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5 Vegan Lunch Box Ideas & Hacks for Back to School

The unofficial favorite holiday of parents is here: back to school! Kiddos can help pack these yummy vegan lunch box ideas (and there are sanity-saving hacks for you too, mom)

The unofficial favorite holiday of parents is here: back to school! Kiddos can help pack these yummy vegan lunch box ideas (and there are sanity-saving hacks for you too, mom)

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5 vegan lunch box ideas. Happy kids at school. Collage of 3 packed lunches.

Yeah, summer is fun, adventurous and hopefully involves a lot of bare feet and happy memories… the unstructured months lead to endless meltdowns about how boooooooooored everyone is. And the endless need for snacks (see: booooooored).

So let’s get back to routines, predictability and a little sanity! In younger years, I packed my daughter’s lunchbox. But this is the year she packs her own entirely. I should have done it sooner, but I’ve been picking my battles LOL! May the odds be ever in our favor. 😉

2 Sanity-Saving Lunch Box Hacks

HONESTY FIRST: Sometimes we pack a delicious, nutritious lunch for our kiddos. Sometimes we send them off with 3 bananas and a can of olives. 🤷🏼‍♀️ It’s all OK. You’re doing JUST FINE, my friend.

Lunchbox Sanity-Savers: 1. kids are more likely to eat food when they have “buy in”, and 2. have realistic expectations of the cafeteria insanity.

three food storage containers with different kid lunch box meal ideas

If Sanity Permits, Let Kids Help Plan & Pack Lunches

If it’s possible, kiddos who help pack their lunch are learning life skills (planning, nutritional choices, responsibility)… and, honestly, they’re just more likely to eat what they picked. When it’s grocery planning time, ask if there’s a meal, fruit or veggie your kids might like in their lunchboxes. A little bit of “buy in” goes a long way.

If granola bars, apple juice pouches and cuties live at kid-height, even the littlest can help put them in their lunchbox each morning.

Your 11-year-old might love going down the Japanese bento rabbit hole, and will turn rice into Pokemon. Who knows?!

Lunch Box & Meal Prep Items My Family Actually Uses

Cafeterias are CRAZY. Have Realistic Expectations.

Lunch is 20 minutes for my child. The cafeteria is noisy and full of sensory overwhelm. When it gets loud, lunch monitors dim the lights and get everyone’s attention. That takes time & distracts from eating. They’ve also been working hard at learning and/or regulating themselves all morning, now they finally get to sit next to their best friend and talk.

I quit packing food that needs to be microwaved or “fiddled with” once I saw the cafeteria reality! Keep it easy and simple. It’s not the time to try new vegetables.

The real lunch goal: kids with full bellies of (reasonably) nutritious food, so they won’t be hangry & fall apart during math.

5 Vegan Lunch Box Ideas

There’s are no earth-shatteringly new or profound vegan lunch box ideas in this list… for a reason. Most American kids are creatures of habit when it comes to lunch (and taste buds). I’ve read that book about raising your kid to eat like French kids… but ya’ll, I live in the reality of “But I want lunchables” and “Why can’t I have Twix like so-and-so?”

We’re gonna keep it simple. Whole grains, protein, fruits, veggies, nuts. Kid-friendly.

The Classic

peanut butter and jelly, sliced apples, pretzels and baby carrots
  • PB&J on whole wheat bread
  • Apple slices (dip in water with a little lemon juice to prevent browning)
  • Baby carrots
  • Pretzels

The Breakfast-for-Lunch

  • Make-ahead mini pancakes (like these at Vanilla Crunnch) with nut butter for dipping
  • Non-dairy yogurt with blueberries
  • Melon & strawberries

The Pasta Salad

  • Toss cold, cooked pasta in oil & vinegar dressing with: chickpeas or cubed tofu, and favorite veggies, like: grape tomatoes, olives, diced cucumber, diced zucchini, diced carrot, green beans, green peas.
  • Orange slices & grapes
  • Mixed nuts & raisins

The California

hummus and cucumber wrap, trail mix, sweet peppers and mandarin orange

  • Hummus & cucumber wrap
  • Tangerine slices or mandarin (“cutie”)
  • Mini sweet peppers
  • Kid-Friendly Vegan Trail Mix (like this one with popcorn at The Flaming Vegan)

The Burrito

child's hand picking grapes from a lunch box. burrito, blueberries, cucumber and salsa.
  • Mashed bean & leftover rice burrito (vegan cheese optional)
  • Salsa for dipping
  • Grapes & blueberries
  • Cucumber sticks

As your kiddo’s tastebuds grow, check out Tasty’s great article with 15 Meatless Lunch Sandwiches That Kids Will Love (and which are brown-bag-ready).

Hungry for more Kid-Approved Veg Recipes?

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