Bored of leftovers or packing the same salad with chicken everyday? Start looking forward to your packed lunches and snacks with these easy meal prep tips and quick healthy lunch ideas.
Here are some ways you can put together an adult lunchable:
Try an adult snack plate or one of these healthy protein box ideas:
- Deli Slice Roll-Ups with Tomato, Spinach, and Cream Cheese or Condiment of Choice (with or without whole-wheat tortilla, corn chips or crackers)
- Turkey + Pesto + Apple Slices + Cheese
- Roast Beef + Horseradish + Radishes + Tangerine
- Ham + Cheese + Pistachios + Jicama Sticks + Berries
- Shredded Chicken + Pepper Slices + Bean Dip + Strawberries
- Egg + Carrots + Greek Yogurt Dip + Berries
- Tuna (I like buffalo) + Avocado + Rice Cakes or Cucumbers
- Shrimp + Cucumbers + Guacamole (try my cajun shrimp recipe)
- Chicken Salad + Grapes + Celery + Whole Wheat Crackers
- Ground Meat + Black Beans + Brown Rice + Salsa
- Tofu + Steamed Veggies + Peanut Sauce
- Greek Yogurt + Sliced Almonds + Chia Seed + Berries
- Cottage Cheese + Pineapple + Cherry Tomatoes
- Shredded Chicken + Pepper Slices + Spicy Hummus
- Whole Wheat Tortilla + Artichokes + Parmesan + Deli Slices
- Zucchini Slices + Pizza Sauce + Pepperoni or Turkey Pepperoni + Cheese
- Banana + Peanut Butter + Protein Powder
- Cottage Cheese + Peach Slices + Sliced Almonds
- Hard-Boiled Egg + Celery + Hummus (try my egg hummus salad)
- Cheese + Grapes + Whole Wheat Crackers
- Shrimp + Steamed Veggies + Sweet Chili Sauce
- Quinoa + Berries + Peaches + Feta
- Edamame or Edamame Salad + Cucumber + Dip of Choice
The goal of these meals is to pair 2-6 oz of protein (depending on your nutrition needs) with veggies.
Easy Meal Prep Lunch Ideas
Sandwich and Veggies
- Put a healthy spin on the traditional sandwich: use whole wheat sandwich bread, pita or bagel, protein, hummus, spinach, bell pepper, and mustard. Add some carrot, jicama, or celery sticks and dressing of choice on the side. Spice it up with a fancy cheese, pesto, peppercinis or sundried tomato!
Plant-Based Protein Bowl
- Mix together some cooked quinoa, white beans or tofu, chopped bell pepper, carrots and broccoli to make a grain salad. Toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add fruit on the side and a small handful of nuts, if desired.
Updated Tuna or Chicken Salad
- Make a tuna salad with canned tuna, Greek yogurt, diced celery, lemon juice, and freshly ground pepper. Serve it over greens with an apple, celery, and peanut butter on the side.
- Try an RDRx Nutrition tuna or chicken salad recipe!
- You can’t go wrong with a quick yogurt parfait with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, diced pineapple, peaches, and a handful of pecans on the side. There is so much variety with these parfaits.
Hearty Crockpot Leftovers
- Pack a cup of leftover chili, hearty stew or chicken vegetable soup. Top it with some fresh tomatoes and yogurt.
- Fill a whole wheat tortilla wrap with rotisserie chicken, hummus, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, and greens.
- Throw together a salad with romaine lettuce or spinach and any other vegetables that you like. Top with some protein or cottage cheese, chopped nuts, and dressing.
Mexican Shredded Chicken
Bacon Egg Avoocado
Some additional tips for snack/lunch prep:
- Buy some tupperware with individual compartments. What I like about this tupperware is that they come with four interchangeable compartments, so some days you can have two or three compartments and other days you can have four, depending on how many items you have in your lunch. This is great for changing it up and keeping your meals flexible.
- Make multiple lunches at the beginning of the week, or pack your lunch the night before. Chop up your fruits/veggies and put your nuts/fruits/veggies/etc. into tupperware or bags and group them by day of the week. That way, you can easily just grab your lunch on the way out and don’t have to stop to think about preparing anything in the morning.
- Keep your greens and any dressings/wet ingredients separate when you pack them. When it’s time to eat, then combine everything–this will prevent your greens from wilting if they’re sitting in dressing/wet ingredients all day.
- Buy ingredients in bulk at the beginning of the week and then find ways to mix-and-match. A lot of the protein box ideas and recipes listed above use common ingredients, so choose the recipes you like the most and write your shopping list around them! It tends to be more affordable to buy in bulk, and the less ingredients you need to shop for, the simpler and easier your grocery trip becomes.
Five Benefits of Packing Lunch
- Saves you money. Packing lunch is much more affordable than eating out, especially if you buy lunch every day. Buying ingredients in bulk or shopping the sales/using coupons enables you to buy food for cheap, and those ingredients can go a long way. You will be spending a fraction of the cost per meal by packing your lunches instead of eating out.
- Gives you a healthy option. Eating out usually means bigger portion sizes, less fresh fruit/veggies, and more salt, sugar, fat, etc. By packing your own lunch, you get to choose the ingredients and the portion sizes yourself.
- Provides flexibility. Packing your own lunch means you get to eat what you want! You aren’t limited by what’s sold in the workplace cafeteria or at restaurants near work. You still have the option to eat out if you want to, but by packing your lunch you get that choice. You have total power over what goes into your lunch, so you can change it up however you want.
- Keeps you energized. You can pack healthy snacks to eat throughout the day, which will help you keep up your energy. Also, by not eating out for lunch, you’re avoiding the bigger portion sizes and subsequently the energy crashes that usually follow.
- Gives you more time to eat. When you don’t have to leave the office to run to a restaurant or wait in line at the cafeteria, you have more time to slow down and enjoy your meal. You can eat more enjoyably and more mindfully, which means you can really focus on the food and enjoy your lunch time. When you have less time to eat, you’re more likely to rush your meals, which usually results in feeling less satisfied and satiated at the end of the meal. Packing your own lunch gives you the freedom and enjoyment that you might otherwise not have.
Authors: Hana Myers BS, Dietetic Intern and Haley Hughes MS, RD, CDE