Updated: Nov 29, 2021
Throughout the year, we can all get stuck into a routine of packing the same standard food into our kid’s snack and lunch boxes. Even when we have it down to a ‘t’, our little VIP’s get bored, have changing tastes or simply want something different, so we definitely need to mix things up from time to time. By adding variety, we also increase the appeal factor not to mention increase the nutrient content to help keep our little ones in great health with a balanced diet. So here are some useful tips for spicing up your kid’s school lunch boxes and snacks, while keeping things plant based, healthy and ultimately ‘gobbled up’ by the end of the day!
A lunch box classic…. Plant based options are so rich and colourful and can include hundreds of varied options. Here are a few of my kid’s fav’s: peanut butter, cucumber and vegan butter, jam, vegan ham and/or vegan cheese, vegan chickpea tuna and hummus. Make sure to always use wholegrain bread or if you child is gluten-free then there are many amazing options out there including buckwheat, millet and corn options.
A great way to use up leftovers like beans or even salad, wraps can also look super appealing to the eye and come in a variety of colours too. Some great options include tahini, spinach leaves and sliced cucumbers; Asian vegetables mix such as red and yellow peppers, bean sprouts, pickles and lettuce with a dash of soya (or tamari) sauce; avocado either plain or with tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce (my eldest enjoys a pinch of Himalayan salt and truffle oil!); black eye beans, sweetcorn, cucumbers, purslane and diced tomatoes with a drizzle of lemon; and so many more! Be creative here, it’s so much fun and in case the filling gets too much, use a toothpick to help keep it together!
A classic weekly dish in our home, noodles are also great cold! They are perfect ‘shovel’ food in case your child does not have a long snack break, so easy for them to quickly eat and ensure they get some much-needed energy. Don’t make them plain but remember to use lots of julienned (match stick size) vegetables while making them. Tasty, easy and very healthy. Our favourite is to use wholegrain pasta or rice noodles, but we love buckwheat, wakame, black rice and pumpkin too, among others.
This can be as simple as the ready-made frozen ones, which you don’t have to fry but can oven cook the night before. You can of course make your own using lots of different veg and another fab option is to make summer rolls (rice paper raw wrap) which can include anything from avocado, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, beans, sesame seeds, and more.
Not so great in the hotter months if you child’s snacks are not refrigerated, but a great option for the cooler times, yoghurts are a family favourite and come in so many flavours. Our son LOVES the (maybe less healthy) soya desserts in chocolate and vanilla flavour, yet there are also some fantastic options of fruit flavours with coconut, soya and almond bases. See what is available in your local supermarket and these make for great, easy to eat treats for kids at any time of the day.
Who doesn’t love a good dip? Easy and fun for kids, you can buy ready dips for your convenience or if you have even five minutes can make easy dips at home with your kids. The more they are involved, the more they will appreciate what they eat! Some super easy dips include homemade hummus, tahini, cauliflower dips, avocado dips like guacamole, and you can go into a little more advanced with homemade pates also.
Perfect with dips of just alone. You name it, you can probably slice it! And don’t forget, just because it isn’t on your top ten list of veg, doesn’t mean your own child won’t love it. Cauliflower is the ultimate example for me, a vegetable I never particularly cared for, is my son’s ‘go to’. So, experiment and whack it in, your child may just surprise you!
A definite must when it comes to any snack box, fruit is full of healthy nutrients our kids need and ultimately, it’s an easy fix as all kids have their favs. Easy options are the obvious bananas, apples, berries, kiwis but remember to offer varied options so your kids don’t get bored and you keep expanding their little pallets. Grapes, peaches, oranges, mandarins, pears, apricots, plums, mangoes, watermelon, melon, cherries, grapefruit and passion-fruit are just a few… And of course, the ones we forget are actually fruit, tomatoes and avocados.
Beans and tofu
One of the best, if not the best, ways to get your child’s protein in, this is such a tasty and easy snack. Most of us make beans anyway, so whenever you are cooking them, make a few more and use the leftovers on rice, quinoa, cracked wheat or simply alone.
So easy and ask your kids to try a selection to see what they like. Dried apricots, raisins, blueberries, coconut slices, bananas are just a few and they don’t go off so this is always a winner.
Protein bars and balls, seed bars, homemade biscuits
Here the list is endless. There are so many on the market, just double check that they are vegan when you get them. The massive benefit of the store-bought ones is that they have a longer ‘packaged’ life than homemade version, so they can sit happily at the bottom of the snack bag for emergencies. The homemade versions are amazing to create with your children. It’s fun, healthy and amazing brain food, not to mention much, much cheaper.
Slice of cake
Yes, you read correctly! The amazing benefit of plant-based eating is that it’s processed flour- and sugar- free, so you can make delicious and healthy cakes and breads and just tell your kids ‘go ahead’. No more, ‘don’t have too much’ or ‘only one piece’, they can literally eat it all! I have lots of recipes in the Facebook group and my books if you want to see more, our two ultimate favourites being the banana bread and chocolate date cake.
Muffins, sweet and savoury
What a great snack for any time of the day. You can make sweet treats with berries, bananas and fruit or savoury using nutritional yeast, carrots and pumpkin. Another healthy hack on a traditionally unhealthy treat is our vegan donuts… a must try!
Homemade pie and ready vegan rolls
From Linda Macartney’s vegan sausage rolls to homemade pies, small or large, that include ingredients such as olives, vegan cheese, pumpkin and mushrooms, these make a change from sandwiches and are super easy to both pack and eat.
Always make sure to check with your school or teacher that there isn’t anyone in the class with nut allergies, however if you are good to go, then nuts are incredible pockets of nutrients that your kids can enjoy at any time. Let them try all different kids and change the mix to keep them interested in these healthy snacks, that is a good life long habit to learn from young.
Bagels, pretzels, sourdough, Arabic bread wraps (especially with vegan Greek yoghurt, mint leaves, cucumber and olive mix), rice cakes and crackers with vegan cheese and olives, ‘healthy’ crisps, chocolate chip cookies, fruit with cinnamon, pasta plain or with vegetables, vegan meatballs, lentils, popcorn, sweet potatoes with toppings, overnight oats, nut butters, vegan ‘meats’ and deli selection, salads, flavoured crackers and more! Please feel free to write your favourites or other ideas I’ve missed below in the comments to help myself and others in this community be inspired!
Some further tips!
It’s a great idea to always have a balanced lunch box, so just like with a buddha bowl or hopefully any balance day, this would include some healthy protein, carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables. Just an idea would be a bean wrap in whole grain bread or a tortilla, some cucumbers on the side with a banana for later. Another idea could be some buckwheat noodles made with vegetables, blueberries, nuts and a hummus dip with peppers. Don’t forget that if you child does not take to a certain food that they wont like it a later stage. So always try again and make sure your little ones see their parents and carers enjoying delicious whole foods too. There’s nothing like sharing a good meal to encourage our kids to be healthy and have a good appetite.
Finally and most importantly, don’t forget to pack plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated!
Good luck and enjoy this academic year ahead!