8 Smart Tips for Packing a Healthier Lunch

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A Brief History

In November 1979, Wendy’s became the first fast-food chain to introduce the salad bar, giving fast-food seeking patrons seeking a healthier option than was previously available.  Indeed, like rats on a treadmill, we are always on the run. To keep up with a healthy lifestyle can be tough. It is easier to control your breakfast and dinners as we are often at home for those meals.

For lunch, we often give into calorie bombs like fast food. Even gourmet restaurants make food loaded with calories and unhealthy fats.  The simplest way to control what you eat is by preparing it yourself. Be efficient and pack healthier lunches with these 8 smart tips.

Digging Deeper

1. Health Should Always come first

The MyPlate food guide icon by the United States Department of Agriculture.

What are the things you need to do to stay healthy? Always stay on top of your health game. Listen to your body. Aim to meet your daily requirement of fruits and vegetables.

Reduce refined sugar intake and increase healthy proteins and fats in your diet. The important thing is to stay on track. By packing your own lunch you steer the portions to what you need to eat.

2. Pack Budget-Friendly Meals

A hand reaching for organic tomatoes at a farmer’s market in North America.  Photograph by Alanthebox.

Eating out for lunch every day can be heavy on your wallet. Packing lunch is always cheaper. Hold up, you do not have to hit the groceries every day for making lunch. Visit the organic farmer’s market biweekly to get your fruits and vegetables.  You can find recipes online that take only a dollar or two make. The outcome is surprisingly delicious and cheap!  Here are some other ways you can eat healthy food on a budget.

3. Make Large Enough Dinners for Leftovers

Blue Apron meal kit ingredients.  Photograph by Timtempleton.

As adults, we quickly learn that making your own dinner is always cheaper. That is why it becomes that one meal we are forced to make. Cheat a little and make enough dinner so that you can take the leftovers for lunch.

Consider meal kits like MyFoodSubscriptions while making dinners. Meal kit companies deliver to your doorstep every ingredient needed for the meal, even the recipe!

Save more time with a Home Chef who provide meals that take only half an hour to prepare. Sun Basket and Blue Apron have a wide range of salads, soups, and snacks, providing easy options for making lunch.

4. Pack Leftovers Right After Dinner

Packaged leftovers from a Thanksgiving meal.  Photograph by Andrew Nash from Vienna, Austria.

It is natural to feel lazy after dinner, but we always put the leftovers away first. Do yourself a favor and get an extra few minutes of sleep by putting the leftovers in right after dinner.  Instead of doing it twice, you can tackle two things at once! No more early morning rush to pack leftover lunches!

5. Have Backup Staples Ready

A Ziploc-branded storage bag.  Photograph by User:Mattes.

We are only humans and it will not be possible for us to prepare lunch every day. Make it easy on yourself and prepare some backups.  On Sundays or midweek, cut up vegetables for salads, wraps, smoothies and put them in a ziplock bag. Prepare the chicken or sandwich fish and freeze them.  Make homemade dips and dressings, put them in small jars. On hectic days you can just grab the bags and head out.  Many people keep cut-up fruits and throw them into those portable blenders for smoothies. Get creative with your backup staples!

6. Buddy Up With a Coworker or Friend

Roundhouse wipers at lunch, Clinton, Iowa, 1943.  Photograph by Jack Delano (1914–1997).

Get a friend or colleague to eat with. Plan homemade lunches together and share the food. Go outside and enjoy the food together. The more people you can bring in on this, the easier it will be to avoid eating out for lunch!

7. Protect Your Food, Use a Cooler!

Floating with supplies on the Bogue Chitto, Louisiana.  Photograph by Shannon Dosemagen.

When you put your lunch in the office fridge, you subject it to not only germs but also thieves! If you have a problem with people filching your lunch, get a small portable cooler and keep your lunch with you.  Your food will stay clean and safe!

8. Keep Your Desk Stocked with Essentials

Close-up of a granola bar showing the detail of its pressed shape.  Photograph by en:User:Cburnett.

Do you frequently forget about making lunch? You are not alone. With a thousand thing on your mind, we often forget to even eat meals. On those days, do not grow hungry. Keep your desk stocked!  You can keep dry fruits, nuts, homemade cookies or granola bars. Think of healthy things you like to eat or look online for easy solutions.


A photograph of a healthy kid’s lunch packed in a steel lunchbox.  Photograph by Cindyparnell.

Focus on eating healthy lunches.  If you do not have time to stop by a fast food restaurant’s salad bar, packing healthy lunches can be a fun, easy, and delicious alternative. Stay on track with these tips and do not give in to bad food habits!

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you pack healthy lunches?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Davis, Brittany.  The Best Lunch Box Recipes In History: The Guide To The Most Delicious Lunch Box Recipes Your Kids Will Love (Healthy, Nutritious & Fast).  ATF Publishing, 2014.

Davis, Brittany.  The Greatest Gluten Free Vegan Recipes In History: Easy, Mouth Watering and Healthy Vegan Recipes for Breakfasts, Lunches, Dinners and Desserts.  ATF Publishing, 2014.

Ruis, Andrew R.  Eating to Learn, Learning to Eat: The Origins of School Lunch in the United States (Critical Issues in Health and Medicine).  Rutgers University Press, 2017.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine of Wendy’s on YorkU Keele campus, is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.


About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland