Healthy lunches ideas to pack or work that are easy and quick to prepare is what you will find in this post. We are all looking for ways to make healthier choices but find that eating healthy is time consuming and uses ingredients that a lot of us do not have on hand.
In a workplace or in your school or college, you are bound to find yourself facing the same old boring lunch options. Usually, packed lunch options are considered to be healthier and tastier when compared to those that you can purchase in the cafeteria. The best part about packing your own lunch is that you do not have to spend more time choosing from a wide array of amazing foods. Instead, you just need to throw in your favorite snack items into a ziplock bag and pack them for the day ahead.
Healthy Lunch Ideas To Pack Or Work
Packing a healthy lunch takes a little planning, but good nutrition is a big reward. If you struggle for lunch ideas, this simple guide on how to pack a healthy lunch is just what you need. Read on for 13 lunch ideas that will keep you feeling full all afternoon, and my at-a-glance guide to pairing delicious and healthy food types.
If you’re like most busy people, packing a healthy lunch for yourself probably seems like a chore. When you’re busy running out the door in the morning, packing a lunch for yourself is probably the furthest thing from your mind. But when lunch time rolls around and you haven’t planned ahead, you’re likely to grab whatever is quick and easy. And that may not always be the best choice. Getting into the habit of packing a healthy lunch for yourself might take a little time and effort on your part, but it’s a habit worth trying to establish. Not only will it save you some money, you’ll have much more control over what and how much you eat.
What Is A Healthy Lunch?
What you eat for lunch can make a big difference in how you perform for the rest of the day. If you don’t provide your body with the fuel it needs at lunch, you might find yourself tired or fuzzy-headed in the afternoon. That could leave you searching for a sugary, calorie-laden pick-me-up. Ideally, your lunch meal will keep you satisfied for several hours, so you’ll have the mental and physical energy to get through the rest of your busy day.
Even though many people rely on typical lunch food, like a sandwich, or soup and a salad, there are many different foods that can provide you with the energy and good nutrition that you need. Protein is important, since it helps to keep your hunger in check. Vegetables help to fill you up and contribute plenty of vitamins and minerals, and high-fiber whole grains take time to digest and give your meal more staying power. To satisfy your sweet tooth, you can finish off your meal with some healthy carbs—in the form of a piece of fresh fruit.
If you’re not in the habit of packing a healthy lunch for yourself, start planning the night before. One of the easiest things to pack for lunch is leftovers from your evening meal, so get in the habit of cooking extra food. As long as you’re going to all the trouble to prepare and cook, you may as well get a few meals from your efforts. If you portion out your lunch at the same time you portion out your dinner, and then stash it in the refrigerator for the next day, there won’t be temptation to eat a second helping at night.
Once you get in the habit of putting aside leftovers for yourself, the next step is to start setting aside different components of your meals. That’s the chopped raw vegetables, or the cooked meats, grains or poultry. Over the course of a few days, you’ll build up a stash of healthy ingredients to put together a variety of quick, healthy lunches.
Packing A Healthy Lunch – Get Ready
It’s hard to pack a healthy lunch if you don’t have the right ingredients on hand. I’ll be the first to admit that this does take a little time and planning. But I really believe that the extra bit of time spent to make sure that your refrigerator, freezer and pantry are stocked make all the difference. When you don’t have what you need, it’s too easy to pick up something at the store or vending machine that might not be as healthy as something you’d pack yourself. I spend a little extra time a few nights a week to chop extra vegetables or wash extra salad greens for my lunches, which makes choosing what to pack for a healthy lunch a whole lot easier.
Try to get into the habit of “cooking once, eating twice (or more).” Cook extra proteins and whole grains. And if you’re washing vegetables for salads or chopping veggies for cooking, always wash and dice extra so you’ll have them on hand.
Foods To Keep On Hand
- Whole grain options: brown rice, quinoa, millet, cracked wheat, whole wheat pasta or soba noodles, barley
- Protein options: chicken or turkey breast, roasted tofu, cooked lentils, cooked veggie burgers
- Vegetable options: mixed salad greens (wash, dry thoroughly, wrap in a large kitchen towel and store in crisper drawer in the refrigerator); leftover cooked vegetables; diced firm vegetables (they’ll keep for a few days) – carrots, celery, red onion, peppers
- In the pantry: canned beans, canned tuna, canned salmon, canned tomatoes, nut butters, whole grain bread/pita bread, whole grain crackers, whole grain tortillas
- In the refrigerator: low-fat milk, soy milk, plain Greek-style yogurt, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, salsa, whole fruits, low-fat salad dressings, marinated artichoke hearts, roasted peppers
- In the freezer: whole frozen fruits for smoothies, veggie burgers, frozen chicken breasts ready to cook in a batch
Packing A Healthy Lunch – Get Set
Here’s a simple system to help you pack a healthy lunch. Simply pick a protein, add some vegetables and choose a whole grain. Add a bit of healthy fat for flavor if you like, then let your imagination run free. This isn’t meant to be a complete list, but these are some of the most common ingredients you’re likely to use to put together a healthy lunch. Add some fruit with your meal or for dessert and you’re all set.
|Protein Powder||Leafy Salad Greens||Cooked Brown Rice||Hummus|
|Milk||Carrots||Cooked Whole Wheat Pasta||Avocado|
|Soy Milk||Peppers||Cooked Soba Noodles||Nut Butter|
|Greek-Style Yogurt||Onions||100% Whole Grain Bread||Nuts|
|Cottage Cheese||Celery||Cooked Quinoa||Olive Oil|
|Roasted Chicken Breast||Tomatoes||Cooked Millet||Seeds|
|Roasted Turkey Breast||Cucumber||Cooked Cracked Wheat||Sesame Oil|
|Canned Tuna||Squash||Cooked Barley|
|Canned Salmon||Green Beans||100% Whole Grain Crackers|
|Cooked Beans or Lentils||Broccoli||Whole Grain Tortillas|
|Eggs||Asparagus||Cooked Sweet Potato|
How To Pack A Healthy Lunch – Go!
Once you pick items from each column, it’s easy to come up with lots of great-tasting, healthy lunches you can pack yourself. Here are some ideas to get you started:
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Mason Jar Chicken Salad With Japanese Hibachi Dressing
This vibrantly colorful and healthy make-ahead salad is sure to become a go-to weekday lunch, though it’s pretty enough to serve to guests. Fresh ginger gives a pleasant bite to the toasted sesame salad dressing, which is inspired by the dressings served at Japanese hibachi restaurants.
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Zucchini Noodles With Quick Turkey Bolognese
Forgo regular pasta (and most of the carbs) for spiralized zucchini “noodles” in these make-ahead meals. The zoodles quickly turn tender-crisp as the veggie-packed Bolognese warms in the microwave.
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Tuscan White Bean Soup
A pound of dried beans is the inexpensive foundation for this simple, hearty meal. Serve it with slices of whole-wheat bread or a side salad for a complete and satisfying lunch or dinner.
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Rainbow Veggie Wraps
There’s definitely a sushi vibe to these kid-friendly wraps, which are stuffed with vegetables, cheese and hummus and then rolled and sliced. Serve them with store-bought green goddess, a creamy herb-filled dressing, to take it up a notch with ease. They look impressive but they’re easy enough for kids to assemble themselves for an easy lunch or dinner.
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Cider-Sesame Chicken Wraps
In this delicious and healthy wrap recipe, we gently poach chicken in apple cider and broth, along with aromatics like onion and bay leaves, then reduce the poaching liquid to stir into the chicken, yielding terrific flavor. You can also skip the wrap and serve this over brown rice to make an Asian grain bowl.
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Shrimp Cobb Salad
Cooked peeled shrimp is perfect for quick and healthy meals–here we use it in place of chicken in our simplified Cobb Salad.
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Canned salmon is a valuable pantry staple and a practical way to include heart-healthy omega-3-rich fish in your diet. Here, we combine it with avocados in an easy no-cook meal.
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Chicken Satay Bowls With Spicy Peanut Sauce
Chicken satay moves from classic Thai restaurant appetizer to delicious homemade dinner with this easy meal-prep recipe. A crunchy Asian-inspired slaw serves as the satisfying low-carb base, and the bold, creamy peanut sauce brings a hint of heat to every bite.
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Roasted Veggie Mason Jar Salad
Layering the creamy cashew sauce into the bottom of the jar ensures that your big, bold power salad won’t become wilted by the time you’re ready to eat.
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Chopped Cobb Salad with Chicken
This healthy chopped salad is a great way to use up leftover cooked chicken. You can reserve the remaining hard-boiled egg half for a snack.
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Tuna, White Bean & Dill Salad
Take canned tuna to new heights by adding cannellini beans, red onion and dill, tossing it in a lemon-pepper-Dijon dressing and serving it over a spinach salad with canned beets.
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Hearty Tomato Soup With Beans & Greens
Garlicky kale and creamy white beans elevate simple canned tomato soup into a 10-minute lunch or dinner that really satisfies. Use a soup with tomato pieces for a heartier texture. Look for a brand that’s low- or reduced-sodium, with no more than 450 mg sodium per serving.
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Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps
We love the retro vibe of these egg salad lettuce wraps. Iceberg lettuce makes a perfect low-carb swap for bread to serve the egg salad.
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Zucchini Noodle Bowls with Chicken Sausage & Pesto
Cut down on prep time for this meal-prep zoodle recipe by using premade zucchini noodles from the produce section. Canned beans and precooked chicken sausage heat in about 5 minutes and add protein, while store-bought refrigerated pesto serves as a fast and flavorful topping.
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Chicken Freezer Burritos
Transform leftover chicken into a hearty burrito filling! You will be thrilled to have a stash of frozen burritos on hand that you can microwave for an instant healthy lunch or on-the-go dinner for a busy night.
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Creamy Tomato Soup With Tortellini
If you’re a fan of the classic dipping duo of toasty grilled cheese and tomato soup then you’ll want to try this combo: cheese-filled pasta floating in an earthy tomato base gives you that same craveable carb-and-creamy mashup, without all the crumbs. This family-friendly tomato tortellini soup is popular with kids, but adults will love it too–both its flavor and the fact that it requires less than 30 minutes of active time to prepare.
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Meal-Prep Falafel Bowls with Tahini Sauce
These quick Mediterranean-inspired couscous bowls come together in 20 minutes thanks to healthy convenience items like frozen falafel and steam-in-bag fresh green beans. Whisk together the simple tahini sauce while the other ingredients cook.
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Turkey Spinach Salad With Beets
This spinach salad boasts a delightful combination of flavors–smoked turkey, sweet blueberries and tart goat cheese–all dressed up in an tangy orange-balsamic dressing. For a complete meal, serve with fresh pear slices and long thin breadsticks dipped in hummus.
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Minestrone with Italian Sausage & Pesto
With two convenience foods–precooked chicken sausage and refrigerated basil pesto–you can turn ordinary canned minestrone soup into a lunch or dinner that’s satisfying and unique. While scanning the canned soup aisle, look for healthy soups that contain less than 450 mg sodium and more than 3 g fiber per 1-cup serving.
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This wrap is stuffed with chicken tenders and couscous with a hit of lemon and a healthy dose of fresh herbs. Save any leftovers to wrap up for an easy lunch. Serve with: Mixed green salad and a glass of crisp white wine.
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Ravioli & Vegetable Soup
Fresh or frozen ravioli cook in minutes and turn this light vegetable soup into a main course. Look for whole-wheat or whole-grain ravioli in the refrigerated or frozen section of the supermarket. Tortellini can be used instead of ravioli as well. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.
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Make-Ahead Spinach & Black Bean Burritos
These egg, bean and cheese burritos are designed to be made ahead and frozen. They are perfect for busy days and make a satisfying breakfast or lunch.
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Quinoa Avocado Salad
Protein-packed quinoa pairs with creamy avocado in this refreshing grain salad. It’s the perfect make-ahead side dish to bring on a picnic or take to a potluck. Or pack it for lunch or enjoy it as a light dinner.
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Black Bean, Mango & Kale Wheat Berry Salad
Wheat berries give this healthy grain-salad recipe a toothsome bite. The chopped kale can be swapped for any dark leafy green, such as spinach or chard, if desired.
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Mason Jar Power Salad With Chickpeas & Tuna
This power salad will keep you fueled for hours, thanks to 26 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. Tossing the dressing and kale, and then letting it stand in the jar, softens it enough so you don’t need to massage or cook it to make it tender.