Welcome to Part 2 of our Back to School series. Today we are talking healthy and eco-friendly school lunch options. This is the first year we are sending our son to daily public school program. Unfortunately, we are unable to rely on the school’s food menu to provide nutritional lunch options modeled after our vegan lifestyle.
Lean proteins, healthy fats, leafy greens, various vitamins and fatty acids are all essential to brain development in little ones. There are many resources available online that provide charts and infographics with examples of the whole foods you can buy to get these vital nutrients. Check out our Pinterest board for some examples.
Do not feel overwhelmed by this task. We completely understand busy work schedules and being in a food rut. No worries; this easy guide will have you planning “mom-of-the-year” lunches in no time. Here are a few of my fave tips:
Our typical family meals at home consist of dinners made from organic whole foods, and we portion out the leftovers for lunch the next day. Obviously not all families meal prep this way, but if you happen to have leftovers from the night before, definitely use them. This will eliminate one day of lunch prep so you can focus on getting creative for the rest of the school days.
SAY “NO!” TO SINGLE-SERVE
There is an overwhelming amount of single-serve and “snack-size” products out there. Not only are these products incredibly wasteful, but you end up paying more overall for the convenience of having them pre-portioned and packaged. Oh, and not to mention those snacks are typically chock-full of unhealthy preservatives with little to no nutritional value. Instead, focus on a delicious lunch menu featuring whole foods and yummy snacks from the bulk bins or produce department. Our faves are carrot sticks, homemade hummus, sliced fruit, trail mix, and granola. Invest in some sturdy reusable sandwich and snack bags so you can also ditch those one-use plastic baggies.
AVOID THE SUGAR
Resist the urge for a quick sugary dessert and instead fill their lunchbox with delicious sweet fruits, or these homemade 3 ingredient “cookies”. Not only are they getting more essential vitamins for growth, you are still satisfying their sweet tooth. Your child’s teacher will thank you, I’m sure!
Plan and prep the night before to prevent any rushing which could lead to unhealthy food choices. Even better, involve your littles in the decision making for their own lunch (within reason of course). Kids will model their eating habits later in life based on what they grew up with, so start them young with healthy lunch choices! On top of our regular weekly meal prep, I pre-cut apple slices for the week and soak them in water with a few drops of lemon essential oil. I also prepare all the veggie sticks. This way, I am able to easily portion these out throughout the week.
MAKE IT FUN
While we are on the topic of including the kiddos, do not forget to make it fun. Use stainless steel sandwich slicers and mini cookie cutters to make a sweet dinosaur-themed scene. Or, maybe a rocket ship? Or some fun hearts and flowers? No matter what you decide, the extra thought and care will be sure to bring a smile to your little’s face.
Avoid waste by investing in a pre-portioned lunch container, similar to Planetbox or LunchBots. There are entire Instagram threads and Pinterest boards with handy guides on how to fill these stainless steel lunch boxes to create healthy, balanced meals. We have saved a few of our faves on our Pinterest board.
BUILD YOUR MEAL
We sat down with Milo the week before school started and built this list together. Yours might look different, but here is what we came up with:
- Sandwiches (almond butter and jelly or tofu deli slices with veggies)
- Pinwheel Sandwiches
- Apple Almond Butter Granola Wrap
- Vegan Mac ‘n Cheese
- Rice Bowls
- English Muffin Pizzas
- Banana Almond Butter "Sushi"
- Vegan “Tuna” with crackers
- Pizza Rollups
- Tofu Nuggets
- Homemade non-dairy yogurt + granola
- Homemade popcorn
- Sweet potato chips + hummus
- crackers + almond butter
- Homemade granola bars
- Homemade kale chips
- Homemade applesauce
Fresh Veggies (with hummus):
- Bell Pepper
- Snap Pea
We hope this quick guide helps in motivating you with healthy and eco friendly lunch options. Don't forget to pack it all up with a sweet love note!
Share your favorite healthy lunch combos in our comments!