Guide to Packing Healthy Lunches for Work

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Packing a lunch for work may seem tedious and time-consuming, so many of us default to dining out daily. But there is a better way to eat, and we have the recipes to prove it!

Before you get to our versatile recipes below, read more about the benefits of packing lunches for work and learn some tips to help make food prepping simpler and more enjoyable.

Financial Perks Health Perks
The average Americans spends approximately $10 on each lunch outing.1 If you dine out every work day, that’s over $2,500 a year! You’ll know exactly what is going into your food. Avoid hidden calories and unknown nutritional information.
The average packed lunch is around $4 per day, saving you 60% of your lunch budget. That’s a savings of over $1,500!1 Portion control can be tough to judge with restaurant portions, especially with items that are mixed. If you bring food from home, you can easily measure!
Dining out regularly is linked to high cholesterol and other diet-related illnesses.2 While it could be years before problems surface, proactive measures now could help you stay out of the doctor’s office and avoid medical bills. If you’re trying to eat healthy while dining out regularly, your options are slim. Making food at home gives you a wide range of options.

Tips and Tricks
Time Saving

slow cooker Try hands-off cooking with a slow cooker. Cook something as simple as pulled chicken, or toss in a ton of ingredients for a chili. Set the heat to low for a few hours, and come back to a fully cook meal!
frezer Have backups in the freezer just in case. Stir-fry vegetables, grilled chicken strips, microwaveable rice and a little low sodium soy sauce plus a few minutes in the microwave make a simple stir-fry on the fly.
co-workers Do you have a reliable co-worker with similar goals? Split the responsibilities with them. Maybe you bring in an extra lunch on Mondays and Wednesdays and they bring in extra lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Making a second lunch is only a little more effort. Plus, you get to try meals you may not have chosen for yourself and find something new to love!


meal prep If you’re always in a rush in the morning and don’t have time to put together a lunch, consider rethinking your tactics. Instead of cooking every morning, set aside an hour or two on Sunday to prepare your lunch for the entire week. If you’d rather have a lazy Sunday, buy enough ingredients to make your dinner stretch one more serving than you normally would and use the leftovers for lunch.
meal planner Plan out your menu beforehand to avoid buying too many groceries that may go to waste. Plan ahead with a printable meal planner, or download a meal planning app to your phone for easy planning on the go.
weather Check the weather. It seems strange, but weather can affect your mood and your food cravings. Cool weather this week? Think soups and warm sandwiches. If it’s the peak of summer, plan for refreshing salads and fruit.
calendar If you’re already a master at prepping for the week, consider preparing meals for the month. Make larger batches of slow cooker-friendly meals and divide them among several freezer-safe bags. Store them in the freezer and rotate them in for quick and easy lunch prep.

Switch it up

mix and match Make mix-and-match meals to avoid boredom. Let’s say you make grilled chicken, rice and carrots for the week. With some large leaves of lettuce and buffalo sauce, you can make buffalo lettuce wraps. Dice the chicken and carrots, mix it together with the rice and stuff it in a bell pepper for a tasty edible bowl! Two very different meals, all the same root ingredients.
plate Feeling unmotivated? Search for healthy versions of your favorite meals or copycat versions of meals from your go-to restaurant. Love burgers? Go bun-less or choose a bun alternative. Addicted to quick-service burritos? Build your own burrito bowl at home.
wrap Repurpose your leftovers easily with wraps and dumplings. Think of that leftover curry that would be tasty as pot sticker filling or a leftover casserole that tastes great in a tortilla.

Tips + Tricks

no veggies Don’t bother buying vegetables you don’t enjoy because you believe you should be eating them. Don’t make eating a chore, otherwise you’ll ditch your meal and eat out anyways.
salad Keep the salads you prepare on Sunday fresh all week by packaging them strategically in a mason jar. By stacking the salads with the dressing and wet vegetables first, you keep your cheese, lettuce, croutons and other salad components from getting soggy in the fridge.
muffin tin Muffin tins aren’t just for baking anymore. Use a muffin tin to make “mini meals,” or perfectly portioned meals that are easy to pack. From meatloaf to cheddar broccoli bites, the possibilities are endless (and easy).
storage container Buy storage containers that make the trip from home to office easier. Stackable storage with ice blocks keeps your meal fresh. Don’t be caught with a salad and no fork with containers that include a space for utensils. Avoid spills with interlocking containers.
alarm Set a daily alarm on your phone to remind yourself to bring lunch. After all your hard work prepping, you wouldn’t want to leave lunch behind!

Pass on this… Pick this!

Mayonnaise, 1 tbsp
90 calories
10 g fat
0 g fiber

Avocado, 1 tbsp
25 calories
2 g fat
1 g fiber

White rice, 1 cup
205 calories
53 g carbs
4 g protein

Quinoa, 1 cup
223 calories
39 g carbs
8 g protein
flour tortilla
Flour tortilla, 1 tortilla (8 inches)
120 calories
3 g fat
22 g carbs
corn tortilla
Corn tortilla, 2 tortillas
100 calories
2 g fat
18 g carbs
sour cream
Sour cream, 1 tbsp
28 calories
3 g fat
0 g protein
Plain Greek yogurt
8 calories
0 g fat
1 g protein
French fries, ½ cup
200 calories
11 g fat
2 g fiber
sweet potato fries
Baked sweet potato fries, ½ cup
175 Calories
6 g fat
4 g fiber
potato chips
Potato chips, 1 ounce serving
160 calories
10 g fat
15 g carbs
kale chips
Kale chips, 1 ounce serving
50 calories
1 g fat
9 g carbs
Lasagna noodles, 2 pieces
180 calories
37 g carbs
1 g fat
Zucchini, 1 ounce
15 calories
1 g carbs
0 g fat
Soda, 1 can
140 calories
39 g carbs
Seltzer water, 1 can
0 calories
0 g carbs
Bagels, 1 bagel
260 calories
1 g fat
56 g carbs
Whole wheat English muffin
57 calories
1 g fat
11 g carbs

Avocado Chicken Salad

Use it to: Spread on an English muffin, fill a lettuce wrap or top a salad.

  • ¼ avocado
  • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¾ cup shredded chicken, precooked
  1. In a small bowl, mash the avocado together with the Greek yogurt and lemon juice until combined well.
  2. Add chicken and mix until chicken is coated.

Black Bean Mango Salad

Use it to: Eat as a side, sprinkle on tacos or mix with vegetables.

  • 8 ounces of black beans
  • 10 ounces mango, diced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 3 tbsp cilantro, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Mix black beans and mango in a bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix all juices with syrup.
  3. Mix together the contents of both bowls. Add cilantro.
  4. Salt and pepper to taste.

Rainbow Quinoa

Use it to: Add stir-fry with soy sauce, top with cheese and cook under a broiler or stuff into a bell pepper and cook.

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ yellow pepper, diced
  • ½ red pepper, diced
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • 1 cup red cabbage
  • ½ cup corn kernels
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put quinoa, water and salt in a covered pot. Heat until water boils. Once boiling, turn the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  2. Turn the heat up to medium and add in vegetables and oil. Cook until vegetables are heated.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Zucchini Pasta

Use it to: Freshen up a pad Thai dish, eat it with parmesan cheese or add it to a broth for homemade ramen.

  • 2 zucchinis
  • Salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ red pepper flakes
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Spiralize the zucchini and spread it across paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let sit for 20 – 30 minutes to help remove excess moisture. Blot the zucchini with paper towel.
  2. Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté garlic for 5 minutes just prior to adding zucchini.
  3. Add zucchini and red peppers flakes to the pan and sauté for 2 – 3 minutes, tossing frequently.
  4. Remove from heat and serve!

1 Julia, L. (n.d.). Americans spend a lot on lunch. Here’s how to spend less. Retrieved March 17, 2016, from

2 Jaret, P. (n.d.). How diet changed one woman’s cholesterol numbers. Retrieved March 17, 2016, from

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Babs is a content writer at Enova International, Inc. with a Bachelors in Cinema Studies and English from the University of Illinois (ILL-INI!). She loves binge watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos! Find out more about her on Google+.


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