The WFPB School Lunch Dilemma

Well, it’s back-to-school time and if you’re like me, you’re starting to plan for school lunches and realizing options are extremely limited. At my son Ryan’s school, he has the option of buying lunch or bringing it on any given day. The school provides a menu for us to review each month, and wow is there a ton of unhealthy crap on there!

For example, in the first week of school, we’re looking at pancakes, beef patties, stuffed crust pizza, and Mexican pizza. So yeah, we’ll be sending lunch with Ryan. The difficulty with that is although we’ve instilled in our kids that healthy food is preferable over junk food and why, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to want the junk. After all, they’re kids, and kids love crappy food. Some of you are probably thinking right now, “Well, MY kids go crazy for fruits and vegetables and prefer that over pancakes or cheesy pizza any day!” — Yeah, ok. Let’s just say your kids are outliers. I’m talking to the majority here. As parents, we can feed our kids WFPB meals every day, but at some point they’re going to find a way to try fast food and junk food, and they’re going to love it. And when they go to school, they’re going to see their friends chowing down on all of this garbage and they’re going to ask you if they can buy lunch and get in on it too.

For us, we allow Ryan to buy lunch every now and then but certainly not even close to every day. That way, he doesn’t have to feel left out, or worse, get ostracized for eating “weird” food by kids who don’t understand anything about nutrition. We try our best to find a balance. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and we all know kids can be mean.

So what can we send with our kids to give them a WFPB school lunch? Let’s take a look at options.

First, there’s the obvious — sandwiches. If you’re strictly going oil-free, there are a few options for breads. Most people are aware of the popular Ezekiel breads that are ridiculously expensive, and to me taste like cardboard. If you like them and can afford them, go for it. There are some alternatives though. Here’s a list I found, but it’s from 2013, so I’m sure there are several others that have popped up as the WFPB diet has risen in popularity. You can also check with your local grocery store, especially if you live near a Whole Foods or Wegmans. They often make bread in-house and might have an oil-free whole wheat variety that could work well in your WFPB school lunch.

“Ok, I got the bread. What can I put on it?” Good question. If you’re avoiding jarred peanut butter because of the oil, I’d recommend grabbing some powdered peanut butter. All you do is add water and it’s free of the fat and oil traditional PB brings with it. Pair it with some natural jelly or jam and you’re good to go for PB&J!

But let’s face it. You can’t give your kids PB&J every day. They’ll probably start to secretly plan a revolt. So what else? There are some great vegan deli meat options out there, but reading the ingredients before buying is essential. Some have oil or other additives you may want to avoid. But there are some, like Lightlife Deli Ham, that seem pretty decent. (No, I’m not paid for any recommendations!) Add some lettuce and my oil-free mayo, and you have yourself a simple but yummy sandwich!

And then there’s always leftovers. If you made something the night before that your kids love, and it seems like it wouldn’t be too bad as cold leftovers the next day, you could always send that along too!

For sides, a piece of fruit, some cut up veggies with Caesar dressing, plant-based yogurt, or even some lightly salted popcorn can be hits with the kids as well and are great ways to round out a WFPB school lunch. Pro tip: if you find your little ones aren’t eating the fruit you send in their lunches, peel and/or cut the fruit. There are actual studies that show kids are more likely to eat sliced apples than a whole one. Kids are… weird.

What else do you send in your kids’ WFPB school lunches? Let’s share some ideas in the comments and help each other out!

1 Comment

  1. Nina Windhauser says:

    My kids love homemade Nutella on their sandwiches or sun butter and banana slices. I pair with fruit, pretzels, trail mix and sometimes some organic fruit snacks I found that have no dyes or corn syrup

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