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Lunch Options for the Vegetarian Kiddo

Posted Jul 29 2009 12:02am

You and your family may be trying to eat more vegetarian fare. Or, even better, you might have taken the plunge.

And then it sinks in: come mid August, your child will be bombarded with greasy, unhealthy food in the school cafeteria.

Whether your little one attends a “meat- and nut-free” school, or you simply wish to ward off the deep-fried chicken, here are a few ideas for your Back-to-School grocery list:

Pre-fab snacks. Some foods are as easy as popping it in the oven and into a stainless steel lunchbox. Want protein? Many parents say their kids love vegetarian corn dogs, burgers or other meat substitutes.

Hummus. Canned or bulk, chickpeas are cheap and easy. Mash them, add some garlic and lemon juice, and Viola! I can get *any* kid to snack on this bean paste. For variety, add a hint of jalepeno and a lot of fresh cilantro. Que bueno! Great dippers: whole grain crackers, tortilla or pita chips, carrots, celery, bell peppers. Yum! (Psst: chickpeas with a bit of herbs for seasoning are a good snack on their own, too.)

Eggs as meat. If you’re vegetarian and not vegan, eggs are a great protein source. I have chickens, so I’m always making egg salad so not a single purty egg goes to waste. Another way we like our hard boileds? Peel them, and put a few dashes of Braggs in the container. Simple and tasty.

Carb-tastic. Pasta, especially whole grain pasta, is a good filler. If you’re a busy parent, make in bulk at the beginning of the week. Add a bit of garlic, fresh basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes, and your kiddo will be happy and full.

Sandwiches. When opting out of nuts, what is left for the hungry kid? A couple of ideas:

  • If the school is simply “peanut-free”, go for almond or sunflower butter. Add honey or homemade jam.
  • Avocado, sprouts, tomato. These are delicious on seed-studded bread. Garnish with spicy or Dijon mustard. Tofu, if you use it, goes great with these ingredients.
  • Cheese sandwich. Grilled or cold, it’s a standby favorite for kids. If you serve it warm, don’t forget the Thermos of tomato soup!
  • Quesadillas. Open a can of black beans, add some cheese, and make a tortilla “sandwich”. Bake in the oven or in the microwave, and garnish with salsa and/or sour cream.

Dont forget the fruit! Pick a fruit that’s local and in season, if possible. But if you need to cheat for the pickier eater, go tropical, like pineapple or mangoes.

There are many, many more ideas for vegetarian lunch planning. I’d love to hear yours!

Image: Muffet on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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