Tips on Vegetarian School Lunches


School cafeteria lunch menus sometimes include vegetarian options, but schools often serve meat-based meals that conflict with the vegetarian diet. A brown-bag lunch ensures your child receives a healthy, vegetarian option at school regardless of the menu. The vegetarian diet limits the school lunch options, but many health and child-friendly lunch components fit the restrictions. Experiment with your child’s brown-bag lunch to prevent lunchtime boredom.

Reinvent Sandwiches

A brown-bag sandwich often brings to mind peanut butter and jelly or a variety of cold meats. A little creativity opens up a whole world of vegetarian sandwiches that work in a school lunch. The bread component leaves room for variation. Instead of regular sliced bread, use pitas, tortillas, flatbread, rolls or bagels. Try hummus, pureed vegetables or nut butters as the base of the vegetarian sandwiches. Assorted vegetables, fruits and nuts complement the base filling to round out the sandwiches. The mix-and-match approach to sandwich breads and fillings gives plenty of lunch options.

Recycle Leftovers

Last night’s vegetarian dinner offers healthy components for your child’s school lunch. A wide-mouth thermos keeps leftovers warm once you heat them at home. For greater heat retention, heat the thermos first with boiling water. Give the thermos five to 10 minutes to absorb the heat from the water before dumping it and drying the inside. Everything from leftover soup to pasta works well in a thermos. Another option is to combine leftovers in a new dish for school lunches. Leftover rice creates the base for rice pudding. Vegetarian chili doubles as a topping for a lunch salad. Try new combinations of leftovers and other vegetarian ingredients to create your own appealing lunch dishes for your child.


Brown-bag lunches tend to follow the same routine with a few staples being repeated each week. The same vegetarian sandwich week after week may tempt your child to trade with classmates for something less healthy and not vegetarian-friendly. A lunch chart with several options in each category serves as a guide for keeping meals fresh. Include categories for the main vegetarian dish, sides, desserts and drinks. The list saves you time when you’re trying to decide what to pack. To give your child a hand in the lunch, let him pick one item from each category.


The presentation of the vegetarian lunch makes a difference in how well some kids eat. A hummus-and-tomato sandwich gets a child-friendly makeover when cut into a different shape with a cookie cutter. Slices of raw vegetables gathered on a plastic toothpick look more appealing than a plastic bag of baby carrots. Pack a pasta salad made with specialty-shaped pasta. These adjustments make lunches more appetizing to children.


The extras in your child’s school lunch round out the meal. Add hummus, nut butter, yogurt and cream cheese as a dip for fruit, vegetables and crackers. Pack an extra snack like whole-grain cereal or crackers and cheese to hold off your child’s hunger. Vegetarian-friendly beverages finish off the meal. Ideas include hot drinks in a thermos, juice or individual cartons of milk. Some organic milk brands offer individual cartons of milk that don’t require refrigeration so you don’t have to worry as much about keeping your child’s lunch cold to avoid milk spoilage. If your child is vegan, substitute soy or rice milk.



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