Sustainable School Lunch — Loving On Leftovers

June 2nd, 2016 - filed under: The Food » Food and Health

Healthy Vegan School Lunch Tips

Spring has sprung and summer is on the way, which means my weekly CSA box is positively packed with fresh produce, like strawberries, apricots, avocados, carrots, cukes, zucchinis, greens and so much more! Waits recently blew my mind by declaring his love for raw zucchini, and proceeding to eat almost an entire raw zucchini, cut into discs, alongside his dinner. These vegan kids, man!

This time of year, when the fresh food is finally flowing again, it can be easy to rely on that abundance of produce to comprise the bulk of our childrens’ school lunches. And it makes sense! Fresh fruits are full of easily-assimilated energy (simple carbs), healthy vitamins, and of course, hydration hydration hydration. And vegetables are an excellent source of so many nutritious minerals and micronutrients, not to mention fiber. I mean, what’s not to love?

Well, my fellow veg parents, this is your friendly mom-to-mom reminder, from my kitchen to yours. Because I see veg parents making this mistake a lot, both online and in real life. Fruits and veggies are healthy, and delicious, and kids love them, and they are just so pretty! A rainbow lunch is beautiful, and it makes us feel like we’re giving our kids the very best. Especially since we know that most American children do not meet their minimum requirements for fruits and vegetables.

But . . . most vegan children? Well, they don’t need to load up on more fruits and veggies. They’re already getting plenty! So before you pack on the extra produce, please keep in mind that there are other macronutrients which are equally essential: protein and fat! Growing bodies need both of these, and while fruits and veggies are super high in micronutrients, they tend to be very low (*too* low) in calories, and almost entirely lacking in these oh-so-essential macronutrients.

So, make sure your weegan school lunch packs a super protein punch, with concentrated sources of plant-based protein like tofu, beans, lentils, seitan, peanut butter, and pistachios.

And ensure your weegans are getting healthy fats for long-lasting energy and satiating calorie density, with delicious favorites like avocados, nuts and seeds, coconut, and healthy oils like olive, hemp, or flax.

Around our house, we tend to eat very dense dinners, so as you’ll see in the following lunches, I often rely on leftovers to provide the protein and fat that I know my growing vegan needs. Here’s a few examples of what our lunches have looked like lately, as we’ve moved through spring and started to glimpse the abundance of the coming summer bounty:


  • Leftover spaghetti! Organic brown rice pasta with organic marinara and Beyond Meat crumbles.
  • Trail mix with almonds, cashews, dried pineapple and dried cranberry.
  • Organic apple slices.
  • Organic corn chips.
  • His treat — a few chlorella tablets which he pops like candy. Those vegan kids, man!
  • Strawberry + peanut butter + kale protein smoothie, in the Panda Squooshi reusable squeeze pouch.
  • The lunch box is our new absolute fave! It’s the Planet Box Rover and we use it almost every day. Waits adores it and I love that it’s reusable, long-lasting, and it’s super easy to clean. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!



  • Leftover chia pudding! I like to make it in large batches. It’s high in protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids, and Waits just loves it. This one was made with oat milk and blueberries.
  • A small hand full of organic shredded wheat cereal.
  • A wee tin of organic cinnamon almonds from our local farmer’s market.
  • Organic carrots and sugar snap peas from the CSA.
  • Local organic blood oranges, also from the CSA.
  • His treat — 2 locally grown dates. They taste just like carmel!
  • Same amazing Planet Box lunch box.



  • Leftover burrito! Simple refried beans, brown rice, and cheeze.
  • Organic strawberries from our CSA (I use these adorable picks).
  • A slice of homemade zucchini bread. SO good!
  • Local organic snap peas and tangerines from our farm box.
  • His treat — cinnamon & sugar almonds from the farmer’s market.
  • Strawberry & kale protein smoothie, in the Penguin Squooshi reusable squeeze pouch.
  • Same super fly stainless steel Planet Box Rover.





  • Leftover spaghetti bolognese. Organic brown rice pasta with organic marinara, vegan cheese, and Beyond Meat crumbles.
  • Organic strawberries from our farm box, sprinkled with hemp seeds.
  • Leftover savory baked tofu strips.
  • Organic carrots, cucumbers, and celery.
  • His treat — dried wild blueberries.


And there you have it — another round of healthy, seasonal, plant-powered and eco-friendly lunches. Each including a miniature rainbow, but also centered around a calorie-dense, protein-packed main staple, to keep my little vegan going long and strong till dinner time.

So don’t forget those leftovers! ♥


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  • Sarah C.

    I want you to make MY lunches! ;)

    I always work to get protein and carbs into my girl’s lunch (and every meal), but we’re also limited by a nut-free school and the fact that we don’t really eat a lot of plant “meats” – so there’s a lot of repetition in her lunches (lots of baked tofu, hummus with dippers, slices of bean quesadilla, rice and beans — a major favorite — and stuff like that). I wish she still liked sunbutter like she used to. And I also wish I’d bought some of those reusable smoothie packets years ago – I would have saved a bundle of waste! I’ll have to work at including more leftovers – she could easily enjoy a tofu stir-fry or similar – and planning meals that can be eaten as leftover.

    Out of curiosity, does Waits do summer camps and stuff so you can work over the summer?

  • lysette

    So cool Waits is still chomping chlorella tablets!

  • Monika {windycityvegan}

    What a fun post! I love seeing your lunches for Waits on IG. I only snapchat mine, because we have zero natural light in the wee hours of the morning and for some reason, grainy photos just seem more at home on SC than they do on IG.

    I love packing Ni’s lunch every morning – there is always fat and protein (her metabolism is F A S T, but lately she has been anti-leftovers and anti-plant meat because the texture changes in the 5+ hours between when I pack something and when she eats it. So, it’s a lot of trail mix and Kite Hill yogurt with add-ins, or Justin’s nut butter pouches (I stock up like crazy when they are on sale).

    I’m trying to get her to use a bento box, but she really loves her thermos and having everything in individual containers and pouches. She’s also asked me if I’ll start following the menu that her school puts out so that she can a bring similar-looking entree (vegan mac on her school’s mac ‘n’ cheese day, etc). I’ll enjoy the challenge when the new school year begins, but I doubt I’ll keep it up all semester. ;)

  • Rebecca Carnes

    I love using leftovers!! Unfortunately Ps school is nut free :( otherwise I’d love to throw some trail mix in there. So we use Sunbutter for our PB&J sammies, lots of bean/lentil dishes….hummus and veggies to dip. Today was a lazy day for me so I actually packed him some leftover pancakes and agave to dip lol. Will just call it a treat day ha!

  • Angie

    I get such great ideas from these posts and think I want to try chlorella tablets.

  • Jennifer Douglas-Craig

    MY KIDS EAT LIKE BIRDS! Thank you thank you thank you for these posts. And this reminder to include calorie dense protein and fat. My biggest concern is that my kids don’t get enough calories and lately we’ve been relying on fruit since it’s so hot here in LA. You’re an amazing mom. Thanks for taking the time to put this together and share it with us.

  • Melissa_HerGreenLife

    I guess Waits is okay with the leftovers being served chilled or at room temp? We’ve been spoiled with a preschool that was willing to reheat my son’s lunch for him (our lunches are almost entirely dinner leftovers), but we won’t have that going into kindergarten this fall, and I’m not sure how that will go.

    Thanks for sharing these snapshots and the containers that you use!

  • Sayward Rebhal

    Yeah he loves cold leftovers (so do I!) so it’s not a problem. I bet your kiddo will be fine with it!

  • veronika

    Sayward, I love revisiting these kind lunch posts as reminders and for new ideas. More, please! :) And many thanks!