Easy Plant Based Lunch Ideas for Kids at School

easy plant based vegan lunch ideas for elementary school students

The back-to-school season is in full swing, and in my neighborhood, the kids have been in school for a few weeks. You might have found me scrolling through Pinterest in August, exploring all the creative lunch box ideas I was determined to implement.

🌈 I assured myself I’d have ample time to organize their organic rainbow carrots into art.
🥒 I’d carefully craft cucumber slices into a star shape.
🍓 I’d make their jam from scratch every week.
🧀 I’d never wish for something as quick as string cheese to toss in.

This year, my children would enjoy more than just a bland peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a browning slice of an apple. This year, my first grader, Brayden, would have the yummiest, healthiest, most time-consuming plant based lunchbox in the cafeteria! Then, I’d pat myself on the back and give myself not one, but two, gold stars! ⭐⭐ 

However, reality set in really quickly, and if you’re anything like me, those visions of perfectly organized, overflowing, and colorful lunchboxes tend to fade after about a month week. I fell back into the school routine, realizing I was still overextended and perhaps overly concerned about every minor detail.

Despite my love for going all out with lunches, I’ve discovered a way to streamline the process for my family. Some days, I can go above and beyond, which is excellent. But other days, my kids prefer whatever is in the lunch line. I don’t beat myself up about it either way since packing a plant based lunch without any animal products is already a feat of its own.

I have three kids, each attending different schools. Honestly, my middle and high schoolers rarely want home lunch. But Brayden wants a packed lunch most of the time. So here are some of the easy plant-based lunch ideas I make for him.

What I pack his plant based lunch in

Planetbox lunchbox

90% of the time, I use his PlanetBox. It’s a sturdy, stainless steel one-piece lunchbox that I’ve had since my first kiddo (now 14) was in kindergarten! Which means this lunchbox is over nine years old. The only downside is that you typically want to wrap the sandwiches in plastic or wax-covered paper bags, or they get a little dry. The PlanetBox is best for dry food, and the slots are not watertight.  It came with some stainless steel bowls, which are gone but not forgotten. This setup makes it super fast for Brayden to eat in the short amount of time he has. Clean-up is super quick as well!

How often I pack plant based school lunches

planning a plant based lunch for school aged kids

At the beginning of each month, Brayden circles the school lunches he prefers on a calendar. This gives him a sense of control and saves me from having to ask him daily what he wants.

What I pack in my first grader’s plant based school lunches

I follow this simple structure when making his lunch: each lunch contains a main, vegetable, fruit, sweet or salty side, and a treat.

main dish vegan and plant based lunch ideas for kids

Mains: Peanut butter and jelly rollup, almond butter, banana & omega sprinkle rollup, tofu with dipping sauce, or leftovers. 

vegetable lunch ideas for kids

Vegetables: I only pack what I know he likes, which includes jicama, carrots, celery, cucumber, snow peas, olives, snacking peppers, and thawed edamame.

fruit plant based lunch ideas for kids

Fruit: The key here is to pick fruit that won’t brown and isn’t too liquidy. Mango, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, grapes, and kiwis are perfect.

side plant based lunch ideas for kids

Sweet or salty sides: Stuffed date, a small piece of dark or oat milk chocolate, a granola bar, a handful of nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, or an applesauce pouch.

Treats: Gummy vitamin or a plant based candy with no artificial flavors or colors. 

Lunchbox note: I’ll often draw a simple smiley face or write a quick joke and add it to his lunchbox. I once wrote, “I love you more than I love vegetables,” which he thought was funny. Write a bunch in advance to help things come together quickly. There is no shame in using the back of a receipt or napkin! 

Day 1: Plant based lunch for kids

Main: Peanut butter and jelly rollup (with jelly from Costco)
Vegetable: Cucumber
Fruit: Two mandarin oranges
Side: Pistachios and oat milk chocolate
Treat: Gummy vitamin 

Day 2: Plant based lunch for kids

Main: Leftovers: Campfire Pizza Pocket
Vegetable: Green beans
Fruit: Mango
Side: Dried fruit bar, oat milk chocolate
Treat: Gummy vitamin 

Day 3: Plant based lunch for kids

Main: Almond butter & banana roll-up with omega sprinkle
Vegetable: Carrots
Fruit: Strawberries
Sweet or salty side: Peanuts and date stuffed with peanut butter
Treat: Gummy vitamin 

Day 4: Plant based lunch for kids

Main: Cucumber Finger Sandwiches (I added a splash of lemon to help keep the avocado looking fresh)
Vegetable: Cucumber (in his sandwich)
Fruit: Raspberries
Side: Dried fruit bar
Dessert: Oat milk chocolate

Day 5: Plant based lunch for kids

Main: Peanut butter and jelly rollup
Vegetable: Celery with peanut butter
Fruit: Mandarin orange
Side: Pretzel nuggets and packaged snack
Treat: Gummy vitamin 

So there you have it! That’s what I typically pack for my 1st grader’s plant based lunch. He doesn’t always like everything. He doesn’t always finish what’s in his lunchbox, but the healthy options are there for him. What he eats or sneaks in the trash is on him. 

For me, it’s not about achieving lunchbox perfection every day, but about finding a sustainable routine, so Brayden can get a balanced meal while allowing me to stay sane during the morning rush. Here’s to a successful school year filled with delicious and stress-free lunches!

Check out our Back to School Recipe Collection if you want more ideas. While you’re here, see how I save big by feeding my plant based family on a budget and check out 18 tips for parents of picky eaters.

Do you have any yummy plant based lunch ideas for kids to share? Drop them in the comments below! 

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