Some people think vegan and vegetarian are the same. So before we get into the merits of packing a vegan lunch for your child… let’s start with some definitions. #LessonsFirst. This way, we can all be on the same page. And at the next cookout when the chef places cheese slices atop the plant-based patties on the grill, we won’t have the urge to mistakenly whisper to our nearest friend and say, “Oh, they must be vegans.”
No, vegans are not from some Star Trek sister planet of Vulcan. They (probably) don’t have pointed ears and don’t necessarily greet each other with stylish handshakes… But they are quite different from vegetarians. The definition of vegan is a diet consisting of no foods that come from animals (which includes all meat, eggs and dairy products… even honey and Jello). Also, a strict vegan also will not use any products made from animals, such as leather. Think of vegans as refusing to harm (or even take from) any member of the animal kingdom.
Let’s Break It Down
Now, vegetarians simply don’t eat meat. None. Zip. Zero. No chicken, fish, seafood, beef, pork or grasshoppers. #NoMeatForThem. But eggs, cheese and ice cream are fair game for most. Well… eggs could be debatable. A surefire way to impress your family or co-workers at cocktail hour would be to know these two terms:
A lacto-ovo vegetarian eats eggs and dairy products.
A lacto vegetarian eats dairy products, but not eggs.
And, we know some of you overachievers are asking, “What about bugs?” Well, the short answer is no. Neither vegetarians nor vegans eat insects—or any living creature. But there is the urban legend of people unknowingly eating eight spiders a year while sleeping. Yuck! But don’t worry… It’s only a myth. Although, what child hasn’t accidentally swallowed a noseeum riding a bike down a hill. And what adult hasn’t tossed back a bug or two while enjoying a beverage alfresco? #WeAreAllBugEaters!
Either way, living vegan (or vegetarian) in America today is not some alternative lifestyle or a kooky fad. Many people have moral and/or spiritual reasons for being vegan. Others may choose the lifestyle for health reasons. In any case, vegans are a growing population in America.
The next myth is that vegans and vegetarians are always chewing on raw carrot and celery sticks, rice cakes and drinking tomato juice spiked with wheat grass. #WrongAgain! In fact, some of our favorite foods growing up (and even today) are vegan delights!
Think about waiting patiently for sweet peaches to ripen in the summer months. Or the aroma of fresh bread filling the house when it’s coming right out of the oven. The crispest, sweetest apples from the fall harvest. And just about every parent with children in tow has passed a display of clementines in the supermarket, only to hear the excited utterance of “Can we please get those!” The fun of peeling back the bright orange skin, while anticipating those little bites of bliss, elicits a pleasure provoking response inside us all. Many of the foods we eat are vegan including fruits, vegetables, beans, peas, grains and nuts.
But Is It Healthy?
Parents raising their children on a vegan diet are oftentimes concerned that their children receive both enough food and the proper amounts of vitamins and nutrients (especially calcium, protein and iron). Yet, the experts all agree that children can be raised on a vegan diet without any increased health risks so long as they receive proper nutrition during the stages of development. A vegan diet can satisfy all of those needs… but remember, while a steady diet of nothing but rice and french fries technically constitutes “vegan,” it would not be a healthy choice—especially for a child.
If your child is on a vegan diet, there are a variety of organizations and websites that will help parents monitor their children’s dietary intake by identifying types of foods and the vitamins and ingredients within them. Here are some examples of sites for information about the dietary needs of children and lists foods and the vitamins and nutrients within them:
So, there’s nothing wrong with packing a vegan lunch for your child… But here’s the secret: Always make it yummy!
At Oak Village Academy, we both welcome and celebrate the diversity and cultural backgrounds of all our families… And lunch time is where our students and staff are introduced, through a shared dining experience, to a variety of foods from around the world. So, even if your family isn’t vegan, going vegan for lunch once in a while can be fun, educational and delicious for all our family.
Try It At Home
Here are some vegan lunch ideas that can be packed for lunch, any day of the week:
- Veggie “sushi” rolls
- Veggie burrito wraps
- Open face bagels with toppings
- Rice cake sandwiches
- Stuffed pita bread
- (SB&J) Sunflower butter and jelly sandwiches
- Cold pasta salads
- Vegan potato salad (no mayonnaise)
- Vegan quesadilla (with non-dairy “cheese”)
- Hummus and cucumber in pita bread pockets
- Roasted vegetables (can be used in almost any of the above and are delicious cold or room temperature)
- Avocado sandwiches (squeeze some lemon or lime to prevent browning)
Fruits And Vegetables As A Side Dish
- Any fruit or veggie that’s in season
- Celery sticks (try with sunflower butter, and perhaps raisins or other dried berry)
- Apple slices
- Oranges or clementines
- Broccoli or cauliflower (raw, grilled or blanched)
- Chopped lettuce or cabbage (w/or without dressing)
- Popcorn (no butter or cheese, but try with a little oil and a sprinkle of delicious nutritional yeast)
- Granola bars
- Dry cereal
- Dried fruits
- Sunflower seeds
- Veggie “chips”
- Any 100% fruit or vegetable juice drink
- Coconut or soy milk