Thursday, May 9, 2013

How To: Pack a healthy lunch

My first (academic) year of graduate school has come to a close. I start my 40 hour/wk dietetic internship next week, so I am really excited!

One topic I get lots of questions about is how to pack a healthy lunch since most of us are in school or work (or both!) full-time. I'll admit, this is something I struggle with. I would much prefer to fix something at home than have to bring something with me. However, I suck it up and try to be somewhat creative with my lunches.

These are just some very basic combinations that have worked for me, so feel free to make your own creations!


I genuinely love and crave salads. If you want to take a salad here are some options for a basic structure:

  • Base
    • Romaine lettuce 
    • Spinach
    • Mixed greens
    • Kale
  • Protein
    • Beans (Reduced sodium or rinsed off would be best)
    • Grilled chicken
    • Tuna (packed in water)
    • Eggs (ie, boiled)
    • Quinoa
  • Additions
    • Carrots
    • Tomatoes
    • Cucumbers
    • Bell peppers
    • Zucchini 
    • Olives
    • Strawberries
    • Kiwi
    • Oranges
    • Avocado
    • Sun dried tomatoes
    • Craisins/Raisins
    • Nuts and/or seeds
  • Toppings
    • Olive Oil
    • Vinegar
    • Lite dressing
    • Cheese
  • Optional grains
    • Brown Rice
    • Couscous


The trick with sandwiches is to pack the toppings that will make the bread soggy (tomatoes, pickles, etc.) in a separate container, then put them on your sandwich when you are ready to eat it.
No one likes a soggy sandwich.

  • Bread/wrap
    • Whole wheat bread
    • Whole wheat tortilla
  • Protein
    • Grilled chicken
    • Tuna (packed in water; with relish?)
    • Turkey
    • Hummus
    • Tempeh (cooked or raw)
    • Peanut butter
  • Filler options
    • Lettuce
    • Pickles
    • Cheese
    • Avocado
    • Tomatoes
    • Zucchini
    • Cucumbers
  • Sauce options
    • Ketchup
    • Mustard
    • Honey mustard
    • Lite mayonnaise
    • Oil and vinegar
    • Horseradish sauce

Other options:

Cottage cheese bowls
This is relatively new for me, so I can only speak for fruit-cottage cheese combinations. Since it's strawberry season, I have been loving strawberry and almonds with my cottage cheese (reduced fat). I know some people do 'non-sweet' combinations, but since I haven't tried those, I don't want to lead you astray...


  • Carrots
    • with hummus?
  • Grapes
  • Apples 
    • with peanut butter?
  • Oranges/Tangerines
  • Bananas
    • with peanut butter?
  • Almonds
  • String cheese
  • Granola bar
  • Trail mix
    • You can make your own: Nuts and Dried fruits
  • Yogurt
  • Unsweetened applesauce

What are some of your favorite things to pack for lunch/snacks?

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