Feeling uninspired when it comes to prepping your midday meal? Are you out of grownup lunchbox ideas?
I’ve got you covered!
In this article, you’ll find easy, nutritious lunchbox ideas for adults to enliven your lunch break. I’ll also teach you my proven method for packing balanced lunches that will keep you full and satisfied for hours.
Your lunches will look so delicious, you’ll have to keep your co-workers from raiding the work fridge!
Ready? Let’s pack lunch!
Tips for building a balanced lunchbox
Building a balanced to-go lunch five days a week can feel stressful, so let me break it down into easy-to-digest pieces (see what I did there?) Here are my 6 tips for creating a filling grownup lunchbox.
Let’s start with the basic components that go into any balanced lunch:
- Fruits and veggies
- Starches and whole grains
Tip #1: Start with a protein-rich food
Protein is important for building and repairing tissues and muscles and is needed in every cell In the body. This is why it’s a good idea to let the star of the plate be a lean protein source – either animal-based (including eggs or dairy) or plant-based (like tofu, beans, or lentils).
Protein-rich foods provide many key nutrients we need, like B vitamins, iron, zinc, and amino acids. B vitamins are critical for converting food into energy inside your cells, while amino acids serve as the building blocks of your muscles, skin, hair, organs, and other structures in your body.
If you do choose plant-based proteins, be sure to pair them with grains or dairy products to give your body all of the amino acids it needs.
Tip #2: Add a fruit or vegetable (or both!)
Research shows that fruits and vegetables are essential for many reasons, including the antioxidant role they play in preventing disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers. But they’re also fun, colorful and delicious!
They provide key vitamins (A, B, C, E and K) and minerals like potassium and magnesium your body needs to function properly and fiber to improve gut health and bowel regularity.
Don’t be afraid to mix it up! If you’ve never tried star fruit, broccolini, or passion fruit, put them in the rotation.
Tip #3: Include a whole grain or a starch
Grains and starches are very important components of a healthy eating pattern, providing us with numerous nutrients, vitamins and minerals. For example, the starches and fiber in complex carbohydrates help make a meal more filling and satisfying and provide you with long-lasting energy.
The fiber in complex carbs slows down digestion, which helps control blood sugar levels. Fiber also traps cholesterol and removes it from the body, which lowers cholesterol levels. Fiber bulks up stool, making constipation less likely.
Whole grains, when paired with legumes, beans, or nuts/seeds, provide us with a full complement of the amino acids we need for muscle building and tissue repair. Starches and grains also help the body spare the protein you eat for use in muscle building, so don’t skip the starch!
Tip #4: Don’t forget the fats!
Fats play numerous roles in the body. They help us absorb key vitamins (A, D, E, & K), make hormones, protect our organs, and keep the body warm and cushioned. Also, our brain cells are insulated by fat, and fats are a part of every cell in the body.
Fats from fish, nuts, seeds, olive oil, other plants (like avocado, coconut, etc.), and egg and dairy products are all excellent choices. If you include animal products in your eating, some fat will be provided from those foods as well. Fats also add flavor, can increase satisfaction, and help keep you fuller longer.
Tip #5: Use prepared foods
Using prepared foods is a quick, easy way to make packing lunch less stressful. Hummus, canned beans, tzatziki, individual yogurts or cottage cheese, and sliced meats can speed up lunch prep. Having some fun foods on hand, like trail mix, granola bars, chips or cookies, can also keep lunches interesting, tasty and satisfying. All foods can fit in a healthy eating pattern.
Tip #6: Don’t overthink it!
There’s really no need to overthink lunch (or any meal, for that matter). Unless you have a medical diagnosis that requires attention to specific nutrients, weighing foods, counting grams of this or that, or obsessing over whether you had enough potassium on Monday or met your iron needs on Tuesday is unnecessary. If you are eating a wide range of foods over time, you can be sure you are getting the nutrients you need.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s move on to the lunchbox ideas. The recipes are simple and the menus are already balanced, but feel free to play around with them. If you don’t like the veggie or fruit in the menu, swap it out. Prefer peanuts over almonds? No problem. Choose what you love and, most of all, pack what satisfies you.
Filling Lunchbox Ideas For Adults
Prep time on most of these fresh lunchbox ideas is 5-10 minutes. Quantities are left open to interpretation. Follow your hunger signals to determine how much is right for you. Get your bento box or lunch box ready!
- Veggie and hummus rollup, sunflower seeds mixed with chocolate chips and dried fruit, cottage cheese cup
- Mashed avocado & cucumber sandwich, fruit/nut granola bar, melon mixed with Greek yogurt and honey
- Pasta salad over greens with herb dressing, peppers, cucumbers, tomato, feta cheese & white beans, Larabar
- Banana & chocolate/hazelnut spread rollup, carrot sticks with tahini, almonds & grapes
- Tofu nachos: chili-powder seasoned tofu, black beans, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheese, tortilla chips, pineapple
- Sunflower seed butter on a tortilla with apple slices, veggie sticks, fudge cookies
- Hummus sandwich with sliced cucumbers, fruit salad, chocolate soy milk
- Nut butter & banana sandwich, bell pepper sticks with hummus, popcorn, blueberries
- Peanut butter on graham crackers, snap peas & carrot sticks with tzatziki dip, strawberries & watermelon
- Almond butter with carrot sticks and green beans, apple, crackers & cheese
- Whole grain crackers and tahini, bell peppers & celery sticks with ranch dip, peach, brownie bite
- Tabbouleh salad with chickpeas, cucumber chunks, tomato, & bulgur wheat, nectarines, fig cookies
- Energy bites, hummus with cucumbers & pita, radish slices, cherries
- Hazelnuts, pears with blueberries, carrot & cabbage salad with avocado, crackers (not pictured)
- Tortellini with pesto, sliced cherry tomatoes and mozzarella cheese, bell pepper sticks, cucumber rounds, pineapple chunks
- Black bean and cheese quesadilla with salsa/guacamole, baby carrots, raspberries, blueberries
- Cheese & crackers, zucchini sticks and greek yogurt dip, apple sauce, chocolate dipped pretzels
- Cream cheese & preserves sandwich, bell pepper sticks, almonds, mandarin oranges
- Pizza slice(s), mango cubes, yogurt with raisins and walnut pieces
- Egg salad, pita triangles, cucumber slices, tangerine, cookies
- Cottage cheese, blackberries, popcorn, carrot sticks, peanut butter on graham crackers
- Crackers with hummus, carrots, string cheese, fruit leather
- English muffin pizza, cucumber sticks, yogurt, mango
- Cream cheese, cucumber & sprouts sandwich, apple, cashews
- Boiled eggs, rice, roasted brussel sprouts, green beans, tomatoes, pear, chocolate
Breakfast for Lunch
- Grape/cheese/strawberry skewers, egg “muffins,” zucchini bread
- Yogurt/berry/spinach smoothie, cheddar crackers, apple, pistachios
- Raisin/cinnamon bagel, nut butter, banana, mango, yogurt, coconut flakes
- Avocado toast slices, boiled egg, strawberries, chocolate pudding
- Yogurt, cinnamon graham cereal, almonds, strawberries, fig cookies
- Banana nut bread with cream cheese, boiled eggs, pear and cashews
- Yogurt, granola, blueberries, almonds, coconut flakes, chocolate chips
- Chicken quesadilla, guacamole, salsa and tortilla chips, kiwi and blueberries
- Tuna salad rollups with lettuce, pickle slices, grape tomatoes, star fruit, potato chips
- Roast beef sandwich, raspberries & blackberries, edamame, goldfish crackers
- Chicken salad made with red grapes and walnut pieces, made into a sandwich, green beans and ranch dip
- BLT, snap peas, fruit & nut trail mix
- Turkey & spinach sandwich, blood oranges, almonds with dried blueberries
- Roast beef “sliders” on a mini rolls, dill pickles, raspberries, cookies
- Ham, cheddar & apple sandwich, pumpkin seed trail mix, clementines
- Pasta salad with peppers, cucumbers, tomato, mozzarella & cooked chicken with Italian dressing, orange, almonds
Lunchbox Ideas For Adults Summed Up
These nutritious lunches contain a variety of food types (proteins, starches, fats, fun foods) to keep you full and satisfied until your next meal. Balancing your midday meal and making sure you’re getting enough to eat can help you stay focused at work, increase concentration, and keep your mood steady.
So mix it up and have some fun! I’d love to hear from you if you use any of these lunchbox ideas for adults! Leave a comment below.
Hello there! I’m Britt, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. I can help you find freedom from life-long dieting, disordered eating and eating disorders. When I’m not writing about ditching diet culture, joyful movement or improving body image, you can find me hiking in Vermont’s Green Mountains, eating pizza, making modern quilts or sipping a hot cup of tea. Let’s connect!