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Adding Plant-Based Products to Your Menu

The Humane Society of the United States

January 26, 2023

Plant-based products for K12 schools

As plant-based products are becoming more popular among school-aged children, consider how you can incorporate them into your menu. Did you know that serving plant-based products can actually save you money while allowing you to provide a greater variety of food to those in your care? Our partners at the Humane Society of the United States have amazing resources to help you add more plant-based options to your menu! 

What are Plant-Based Products? 

Plant-based products include prepared plant-based proteins like vegan beef, chicken, pork and egg products; other plant-based proteins like tofu and tempeh; and plant-based dairy products like non-dairy milk and dairy-free cheese. However, it is important to note that only tofu and tempeh are CACFP creditable. 

Why Use Plant-Based Products? 

  • There is an increased demand for plant-based meals among K-12 students. 
  • Plant-based meats are high in protein. 
  • Plant-based products can help your operation meet the demand for more plant-based meals while also keeping prep-time low. 
  • Plant-based dairy products are a delicious and nutritious option for the rising population of students that are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy. 
  • Offering plant-based products gives students a wider variety of healthy options.
  • Plant-based products are more sustainable than animal foods. 

How to Incorporate Plant-Based Products in Your Menu 

  • Serve meals that include plant-based products in addition to whole-food plant-based meals that use plant-based protein sources like beans, legumes and hummus. 
  • Consider using a combination of legumes and plant-based meat in a recipe to keep protein high and costs low. 
  • Serve veggie burgers daily or weekly. 
  • Offer plant-based ‘chicken’ nuggets alongside conventional chicken nuggets. To credit within the CACFP, these products require a Child Nutrition Label or Product Formulation Statement. 
  • Incorporate Forward Food’s K-12 recipes onto your menus regularly. 
  • Use plant-based ground ‘beef’ crumbles to replace the meat in your existing recipes for things like spaghetti, tacos, burritos, chili, etc. 
  • Test out recipes that utilize high-protein and approved meat alternatives like tofu and tempeh. 
  • Set up a sampling table for new plant-based menu items and give students the opportunity to give their feedback. 
  • Offer CN-labeled plant-based milk options (must meet the nutrient equivalent for cow’s milk) for students who can’t consume dairy. 
  • Market your plant-based offerings with helpful, educational and fun signage to get students excited. 
  • Focus on naming your plant-based entrée in a way that highlights the flavor and texture of the dish and avoid including words like “vegan,” “meatless,” “vegetarian” and “meat-free” in the name. 

For more tips, check out the Humane Society of the United States’ flier on Plant-Based Products.