With summer coming to an end, nights of lightning bug catching, jumping through the sprinklers and drippy popsicles will soon be replaced by early morning alarms, school bus drop-offs and school lunches. If you grew up around the same decade I did, many lunches were a sandwich and a banana hastily tossed into a brown bag. This summer we discovered bento lunch boxes for our children for our day trips. My two children would excitedly open their boxes and smile at the arrangement of their lunches.
For many, packing a lunch is a quick no-brainer, but if you are a family with a special diet, it can be a little more challenging to plan a lunch.
Our family is vegan, and we quickly learned while my daughter was at preschool that accidents happen, and frequently. She was fed non-vegan food on over half a dozen occasions. This may not sound like a big deal to anyone who scoffs at the vegan lifestyle but imagine if it was a food allergy that had been ignored instead. If your child is vegan, or if you want to try out some healthy food options, here are some tips and tricks to try out this school year!
One thing I teach my children to be conscious of is to eat a rainbow. They enjoy finding the colors of the rainbow in their food and sing a little rainbow song as they eat. This may seem obvious to some, but if this is a new concept for you, here is an example of a rainbow of a vegan lunch:
Pasta with chickpeas, carrot and cucumber slices, and strawberries and blueberries with chocolate hummus for a sweet snack. Another favorite of my children is bean burritos with avocado, corn, chopped tomatoes and black bean salsa with chips and for dessert, apples with peanut butter.
If your child enjoys sandwiches you can pair sandwiches with fruits and veggies. Here are a few vegan sandwich options:
Peanut butter and jelly is a classic for kids. To change it up (or to make it safe for school), try subbing peanut butter for sun butter and to cut back on the jelly, thinly slice some strawberries or bananas. No-tuna salad is a protein-packed sammie made with chickpeas that you can easily hide a few more veggies in, like artichokes, celery or even pickles. If your child is not averse to leafy greens, try a sandwich made with tomato, cucumber and a variety of greens like kale, beet greens or spinach. Hummus is an easy way to boost the flavor of a veggie-heavy sandwich like this. Another classic is grilled cheese, and yes vegans can eat cheese, too. In fact, grilled cheese is one of my children’s favorites. Most grocery stores carry vegan cheese now, and to pack this classic, don’t worry about grilling beforehand, just a plain cheese sandwich paired with tomato soup and a salad would still be greatly enjoyed.
Rice is a filling dish that can go with just about anything, and if you make rice as your dinner, you can quickly put leftovers in your child’s lunch. Here are a few lunches you can pack with rice as your base:
Stir fry is an easy way to pack in many veggies in one lunch. My children’s favorite stir fry includes rice, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers and black beans.
Deconstructed sushi is another easy to prepare lunch, especially when you hold the tuna! Try pairing rice, chopped cucumber and carrots, edamame, and mango in your bento for a fun lunch.
Cheesy rice with broccoli is a tasty lunch that is also easy to spruce up. Try adding chickpeas or quinoa next time you make this casserole.
If your child has a sweet tooth, try making coconut rice with black beans sweetened with a little brown sugar and pair with broccoli.
If you’re a little extra, you can make your child’s lunch even more fun by using small cookie cutters in heart or star shapes to cut your fruits and veggies. When the holidays roll around, you can really go to town by getting into the holiday spirit and make your child’s lunches themed. Have fun leaving fun notes or fun facts in your child’s lunch box this year and good luck!