Quick and easy vegan school lunch ideas for every plant-based family. A list of a variety of options to break out of that bored lunch phase.
This post was originally published on December 14, 2015.
Those of you that make lunches every day, know how mundane it can get. To make things worse, the kids get bored and come home with an uneaten lunch. So all your efforts, fruitless.
I am here to break this cycle with a great list of vegan school lunch ideas! Switching up what you pack is sure to keep things exciting and increase lunchtime food consumption.
By the way, if you are stuck in a dinner rut and need some help there, I have a comprehensive FREE guide on weekly meal planning that comes with a FREE 3 day meal plan and shopping list! Join here!
We use the Planetbox metal lunchboxes for our everyday lunch. There are many great lunchboxes out there but we tried and loved these, and they have lasted us for a long time. I like to have my kids help make lunch, or even do it on their own, so the compartments really are great in guiding them with packing. For a complete review of the Plantbox items we use, please scroll down to the very end of this post, past the recipe card.
So the question still remains, what in the world do my kids eat for lunch? Well, here are my go-to vegan school lunch ideas separated into categories. Everything is whole food and plant based with the exception of a few things like a vegan cheese or small treat. And remember, this is what works for us, if I haven’t included something then it’s because my kids don’t prefer it or haven’t tried it yet. And extra bonus, my boys can make their lunch on their own with only minimal support with most of these options!
Fruit & Veggies:
- Fruit of any kind, we do whatever fruit is in season
- zucchini & yellow squash, cut into sticks or rounds
- broccoli (both raw and roasted, see recipe card below for roasting instructions)
- cauliflower (both raw and roasted, see recipe card below for roasting instructions)
- green beans
- Asparagus spears (slightly blanched, see recipe card below for blanching instructions)
- roasted radishes (see recipe card below for roasting instructions)
- thinly sliced lettuce or cabbage
- avocado sandwich (avocado, bread, and a touch of lemon pepper if your kids are adventurous)
- nut/sun butter banana rolls (spread butter on tortilla, top with thinly sliced bananas, roll & cut)
- cooked pasta with chopped veggies (see recipe card below for instructions)
- nut/sun butter & jelly sandwich or burrito (put on bread or in a pita or tortilla)
- hummus & cucumber sandwich (spread hummus and top with thinly sliced cucumber)
- vegan spinach grilled cheese sandwich or quesadilla (fresh spinach and vegan cheese grilled into a sandwich or a quesadilla)
- bean (& optional vegan cheese) burrito
- vegan quesadilla with beans
- rice salad (favorite rice mixed with veggies, works great with leftover dinner veggies)
- veggie burger nuggets (I use my veggie burger recipes but bake them into nuggets)
- mashed chickpea sandwich (see my recipe for the one we make)
- Grilled Burritos (these have become a huge favorite!)
- any leftovers from food they actually ate (dream big my friends, dream big)
- bagel sandwich (fits perfectly in the big container area)
- open faced bagel with cream cheese and topped with thinly sliced fruit or veggies (cucumbers, tomatoes, peaches, fresh figs, etc)
- open faced rice cake sandwich (spread rice cake with peanut butter, cream cheese or hummus and top with thinly sliced veggies, nuts, dried fruit, seeds)
- mashed bean and avocado roll up (mash beans on tortilla, mash avocado over beans, roll and cut into pieces)
- pita bread or bagel pizza (spread pizza sauce on top, add thinly sliced veggies if desired, sprinkle vegan cheese on top and bake in toaster or regular oven)
Snacks & Extras:
- beans (simply freshly made or rinsed canned beans on the side)
- dried fruit
- dried fruit and sunflower seed mix (or nuts if they can have them)
- homemade trail mix (dried fruit, seeds and/or nuts, oh’s cereal, other favorite dry cereal, coconut flakes, etc. all mixed together)
- dry cereal
- granola bar or Larabar (if not nut free)
- apple butter sandwiches (nut/sun butter in sliced apples)
- hummus (see this recipe or this one for our favorite kinds)
- crispy tofu (I bake tofu pieces, that I have marinated, until crispy…see this recipe for guidance)
- ants on a log (spread nut/sun butter in a celery stick and top with raisins or dried cranberries for red ants)
- muffin or healthy breakfast type cookie (see this recipe or this one for a delicious healthful packed cookie, and my recipe for an easy and quick muffin type treat)
- waffle sticks (waffles cut into sticks)
- raw treats like bars or balls (see my recipe for a quick and easy one and this really easy one for a healthy treat)
- chocolate avocado pudding (see my recipe, take out caramel layer for a super easy treat)
- freeze dried fruit
- fresh fruit and treat skewers, not for small children due to wooden skewer (cut up fruit into cubes and put on a wooden skewer switching off between fruit and chocolatey treats like balls mentioned above or chocolate covered fruit)
- crispy chickpeas (see recipe card below for instructions)
Side note: I don’t cutesy up my kids lunches with fun shapes or food art most of the time, I usually just pack healthy lunches that I mix up with fun and yummy ideas. I love the idea of making everything have shapes and faces and such, but my reality is that I just don’t have the time to do this daily. As I age, I am learning to keep my plate full enough so that I am not bored but not so full that I am overwhelmed and stressed.
I like to keep it real here, so I’m sharing what we do, in our crazy but fun real life. But if you love food art, as I do for those times that I do have time to put in a little extra, check out my amazing friend Cara at Fork and Beans. She is AWESOME and so so creative! Another easy idea is to simply cut the sandwiches with seasonal cookie cutters, it’s fast and easy and looks cute!
I hope this list sparks a few extra ideas! I’ll add to it as I find more things my kids eat with success. Until then, I send you happy eating vibes and hope your lunch boxes come back empty!
- 2 cups your kid's favorite veggies (like broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, etc)
- drizzle your favorite oil or broth (for roasting)
- dash sea salt
- your kid's favorite spices , optional (we like garlic powder, oregano, and smoked paprika but many kids don't want any)
- 2 cups your kid's favorite veggies
- dash sea salt
- 8 ounces pasta of choice , gluten free if needed
- 1 cup chopped fresh veggies of choice (like zucchini, squash, broccoli, etc.)
- dash sea salt
- 15 ounces canned chickpeas (one can)
- drizzle your favorite oil , optional
- dash sea salt
- your kid's favorite spices , optional (we like garlic powder, oregano, dill, parsley, and smoked paprika but many kids don't want any)
Cut veggie into cube sized pieces.
Toss in a drizzle of oil or broth if oil free, sea salt, and your spices of choice if using.
Spread evenly on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Roast at 450 F/230 C for 30-40 minutes until veggies are crispy.
Cut your favorite veggies into large pieces.
Get a large bowl of ice water ready.
Bring water with a dash of salt to a boil.
Drop veggies in and let boil for 2-3 minutes, until just tender.
Drain immediately and plunge into ice water to remain crispness.
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Put chopped fresh veggies into pasta strainer.
When pasta is done cooking, drain over chopped veggies in the strainer. The heat of the water will slightly blanch the veggies.
Mix with vegan cheese if desired and/or a dash of sea salt.
Drain chickpeas. If using oil, then rinse with water and dry. If not using oil you don't need to rinse or dry.
Toss with oil if using, sea salt and spices of choice if using. You can also wait to toss with spices until after they are baked so that the spices are fresh.
Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake at 400 F/205 C for 20-30 minutes or until crispy. Start checking at 25 minutes as ovens vary.
- Nutritional value is based on an average calculation and is not exact.
Review of the PlanetBox lunchboxes:
Planetbox gave me these products to try at home back in 2015, I did not receive payment other than this to write this post. I still use these all as of the time I updated this post!
I used the PlanetBox setup for two weeks to see what I loved, didn’t love, and got feedback from the boys on what they thought. First off, their water bottle, the BottleRocket, is top notch. Seriously.
Don’t even get me started on most water bottles out there. This one is uber easy to clean, the boys can open and close it without a tantrum (key), and they are sturdy (made of stainless steel like the lunch box).
For the lunchbox, we used the Rover, it comes with two cute containers as well (note: the containers have been updated so see their site for the newest version with the silicone tops which I think are way better than the ones we have). It is also easy to open/close, and best part of all is that it is easy to clean! The one we were using before had deep containers and it was so hard to get in there with a dish brush (I hate sponges but that’s a post for another time).
But this one has deep enough containers to hold food but shallow enough to clean easily. Perfect happy medium. Yay! An added bonus is the adorable customizable magnets the kids can use to decorate the top.
My boys really love picking theirs out each day and I feel it makes them own their lunch a little more. So overall, I would totally recommend the PlantBox. We love them and am so happy to have made the switch. I see these lasting for a very very long time, especially with the addition of customizable magnets!