The Kind Life is a community around Alicia Silverstone and The Kind Diet where friends, doctors, experts in green living, and members share vegan tips.

Delicious, Mama

Kind Classics: Packing a Kind Lunch

Since it’s getting close to back to school time, I wanted to remind all you kind mamas and dads about these great tips I found on Girlie Girl Army!

How to Pack a Healthy Lunch that You Feel Good About and Your Children Actually Eat! 



Lunches are such a tricky thing. On one hand, all of the children are comparing what they got in their lunchboxes (and do you really want them to be the ones with the lame lunch?). And, on the other hand, you want to send them off with something nutritious to fuel them through their day that you feel good about and that they will eat! If this is your conundrum, read on!

Mom’s Lunchbox Criteria:

it must be…

1. Be quick and easy to pack.
2. Be healthy and include fruits and/or vegetables.
3. Contain foods kids will actually eat.

This Insulated Cow Lunch Bag (pvc-free/ ethically made and $30) is a perfect way for your kid to explain why s/he doesn’t eat animals!

Healthful Hints to Improve the Lunch Box Battles:

Get your kids involved in the shopping and/or preparation and ask what they like. Take them somewhere like Whole Foods or your local healthy grocery shop and let them pick out some healthy options for their lunchboxes. Spend some time in the produce section and let them experiment with some different fruits. If your child normally only eats apples, try the cherries if they are in season! Buy a few mangos, a box of strawberries or some clementines. These make healthy, delicious lunchbox additions as well! Encourage them to make their own decisions as to what they want to try – whether it is a new type of drink or treat. They will be much more likely to embrace it if they have chosen it. Do not, and I repeat do not, take them to a big grocery store where the aisles are lined with potato chips and cheese puffs!

Buy a lunchbox that is easy to use and that your child likes!

My children use the Lands End ones but there are many other fun ones to choose from these days! One of my favorite companies is Laptop Lunches, which has fun bento box style lunchboxes and also a wide variety of fantastic lunchbox ideas!

Include multiple colors & textures.

When we are at a restaurant, we like a variety of colors and textures on our plates and kids are like that too! Pack a soft sandwich, crunchy carrot sticks and creamy vegan yogurt for a satisfying combo. For nursery age children, cut their sandwiches into shapes and make fun things like: ants on a log (celery filled with vegan cream cheese topped with raisons.)

Include condiments.

Condiments are not just for grown-ups, and children love, love, love to squirt and dip things. You could include hummus or ranch dressing to dip carrots into, ketchup for a tofu dog, or even maple syrup to dip a grilled almond butter and jelly sandwich into- yum!

Leftovers are great!



Get out of the grilled daiya cheese and pb&j thinking and be experimental with what you include. Did you have grilled tofu the night before? Then wrap up the tofu in a wrap! Have pasta the night before? Include that too! You will be surprised how much more your children will enjoy their lunches, and eat them! Lunch boxes don’t have to – and shouldn’t – contain the usual sandwich every day! If you do pack a sandwich, vary the bread – serve it on whole wheat one day, a wrap the next, a pita the next and try to add vegetables such as lettuce and tomato when you can.

Last, but certainly not least, remember to always pack a treat!



When your child opens their lunchbox you don’t want them to be the only one without something to look forward to! So, make sure when you are at the grocery store with them that they pick out something that is delicious but not high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup and saturated fat! I keep a variety on hand and just vary which one I throw in their lunchboxes.

Below are some specific ideas for you:

The Cheat Sheet

Main Course (choose one):

• PB&J with a twist use almond butter & banana grilled on a whole wheat served with a side of agave (or brown rice syrup!)
 Smart Dogs in a bun or rolled up with vegan cheese in a tortilla
• Vegan Cheese Quesadillas on corn tortillas with a side of salsa
 “Perfectly Healthy” Veggie Pancakes cook it the night before and serve at dinner, then heat it up in the morning and pack it the next day (these also freeze well)
• Avocado & tomato sandwich
• “Mexican Sushi”
• Vegan chicken nuggets with organic ketchup for dipping

Snacks (choose one):

• Fruit: bananas, apples, oranges, clementines, cherries, or grapes
• Vegan Yogurt: (choose one high in acidophilis and low in sugar)
 Carrots sticks with hummus for dipping
• Celery sticks filled with vegan cream cheese
• Dried fruits (no-sugar) – raisins, apricots, bananas, papaya or mango
• Trail mix (no-sugar) – try one with Goji berries for iron and Vitamin C
• Veggie Booty (Roberts American Gourmet)
• Spelt Pretzels
 Organic “Cheese” Crackers by Eco-Planet

Treats (every lunchbox must have a treat, right!?!)

• Organic animal crackers
• Newman “Own oreo” cookies
• Late July peanut butter crackers

Drinks (choose one):

Always pack them a big bottle of water in a (reusable) bottle of their choosing and encourage them to drink it throughout the day! Opt out of the sports drink route, unless you find some without added sugar.

• Honest Kids (fun squeeze packs) comes in Tropical Tango, Goodness Grapeness or Berry, Berry Good Lemonade
• Apple & Eve All-Natural Apple Juice (box)
• Vruit Carrot Apple Juice (box)
• R.W. Kudsens Spritzers Lemonade, Red Rasberry or Grape (can- they think it is soda!)
• Vita Coco Coconut Water (box)
• Good, Old-Fashioned Water!

Good luck and good packing!

Do you have any great tips for packing kids’ lunches?

 

photo source: anotherlunch.com

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  • Sarah Labrum Speier

    Great ideas! My daughter just started kindergarten and within the first few days she knew her snacks didn’t measure up again the other kids junk foods. We’ve made some adjustments and allowed for a semi-treat sometimes and that seems to satisfy her. It’s amazing how early the peer pressure/need to be the same starts!

  • Nicole Monnin

    I have issues with many of the suggestions as they are highly processed food, vegan hot dogs…really? Dipping and already sweet sandwich into maple syrup. This seems no better then the garbage animal based lunches most North Americans already ake to school. I’m all for plant based food but could we really not do better then that? Our school systems don’t allow nuts in the school so that becomes very limiting. I really hate to knock what was said I would have just expected this page not to promote highly processed foods.

    • Dani

      I agree Nicole. The ethics of this site have changed over the past year
      or so. Being vegan is the number one action a person can take to free
      the animals from the cruelty and egregious treatment they are forced to
      endure daily. Too many highly processed ingredients exist in vegan foods
      and people need to be aware of this. Highly processed food should never
      be promoted.

    • Jill

      I thought the same thing about dipping the sandwich. It makes no sense.

    • Sarah Selby

      I know processed foods aren’t that great but if it helps kids feel like they fit in with other kids at school, I think it’s a good thing. Unless our society changes it’s advertising and social “norms” overnight, then it’s likely your kids will be influenced by seeing hot dogs, hamburgers, ice cream etc everywhere.. If you cook mostly healthy at home, having a vegan hot dog every once in a while isn’t a bad thing, not nearly as bad as contributing to animal cruelty. Regular consumption of dairy and meat products is a contributor for most cancers too, so processed (no animal products) really is better for you (than processed, animal products).

    • Mirabel

      Nicole, I know you are a good person and that you meant well by your comment, but Alicia was not suggesting that one serves their kids veggie hotdogs every day. Having kids follow a vegan diet is a challenge in itself, so if me allowing my son to have an occasional veggie hotdog/vegan treat helps keep him on the vegan bandwagon, what’s so terrible about that?? I know it’s wise to avoid processed foods whenever possible, but Alicia was listing those lunch items as merely suggestions….not as recommendations. Also, an almond butter sandwich is not really that sweet so dipping it into a sweet sauce like maple syrup seems perfectly fine. I don’t know why everyone was so upset by that suggestion!

  • Marcy DeBlois Martin

    I agree, processed foods are not healthy just because they are cruelty free. I used to love Veggie Booty until I realized it was made with corn and rice that is probably genetically modified. Whole Foods has an organic version we keep on hand for picnics, etc. Also, our pediatrician says no juice as even the organics have high levels of lead. My daughter is still a year away from starting school and I plan on educating and empowering her as much as I can so the other kids crap Lunchables have no appeal to her. My main worries are the pizza parties, candy rewards, cupcakes for EVERY birthday, and others in the school who are not aware of her diet offering her things and not understanding when she says no thank you. PS I taught for six years before having her and know what challenges a healthy, vegan child faces in public schools, in some classrooms on a daily basis.

    • Alicia

      I bet the teacher would LOVE it if you sent some healthy alternatives for her to use as treats, or small gifts like pencils or erasers to use as prizes. The sad truth is that we would love to find healthy alternatives to candy in our classrooms, but we make next to nothing and candy is just more affordable.

      • Katie

        I agree, Alicia! I’m a 4K teacher and it is very hard to offer alternatives when parents aren’t on board to help. What’s really frustrating is when you get a note from a parent asking if you can give their child something other than candy as a treat/reward. My response is usually, “Sure! If you’d be willing to bring in some alternative treats, that would make it easier!” Grrrr.

        I do buy other treats/rewards other than candy because I don’t believe children should be given candy at every turn. However, after a while, pencils, stickers, and erasers get boring to them. Who doesn’t crave a sweet treat every once in a while? I started buying organic granola bars to keep in my cabinet and have been giving those out as well but the children who come from homes that do not eat organic/whole foods find them nasty. What’s a teacher to do these days?! ;-)

  • Abby

    I have guardianship of my youngest sister. It is a challenge because she comes from a place where she regularly ate school hot lunch (highly processed and meat centered), Fast Food, and cheap meat centered meals at home.

    Things she likes in her lunch:

    Hummus pinwheels (hummus, and shredded veggies wrapped in a tortilla and sliced)
    Apples and celery with peanut butter
    Veggies of any kind (she loves spicy radishes) with hummus
    Fruit of any kind
    Whole grain crackers with Salsa
    Warmed pasta, soup, or rice and beans in her insulated food jar
    PB and J
    My partner hunts and fishes, so I put goose jerky in sometimes or salmon that he caught in Alaska this summer.

    Her favorite treat? A small container of assorted olives. I think this is cute :)

    This is about it so far, but I am happy. She gets attention at school for your veg lunches and she really likes it. After she came home from her first day she said the kids asked her if she was veg. She said, “No, but my sister is and she packs my lunch,” Then she said to me, “I was thinking about becoming a vegetarian who only eats wild game, like you, but I am not ready to be vegan, I still want to eat cheese sometimes.”

    This made me so happy! I don’t have any dairy at home anyways, but I am glad she made a realistic goal. I think this is a big deal for a little kid, and it gives me joy that she would want to pursue this track. I would never pressure her, and always support whatever she decides to do, but I must say I am pleased!

  • Megan Berg

    I think packing kids’ lunches is a challenge for all parents! Hummus and pita are a definite favorite for my son (I love the pinwheel idea!), and he’ll eat just about any fruit there is. Carrot sticks, but also red pepper sticks are good lunchbox food. he also likes veggie salami sandwiches (processed food i know!!) And the treat in his lunch is chocolate almondmilk which Silk makes in 8 oz. “juicebox” sizes. These are a HUGE hit. Popsicles are a great treat for birthdays if the school office has a freezer or you can bring them.

  • Tracy Coats

    with Nicole…I have been Vegan for nearly 20 years now and I avoid Soy
    at all costs. The majority of soy, canola and corn contain GMO’s. The
    majority of her food items are processed, like you mentioned.
    Staples
    in my diet include, Quinoa for protein, plant based protein(most all
    leafy green veggies). I make my own Almond Milk by simply soaking raw
    organic almonds overnight, blending them in the blender and straining
    the almond milk into a glass jar. Less expensive than buying at a store
    and much healthier for you. If you purchase a brand at the store, I
    would go with the Silk brand as it doesn’t contain Carrageenan(food
    additive extracted from a red seaweed)-Joanne K. Tobacman,
    M.D.(Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of
    Illinois College of Medicine) conducted studies linking undegraded
    carrageenan(type in food) with malignancies and other gastrointestinal
    problems.
    For sugar substitutes, I would only use organic stevia
    and xylitol(looks and tastes like sugar), organic maple syrup(sparingly)
    and if not vegan(honey) sparingly for taste only…no agave, no palm
    sugar etc.
    Stay away from packaged food as much as possible.
    Dehydrate(or use low temp in oven) veggies with olive oil and sea
    salt(pink) for delicious snacks. Zucchini chips are delicious. Kale
    chips are too.
    Snacks for my kids include, organic popcorn(non-GMO)
    with Bragg’s Nutritional yeast sprinkled on it. Gives it a cheesy
    flavor. This can also be used to make cheesy flavored sauces. Celery
    sticks with almond butter and raisins on top. Always provide them a
    fruit salad, kiwi, strawberries etc. I make hummus using zucchini
    instead of garbanzo beans.
    Frozen bananas are a great treat. You can
    cut them up and enjoy or throw them in a blender with some organic
    cacao(not cocoa(processed) and stevia. Makes a delicious ice-cream like
    treat. Avocado and cacao with stevia or xylitol can be made into a
    chocolate pudding(live foods with super food ingredients). Kids love
    these.

    I attended Elaina Love’s Pure Joy Academy to train as a
    Raw Vegan Chef. Elaina is a world renowned Raw Food Chef with ongoing
    classes and some of the most delicious gourmet plant based food I have
    tried in my nearly 20 years being Vegan. http://www.purejoyplanet.com
    I am
    now working with the organization http://www.believebig.org to create high
    alkaline vegan menu items/recipes for cancer patients making the
    transition from a Standard American Diet to a plant based diet. I am
    finishing my Plant Based Nutrition certification through e-Cornell.
    This class was designed by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his 40+ years of
    nutrition research. Author of “The China Study”. He is also a
    Nutritional Biochemistry Professor at Cornell University.

    I leave you with one of my favorite recipes from Pure Joy Academy:
    The
    first two steps do not require any special equipment. You must have a
    dehydrator to make the Flourless Cornbread. Seems a bit labor
    intensive, but unbelievable flavor and taste, especially if you dip it
    in the chili. Amazing….
    I will also tell you, this requires some
    marinating overnight, so plan on having this the next day. Cornbread
    requires nut soaking 4-6hrs and at least 6 hrs of dehydrating. I find
    it’s always nice to know these things beforehand.:-) Any questions,
    please e-mail me.

    Hearty Chili(Raw Vegan)
    Step 1: Marinated Vegetables
    1 med zucchini, chopped into little cubes
    1 med carrot, finely minced
    1/2 medium egglplant, peeled and chopped into little cubes
    1 small portabello mushroom or 5 shitake mushrooms, chopped into little cubes
    3 cloves garlic-crushed
    1 med Roma tomato, chopped into little chunks
    1/4 med red onion, chopped small pieces
    3.5 tsp Celtic sea salt
    1 Tbs lemon juice
    2 Tbs olive oil
    Mix
    above ingredients together and place in a quart sized jar. Press down
    to make sure all vegetables are fully submerged in lemon juice, sea salt
    and olive oil. Leave in jar overnight to marinate. Or at least 4-6
    hrs

    Step 2, the sauce:
    1 large tomato
    1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked with enough water to cover
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1.5 cups purified water
    1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/2 tsp celery seed
    1/2 tsp oregano
    1/2 tsp cumin
    1.5 tsp chili powder
    blend until smooth
    Pour blended mixture over marinated veggies(veggies should be soft, if not, keep marinating). Serve with Flourless Cornbread

    Flourless Corn Bread

    1
    1/4 c organic raw almonds(soak 4-6 hrs or overnight), should measure
    about 2 cups, after soaking, as almonds absorb the water and swell.
    2 c raw cashews or macadamia nuts
    1 cup pine nuts
    1
    10 oz bag of frozen corn or 10 oz off the cob(organic corn only) or you
    can use same amount of yellow bell pepper instead of corn
    1/4 c raw organic maple syrup, if you are not vegan you can use honey(same amount).
    2 tsp Sea Salt(finely ground would be ideal)
    2 cloves garlic
    1 minced jalapeno(optional if you like spicy)
    1.5 cups dry ground golden flax seeds or ground white chia seeds
    Do
    not place flax seeds in blender, but all other ingredients can be
    blended until smooth. Flax(or chia) is added after the initial
    ingredients are blended. So take batter and put in a bowl and mix in
    Flax(flax is used as a binder(like eggs in breads etc), it swells and
    absorbs the mixture to make a nice batter). Let stand for 15 minutes.
    -Spread
    the batter 1/4 inch thick onto a dehydrator tray that is covered with
    texflex paper(keeps batter from seaping through tray holes). Use a
    spatula and score the batter into 25 squares(just take spatula like you
    were cutting after batter was cooked). You could use a pizza cutter,
    just be sure not to cut through the Texflex paper.
    -Put in
    dehydrator, set temp. to 105 degrees for about 3 hrs., remove tray, flip
    batter(should be a little stiffer at this point) onto clear
    mesh(battered is stiff enough not to seap through now). Remove the
    Texflex paper. This will allow air to flow freely through the mesh and
    dehydrate the cornbread evenly.
    -Put back in dehydrator for another 3 hrs.
    -Take out, cut into squares(where you scored before putting in dehydrator)
    -top with a vegan butter(organic earth balance, soy free butter) or follow this next recipe for a quick
    Raw Vegan Butter recipe:
    Mix
    1/2 c coconut oil(softened not melted) with 2 tbs of xylitol or honey,
    1/8 tsp Himalayan salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric for color(gives it a butter
    appearance) put on warm cornbread and enjoy!

    Please feel free to e-mail me for any other great/healthy(truly healthy) recipes…[email protected]

  • Tracy Coats

    with Nicole…I have been Vegan for nearly 20 years now and I avoid Soy
    at all costs. The majority of soy, canola and corn contain GMO’s. The
    majority of her food items are processed, like you mentioned.
    Staples
    in my diet include, Quinoa for protein, plant based protein(most all
    leafy green veggies). I make my own Almond Milk by simply soaking raw
    organic almonds overnight, blending them in the blender and straining
    the almond milk into a glass jar. Less expensive than buying at a store
    and much healthier for you. If you purchase a brand at the store, I
    would go with the Silk brand as it doesn’t contain Carrageenan(food
    additive extracted from a red seaweed)-Joanne K. Tobacman,
    M.D.(Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of
    Illinois College of Medicine) conducted studies linking undegraded
    carrageenan(type in food) with malignancies and other gastrointestinal
    problems.
    For sugar substitutes, I would only use organic stevia
    and xylitol(looks and tastes like sugar), organic maple syrup(sparingly)
    and if not vegan(honey) sparingly for taste only…no agave, no palm
    sugar etc.
    Stay away from packaged food as much as possible.
    Dehydrate(or use low temp in oven) veggies with olive oil and sea
    salt(pink) for delicious snacks. Zucchini chips are delicious. Kale
    chips are too.
    Snacks for my kids include, organic popcorn(non-GMO)
    with Bragg’s Nutritional yeast sprinkled on it. Gives it a cheesy
    flavor. This can also be used to make cheesy flavored sauces. Celery
    sticks with almond butter and raisins on top. Always provide them a
    fruit salad, kiwi, strawberries etc. I make hummus using zucchini
    instead of garbanzo beans.
    Frozen bananas are a great treat. You can
    cut them up and enjoy or throw them in a blender with some organic
    cacao(not cocoa(processed) and stevia. Makes a delicious ice-cream like
    treat. Avocado and cacao with stevia or xylitol can be made into a
    chocolate pudding(live foods with super food ingredients). Kids love
    these.

    I attended Elaina Love’s Pure Joy Academy to train as a
    Raw Vegan Chef. Elaina is a world renowned Raw Food Chef with ongoing
    classes and some of the most delicious gourmet plant based food I have
    tried in my nearly 20 years being Vegan.
    I am
    now working with the organization Believe Big to create high
    alkaline vegan menu items/recipes for cancer patients making the
    transition from a Standard American Diet to a plant based diet. I am
    finishing my Plant Based Nutrition certification through e-Cornell.
    This class was designed by Dr. T. Colin Campbell and his 40+ years of
    nutrition research. Author of “The China Study”. He is also a
    Nutritional Biochemistry Professor at Cornell University.

    I leave you with one of my favorite recipes from Pure Joy Academy:
    The
    first two steps do not require any special equipment. You must have a
    dehydrator to make the Flourless Cornbread. Seems a bit labor
    intensive, but unbelievable flavor and taste, especially if you dip it
    in the chili. Amazing….
    I will also tell you, this requires some
    marinating overnight, so plan on having this the next day. Cornbread
    requires nut soaking 4-6hrs and at least 6 hrs of dehydrating. I find
    it’s always nice to know these things beforehand.:-) Any questions,
    please e-mail me.

    Hearty Chili(Raw Vegan)
    Step 1: Marinated Vegetables
    1 med zucchini, chopped into little cubes
    1 med carrot, finely minced
    1/2 medium egglplant, peeled and chopped into little cubes
    1 small portabello mushroom or 5 shitake mushrooms, chopped into little cubes
    3 cloves garlic-crushed
    1 med Roma tomato, chopped into little chunks
    1/4 med red onion, chopped small pieces
    3.5 tsp Celtic sea salt
    1 Tbs lemon juice
    2 Tbs olive oil
    Mix
    above ingredients together and place in a quart sized jar. Press down
    to make sure all vegetables are fully submerged in lemon juice, sea salt
    and olive oil. Leave in jar overnight to marinate. Or at least 4-6
    hrs

    Step 2, the sauce:
    1 large tomato
    1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, soaked with enough water to cover
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1.5 cups purified water
    1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
    1/2 tsp celery seed
    1/2 tsp oregano
    1/2 tsp cumin
    1.5 tsp chili powder
    blend until smooth
    Pour blended mixture over marinated veggies(veggies should be soft, if not, keep marinating). Serve with Flourless Cornbread

    Flourless Corn Bread

    1
    1/4 c organic raw almonds(soak 4-6 hrs or overnight), should measure
    about 2 cups, after soaking, as almonds absorb the water and swell.
    2 c raw cashews or macadamia nuts
    1 cup pine nuts
    1
    10 oz bag of frozen corn or 10 oz off the cob(organic corn only) or you
    can use same amount of yellow bell pepper instead of corn
    1/4 c raw organic maple syrup, if you are not vegan you can use honey(same amount).
    2 tsp Sea Salt(finely ground would be ideal)
    2 cloves garlic
    1 minced jalapeno(optional if you like spicy)
    1.5 cups dry ground golden flax seeds or ground white chia seeds
    Do
    not place flax seeds in blender, but all other ingredients can be
    blended until smooth. Flax(or chia) is added after the initial
    ingredients are blended. So take batter and put in a bowl and mix in
    Flax(flax is used as a binder(like eggs in breads etc), it swells and
    absorbs the mixture to make a nice batter). Let stand for 15 minutes.
    -Spread
    the batter 1/4 inch thick onto a dehydrator tray that is covered with
    texflex paper(keeps batter from seeping through tray holes). Use a
    spatula and score the batter into 25 squares(just take spatula like you
    were cutting after batter was cooked). You could use a pizza cutter,
    just be sure not to cut through the Texflex paper.
    -Put in
    dehydrator, set temp. to 105 degrees for about 3 hrs., remove tray, flip
    batter(should be a little stiffer at this point) onto clear
    mesh(battered is stiff enough not to seep through now). Remove the
    Texflex paper. This will allow air to flow freely through the mesh and
    dehydrate the cornbread evenly.
    -Put back in dehydrator for another 3 hrs.
    -Take out, cut into squares(where you scored before putting in dehydrator)
    -top with a vegan butter(organic earth balance, soy free butter) or follow this next recipe for a quick
    Raw Vegan Butter recipe:
    Mix
    1/2 c coconut oil(softened not melted) with 2 tbs of xylitol or honey,
    1/8 tsp Himalayan salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric for color(gives it a butter
    appearance) put on warm cornbread and enjoy!