Lunchbox Challenge: Vegetarian Camp Lunches

After nearly 2 weeks of cobbled together childcare, camp mom, and family "vacation" my older son is finally back at day camp. So I'm sifting through the options of lunches to pack for my little vegetarian. PB & J is off the table since this camp has a no-nuts policy. Uh oh!

As a natural foods chef instructor who handles special diets and occasionally cooks in very limited facilities (i.e. classes in conference rooms!), I've overcome some unique menu challenges. I often feel like I'm on one of those chef sabotage game shows, a la Alton Brown, in which he ties contestants' hands behind their backs and asks them to make bouillabaisse in 20 minutes. But day camp lunch poses my most challenging set of menu parameters to date. Meals must be:

  1. vegetarian per order of the child

  2. nut-free per order of the camp

  3. balanced per order of the mom, i.e. containing all food groups

  4. portable, durable and not too perishable to stand up to field trips and miles of hiking in the great outdoors before lunch time

  5. eaten at room temperature or as cold as the mini ice-pack will keep them

  6. eaten without utensils

  7. made in batches or in advance

  8. varied from day to day

Challenge accepted. Since we've been down this road before and had to get pretty creative in summers past, I thought I'd share some of these ideas with you. Links to some of the recipes mentioned are also below when you click the photo. Now if only I had accurate photography for all of this. The boxed lunch is rarely photogenic and there is rarely time to snap a pic when hustling out the door. In the comments, please share your favorite vegetarian nut-free camp lunches with us! Also, if you think your kid won't eat many of the items listed here, just try it. You never know what they'll start to like because they were starving and had no other option but to eat what was in their lunchbox while at camp.