovers work really well when it’s the right meal. We had (cheeseless) pizza last night and I sent some cold leftover slices of it to school in lunches today. The kids were super excited about that even though they can’t rewarm it.

9) When the weather cools down, a thermos full of hot soup will replace a sandwich with no complaints from the peanut gallery. Add a baggie with some little crackers.

10) Don’t underestimate the power of presentation. I can give my kids PB&J on a leftover hamburger or hot dog bun and suddenly it’s magical! Or roll it up in a tortilla. I’m telling you– MAGIC!

11) A healthy pancake in a baggie is a great pick-me-up snack if they are accustomed to eating a snack at recess. Or use two pancakes as a sandwich and smear jelly in between.

12) Once you break the thermos out, try filling it with a few various chopped veggies, some veggie broth, and a handful of broken brown rice noodles. Add a dash of soy sauce, black bean garlic paste, or srirachi sauce.
Things you can put into those little reusable plastic containers or a plastic baggie for accompaniments:

Pistachios and cranberries (or other homemade trail mix)
Canned fruit or applesauce (way cheaper than buying it in individual cups)
Puffed grains (in the cereal section at your natural foods store)
Vanilla (coconut milk or soy) yogurt including a dollop of jam for them to stir in
Small crackers
Leftover veggies from last night’s dinner
Rice or beans (or both mixed together with some cumin and salt)
Flavored (or plain & salted) noodles (my mom just gave the kids some fruit flavored noodles and they were highly amused!)
Date bars (essentially mashed dates made into a little log and rolled in coconut- my kids love them)
Favorite finger-friendly cereal
Cucumber slices in vinegar with salt and pepper
Baby carrots, chopped cauliflower, cherry tomatoes or sugar snap peas
Orange slices (or sections), melon bites, strawberries, grapes or kiwi fruit
Healthy homemade cookies that are low in fat and sugar
Air-popped popcorn with minimal salt
Photo-guide to Eggless Salad Sandwiches:

First cut up a yukon gold potato and microwave it, covered, for about six minutes or until tender enough to mash.

Then mash it with a fork until it acts like a paste.

Cut up some tofu into small cubes and set aside.


Notice my base lacks complete smoothness; this is okay and won’t hurt the final flavor at all.

Mix vegan mayonnaise, yellow mustard, salt, pepper, and vegan Worcestershire sauce (if desired) into mashed potato.

Stir in the tofu pieces.

Dollop some yumminess onto a couple slices of bread and enjoy!

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