Plant-Based School Lunches and Snacks They’ll Love

prepared plant based meals

Plus, pantry essentials for healthy snacking!

by Ali Riggs

On your mark. Get set. Go – it’s back to school time! Besides the usual #2 pencils, three-ring binders, and composition books, put something new on your list: healthier, plant-based lunch and snack items. Along with an academic fresh start for your keiki, this is also the perfect time to turn over a new leaf with better lunches and snacks. Did you know that the eating habits your children develop now can stick with them for the rest of their lives? It’s true – good nutrition starts early!

Most parents will admit they fall short of making sure their keiki eat the minimum recommended two servings of fruit and three servings of veggies every day, but the health benefits are worth the effort. Reputable scientific studies have concluded that eating five or more daily servings of fruits and vegetables is linked to better mental health, particularly less depression. A vegetarian diet can help prevent and treat type 2 diabetes, improve insulin sensitivity, help with weight management, and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in the long run.

a young boy excited to eat
Part of the adventure of adopting a healthy vegetarian diet is finding new foods to love.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, children who are raised on healthful plant-based diets have a “reduced risk for heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes, and other conditions. Adolescents raised on a plant-based diet often find they have an easy time maintaining a healthy weight.”

It’s a fact that keiki need lots of fresh produce for normal growth and healthy brain development. A good rule of thumb is to include at least one fruit or veggie with every meal and snack. Don’t forget the importance of a great teacher! You are your child’s first teacher; what they see you eating will form their own ideas about how to eat, so be a good role model and fill your plate with a rainbow of veggies, whole grains, and beans.

Score an A+ this school year and give a plant-based way of eating a try for your ohana, even just for one day or one meal a week. Increase your meatless eating days as you get the hang of it. Making sure your keiki are eating nutritious plant-based foods as much as possible is a great way to boost their health and immunity, too. Bonus points: packing a healthy lunch for your child with lots of fruit and veggies will allow you to have some control over what he or she is eating at school. School-provided lunches and snacks can be loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, refined sugars, flours, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.

veggie wraps and avocado dip
Rolling up veggies, fruits, and whole grains in a wrap or tortilla is a fun and enjoyable way to make healthy snacks more appealing.

By making smart shopping decisions and setting aside time to prepare homemade lunches, you can help your child to stay healthy and give him or her the energy and focus needed to succeed in school. Get your keiki to help you make their nutritious lunches for extra credit!

Here are some simple and healthy ideas to stock your pantry and prep those lunch boxes with plant-based choices the little ones will love.

  • Lots of fresh fruit washed, cut, and ready! Dried fruit (without added sugar) is a great option, too.
  • As many vegetables as possible. Carrot sticks and celery are always good options, but don’t be afraid to mix it up with broccoli, snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, or green peas. If your child is resistant to veggies, including a sauce or dip will sometimes do the trick. Try nut butter, cream cheese, or see one of the irresistible and easy dip recipes below.
  • Pasta salad with veggies and their favorite tomato or pesto sauce. We make this for dinner and my kids love this as a leftover the next day for lunch. The flavors just get better!
  • Wraps filled with avocado, grilled veggies, and cheese, or a non-dairy alternative.
  • Veggie Sushi filled with cucumbers, avocado, rice, and nori—yum!
  • Regular yogurt or a vegan alternative with fruit mixed in is a great way to sneak in an extra serving of fruit.
  • As an alternative to greasy chips, look for baked varieties or whole grain varieties, soy crisps, rice cakes, or crackers with natural ingredients. These are great with veggie dips, too.
  • Make your own one-of-a-kind snack mix using ingredients from Down to Earth’s bulk bins. It’s economical and you can let your kids create the mix!
  • If you pack a juice box, make sure it is 100% juice. Of course, nothing is better than pure water, and lots of it.
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