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Back-to-School Vegan Lunch Ideas

Written by Ashley Palmer | August 29, 2011

So long, summer! With school starting (or just around the corner for a few lucky kids), most parents have back-to-school clothes, school supplies, and new backpacks on their minds. One thing you don’t want to overlook is making sure that your child has a complete, nutritious, and tasty meal while at school. Luckily for you, I’m here to help you pack a lunch with punch!

Load Up on Fruits and Veggies

Fresh fruits and vegetables are obviously great choices for packed lunches. To liven things up, add a small container of homemade hummus, vegan cream cheese, or creamy peanut butter for dipping. Pop the lunch box in the freezer overnight, or put a cold pack in it to keep everything fresh.

1 lb. chickpeas, cooked
3 cloves garlic
2–3 Tbsp. lemon juice
2–3 Tbsp. water
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped coriander
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt, to taste
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. paprika

  • Put the chickpeas, garlic, lemon juice, water, parsley, and coriander into a food processor or blender and blend to a smooth paste. Gradually add the olive oil, stirring constantly. Stir in the salt.
  • Pour the hummus into a serving dish. Drizzle the olive oil over it and sprinkle on the paprika.
  • Serve at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

Send a Complete Meal

Pack all the fixin’s for a cold pizza pocket or a build-your-own burrito in small containers. Once at school, your child can create his or her own lunch from scratch. This is a great way to keep the ingredients from getting that soggy texture that’s all too common in packed lunches.

Cold Pizza Pocket
1 whole grain pita pocket
2 Tbsp. tomato sauce
1 cup assorted fresh vegetables
1 Tbsp. vegan cheese, optional
1 tsp. basil or oregano, optional

  • Tear pita in half, fill it with all the ingredients, and enjoy!

Makes 1 serving

Build-Your-Own Burrito
2 Tbsp. salsa
1 Tbsp. guacamole
2 Tbsp. black beans
Cubed baked tofu, chopped lettuce, onions, peppers
1 soft tortilla shell

  • Take your pick of fillings and place them on the tortilla. Roll it up and start munching!

Makes 1 serving

Dessert Can Be Simple

Happily for us, some fruits can be disguised as dessert to fool the unsuspecting student! Some of my favorites include dates, mandarin oranges, and strawberries. Or create a simple trail mix to please the palate and give your child extra energy during afternoon classes.

Simple Trail Mix
1/4 cup mini pretzels
1/2 cup mixed nuts
1/4 cup dried pineapple
1/4 cup raisins
1 vegan chocolate bar, roughly chopped
1/4 cup coconut flakes, optional

  • Mix all the ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 cups 

Brave the Lunch Line

Let’s be honest―it’s bound to happen: You’re too busy to pack a lunch, or your child forgets his or her lunch at home. Be sure to store a few dollars in your child’s backpack or locker, just in case. Asking your child’s school to provide vegetarian and vegan options is a great start, but it’s more persuasive if the request comes from the student. Take a look at peta2′s latest campaign, The Veggie Burger Project, to help you get started.

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  • Yani says:

    I’ve been vegetarian for 1 1/2 years & I’m testing out a Vegan lifestyle for week. I truly thank PETA for all the recipes & Vegan food lists. Wish me luck & hopefully this little test can be a permanent change ^-^

  • rnamok says:

    See Forks over Knives if you want to understand that we really do get enough protein from veges and legumes… also to understand why letting go of dairy is really good for you (including your bones).

  • Laci says:

    I’m 14….school lunches are unhealthy and so cruel. I love taking my cruelty-free, healthy, and of course DELICIOUS food to school to share with all who question it. Thanks for the recipes, PETA!

  • marleetayte says:

    Hey all!
    My name is Marlee Hancock, I am 14 years old, and I am not vegan or vegetarian. I have tried SO many times, because I love animals, and I hate thinking about what I’m eating. I am not vegetarian only because my whole family are classic meat-eaters, and I just so happened to be born just like my daddy.. Chugging whole milk, snacking on ham, eating cheese, and sitting down to beautiful dinners full of chicken. I get on this website for inspiration to become vegetarian, and I eventually want to become vegan. I’ve just recently wrote to my local congress member about the horse slaughter in Canada, Mexico, and of course, the U.S. I do everything that a veggetarian/vegan would do, minus the veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables and fruits, but it’s nearly impossible to survive 3 days of just vegetables, fruits, nuts, and juices. It’s not because meat is something I MUST have, it’s flavor. I’m a classic Italian, and I HAVE to have flavor in my food, and I can’t eat the same-tasting thing over and over again. Plus, my mom only buys meat products and non-vegan friendly things. We’re not animal friendly at all when it comes to food! How can I make it as a vegetarian in my crazy little Italiani family? I love you Peta People!

  • angie says:

    Just a note that just because a food is vegan or vegetarian doesn’t mean it isn’t harming or possibly causing extinction of certain animals…particularly palm oil…palm oil plantations are causing deforestation in the rainforests and animal extinction: Greenhouse gas emissions also result when rainforest is cleared for oil palm plantations. Worse, oil palm plantations support very low levels of biodiversity, meaning most of the plants and animals once found in the rainforest must either move or perish. Oil palm plantations are not good for wildlife and endangered species like the orangutan, the Sumatran rhino, the pygmy elephant of Borneo, and the Sumatran tiger are all threatened by development for oil palm. so please read ingredients and don’t buy palm oil products.

  • theresa says:

    Being a vegan can be very inexpensive. Rice and beans are just as cheap as mac & cheese, probably cheaper. Spaghetti & tomato sauce, etc…

  • lori russo says:

    it’s just so refereshing to hear from other vegetarian/vegan parents. as it stands, we are the only vegetarian family in our town. my 5 yr old son just started kindergarten and it would sure be great if he has some veggie friends! nonetheless he is very proud of his vegetarianism and what it represents. i have no trouble packing his daily lunch and snack. he eats fruits, veggies, raisins, yogurt, veggie turkey subs and even cooled off veggie nuggets with ketchup. keep up the good work all you fellow veggie parents!!

  • Kenady says:

    So I’m a strict vegetarian and want to go vegan, but my diet as it is, is terrible. Only because i cant afford to buy produce, and alot of fake meat/tofu. i survive off of things like mac ‘n cheese or junk food around the house. i can barley afford to be a vegetarian. how can i go vegan?

  • heather fortsch says:

    i love the vegan meal ideas. i am a 13 year old vegetarian-trying-to-go-vegan and i think that these recipes are really helpful. thanks to everyone at peta!!

  • Burning Eucalyptus says:

    Those are great ideas! Sadly, for my health and the animals, I am only vegetarian because of my parents’ restrictions. But I eat vegan as often as possible. This makes it ten times easier! Thank you!

    By the way, if any of you want to visit my website, here it is:

    Thanks again! =)

  • AkiraMakena says:

    ^-^ I pack my own lunches. Usually a tempeh burrito (with taco seasoning), or a Greek pita pocket, or a BBQ tofu sammy. Peta’s Vegan College Cookbook really helps me with school lunch :o

  • Toby says:

    I would want more protein with that pizza… I mean, I’m not a child, but still, I would think that cheese, vegetables & pita would not have enough protein; Tofurkey deli slice pieces or something like that would be really nice along with that recipe.

    -Veganism isn’t about food, but food is a big part of it & it is an ethical imperative… how great to have such good parents around… they may be few & far between, but how great to have any vegan parents with vegan kids around at all!

  • Francielovesanimals says:

    hi. I am a vegan eater .my name is Francie.I am seven yeaers oldd my parent’s pack mmmmmmmmmmmmeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee vegan lunches. I love peta!!!!.

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