January 30, 2015

How To Pack A Healthy Lunch (Plus Easy Lunch Ideas)

If you are looking to start changing your eating habits and want to learn how to pack a healthy lunch, you’ve come to the right place! Today, I am sharing with you what I typically pack for my lunch as well as some easy healthy lunch ideas I think you are going to love.

how to pack a healthy lunch

Let me let you in on a little secret…

The number one rule when it comes to packing a healthy lunch is: For healthy eating to become a habit, it’s gotta be doable.

When I talk to clients, I spend less time talking about “what” and more time focusing on the “how”.

  • How are you going to add more vegetables to your diet?
  • How are you going to find time to head to the gym a few times a week?

The what tends to be easy, but figuring out the how is where real change starts to happen.

Eating on the run tends to be a difficult how, even coming up with easy and healthy lunch ideas on top of that. With so many fast food options, lack of planning, and plenty of excuses, eating a healthy lunch can either make or break a healthy eating schedule.

While many dietitians will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, my emphasis trends toward lunch.

Tips On How To Pack A Healthy Lunch

When it comes to packing a healthy lunch, it’s not always as simple as throwing a few things into your lunch box and calling it a day. It’s important to think about the number of veggies, carbs, and protein you are consuming (or lacking of).

When I am planning my healthy lunches for the week, I try to pack at least 3 things:

  1. Healthy Drinks: This is typically a smoothie full of fruits, fortified non-dairy milk for a calcium boost and usually a leafy green or two. 
  2. Main Meals: As my main course, I find myself leaning towards protein and veggie-packed salads as well as quick and easy sandwiches.
  3. Sweet Desserts: This part is always the hardest for me! I always like to pick a dessert that will leave me feeling positive and with great energy. I don’t want something filled with a lot of preservatives or sugar.

What I Pack For Lunch (Plus Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas)

For those of you with kids or live-in partners, lunch is one of the few meals that you get 100% control over.

Whether you eat at home, at your desk, or in the car, lunch usually allows for personal choice without having to factor in others’ needs and wants, like breakfast and dinner typically require. So choose wisely!

If dinner means sandwiches on the way to soccer practice, let lunch be the place where you pack in vegetables, fruits, and healthy whole grains.

Here is a typical lunch for me, and how I pack it.

Drinks: Smoothies

First up is this blood orange smoothie! I’ve been in citrus heaven lately and trying to come up with creative ways to enjoy oranges instead of just peeling and eating.

blood orange creamsicle smoothie for healthy lunch ideas

This blood orange smoothie is typically my first course for lunch. Since I am usually eating in-between clients and meetings, my lunches typically occur in phases over the course of at least an hour. A few bites here and there maintain my energy while increasing my focus on the task at hand.

And, this smoothie is the perfect way to ease into lunch!

I pack it in my glass smoothie jar and give it a quick shake before drinking. These glass jars became a natural replacement for plastic. I love that glass is a sustainable and more environmentally-friendly choice.

More Smoothie Recipes To Try

If you enjoyed this blood orange smoothie, take a look at some of these other smoothie recipes that I think will be great for your next lunch…

drinking a blood orange smoothie out of a glass jar

Print
blood orange creamsicle smoothie

Blood Orange Smoothie

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving 1x
  • Category: beverage, drink
  • Method: blender
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Blood Orange Creamsicle Smoothie! A creamy, delicious smoothie perfect for in-season citrus. Non-dairy, vegan and gluten-free.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving 1x
  • Category: beverage, drink
  • Method: blender
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 serving 1x
  • Category: beverage, drink
  • Method: blender
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

  • 2 large blood oranges, peeled
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • few ice cubes

Instructions

Place all ingredients into a blender and puree until smooth.

Notes

For a fruitier smoothie, swap orange juice (regular or blood) for the almond milk.

did you make this?

Tag @delishknowledge on Instagram and hashtag it #delishknowledge

Main Meal: Salads

Next up, the main event is my quinoa tabbouleh salad. I’ve been obsessed with tabbouleh ever since I was a kid.

When coming up with easy and healthy lunch ideas, my mom swore by the Near East box and just added fresh parsley, tomatoes, and tossed it together. I love it just as much today as I did back then, but now I’ve put my DK spin on things.

While I love bulgur wheat, I’ve replaced it with quinoa. More protein and faster cooking time! I also removed the tomatoes and added in roasted vegetables. This way, my tabbouleh salad doesn’t get soggy, and I’m able to prep ahead a few of my lunches out of one batch.

The beautiful thing about tabbouleh is that it’s pretty customizable, which is exactly how I roll when I am in the kitchen. I rarely fret about exact ingredients, especially with grain salads like this one. You can also use whatever roasted vegetables you like and the same goes with the herbs.

Sometimes, I’ll even add some of my homemade BBQ tofu kebobs. Delish!

easy healthy lunch ideas: homemade quinoa tabbouleh salad in a glass jar

More Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas To Try

If you enjoyed this quinoa tabbouleh salad, take a look at some of these other salad recipes that I think will keep you satisfied till dinner…

Sometimes, I even like to make some of my vegan egg salad and serve it in a sandwich!

vegan quinoa tabbouleh salad

Print

Quinoa Tabbouleh

  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 3 servings 1x
  • Category: lunch, dinner, healthy,
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

Quinoa Tabbouleh! A protein packed vegan salad that’s perfect for make-ahead lunches.


  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 3 servings 1x
  • Category: lunch, dinner, healthy,
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
  • Author: Alex Caspero
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 3 servings 1x
  • Category: lunch, dinner, healthy,
  • Method: stove top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan
Scale

Ingredients

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 carrots, sliced into coins
  • 1.5 tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/3 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 handful parsley, chopped
  • 1 small handful mint (or basil), chopped
  • salt/pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss carrots and tomatoes with 1 tsp. olive oil and a pinch salt/pepper. Place on a roasting pan or baking sheet and cook for 15-20 minutes until browned and tender.
  2. While the carrots and tomatoes are cooking, make the quinoa.
  3. Rinse quinoa in a fine colander (this removes any bitter flavor). Place the quinoa and 2/3 cup water into a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let cook for 12-13 minutes until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Let stand a minute or two off heat and then fluff with a fork like you would rice. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, carrots and celery. Whisk in the lemon juice and remaining olive oil. Add in the chopped herbs and season to taste with salt and pepper.

did you make this?

Tag @delishknowledge on Instagram and hashtag it #delishknowledge

Dessert: Parfait

To finish things off, you can’t forget dessert! Depending on how much of my smoothie and quinoa tabbouleh I eat, I may save this dried plum and walnut yogurt parfait (one of my favorite easy and healthy lunch ideas) for an afternoon snack.

More Dessert Recipes To Try

If you enjoyed this dessert parfait, take a look at some of these other dessert recipes that will end your healthy lunch on a sweet note…

Looking For More Recipe Ideas?

If you are looking to dive deep into starting a healthier lifestyle, I just released a new 7-day email course on “The Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Protein” with 40 new recipes- and it’s FREE!

You’ll learn everything there is to know about plant-based protein options and how to incorporate them into your everyday recipes.

I hope this post on easy healthy lunch ideas was helpful and answered some of your questions. I’d love to know any comments, thoughts, or questions you may have about how to pack a healthy lunch down below!  

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Meet Alex Caspero

Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.

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  1. My lunches often look the same, either shredded chicken or turkey sloppy joes with green beans and roasted sweet potatoes!

  2. Thank you SO much for sharing non slow cooker recipes- As nice as they are, we are in the peak of Summer here!

    For packing a healthy lunch, I love a good weekend food prep- some proteins and starchy carbs and good to go!

    • Yes! Weekend food prep is a MUST! Honestly, when we are away for the weekend and I don’t have time to prep, I know my weekday diet suffers greatly! Thanks for your tips Arman!

  3. These are all great suggestions! I pack a lunch for my husband every day (yes, I’m one of those) but feel really restricted since he refuses to take anything that requires refrigeration or reheating due to his limited time. My tips would be to get some good containers like you said and use something to keep your foods cool so that you can pack real, filling food. Also, making extra food at dinner so you can easily pack leftovers for lunch the next day is an easy route to go.

    • It’s OK- I pack my husbands lunch every day too 😉 it’s just easier and I don’t mind sharing that part of our household at all! GREAT tips! i am lucky that we both have refrigerators and microwaves in our office, which is a lifesaver if I want leftovers or fresh salads. Thanks for the tips!