After trudging through years of Zoom school and making three meals a day, gone are the best intentions of sending kids off with an Instagram-worthy lunchbox filled with fruit cut to look like flowers and sandwiches painstakingly assembled to resemble a favorite animal. Now, the standards align more with “if it’s vegan and it fits in the box, it’s fair game.” No doubt, parents will want to rely on some store-bought staples to sustain their kids at school. Here are 10 easy, portable vegan foods to pack in a school lunchbox.
How to pack a vegan school lunch
If it were up to kids, most of them would opt for sugary drinks and treats come lunch time. But loading them up on sugar in the middle of the school day doesn’t make for the best learning environment. Instead, it’s important to fill their lunchboxes with foods they enjoy while ensuring they’re still obtaining essential nutrients.
Fruits and healthy snacks like popcorn, pretzel sticks, and nut butters make for great lunch time snacks that won’t cause a sugar overload. Sandwiches made with vegan deli meats, dairy-free cheese sticks, and even single-serve cartons of plant milks won’t just help your kids feel satisfied, these vegan analogs will also help them feel like they aren’t missing out.
Easy vegan school lunches
Reach for these 10 vegan products the next time you’re packing school lunch for the littles in your life.
1 Vegan cheese wedges
Remember the Laughing Cow cheese wedges? Kids these days have a vegan option. Good Planet Foods has added the first cow-free and allergen-friendly wedges, perfect for kids to enjoy on the school yard come recess or lunch time. The rich and creamy flavors include Smoked Gouda and zesty Pepperjack. Parents, there is no judgment if you pack one for yourself for old time’s sake.
2 Peanut butter and jelly packs
Parents, learn from your own parent’s lack of foresight. We’ve all opened a lunch bag to discover a squished and soggy peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What’s worse, it’s made with the heel of the bread loaf, which is nothing but crust—perhaps the most unappetizing carbohydrate in a child’s eyes. Do your kid right by giving them the tools to build their own sandwich. Split Nutrition makes a super convenient perforated pack that comes with nut butter on one side and jelly on the other. Pack two slices of bread (with the crusts cut off, please and thank you!) and sidestep the soggy sandwich catastrophe.
3 Nut butter and vegetable snacks
Not all lunches require sandwiches; sometimes, kids just like to graze. First off, if that’s your kid, just know that they will likely grow into an adult with a taste for expensive vegan charcuterie boards. For now, feed their snacking preferences by packing a Justin’s nut butter pack, a few celery sticks, and a mini pack of raisins. Tada—assemble-your-own ants on a log.
4 Single-serve soy or pea milk
If a teacher or classmate asks your kid where they get their protein, all they have to do is hold up a single-serve carton of soy or pea milk. Both contain eight grams of protein—the equivalent to cow’s milk serving for serving—and most brands fortify their kids’ drinks with calcium and vitamin D. Try Ripple’s On the Go pea milk cartons in original, vanilla, and chocolate.
5 Vegan cheese sticks
It’s tough sending vegan kids out into the world on their own. We don’t blame them for wanting to eat exactly what their friends eat, but those foods typically derive from animals. Fortunately, there is a quality plant-based match for most packaged foods out there—including cheese sticks. Daiya’s Plant-Based Cheeze Sticks will help your child feel included at the lunch table. You may want to pack an extra for sharing purposes. Spread the plant-based word through vegan cheese!
6 Allergen-friendly cookies
Yes, Oreos are vegan, but should kids be eating them every day? Probably not. Send your kid off with something sweet without loading them up with sugar (their teachers will thank you). Maxine’s Heavenly makes two packs of cookies that are free from refined sugar, gluten, and animal products. Flavors range from Cinnamon Oatmeal Raisin to Chocolate Chocolate Chunk (yes, double the chocolate). Partake is another fantastic allergen-friendly cookie brand with nut-free flavors including cookie butter and birthday cake. These cookies are yet another item parents may wish to pack in their own lunches.
7 Hummus cups
Virtually every big-brand hummus company makes a single-serving cup. These shelf-stable packs of chickpea spread can serve as a cornerstone of a healthy, vegan sack lunch. Just add baby carrots, a sturdy fruit, a carton of non-dairy milk, and perhaps a treat and it’s good to go. Brands to look out for include Sabra, Good & Gather (Target’s own brand), and Kirkland Signature.
8 Single-serve olive packs
Either you were the kid or you knew the kid who couldn’t get enough olives (we were the former). Olives are packed with healthy, unsaturated fats making them ideal brain foods. Pearls is one of the most accessible brands that make single-serve olive packs. Find them on Amazon or at most large supermarkets.
9 Vegan Lunchables
The Lunchables of the modern parent’s youth have been veganized, and they’re kid-approved. Plant-based brand Mighty Yum is churning out “Munchables” in ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, and pepperoni pizza. Not only do they deliver on the classic Lunchables taste, the ham and turkey varieties pack a whopping 14 grams per serving while the pepperoni pizza packs 10.5 grams of protein. That’s a win-win in our book.
10 Vegan deli slices
Pack your kid with protein by boxing up a few vegan deli meat slices with their lunch. Sure, you could make a sandwich, but most kids are happy to nibble away regardless if a piece of deli meat is between two slices of bread or not. Field Roast, Tofurky, Mia, and Simple Truth (Kroger brand) all make a range of quality vegan deli slices that are perfect for school lunches.