Soyfoods are ideal for the back-to-school season: Some of them provide high-quality protein, iron, and fiber—three nutrients that kids really need. Soy protein and isoflavones may also help protect kids1 health, since they’ve been shown in research to help reduce cholesterol levels2 and cancer risk3 in adulthood.
It’s also easy to make soyfoods kid-friendly for school. Here are five simple ways to include them in lunch boxes:
Edamame: Pack them in their pods, sprinkled with a bit of salt, so kids can pop the nutty-tasting soybeans into their mouths. They’re an excellent source of plant protein for kids, with a half-cup serving packing about half the protein young kids need in a day4,5 (plus eight grams of much-needed fiber).6
Soymilk: Unlike many plant-based milks, soymilk is considered a one-for-one swap for dairy milk by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s because it contains nearly the same amount of protein as cow’s milk7 — six grams per cup. Look for single-serve, shelf-stable cartons that are easy to toss in a lunch bag or backpack. Pick a fortified variety that also includes calcium and vitamin D for developing strong bones. For kids who don’t love plain milk, try chocolate or vanilla flavored soymilk.
Soynut butter: This spread is especially handy for kids who are allergic to peanuts or attend a nut-free school. It’s got about three grams of protein per tablespoon, plus some fiber, calcium, and iron.8 Pair it with jelly for a classic sandwich or smear on a tortilla, layer on sliced strawberries, and roll up.
Tofu: Tofu nuggets make a fun, good-protein lunch, warm or cold. Here’s how: Drain and press out extra moisture from a block of extra-firm tofu, cut into pieces and marinade in a flavor they already love, like teriyaki. Dredge pieces in breadcrumbs and place in an oven or air fryer until browned and crisp around the edges. Pack them with peanut sauce or ketchup for dipping.
Miso soup: Miso is a thick, fermented paste made from soybeans that has a rich “umami” flavor. It’s also your secret weapon for making a batch of easy homemade ramen noodle soup to pack in a thermos for lunch time. Just stir in a heaping spoonful of miso paste into boiling water, then add noodles, shredded carrots, and small cubes of tofu.