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Kids’ lunchboxes: What to feed vegetarian children

Tips and ideas for a meat-free lunchbox.

Good vegetarian eating is as healthy as non-vegetarian eating. Children will grow well without animal foods in their diet, provided there are not excessive restrictions on foods. Lacto (those who eat dairy products) and lacto–ovo (those who eat dairy and eggs) vegetarians have more choices available to them than vegans, but with care all nutrient needs can be met by most vegetarian diets.

Vegetarian diets are often high in fibre and this may make it difficult for young children to get enough energy. So small, frequent snacks are needed. Getting enough protein can be a concern, but a good mix of plant foods such as soy and pulses will provide adequate protein.


  • Fruit – fresh, small pots or dried fruit
  • Fruit bread
  • Jam  or honey sandwiches
  • Jelly or jelly and fruit pots
  • Yoghurt
  • Plain biscuits or cereal bars
  • Carrot sticks, small tomatoes and celery sticks add vitamins
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Falafels are tasty served cold and are a high-protein snack that add energy – put in a small container of yoghurt dip or sauce
  • Popcorn
  • Whole grain bread for energy, protein and B vitamins
    Include some white bread to increase energy
  • Use different types of bread and rolls for variety

Filling suggestions

Vegetable protein foods are tasty and can be used separately or in sandwiches. These add protein and energy. Try:

  • Soy sausages or patties with bread
  • Soy luncheon slices
  • Soy franks – in a  long roll for a vege 'hot dog' – add mushrooms and cheese

Other good sandwich fillings:

  • Tofu and tempeh
  • Hummus for protein and energy – try the different flavours
  • Peanut butter for protein, fats and energy
  • Nut spreads for energy and fats
  • Marmite/Vegemite to provide B vitamins
  • Salad veges for vitamins
  • Egg for protein and vitamin B12
  • Cheese for protein and vitamin B12


  • Keep the sandwiches small – cut into fingers or other interesting shapes
  • Tahini for spread or in hummus adds calcium and fats and lots of flavour
  • Cottage cheese is a tasty spread and adds protein and some calcium
  • Dips make tasty spreads – try butternut and pumpkin seed dips, baba ganoush (eggplant dip) or bean and capsicum dips – check out the chiller at the supermarket for the varieties

A meal in a pocket: pita bread

  • Pita bread is a great option and makes a change from the usual sandwich
  • Spread the inside of the pita pocket with hummus, a dip or tahini for flavour and extra energy
  • Mini pita pockets with lettuce, corn, tomatoes, mushrooms and grated cheese or egg slices or soy luncheon slices
  • Falafels sliced and mixed with salad with a little sauce
  • Rice or pasta salads with veges and nuts for energy, vitamins, protein and fibre
  • Remember the bottle of frozen water to keep the lunchbox cool
  • Flavoured milk for protein, calcium and energy
  • Diluted juice for energy

Date modified: 3 April 2017
First published: Oct 2005


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