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Tips for Packing a Lunch (& What to Bring!)

How to pack a balanced lunchPeople tend to get a “stuck” in one area with healthy eating: Lunch.

Lunch can be a bit annoying, especially if you have a goal to bring your lunch each day and you need to plan ahead for what you will bring. In this post, we’ll go over some lunch ideas  to keep you going all day long, and strategies to make sure that food gets packed!

Easy Lunch Ideas:

Based on the portion plate, we put together a mix and match diagram to build a healthy, balanced lunch! Note that beans, chickpeas and legumes provide a source of carbohydrates and protein – that means a lunch with ½ veggies and ½ legumes would still be a balanced choice!

Building a healthy lunch (7)


Putting it Together: Some Tips & Ideas

  • In our feature photo: Egg white frittata with kale, tomatoes and avocado + whole grain crackers + carrots
  • Chickpeas, beans and legumes can be sautéed in spices for some added flavour as a salad topper. They are also a great addition to soups, stews and chili!
  • Try cottage cheese with avocado on toast or with whole grain crackers, along with veggies on the side!
  • Bake or Sautée tofu to add to salads, roasted veggies, sandwiches and wraps
  • Use roasted veggies as a side or added to salads
  • Enjoy potatoes, sweet potatoes, plantains or parsnips roasted as a side, on salads, or add to soups, stews and chilis
  • Both hard boiled eggs and scrambled eggs are great as a salad topper
  • Pack a “snack lunch” with raw veggies, cheese or hard-boiled eggs, and whole grain crackers or pita

Actually Packing your Lunch:

Different things work for different people! Some different ways to make sure you have healthy meals ready to go:

Weekly Meal Prep

  • Some people are great with eating the same thing every day and prefer to get everything done at once on Meal Prep Sundays/Mondays.
  • Make a large batch of a few recipes
  • Snacks: Muffins, bars or bites; pre-cut veggies, pre-portioned fruit, yogurt, nuts or trail mix
  • Meals: Salads, soups & stew, chili, stir-fries, curries, and casseroles/lasagna dishes can all be individually portioned and stored in the fridge or freezer, ready to grab and place in your lunch bag
  • Grains: Cook a large batch of quinoa, brown rice, barley, or whole grain pasta so it’s ready to add quickly to meals during the week with very little prep time
  • Sides: Roast a large batch of potatoes, sweet potatoes, or other starch along with some veggies so they are ready to add as a side to a protein and/or carbohydrate source!
  • Beans, chickpeas and legumes: If you prefer to cook your beans from dried, now is the time! Soak overnight on Friday or Saturday, and cook in a slow cooker the next day on High for about 4 hours
  • Protein: Prepare a large batch of chicken, fish, tofu, or another protein source for the week as a handy side or toppings for sandwiches, wraps and salads

Nightly Meal Prep:

For some people, the couple of hours that takes just don’t appear each week. In that case, it might work better to make tomorrow’s lunch with today’s dinner:

  • Make leftovers from your meal at dinner
  • Take advantage of your “chopping time”: Cut up some extra vegetables or prepare extra greens for salad. You can add leftovers from dinner, already prepped protein or carbohydrates, or something else easy like crackers or pita
  • Make in some extra protein and a source of carbohydrates

A combination of these two might work best: Have a few things prepped (like a larger soup, some grains or protein) on the weekend and fill in what you need as you make dinner the night before.


Other Tips:

Don’t forget snacks! Eating every 3-4 hours helps keep us from getting too hungry and overeating at our next meal. Think about how your days typically go – are you able to sit down or do you need something more on-the-go? Find our list of mix-and-match snack ideas as part of our healthy travel post here.

Invest in good reusable food containers – either Tupperware that can be thrown in the dishwasher, or glass containers. These are so important for setting yourself up to pack food every day! Buy an insulated lunch bag that will fit all the food you need. When you pack your lunch, be sure to include an ice pack to keep food fresh!

Make sure you’ve gone grocery shopping. This might sound obvious, but if you don’t have food in the house, you can’t pack anything for lunch! Prioritize grocery shopping and make sure you have enough food on hand to make nutritious meals all week long.


Have you been stuck in a lunch rut? What works for you to make sure you bring lunch to work?

written by Lauren Knipping, MSc. RD

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