Back to School with Plant-Strong Lunch Boxes!

When explaining to others who ask about our family’s personal slant toward eating as plant-based as possible, my husband often says,  “it’s a preference, not a religion.”  I like that.

Since joining the Healthy Eating team at Whole Foods Market corporate office this summer, I’ve come to really appreciate the company’s point of view on diet which essentially suggests that everyone — regardless of personal preference on meat, fish, dairy or gluten — can benefit from eating as many foods as possible that contain the following four pillars of good-for-you-ness:

  • Plant-Strong (the Engine 2 coined term)
  • Whole foods
  • Healthy fats
  • Nutrient Dense

You can learn more about these pillars on the nutrition page of the WFM web site.

Many of you Mamas and Papas are gearing up for another school year — or possibly sending your child to school for the first time.  Many others are homeschooling or still have toddlers at home for lunch.  Whatever your personal situation — here’s some ideas for creating Plant Strong lunches and snacks for your Little Ones that I put together recently for the Engine 2 blog:

Grain & Bean Roll-ups. Use left-over grains, veggies and beans from dinner and wrap in a whole grain tortilla.  Add sliced black olives and avocado for extra yum.

Raw Veggies and Hummus. Sliced cucumbers, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes

Sliced Apples and Raw Almond Butter. We try to opt for raw almond butter over peanut butter because it doesn’t share the same allergen and toxicity issues of peanuts but our girls prefer the taste of peanut butter. Read more about raw versus roasted nuts below.

Berries & Raw, Unsalted Raw Nuts. If you or your children prefer the taste of roasted nuts, roast them at home keeping the temperature below 170 degrees. When nuts are roasted above 170 degrees, the monounsaturated fats can break down and free radicals can form, causing damage to the cells. In addition, “acrylamides” form which have been shown to cause cancer in animals and are believed to increase the risk of cancer in humans.

Mashed Sweet Potato. You can bake the night before.

Apple Almond Butter Sandwich. Unsweetened apple butter and almond butter on whole grain bread.  A twist on this sandwich is recommended by Cynthia Lair in Feeding the Whole Family, who suggests mixing a teaspoon of white miso into the apple butter.

Kale Butter Sandwich. A clever way to get more of that powerhouse green in your children’s diet is with “Kale Butter” — an Engine 2 recipe.  Steam a bunch of kale for five minutes and put in blender with ½ cup walnuts and 4 cup of the water from steaming the kale — add a little salt if you like.  Spread on your sandwich bread with avocados, tomatoes, or hummus — whatever floats your family boat.

Another resource for Plant Strong lunch ideas:  Vegan Lunch Box Around the World

And when you’re packing lunches, consider some Earth Friendly re-usable bag alternatives to using paper bags and plastic baggies:

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2 Responses to “Back to School with Plant-Strong Lunch Boxes!”

  1. Wendy H says:

    I’m always curious what vegans think about soy products. Do you eat them? Do you worry about or consider the estrogen? Do you worry about how processed they are to form tofu, milk, yogurt meat substitute, etc? If you don’t eat them, what do you do for protein? If you have considered all the above concerns, can you tell me why Whole Foods (a place I love to shop) sells so many soy products? The more research I do, the more concerned I get. We personally eat no soy, but we used to because we thought it was a good thing…



  2. Dawn says:

    Ah, my heart is with you but, alas, my kids sit next to traditional lunch-eaters. Today I found the raw beet sticks and carrots untouched (normally would have been eaten first if he was at home.) I’m trying so hard not to get sucked into the chips and cookie black hole. At least he knows already that “tray lunches” are gross and don’t make you strong. 🙂

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