Last Update: December 22, 2023
Going out for lunch almost always sounds better than making a sandwich or eating leftovers from last night. But that’s not always the healthiest—or most wallet-friendly—way to go. The best way to avoid takeout temptation? Pack a lunch you’ll be excited to eat. It doesn’t need to be fancy—follow along with these tips, and you’ll be on your way to a tasty and money-saving midday meal.
Give Subway Sandwich Artists a run for their money. Leftovers—everything from short ribs to baked chicken to chickpea patties—often taste even better the next day, especially when wedged between two slices of crusty, fresh bread. Add a little mayo or sriracha for flavor, and then pile the protein and veggies high. Just make sure you use a quality loaf or wrap that can hold up without getting soggy.
Just because that quinoa played second fiddle in last night’s dinner doesn’t mean it can’t be the star of lunch the next day. Cooked grains, roasted veggies, and legumes are so versatile. Start with a base, like quinoa or black beans, add a few freshly chopped veggies, and drizzle with a quick vinaigrette for a filling meal.
Eating tapas-style keeps things interesting and varied, and it’s so easy; just pack an assortment of snacks to enjoy midday. Veggies with dip, crackers and hummus, marinated olives, a small salad, some hardboiled eggs—mix and match however you like! You can’t go wrong, and you’ll probably have some leftover if you hit a mid-afternoon slump.
Doesn’t matter how good the contents of your brown bag are—if your food leaks, gets soggy, or goes bad because you didn’t pack it properly, all bets are off. Opt for reusable storage (it’s better-quality and less likely to fail on you, and better for the environment). Here are a few of our go-tos:
Use Stasher bags or U Konserve containers to keep ingredients separate on the way to the office or school. When lunch rolls around, you can assemble your salad, sandwich, or tacos in no time—and they’ll always taste fresher.
Stuff happens. Sometimes you leave your carefully packed lunch at home. That doesn’t mean you have to suck it up and shell out cash for an overpriced salad or turkey sandwich. Here are a few things to keep in your office or desk drawer for lunch emergencies.
It’s a classic for a reason, but even peanut butter and jelly gets tired. Swap out peanut butter for almond butter, cashew butter, or tahini; and try honey, coconut butter, or dried fruit instead of strawberry jam.
Mason jars are so versatile—you can use them as drinking glasses or to store herbs, display fresh flowers, and brew kombucha at home. They’re also great for preparing crispy, crunchy salads ahead of time. Layer your fixins in the following order and transfer to a bowl and toss when you’re ready to eat:
Sweet, salty, crunchy, gooey, chocolatey—whatever speaks to you that day! No need to totally derail your healthy diet, though. Try these guiltless swaps.
Instead of: Chocolate chip cookies
Try: Good Bites raw and vegan cookies, which use organic, raw, vegan, and gluten-free ingredients
Instead of: Potato chips fried in corn oil
Try: Jackson’s Honest Chips, which are cooked in heart-healthy coconut oil
Instead of: High-fructose corn syrup filled fruit roll-ups
Try: Stretch Island Fruit Strips, which are organic and have zero added sweeteners
Instead of: Candies made with tons of processed sugar and mystery ingredients
Try: Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, which are made with all organic ingredients including organic dark chocolate, organic cocoa butter, and organic peanuts
You and your family deserve happy, healthy lunches. Try these tips and never deal with a sub-par midday meal again.
Photo credit: Alicia Cho
Download the app for easy shopping on the go
By providing your mobile number, you agree to receive marketing text messages from Thrive Market. Consent not a condition to purchase. Msg & data rates apply. Msg frequency varies. Reply HELP for help and STOP to cancel.