5 Steps to Packing a Healthy Lunch

I’ve been an avid lunch packer since high school, when I first got into healthy eating and exercising. There are so many pros to packing your lunch. You know what goes into your food (no funky additives) and it can save you calories, fat, sugar, sodium, etc. It also allows you more time to eat since you don’t have to leave to get food, order and wait for it and then walk back. This gives you a chance to actually enjoy your meal instead of having to quickly scarf it down. Finally, it saves you precious moola ($$), which is always appreciated.

Packing a healthy lunch doesn’t mean turkey sandwiches and baby carrots everyday, nor does it mean spending a lot of effort developing creative recipes to take. The following are helpful tips you can use to help you create a delicious, satisfying and portable mid-day meal.

1.) Choose a protein, carbohydrate and fruit or vegetable
A combination of these will keep you full and satisfied throughout the afternoon, instead of scrounging for a snack an hour later.

  • Protein takes a longer time to digest compared to fat and carbohydrates, keeping you fuller longer. Research also shows consuming more protein can help people lose weight. Options include meat, poultry, fish, nuts, beans and dairy foods.
  • Fiber provides bulk, helping you feel full faster and for a longer period of time. It also helps support healthy digestion. Healthy choices include 100% whole wheat bread, pastas and crackers, as well as starchier vegetables such as potatoes and corn.
  • Fruits and vegetables add a pop of color, which means valuable vitamins and minerals for your body. Tired of bruised bananas and raw vegetables? Try a new-to-you piece of produce, different cooking method or a fun dip such as sun-dried tomato hummus or wasabi mustard to shake things up.
Veggie and cheese omelette over toast with leftover bacon brussel sprouts. Apple and yogurt + granola for snacks.
Veggie and cheese omelette over toast with leftover bacon brussel sprouts. Apple and yogurt + granola for snacks.

2.) Prep food ahead of time
You’ve seen this before, but it really does help. Prepping food ahead of time ensures you have a healthy option waiting when you are stressed for time. Do this on the weekend or on a night when you are less busy. For more details on how to food prep, go here.

3.) Pack it the night before
Mornings are busy enough without adding the extra step of remembering to pack your lunch. Focusing on simply trying to get out the door on time can result in a lack of time to pack a complete meal. This causes you to resort to fast food or a meal out. Avoid this, by packing your lunch the night before.

Grilled chicken and avocado wrap, baby carrots and hummus, and whole grain crackers. Grapes for a mid-morning snack
Grilled chicken and avocado wrap, baby carrots and hummus, and whole grain crackers. Grapes + cheese stick  for a mid-morning snack

4.) Make enough at dinner to have leftovers for lunch
Double recipes you make for dinner so you have leftovers to pack for the next day. Pack them in your lunch box right after dinner before cleaning up to save time and energy.

Leftover spicy chicken thigh over quinoa and frozen broccoli. Banana + peanut butter and crackers + cheese stick for snacks.
Leftover spicy chicken thigh over quinoa and frozen broccoli. Banana + peanut butter and crackers + cheese stick for snacks.

5.) Have healthy backups in your freezer

Try as you might, there will be times when you don’t have time to meal prep, are out of lunch staples and don’t even have leftovers from dinner to rely on. This is where freezer meals can come in handy. Choose brands such as Amy’s Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and Kashi which use minimal preservatives and additives. Include an additional piece of fruit or vegetable or a glass of milk for extra staying power, as these meals tend to be very small.

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