Packed lunch salad with greens, tomatoes, and red onions

Vegetarian Packed Lunch Ideas

Thank you for sharing!

Try these vegetarian packed lunch ideas to help you eat healthily and save money at work. If you pack your lunch, I think there can be a lot of benefits. I am a huge fan of packed lunches for work. In fact, I don’t think I have bought lunch at work since I worked in hospitals in my 20’s! I would like to share with you some ideas for packing a healthy lunch for those of you who are looking to eat more plant foods like veggies, legumes, whole grains, fruits, and nuts.

salad with beans, quinoa, rice
Salad with Beans, Quinoa, Rice, and Pecans and Lemon-Herb Dressing. Photo credit: H. Traub

Why Are Packed Lunches Worth It?

  • They can be much healthier.
  • You will usually have more choices, unless you work someplace with an amazing selection. Plus you can buy and pack whatever you like and be mindful of any food allergies.
  • You can save a lot of money! A sandwich and small bowl of fruit at a convenience store cost about $8! This could go much further at grocery or produce stores
  • Today, saving time is important too. At work, it’s super convenient to have your lunch right with you, instead of needing to order it, pay for it, pick it up, or go to a cafeteria, etc.
a packed lunch of 2 sandwiches on a beige plate next to a laptop computer
Desktop dining

Healthy Ideas for Lunches

felafel balls, lettuce, tzatziki, and pita bread for a packed lunch
Felafel with pita bread

A question I hear a lot from people who are thinking about trying a Meatless Monday or just cutting back on saturated fat and cholesterol is what to take for lunch if normally they would take a sandwich. First, here are some meals you can microwave if you like a hot lunch, like me:

stuffed-peppers-with-butternut-squash-and-quinoa in a white baking dish topped with chopped parsley and basil leaves

Ideas For Cold Lunches:

Extras For Your Desk

These are good to keep in your desk in case you didn’t pack enough to eat:

  • Raisins
  • Nuts
  • Granola bars
  • Supplies to make coffee or tea

Food Safety Tips

Try to keep refrigerated food cold with an insulated lunch bag and ice pack. Bringing in frozen food may work also, but consider the air temperature and make sure the edges don’t get warm while the middle is still frozen. Packing hot food in a Thermos would also be a good plan.

What Else to Include in Your Lunch


Here are some other foods you can toss into your packed lunch to round out your meal – or save for a snack.

Fruits: clementines, tangerines, orange sections, apple, grapes, peaches, cherries, pineapple, mango chunks, strawberries.

Raw Veggies: bell peppers, celery, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, or baby carrots

A high-fiber muffin like this Cranberry Orange Oatmeal one

Crunchy snacks: light popcorn, mini flavored rice cakes, pretzels, tortilla chips, granola bar, roasted chickpeas, kale chips

Ideas to Decrease Waste From Your Packed Lunch

Here are some tips to decrease paper and plastic waste. One of the best ideas I read was in the book Garbology by Edward Humes. A boy packs his lunch for school by wrapping his food up in a cloth napkin and securing it with a binder clip. Genius! Reusable, practical, and Earth-friendly!

  • Use an insulated metal water bottle instead of a plastic water bottle, foil packet of juice, or can of soda or juice.
  • Bring a cloth napkin instead of a paper napkin.
  • Pack a sandwich in a reusable container instead of a plastic sandwich bag.
  • Bring fruit that doesn’t need a bag, like a banana, apple, nectarine, or orange.
  • Use regular cutlery instead of plastic utensils.
  • Consider glass containers instead of plastic for better microwave safety (although they are heavier.)
  • Consider a metal lunch container for salads / cold items. You could also store food that needs to be heated in it, transfer it to a paper plate to heat it.

Related Articles

Join my new Plant-Based, Vegan, and Vegetarian Cooking Community Facebook group!

Have you tried any of these packed lunch ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments below:

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