Okay, it’s that time, parents.
Love ‘em, hate ‘em, make what you want of them, but they are here, and we need a plan.
If you’re like me, one of your big goals for your kids is that they eat plenty of plants. While our family still eats meat for other meals (we try to get it from quality sources, and that gets expensive!), plant-based school lunches are our best friend.
We focus on the veggies and fruit and other plants (like beans and legumes!) and let everything else take a back seat. These lunch ideas for kids help my kids get plenty of fiber, nutrients, and good quality energy for their day.
Making Balanced Lunches for Kids
As parents, we all want our kids to eat healthily. When it comes to school lunches, I want my kids to eat well too. However, nutritionists assure us that we don’t need every single meal to include the whole spectrum of nutrients.
Rather, you want to eat a rainbow of fruit and veggies throughout your week. You want to eat a wide variety of foods across all your meals together.
So when it comes to lunch ideas for kids, I think it’s okay to relax a little. I want my kids to eat well, but the reality is that between nut-allergy rules, keeping perishables cold all day, and packing food my kids will actually eat, we’re not going to eat a rainbow of fruits and veggies every single lunchtime.
So consider this your permission to do what’s best for your family. Focus on plants. Fill your kids up. Let the rest go.
Packing healthy lunches when you’re short on time and out of bread is mind-boggling. Is there such a thing as a lunch without a sandwich? Is it possible for it to be healthy too?
The Healthy Lunch Box: Sandwich-free Secrets to Packing a Real Food Lunch is loaded with strategies to streamline your packing process, stock your pantry with emergency backups for your backups, and send healthy, delicious food in the lunch box, no matter how old your eater is. Read more and start packing healthier, processed-free lunches today.
Guidelines to Help Kids Make a Plant-Based School Lunch
We have a few guidelines that help our kids make sure they’re eating plenty of plants.
The main lunchtime rule is:
Fill half of your plate or lunchbox with fruits and veggies.
The other half should focus on healthy fats and carbs.
Katie has so many inspiring resources for empowering your kids to eat healthy in the Kids Cook Real Food VIP Facebook Group!
Personally, I found the simplest way to get my kids to pack their lunches themselves and enjoy eating them the next day is to do this:
- I lay out a collection of foods that fall into the categories described above. (Fruits, veggies, healthy fats, and healthy carbs – and usually a few compromise foods like pretzels, chips, or tortilla chips.)
- Then the kids pack their lunches as they see fit.
- They know the guidelines – half of their box is filled with fruits and veggies. The other half is quality protein, fat, and carbs.
I help the 6-year-old a little more than the older kids.
Plant-Based School Lunch Ideas Kids Love
Our favorite plant-based school lunches:
- Bean burritos, fruit, veggies
- Fruit, veggies, dip, chips, cheese/hummus
- Hummus sandwich/wrap, fruit, veggies
- PBJ, fruit, veggies, dip
- Cheese crackers fruit, veggies
- Cold quesadillas, fruit, veggies
So to break it down, here are the kinds of foods in those lunches.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Bread (try easy homemade, sourdough, or whole wheat)
- Baked oatmeal (zucchini, sneaky veggie, or plain)
- Whole grain quick bread (banana, pumpkin)
- Sweet potato, potatoes (my kids like these cold as leftovers)
- Tortilla Chips
- Green peas (frozen, then thawed in the lunchbox during the day)
- Lentils (on quesadillas, or made into hummus)
Getting Your Kids to Eat Veggies for Lunch
When my kids pack lunches, we have a further guideline: half your lunchbox should be filled with fruits and veggies, but it can’t all be fruit. ¼ of their lunchbox should have veggies, and another ¼ can be fruit.
Then I let my kids take ownership of their lunches.
Some of my kids only like a few veggies in their lunches. That’s okay. They eat a wider variety of veggies for dinners and other meals at home.
RELATED: Bento boxes make this system super easy. Here’s Katie’s review of the best ones!
For lunch, I focus on veggies they actually like:
- Cherry tomatoes
And then we add dips:
Veggies Coming Home After School?
Sure, my kids leave veggies on their plates and in their lunchboxes. That’s normal.
But when they come home and are hungry for a snack, we have another simple rule: You need to finish the food in your lunchbox before you can eat anything else.
This helps prevent food waste and ensures they’re eating plenty of veggies!
Plant-Based Lunch Ideas for Kids: Balance and Veggies!
Remember not every meal needs the whole spectrum of nutrients. Rather, you want to eat a rainbow of fruit and veggies throughout your week.
So when it comes to packed lunches, relax. Give your kids a few guidelines, and use these lunch ideas for kids that focus on fruits and veggies.
Focus on plants. Fill your kids up. And let them take ownership of their lunches.