Looking for Healthy Cold Lunch Box Ideas? I’ve got some right here just for you. These healthy cold lunch box ideas include low-calorie meals, and even kids-friendly recipes too.
This page of the site gives you some great ideas, tips and recipes to help make your next healthy cold lunch box, picnic or meal prep a success.
Healthy Cold Lunch Box Ideas
Coming up with interesting new lunches week in and week out is always challenging.
Everyone likes lunch, but no one likes to think about what to make for lunch and then actually make said lunch. As such, it’s easy to get into a boring lunch rut or start relying on less than healthy choices. Enter quick healthy cold lunch ideas for work. I’ve rounded up 50 quick, no-heat lunch ideas, perfect for packed lunches, including sandwiches, wraps, salads, and bowls. Many of these lunches are perfect for meal prep, which means you can make your entire week’s worth of lunches at the beginning of the week.
I’ve limited this round-up of quick healthy lunch ideas for work to cold lunch recipes. Personally, I love having a mix of cold and hot recipes in rotation for work lunches. But I know that cold work lunch ideas are more versatile. You never have to worry about finding a microwave, which is important when you’re pressed for time or always on the go. I do have a hot work lunches round-up, too!
Tips for packing work lunches
When you use quick healthy lunch ideas for work often, it’s worth learning how to pack a great lunch. Here are a few tips for ensuring your lunches stay crisp and flavorful.
Invest in basic kitchen prep items, high-quality glass containers, and a good lunch box.
Packing work lunches is much easier when you have the right tools. You don’t need anything complicated or expensive to meal prep. A basic set of pots and pans, good knives, a few utensils (i.e., wooden spoons, spatulas), and a set of mixing bowls will be sufficient for the vast majority of cold lunch ideas in this post.
Keep greens and dressings separate to prevent sogginess.
There’s nothing more depressing than a soggy salad or sandwich. When you’re packing anything with greens and/or dressing, keep these components in separate containers until you’re ready to eat. For certain types of sandwiches, such as egg salad and tuna salad, you may want to keep the salad separate from the bread.
Consider whether it’s better to pack individual servings at the beginning of the week or assemble them as you go.
With some recipes, you can meal prep for the full week ahead and pack the individual servings right away, such as with roast veggie and chicken bowls. With other recipes, it’s best to prep the ingredients at the beginning of the week and then assemble the individual portions each night, such as wraps and sushi bowls.
Get as much as you can ready the night before.
Unless you’re an early morning person, the morning routine will almost always go more smoothly when you do as much work prep as possible the right before. With the majority of the lunch prep already completed, it shouldn’t ever take you more than five minutes to finish getting your lunch ready in the morning.
Don’t be afraid to make ingredient substitutions or omissions.
No recipe is written in stone. Customize recipes as needed to fit your personal tastes or the ingredients you have on hand. If you aren’t crazy about a certain flavor pairing or you’re getting burned out on a recipe, switch up the ingredients. A new dressing or vegetable pairing can completely transform a salad.
Greek Orzo Salad in a Jar
You have to find just the right recipe for salad in a jar. Greek orzo salad in a jar from How Sweet Eats works perfectly because it doesn’t have lettuce and you add the dressing to the bottom of the container, preventing sogginess. There is so much flavor packed into this little jar.
Thai Chicken and Cucumber Salad
Thai chicken and cucumber salad from Foodiecrush is an easy lunch recipe to prep at the beginning of the week and then portion out to grab on the way out the door every day. I love all things Thai (or Thai-inspired, whatever), and it’s hard to go wrong with a Thai chicken recipe.
Caprese with Garlic Toast Lunch Box
You know that I’m a little obsessed with Caprese and make Caprese skewers all summer long. Kitchen @ Hoskins’ Caprese with garlic toast lunch box is a great way to take advantage of fresh basil and tomatoes while they’re still here in the fall. Adding a hard-boiled egg is a perfect flavor twist and helps fill you up, making for a complete meal
The Almond Eater’s chicken Brussels sprouts salad is a great make-ahead lunch recipe for the whole week. As a work lunch, obviously, poached eggs don’t work so well. So I would hard-boil eggs instead.
Easy Mediterranean Chicken Wraps with Hummus
Hummus pairs beautifully with classic Mediterranean salad ingredients in The Forked Spoon’s easy Mediterranean chicken wraps with hummus. For cold work lunches, it may be easier to make it ahead of time as a salad and eat it with pita or flatbread on the side.
Garden Vegetable Pasta Salad
One Little Project’s garden vegetable pasta salad is a simple, versatile recipe that you can customize as you like to suit your taste preferences and the veggies you have on hand. Feel free to switch up the pasta or substitute another grain (i.e., brown rice, quinoa) as well.
Roasted Broccoli and Farro Bowls
Gimme Some Oven’s roasted broccoli and farro bowls is one of those versatile recipes that tastes good hot or cold. It features farro, broccoli, arugula, and chickpeas, well seasoned and topped with garlic-lemon tahini dressing. It’s hard to go wrong here. For a packed work lunch, I would keep the dressing separate until serving to prevent sogginess.
HEALTHY COLD LUNCH IDEAS (VEGETARIAN & EASY)
These simple healthy cold lunch ideas will solve all your clean eating problems (if you have any). Get inspired with these easy vegetarian lunch recipes that you can take to work or to school, they are delicious, nourishing, many gluten-free and vegan.
NO MICROWAVE AT WORK? NO PROBLEM!
If you feel sick every time you think you need to eat “lean protein with veggies”, (especially when you’re vegan, vegetarian or pescatarian)…If you look at that pale chicken breast with soggy broccoli you packed for lunch 3 days ago with nothing but disgust…I’m here to tell you: There’s hope, my friend. There is hope.
As Shakira once said, you can have it all – flavor, healthy body, free time and hips that don’t lie. (just so you know – usually hips are huge liars).
These meatless clean eating lunch ideas will make you feel good and not like the universe hates you. They’re not boring and take less than 30 minutes to make.
Cold lunches are great if you don’t have a microwave at work, at school or are afraid that incubating your food in a microwave will turn it into a radioactive mess. Definitely not talking about myself here.
So, COLD lunches it is.
HOW TO MEAL PREP LUNCHES FOR THE WEEK
If you want to eat healthy throughout the week, it is worth doing some sort of meal prep on Sunday. Otherwise, convenience can easily take over and leave you with chips in your mouth for lunch. I am not the biggest fan of meal prep food, but I like making some things ahead of time to make quick and easy lunches in no time. Here’s what you can do to prepare for the week and make eating healthy for lunch easier.
PLAN YOUR MEALS.
Meal planning can help a lot with staying on track with your diet and also can help you save money and reduce food waste. Start by collecting some recipes like the ones below and calculate how much and what you would need to make those lunches. You can use meal planning for dinner and breakfast too. If you need more help meal planning and want to get organized, you can get my weekly meal planner template with a grocery list printable and recipe card template here. Make sure to use the code ntb20 for 20% off.
WASH AND CHOP UP PRODUCE.
You can prepare by having your fresh produce ready to go. For example, you can chop up some cabbage, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, whatever non-juicy fruits and vegetables you like. Once chopped, you can easily add them to make salads, bowls or wraps. Pack the chopped vegetables in an airtight container in the fridge and they will be good for the next 3 days.
PREPARE DRESSINGS AND DIPS.
The two things I usually like to make for the week are hummus and tzatziki. I keep my dressings pretty easy – some salt, some olive oil and some lemon juice are what I prefer in my salads. But if you do have some favorite healthy dressing recipes that you would like to use, feel free to make them ahead. Most will stay good in an airtight container for at least 3 days in the fridge.
Roasted vegetables are such a great addition to salads, bowls and wraps. They just make them more interesting and tasty. So, roast some vegetables in the oven like I did here and use them to make delicious healthy lunches.
COOK GRAINS AND LEGUMES
Cook some rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, lentils – whatever grains and legumes you would like to have in your salads or lunch bowls. I usually use pre-cooked chickpeas and black beans when I cook, just because it’s much easier, but I do make my lentils, rice and quinoa ahead and it saves so much time.
HEALTHY VEGETARIAN LUNCH BOWLS
5-MINUTE MEDITERRANEAN BOWL
Okay, there’s a reason this one’s one of my most popular recipes on the blog. It’s amazing. It’s easy to make, works for meal prep and is full of flavor. With a salad, hummus, tzatziki and olives this vegan bowl is delicious, fresh and filling. The recipe is here.
SWEET POTATO BLACK BEAN BOWLS
Full of flavor and so easy to make! Roast some vegetables, add some black beans, mashed avocado salad and lunch is ready. Recipe here.
Cold Lunch Ideas for Work
- Mediterranean Chopped Salad – This salad tastes amazing at room temperature and because there’s no lettuce in this salad, it won’t wilt – This Farm Girl Cooks
- Chick-Fil-a Chicken Salad Recipe – Mom Foodie
- Spinach Salad with Root Vegetables – This Farm Girl Cooks
- Greek Pasta Salad – Hungry Healthy Happy
- Turkey Ranch Wraps – Garnish and Glaze
- Chicken Taco Mason Jar Salads – The Seasoned Mom
- Cucumber Subs – Wholesome Yum
- Broccoli Cheddar Quinoa Bars – Served From Scratch
- Lean Chicken Meatloaf Muffins – Haute and Healthy Living