Healthy Plant-Powered Lunch Box Ideas for Any Grade (Gluten-Free, Nut-Free, Vegan)

Back to school means back to lunch for students and parents. Lunchtime is a crucial part of the school day for students of all ages to maintain their alertness and stay engaged in class. Well-rounded meals - ones that include a source of protein, carbohydrate and fat, and chock full of vitamins and minerals - keep bellies full and brains ready to learn. A plant-powered lunch box provides a bundle of nutrition and an opportunity to try out exciting and fun meals any kid will look forward to eating.

For parents, preparing a nutritious school lunch does not have to be boring or complicated. Start with a basic strategy to aim for balance: a nutrient-dense starch such as a whole grain, beans or legumes; at least one (but as many as you and your child like!) fruit and vegetable; and a good source of protein, such as a meat or meat alternative (tofu, seitan, tempeh), cheese, yogurt, seeds or nuts (if your child is not in a nut-free school or classroom). Lunchtime needs are different as kids grow and develop, so we provided ideas for all ages. 


Elementary School

Elementary School Lunchbox  Kindergarteners and elementary aged kids typically prefer easy-to-eat finger foods that can be consumed amid the sometimes chaotic lunch period. A Seed Butter waffle sandwich is a fun option for younger children because it feels like a treat, while being filling and nutritious. Choose fruits and vegetables that you know your child enjoys to increase the chances that they will get eaten. 

Whole Grain Seed Butter Waffle Sandwich

Ingredients

Directions

Toast waffles according to package directions. Carefully remove from toaster and spread 88 Acres Sunflower Seed Butter on one waffle. Sandwich waffles together and cut down the middle into two halves. 

Serve with Strawberries, Cherry Tomatoes, and Hummus, Guacamole or a Yogurt-Based Dressing on the side. 

*Tip for finding healthier waffles: Look for a whole grain as the first ingredient, and aim for waffles that have at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. We used a gluten-free waffle made from a blend of ancient grains including brown rice, millet teff, buckwheat, sorghum, amaranth, and quinoa. Feel free to use your favorite homemade recipe for waffles, but frozen waffles are great in a pinch!

Middle School

Middle School Lunch Box

In middle school, colorful foods make lunch meals fun and provide a rainbow of nutrients to support learning and development. With growing bodies come growing appetites; including portable snacks in the lunch box offers middle schoolers the chance to keep up with the roller coaster of hunger throughout the day.

Carrot Noodles with Zesty 88 Acres Pumpkin Seed Butter Asian Sauce 

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Large Carrots, spiralized (look for spiralized carrots in the produce section of many grocers)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons 88 Acres Pumpkin Seed Butter Asian Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 Cup Fresh Baby Spinach

Directions

Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add carrots and lightly saute for about five minutes, until tender but not soft. Turn heat to low, and add Asian sauce to pan. Toss to coat carrot noodles. Place spinach in lunch container and top with cooked carrot noodles. Top with pumpkin seeds. 

Serve with Fresh Watermelon and an 88 Acres Apple Ginger Craft Seed Bar


High School 

High School Lunch Box

In high school, heartier portions are necessary to fuel young adult bodies and minds. Plant-based proteins full of fiber and healthy fats keep hunger at bay for a school day packed with extracurricular events. Hydrating fruits and veggies ensure that high school minds are ready to work at top capacity.

Spinach Pumpkin Seed Pesto (Vegan and Nut-Free)

Ingredients

(Makes about 1-1.5 cups)

  • 1 Cup Pumpkin Seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon + ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
  • ½ Cup Fresh Spinach
  • ¼ Cup Fresh Basil
  • 2 Cloves Garlic, or to taste
  • Juice from ½ a Lemon (about 2 Tablespoons)
  • Salt to taste

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit. Toss pumpkin seeds with 1 Tablespoon of oil and salt, and spread out in single layer on a baking sheet. Toast in oven for 10-15 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside to cool slightly. Add remaining ingredients except ¼ cup oil to food processor. Pulse until ingredients form a coarse paste. While mixture is processing, slowly add ¼ cup oil, or until pesto reaches desired consistency. Toss each serving of pasta or veggie noodles with about 2 Tablespoons pesto. Add extra spinach, if desired. 

Serve with Lentil Penne, Mini Peppers and an Apple.

Growing minds and bodies need healthy, protein rich foods all day long. Check out our dietitian-approved list of simple snacks to fuel after-school sports practices. 


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