This article was co-authored by Patricia Somers, RD, PhD. Patricia Somers is a Registered Dietitian and an Associate Professor of the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Texas at Austin. She received her RD from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 1979 and her PhD in Educational Administration (Higher Education Specialization) from the University of New Orleans. She received an Emerging Scholar Award from the American Association of University Women and the Faculty Excellence Award in Research from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.
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Lots of people are vegetarian, and in most cases your school will provide a vegetarian option each day for students. This vegetarian option might be easy to find, nicely varied and tasty to eat, but then again it might not. Get to grips with your school’s menu and the types of vegetarian lunches they provide. Vegetarian options can be limited, so if you’d like to have more control and choice, consider making and bringing your own vegetarian packed lunch.
Method 1 of 3:
Taking Up Your School’s Vegetarian Options
1Look at the menu. Most schools will have a menu for school lunches, and depending on where you go it may be predictable or a bit random. If you’re looking to eat vegetarian lunches, it’s a good idea to make it a habit to check the menu. There may be one pinned up on a school bulletin board or on your school campus somewhere.
- In some schools, the menu may be posted online. Be sure to check out the school website, as there may be a link.
- Some schools record the lunches under the school calendars that are also found online.
2Note the vegetarian choices. Once you have found the menu, spend a few minutes looking over the vegetarian choices that are available to you. Are there options there that you like? How much variety is there day-to-day?
- You can expect to find things such as vegetarian pizza, vegetable soups, pasta, baked potatoes, and veggie burgers.
- Other popular options include tacos and burritos, and foods that include meat substitute products.
- There may be a sandwich station where you can make a veggie sandwich or pre-made vegetarian sandwiches, such as a nut butter and jelly bread.
- Once you have a clear idea of what the vegetarian options your school typically offers are, it will be easier to recognize them when they pop up on the menu.
- Look out for markers that indicate a vegetarian meal on the menu. Typically you will see a “V” next to a vegetarian item.
- If you are uncertain, ask the person serving the meals.
3Know your school’s policy. Schools are encouraged to provide vegetarian options, but unless you have special dietary needs, they are not obliged to provide vegetarian meals for students. Legally schools do not have to make food substitutions based on the food choices of a family or a child about what constitutes a healthy meal. If you have an allergy of other serious medical reason, then the school has to provide a safe non-allergic meal. X Research source
- Schools are not required to accommodate religious dietary restrictions in schools meals, although some do.
- Schools cannot infringe upon a student’s right to practice their religion, but as students can bring in their own meals, school lunches do not have to meet the criteria for different religions. X Research source
4Talk to your school. If you think your school is not providing adequate healthy vegetarian options for lunch, talk to your teachers and friends about it. If you and your friends would like to see more vegetarian options on the menu, your teachers may be able to do something about it.
- Introducing more vegetarian options is recommended by medical professionals as a way to help kids be healthy.
- It has also been cited as a good way to work towards meeting the US Department of Agriculture’s National School Lunch Program Regulations. X Research source
Method 2 of 3:
Making a Vegetarian Packed Lunch
1Find some vegetarian packed lunch options. If you like to choose your own lunches, or you think the school’s vegetarian options aren’t very good, you should bring vegetarian packed lunches to school. A packed lunch means you can decide what you want to eat each day, and you can vary the menu as often as you like.
- Start by making a list of some vegetarian meals you like.
- Determine which ones will work best as packed school lunches.
- Normally you will eat your school lunch cold, so think of things like salads and sandwiches.
- Look online for vegetarian packed lunch options. X Research source
2Make a shortlist of your favourites. Once you’ve found lots of nice recipes for vegetarian lunch options, pick out some of your favourites, and those which will work well as a packed lunch. Sandwiches and salads are good options, but you can broaden your options to include wraps, tacos, pizza and lots more.
- Dips can be a tasty and healthy vegetarian lunch option.
- Pack a container of hummus with some chopped carrots, tomatoes, and toasted pita slices.
- Always add in a piece of fruit, such as an apple or a banana. X Trustworthy Source National Health Service (UK) Public healthcare system of the UK Go to source
3Get a balanced lunch. When you are drawing up your shortlist of top vegetarian lunches, try to make sure that you are putting together a healthy and balanced lunch. You should make sure that each lunch box menu has starchy foods, protein foods, a dairy item, vegetables or a salad, and a portion of fruit.
- Starchy foods are a good source of energy, and should make up around a third of the food. Bread, rice, potatoes, and pasta are examples of starchy foods. Try to get some variety, and choose wholegrain bread.
- Being a vegetarian doesn’t mean you can skip the protein. Meat is a major source of protein, but you can replace it with beans, eggs, tofu, quinoa, nuts, or a host of other things.
- Try to have one dairy item, such as cheese, in your sandwich. Alternatively you could opt for a yoghurt. A carton of low-fat milk is another good dairy option.
- Have a salad or vegetables in each lunch, and always include a portion of fruit. X Trustworthy Source National Health Service (UK) Public healthcare system of the UK Go to source
4Plan out your lunches for the week. Try to plan out your lunches for the week so you know what ingredients you will need. If you have a clear picture of what you will need for the next week, you can shop smartly and avoid buying excess food which won’t get eaten.
- Pack a fresh lunch each day.
- If you prepare the lunch the night before, make sure you leave it in the fridge overnight so it stays fresh.
- If you have the facilities to heat up food, you may be able to cook a big meal on the weekend, such as vegetable soup, and bring the leftovers in to heat up.
Method 3 of 3:
Dealing With Being a Vegetarian at School
1Answer questions. Even though it has become increasingly common for people to be vegetarian, and to a lesser extent vegan, you may still be a bit of a novelty at your school. If you are one of very few people only eating vegetarian food every day, you can expect to get some questions from your peers. Be polite and patient, and try to take questions in good humour.
- If someone asks you what you eat, explain that there are loads of delicious vegetarian options, including a variety of meat substitutes.
- You could even offer them a taste of your delicious vegetarian meal to show them that being vegetarian doesn’t mean only eating salad and tofu.
- If someone asks you why you are vegetarian, be honest and straightforward.
- You could say something like, “I just don’t like the idea of animals suffering, or of eating animals.”
- If you are open, honest and accepting of other people’s choices, they may be more likely to respond openly to you.
2Deal with taunts. It’s likely that not all the questions you get from your peers are going to be friendly curiosity. Some people might make fun of you or taunt you for being vegetarian, especially if you are one of very few in your class. If this happens, keep your cool and don’t get angry. There’s nothing to be gained by getting in an argument, and it may only spur them on.
- If someone taunts you by saying something like “I just ate a cow!” or, “You need meat to be strong,” try to shrug it off.
- You could just say “Okay, good for you.”
- You could even ask a question in return, such as, “Why does me being vegetarian bother you so much?”
- Being positive about vegetarianism rather than negative about people who eat meat is likely to create a better environment and understanding amongst your peers. X Research source
3Start a vegetarian club. An excellent way to make being a vegetarian at school more fun is to join or start a vegetarian club. This will help you to meet more like-minded people, spread some awareness about vegetarianism, and have fun at mealtimes by introducing each other to new vegetarian recipes.
- The rules on starting a club will vary from school to school, so ask your teacher about how to go about it.
- Often there will be an activities co-ordinator who you will need to talk to.
- Your group can start out as a way to hang out with other vegetarians and share tips and recipes, but you could also use it as a way to explain why you are vegetarian to others. X Research source
- You can also invite non-vegetarians to come along and to try out some vegetarian food.
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- ↑ http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/special_dietary_needs.pdf
- ↑ http://education.findlaw.com/student-rights/religious-accommodation-for-students.html
- ↑ http://www.fns.usda.gov/nslp/national-school-lunch-program-nslp
- ↑ http://www.inhabitots.com/vegetarian-school-lunch-box-ideas-for-kids/
- ↑ http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/childhealth6-15/Pages/Lighterlunchboxes.aspx
- ↑ http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/childhealth6-15/Pages/Lighterlunchboxes.aspx
- ↑ http://www.vrg.org/blog/2012/07/23/vegetarianism-and-interpersonal-struggles-dealing-with-aggressive-opposition/
- ↑ http://www.vrg.org/blog/2013/05/28/how-do-i-start-a-veganvegetarian-club-at-my-school/