When trying to get your whole family to eat a WFPB diet, it is obviously really important that your kids bring their lunch to school. Pretty much nothing on the school cafeteria menu is going to be WFPB. They still serve pizza, burgers, fries, and nachos. Seriously? And this is considered a healthy meal?
They claim to offer healthy things like salad and fruit, but what 10 year old is going to choose that when given the choice between pizza and a salad. Ummm, not mine.
So, I make my kids lunches every day. I try to include versions of their favorites but it’s not always easy. I try to think of new things so they don’t get bored.
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Usually, I include an entree, fresh fruit, dessert, and 8 ounce water bottle. I have a good stock of thermos containers that are great for keeping soup or entrees warm for them. I haven’t had any complaints yet about food being cold. These are my favorite thermos containers. And they come in a ton of colors & characters to please any kid young or old.
The Simple Modern containers are pricey but MAN are they durable. I bought 2 in red and they have really lasted. They are stainless steel on the inside and don’t stain, leak, or dent.
I recently bought a couple of kids Bento Boxes to try out and they are so cool! They have separate compartments that are sealed from each other and insulated. It makes it so much easier to give your little one more variety without having to pack multiple containers or ziplock bags. These are the brands that I have used & recommend:
Here are some ideas for WFPB Lunches:
- Homemade Hummus or Nut Butter & Raw Veggies (baby carrots, celery, snap peas, raw broccoli)
- Strawberries & Blueberries
- Cantaloupe & Honeydew
- Unsweetened applesauce cups
- Apple slices & peanut butter
- Chickpea Salad Sandwiches or stuffed pitas
- Italian Crispy Kale Chips
- Left over bean burger patty sandwiches – use whole grain bread or pita
- Homemade baked tortilla chips and guacamole
- WFPB Version of PBJ – use whole grain bread, unsalted, natural peanut or almond butter, and either sliced bananas or smushed berries (I put blueberries or raspberries on a cutting board and smush with the back of a spoon)
- Roasted sweet potato fries & quinoa
- Black beans & brown rice
- Steamed veggies (my kids like broccoli, carrots, peas)
- Whole wheat pita stuffed with salad & veggies
- Vegetable & Bean Soups
- 3 Bean Vegan Chili
- Bean pastas w/marinara
- Ants on a log – celery with nut butter & raisins
- Trail mix – homemade, no sugar added
- Dr. Fuhrman’s Chocolate Cherry Cookies (contains almond butter)
- Best Vegan Peanut Butter Cookies (contains nuts)
- Zucchini Bread
- Orange Coconut Balls (contains nuts)
- Italian Creamed Kale
- Fudgy Black Bean Brownies
Related Reading – What I ate Week 1 of the “Eat to Live” Diet
WFPB Dinner Leftovers
Leftovers from dinner are great for school lunches. My kids love the WFPB Lasagna I make so I just chop it up, heat it, and put in their thermos containers for lunch. The WFPB lasagna is made with whole grain noodles, this Tofu Ricotta (without the olive oil or salt). You can use your own lasagna recipe and use these swaps to make it nutritarian! Just remember to use no-salt or low-sodium tomato products.
Spaghetti marinara is also a good leftover to put in kids’ thermos for lunch. Bean spaghetti is more widely available at regular grocery stores and is a great way to have a more filling noodle than whole wheat spaghetti. I found both a soybean and black bean spaghetti at Aldi that my family likes. The chickpea versions are good also! I also add extra veggies to my low sodium marinara sauce – like chopped spinach, chopped zucchini, blended carrots, chopped kale. The finer you chop or blend, the less likely your kids will even notice!
My kids also love this Taco Bean Soup I make and is AWESOME for their school lunch. Very filling and lots of nutrients!
WFPB Brown Rice or Quinoa mixed with beans or veggies
Beans & brown rice or quinoa is another super easy lunch option that my kids like. You can get those microwave packets of brown rice or quinoa (just check to make sure there aren’t added ingredients like oil, salt, artificial flavors) these days to save time. I just mix a can of drained black beans (or any bean) with some brown rice, wild rice, or quinoa – the ratio is up to you! You can add your own herbs or leave plain.
You can also do a simple broccoli (or any steamed veggie) and brown rice or quinoa. Do a large batch and keep in the fridge ready to warm-up in the morning to put in their thermos container or Bento Box.
It’s really important to include a WFPB dessert because they are very filling and your kids will be excited to look like the other kids. No one will know these desserts are WFPB and made with beans or lentils!
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Fudgy Black Bean Brownies
- Chocolate Cherry Cookies
- No-Bake Orange Coconut Balls
WFPB Chili Mac or Broccoli Mac
Do you have a macaroni and cheese lover? Try to find a way to make their macaroni and cheese plant-based & healthier. I’ve started using Amy’s Organic Vegan Mac and adding either a can of Hormel Vegetarian Chili (1 box & 1 can) for my oldest to make Chili Mac which is his favorite.
My youngest really likes Broccoli Mac so I’ll buy the Daiya Alfredo Mac & Cheese and mix it with a 10 ounces bag of frozen broccoli (steamed first).
Yes, the mac and cheese part is processed, but at least they are getting a serving of beans or broccoli with it! And I have to compromise where I can. They don’t want to look different from the other kids so having a plant-based healthier version of Mac & Cheese, Chili Mac, or Broccoli Mac is ok in my book for now. It’s a process!
Keep trying different WFPB ideas
It may take you a while to build up a good rotation of school lunch ideas, but keep trying. It’s ok if they eat the same thing a few times a week if that’s what they like. My youngest really likes the Peanut Butter & smushed berries so sometimes he’ll have that everyday but I’ll make sure to mix up this sides and desserts so he has a wide variety in his diet.
Find ways to make some of your own recipes WFPB – remove oil, salt, sugar. Use whole grain or bean pastas.
Saving time getting healthy school lunches ready
Are you crunched for time in the mornings? Try making large batches of main dishes they like or getting their lunch ready the night before. Keep fresh fruits washed and cut in the fridge. Make double batches of WFPB desserts and Kale Chips so that they are ready to grab on the go.
You can even get their lunch box completely ready and put it in the fridge the night before. If you have a hot soup or chili, just warm that up in the morning.
Another morning time saver are these Fruit & Green Smoothies. You can make the night before and put in sealed, air tight containers like shakers. Now you have breakfast ready to go!
Kids will follow your example to eat WFPB
It may take time, especially for older children, but the more you set the right example, the more your kids will follow. If you show an attitude of excitement for eating healthy, then that will rub off on them. Likewise, if you hate it, they will, too.
Serve your kids what you are eating. If you are eating a salad, then give them a salad, too.
You want to keep it positive though and not berate them or make them feel horrible. Especially if this is a big change in diet. Work with them and try to find some compromise. Like you make them a nutritarian version of their favorite spaghetti, but also have a small salad to go with it.
If they really like broccoli, then serve them broccoli several times a week and then try to get them to try one new vegetable a week. It may take a few times of them tasting it before they decide they like it. The first time my kids tried Tofu Marinara they were a little weary and didn’t eat much. The second time they loved it and now I have to fix it sometimes twice a week!
Just don’t give up. Their health (and yours) is worth the effort. Talk to your kids about why you are eating like this in terms they can understand. If they are older, then maybe have them read “Eat to Live”. They WILL eventually come around. My kids have been a lot more receptive than I thought they would and have been very interested to learn about what foods are healthy and why. Your kids may surprise you, too!
Related Reading – WFPB Quick Start Guide: Eat More, Lose Weight, & Prevent Disease