Simple Steps to Pack a Healthy Lunch

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

2792-1130082_brown_bag.jpgWe all know that bringing a lunch everyday will save us calories and money, but it is all about sticking to it and making healthy choices.

You must plan ahead, spend an extra five to ten minutes packing the lunch, and then transport the lunch safely.

I bring my lunch to work almost everyday, so I will share with you some quick tips that I’ve learned.

5 Simple Lunch Packing Steps

  1. Decide what you will eat for lunch. A few of my favorite lunches are:
    • Salad with tuna or garbanzo beans and a light vinaigrette dressing
    • High fiber wrap with hummus and vegetables
    • Leftovers from dinner in a reheatable container or leftovers placed on top of salad greens
    • Homemade soup/stew
    • Sandwich thins or whole wheat bread with nitrite free turkey and a thin spread of pesto
  2. Interchange your snacks or sides. Try Greek yogurt, fruit, small handful of nuts, baby carrots/raw vegetables, hummus, whole grain crackers, reduced fat cottage cheese, and low fat string cheese.
  3. Make a shopping list of items you need for your lunch. On your weekly shopping trip, make sure to pick up the necessary items.
  4. Pack your lunch the night before. You will be much more likely to stick to packing your lunch if you don’t have to do it during the morning rush.
  5. Use a lunch bag that is insulated and always pack an ice pack. Food will stay safe for up to four hours when left in the temperature danger zones. Using an ice pack and insulated lunch bag will help to extend this time slightly. I use a collapsible lunch bag that I can fold up and put in my purse for convenience.

These are just the basics. The hardest part is changing your habits and behaviors. Just remember that there is a greater payoff for bringing your lunch to work everyday. If your goal is weight loss, you may save a couple hundred calories resulting in a pound lost by the end of the week. If you goal is to eat healthy, packing a lunch could help to increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

Do you pack a lunch, and if you do, do you have any lunch ideas for the rest of us?


  1. ArrowSmith

    Screw that. I just go over to Five Guys and get the double cheeseburger combo meal. That really hits the spot folks!

  2. julie

    I started packing lunches as a New Year’s Resolution, and I’ve kept it up pretty good. I make something on Sunday (tomorrow it’ll be shell bean soup with carrots, potatoes, ham, herbs, collards), or sometimes I make turkey sandwiches or hummous and wheat crisps and microgreens, etc.

  3. O.

    I just wanted to say that in my personal opinion these three products taste so much like my fatter lunch time favorite that I am a little amazed…

    Kraft fat free mayo

    Kraft fat free processed cheese slices (can’t detect a taste difference when part of a sandwich)

    Healthy choice coldcuts and hotdogs

  4. Jim F.

    I fail at #1. Deciding what to eat. I can’t even decide when it’s lunch time, let alone the day before or the morning. But its these small lifestyle changes that can make a huge difference.

  5. Spectra

    We have a fridge at work, so I put mine in the fridge at work. I usually pack breakfast and lunch, since I get to work at 6am. I bring a bowl, a baggie of oatmeal, two apples, a yogurt, a baggie of veggies, a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, and my water bottle. I use the microwave to make oatmeal for breakfast–it works pretty well, actually.