Back To School: Raising Your Kids Vegan Is Difficult At Lunchtime

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When I decided to go vegan I was in the ninth grade and just starting high school. Aside from years of not eating meat in my own home, and of my volition, I made the decision to abstain from all animal products after realizing how much better I felt from not eating them regularly.

I usually brought my own lunches as a child — snacks and meals that I often prepared for myself because I was such a horrendously picky eater. Apple slices and bags of cheerios are common in the lunches of all kids, but try pulling out a grilled tofu sandwich at lunchtime and watch those first-graders’ heads turn.

I give today’s kids much more credit than my peers, as many modern kids see nothing out of the ordinary about having tempeh with their dinners or soy milk in their cereal. Veganism has seen rapid growth in awareness in the last five years or so, and while my friends mercilessly made fun of my rice and beans and soy yogurt, I often meet eight-year-olds who think nothing of enjoying a tofu-infused diet.

Nevertheless, kids getting teased over their lunches is a common occurrence and one that knows no discrimination. It seems that any kid who pulls anything veering from a PB&J on super white bread will be subject to scrutiny. So if you’re raising a vegan or vegetarian child and sending them off to the schoolyards this fall, I highly recommend The Vegan Lunchbox by Jennifer McCann.

A mother herself, Jennifer has plotted out all kinds of lunch combinations for kids that easy to make and simple to pack — in fact, I use many of them for my work lunches! There are also many recipes that are wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and nut-free for kids with allergies. While most of the recipes are for kids lunches, many of them can also work as quick snacks and lunches for home if your taste buds are getting bored.

So send your meat-free kids to class this autumn with options that will intrigue their meat-eating peers, not garner raised eyebrows. Should they encounter some hostility on the lunch benches, remind them that many kids have survived lunchtime tauntings before them.