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.
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.
Healthy Ideas for Lunches
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:
- Pasta with vegetables, like this recipe for pasta with kabocha squash and collard greens
- Baked potatoes or sweet potatoes with broccoli
- Veggies with baked tofu and rice, like arroz colorido
- Pita bread with falafel
- A grilled veggie hummus wrap
- Stir fry vegetables with lo mien noodles over quinoa, brown rice, or whole-grain capellini
- Butternut squash stuffed peppers with quinoa and beans.
- Bean burritos or enchiladas
- A filling soup with potatoes or legumes and pasta such as potato vegetable chowder or minestrone soup
- Vegan chili made with beans or lentils.
Ideas For Cold Lunches:
- Salad with chickpeas or other beans, sunflower seeds, or chopped nuts
- Hummus with whole-grain crackers and veggies
- Pasta salad with vegetables
- Whole wheat pita bread with hummus, cucumber slices, shredded carrots, and sliced bell pepper
- Salad with Beans, Quinoa, Rice, and Pecans and Lemon-Herb Dressing
- Whole grain panini with grilled vegetables and tofu
- Nut butter and jelly/preserves sandwich
Extras For Your Desk
These are good to keep in your desk in case you didn’t pack enough to eat:
- 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.
- 25+ Back-to-School Healthy Eating Tips from Nutritionists
- 20 Terrific Vegan and Vegetarian Breakfast Ideas For Your Teen
- 10 Tips for Zero Waste Takeout
Have you tried any of these packed lunch ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments below: