September means that school is back in full session now, and many parents are packing lunches for their children to carry to school. That’s especially true for those who want their children to continue on a whole food, plant-based diet.
There are plenty of options for ways to keep children on a plant-based diet. But parents do need to be careful. The old peanut butter and jelly sandwich that is fully plant-based and something many of us grew up on when we were children is oftentimes no longer acceptable.
That’s because of the number of children today who have peanut or other nut allergies. As such, peanut butter might not be permitted in your child’s classroom anymore.
There are plenty of other options. Pasta is one. What child does not love pasta? Instead of mac and cheese, another old standby for children, or spaghetti and meatballs, think instead about spaghetti marinara or pasta primavera.
Both can be delicious and both are healthier and entirely plant-based. Just be sure to use whole-wheat pasta and either make your own sauce or pay attention to the labels of the sauces in the store.
Preferably, you will pick a pasta sauce in which sugar is not one of the first three ingredients and fat content is low (at or under 25 percent of calories).
Throw in a piece of fruit and your child will have a perfect meal.
But your child might prefer a sandwich. So, consider something like a tomato, lettuce and avocado sandwich. That can be made with whole wheat bread and hummus spread lightly on the bread in lieu of some of the higher fat spreads that might be used. (Besides, mayo is an ingredient that should not sit at room temperature, as it would in a child’s classroom cubby.)
Be sure to provide your child with plenty of napkins because that can be a messy lunch, too.
And of course, leftovers always work for lunch. Did you have a veggie pizza without cheese for dinner last night? If so, wrap a couple of slices and put that in your child’s lunchbox for lunch the next day.
Usually, any plant-based meal that you ate the night before can work for lunch too. Just be conscious of that when cooking at night, and make enough for both meals.
Other ideas for school lunches include vegetarian wraps, homemade minestrone soup, lentil soup and oatmeal. Whatever you put in, you can also add a piece of fruit and some veggies like carrot sticks, pepper slices and celery.
And while you’re at, make the same for your own lunches, too. These ideas aren’t limited to school children. There’s no reason for you not to stay healthy at lunchtime too.
J Lanning Smith is a local freelance writer focused on a whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.