Plant-based lunches for kids. Need some guidance for vegan lunch ideas? Here are some of our best practices for planning healthy lunches, whether you have little ones or school-aged kids.
We all want to feed our kids well. For many parents, lunch is the hardest meal of the day to put together.
Midday is especially exhausting with littles at home. Or maybe you’re out of ideas for what to send your child to school with the next day. Whatever the case, if putting together healthy lunches is an area of struggle, we’ve got you.
Here are a few of our best practices for getting nutrition on the plate and also help foster healthy habits. Plus, some ideas to get you started.
5 Tips for Planning Healthy Plant-Based Lunches for Kids
Need some help planning your babe’s lunch plate? Keep these 5 tips in mind as you put meals together.
1. Incorporate all of the major nutrients.
Notice that we didn’t refer to the “basic food groups” here, and that’s not just because we practice predominantly plant-based eating.
We believe it makes much more sense to focus on nutrients and what plant foods contain them. For instance, plants that contain iron, protein, calcium, vitamin C, and healthy fats all have an important place on the plate.
And on the side? We suggest fortified pea or soy milk, especially for littles.
Download a copy of our FREE guide The PB3 Plate here, which is divided into three main categories of foods:
- Fruits and Veggies
- Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds
- Grains and Starches
For more guidance around how to use the PB3 Plate, see this blog post.
2. Include foods you know your child already likes.
This is particularly helpful if you’re introducing new healthy foods, or trying a newer food a second (or third, or fourth) time.
We’re familiar with the challenge of getting kids to choose certain healthier foods on their own, or even try new things on their plates. Including an item you know your child is likely to eat helps create a more comfortable space at mealtimes.
For instance, if you know they like baby carrots and you want to introduce other raw veggies, try adding some a few slices of bell pepper alongside them. If they like spaghetti with marinara, add some lentils to the sauce.
3. Portion sizes are up to you.
There is no right or wrong here. We may be dietitians, but that doesn’t mean we measure everything. Not only would that contribute unnecessary pressure around eating, but it also has no benefit. Kids are going to eat as much as they want to.
It’s perfectly normal for your child to eat more or less than other kids or members of your household. It’s also normal for them to eat different amounts depending on the day… or time of day.
We like to use kid plates that have compartments, but not really for the portions. This can help keep things separated (which many kids prefer), and also highlights all the yummy and diverse food options for them to try.
And if they want seconds? Great!
4. Keep it simple.
Kids eat often, and it’s impossible to predict whether they’re going to be a bottomless pit or a one-lick-and-done eater that day. Their appetites and preferences can be all over the place.
So, don’t put extra pressure on yourself to cook or prep time-intensive plates every day if that’s not your jam. It also doesn’t have to all “go together”. You can simply offer your kids a variety of foods you have on hand to make a healthy plate.
- Leftover pasta with sauce, a side of chopped tomatoes, fresh berries, and roasted tofu cubes
- PB&J with sliced banana, a side of canned chickpeas, and a few salad greens with dressing to try
- Refried black bean quesadillas with a side of chopped avocado and salad, some orange slices
- Riced broccoli mixed with brown rice, last night’s steamed zucchini, chopped grapes, a spoonful of almond butter
Plus, you can save yourself even more time by practicing batch cooking. This is an approach that helps you prep ingredients that can be used in multiple recipes throughout the week.
Our Batch Cook Ebook contains tips for making it work for you, plus over 25 easy family recipes that could easily be utilized for kid lunches.
5. Find inspiration elsewhere.
If you’ve ever hit a creative wall when it comes to make meals for your kids, you’re in the norm. Every household has their own “rotation” of regular meals, including ours!
There’s never shame in needing new ideas. Check out Pinterest, grab an old cookbook off the shelf, or head over to our Instagram page where we regularly share photos of what our kids have eaten lately.
Remember that the photos of our kids’ meals, and anything similar you may find online, should simply be used for inspiration and not comparison. Every child is different!
Our goal is simply to help you get more plants on the plate and feel good about your child’s nutrition.
Putting together plant-based lunches for kids doesn’t need to be time-intensive. Give some of the tips above for planning healthy lunches a try for your littles or school-aged kids, and check out some of the suggested resources. You’ve got this, mama!
Chime in: What tips and tricks do you use for healthy kid lunch prep at home? What are some of your child’s favorite plant-based lunches?
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