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6 Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch

What can I pack for lunch?

The answer is usually to grab whatever is handy — a frozen dinner, leftovers, cold cuts. But with a little bit of planning, you can make healthy, easy choices and head out the door knowing you’ll actually enjoy your midday meal.

Shop smart

The key to throwing together a good lunch quickly is the supplies. Get ingredients that don’t need too much preparation and can be combined in different ways. These include:

  • Fresh and frozen vegetables
  • Varieties of canned beans
  • Whole-grain wraps, pasta or crackers
  • Healthy grains (quinoa, brown rice, bulgur wheat)
  • Canned or pouched fish (tuna, sardines, salmon)

Spend time prepping

Once a week:

  • Chop vegetables and store them in containers that allow you to easily see the contents and/or clearly mark what’s inside using painter’s tape
  • Cook meats, fish or chicken and divide them into lunch-sized portions
  • Make large portions of grains or pasta and store them in the fridge
  • Boil 4-6 eggs to keep in the fridge

Once you have ready-to-go ingredients, you can whip up a work lunch that hits all the marks: healthy, delicious and satisfying.

Try a few of these twists on a classic midday meal:

Dip it

Dips aren’t just for chips. Use sliced cucumbers, bell peppers, baby carrots and grape tomatoes as your scooping vehicle. Add a few whole grain crackers for some crunch.  

Limit your dip portion to 2 tablespoons. Hummus is a classic, but you may want to branch out to white bean dip or the Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce called tzatziki.

Put it in a bento box

This simple, elegant presentation of food items is commonly used in Japanese restaurants and is great for organization. Use a bento box or divided lunch container and pay attention to presentation by choosing colorful ingredients — after all, we eat with our eyes first. To achieve nutritional balance, mix and match the ready-to-eat vegetables, grains and proteins you’ve already prepared.

Here’s an example of a burrito bowl bento box lunch that you can easily replicate.

Freeze it and microwave it

Frozen vegetables have all the nutrients of fresh, so peruse the frozen food aisle. It’s a great way to enjoy favorites that are out-of-season, and you won’t have to worry about spoilage.

Bypass the premixed-with-sauce options and load up your cart with vegetables: carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli, artichoke hearts, vegetable medleys. Once you get home, divide them into individual portion bags. Keep a supply of microwave steam bags on hand (these non-plastic bags are reusable) and you are set.

Lunch can be any combination of vegetables, sauce and protein:

  • Chicken strips with bell pepper, onion and salsa
  • Shrimp “fried” rice using brown rice, peas, water chestnuts, carrots and hoisin

The possibilities are endless. Check out Primer: A Guy’s Guide to Growing Up for more on this idea.

Wrap it up

Use a whole grain wrap or lettuce instead of bread for those times you need a hand-held lunch. To avoid a messy meal, choose ingredients wisely.

  • Romaine or butter lettuce leaves are sturdy and sizable, making them a good choice for lettuce wraps
  • Use bite-sized pieces of protein and vegetables
  • Leftover rotisserie chicken is a great option
  • Avoid runny sauces or dressings
  • Mashed avocado, a yummy substitute for mayonnaise, works to bind all your wrap components together

Try this Pizza Lettuce Wrap or create your own version of this veggie wrap.

For more healthy lunch ideas, click here.

Nancy Henderson

Nancy Henderson, a writer and editor originally from New York, moved to Nashville more than 25 years ago and considers herself more Tennessean than Yankee these days. She has written about health care and wellness for a variety of publications.

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Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.

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WellTuned provides inspiration and practical advice for healthy living.
WellTuned does not offer medical advice. Any personal health questions should be addressed to your doctor.

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