Most kids love to eat whether at home, at school, or at play. This isn’t a bad thing, as their little bellies can’t typically take in enough calories during a single meal to keep themselves fueled until their next meal. And as children grow, nutrients are more important than ever to ensure strong bones and healthy brains. In particular, kids need plenty of protein to build muscle mass and support ligament growth. On a predominately plant-based diet, as long as protein needs are met, kids’ requirements for vitamins and minerals shouldn’t be hard to meet. Of course, lots of fruits and vegetables need to make it on the menu at each meal. And luckily, it isn’t hard to provide children with plenty of protein for their growth needs.
Here are some delicious and easy to make lunch ideas for the kids that are protein-rich and fun to eat:
Peanut Butter Banana Boats
Peanut butter is packed full of protein and “sticks to the ribs” so your little one stays nice and full until dinner time. Bananas lend some natural sweetness to peanut butter and the butter adds some bulk to bananas, making them a perfect match for one another. Skip the bread and create something bright and different by putting together peanut butter banana boats for lunch. To make the boats, simply spread some peanut butter on a romaine leaf or similar type of lettuce and then top the peanut butter with half a banana. You can add raisins, cinnamon, or other toppings to spice things up a bit.
Savory Seitan Nuggets
Three ounces of seitan contains about 20 grams of protein to keep your child going strong throughout the day, and helps them build strong muscles as they play. A fun way to serve up “wheat-meat” is to turn it into pieces of chicken-less nuggets. To make the nuggets, mix a cup of vital wheat gluten and a quarter cup of veggie broth together in a bowl. Add a tablespoon of nutritional yeast (this is optional) and half a teaspoon each of:
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Tamari or Coconut Aminos (optional)
Thoroughly mix everything together until well combined. The dough may be a little sticky and that’s alright. Set the mixture aside and bring three cups of veggie broth to a boil in a large pot. Once the broth is boiling, break the wheat gluten mixture apart into nugget sized pieces and manipulate them into your desired shape. Place the nuggets into the veggie broth and allow them to simmer on a low for about 45 minutes. You can then bread and bake or fry them for some extra texture, or bake them as-is and serve them up. Consider serving the nuggets with sweet potato fries, applesauce, or a fruit salad.
Root Veggie and Hummus Pitas
Most kids love the taste and texture of chickpea hummus, which happens to be rich in protein. You can provide a tub of hummus along with a variety of cut of veggies to dip in it, or create pitas that are packed with root veggies and are appealing for kids thanks to the help of hummus. Grab a combination of carrots, parsnips, broccoli stems, jicama, and any of your favorite root veggies then shred them into a large bowl using your food processor or with a handheld cheese grater. Add about half a cup of chickpea hummus to the veggies and stir everything together until all of the veggies get creamy. Fill pitas with the mixture and they’ll marinade until it’s time to eat at lunch time.
Blended Bean Burritos
As an excellent source of protein, beans should be included in kids’ meals often. They’re full of antioxidants and disease fighting properties, and luckily they are pretty tasty to most kids. Blending beans to wrap in tortillas gives you an opportunity to sneak in some extra veggies that your kids will never know is there. Blend some black beans with half a carrot, a little zucchini, some bell pepper, and even a mushroom or two. Add some spices like cumin and paprika to spruce things up, then spoon the beans on your tortillas along with homemade sour cream made of nuts (extra protein!) for a filling meal.
Fruit and Veggie Tofu Kabobs
As we all know, tofu is a go-to source of protein so it makes sense to include it in your kids’ lunch meals at least once in awhile. There are lots of ways to serve up tofu, thanks to the many textures available on the market. Using them to make kabobs is a fun way for kids to enjoy tofu along with colorful fruits and veggies. Marinade small squares of tofu in a little soy sauce and maple syrup overnight in the fridge, and then bake them in the oven at 450 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. After the tofu cools, thread the pieces on kabob sticks along with chunks of pineapple, red bell peppers, and apple. If your kids don’t like veggies raw, you can roast them in the oven with the tofu. Serve the kabobs with a zippy dipping sauce and a colorful slaw.
Creamy Macaroni Bake
Who doesn’t love macaroni? Unfortunately, the typical macaroni dish is filled with cheese, milk, and butter which results in a high fat and carbohydrate heavy meal which negates any protein or other nutrient benefits that might be found in it. Luckily, you can create your own homemade healthy version of macaroni and cheese. Or, you can make a creamy and delicious macaroni dish made with beans that’s full of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals – and with none of the dangerous fat. Start by blending a cup of cooked great northern beans and a cup of veggie broth along with a tablespoon of nutritional yeast and a pinch of salt until the beans get thick and creamy. Mix a box of cooked macaroni and the bean sauce together in a large bowl, adding a couple cups of chopped veggies if you can get away with it. Transfer the macaroni mixture to a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes. This is an easy yet flavorful dish that can be frozen to make easy meals throughout the week. With the help of these ideas, your kids will never get bored of the same old boring lunches whether they’re spending time at home or sitting in the school cafeteria.
Lead Image Source: Tofu Vegetable Kabobs With Peanut Sauce