Lunch packing is one of those things we wish we did more often. It’s usually way more affordable than eating out every day, and way better for you, too. The only catch with brown bagging it on the reg is that it requires a certain amount of planning and preparation. And when it only takes five minutes to swing by the deli for a sandwich, that can seem like a lot of extra effort.
But it definitely doesn’t have to be a drag. There are fun, fast, and flavorful ways to hack your desk lunch with little-to-no extra effort. In fact, these five registered dietitian-recommend packing tricks are guaranteed to make the whole process super easy, efficient, and tasty.
1. Use your dinner leftovers in a creative way.
“For me, lunch is often dinner from the night before, either as-is or reinvented. Tacos at night become taco salads for work. Meatloaf at night becomes a meatloaf sandwich for work. Sometimes I’m traveling all day and lunches need to be eaten cold or not too perishable, so I always try to think of my schedule when planning my lunches.”
— Caroline West Passerrello, M.S., R.D.N., L.D.N., Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
2. Instead of using an ice pack to keep your lunch cool, freeze your water bottle.
“Stock your lunch bag with a frozen water bottle or juice box. This will keep your food cool throughout the day, and by the time you’re ready to dig, in your beverage will be defrosted.”
3. Lunch picnic-style.
When I’m in a hurry, grab-and-go foods make packing a snack-y picnic-style lunch possible in minutes. I’m always looking for a meal to have a mix of protein, healthy fat, and fiber to help keep me fueled. So I’ll pack a 100-calorie bag of Wonderful Pistachios, which provides protein, healthy fat, and fiber. I’ll also grab a couple of hardboiled eggs—which offer protein—as well as fibrous carrot slices and grape tomatoes. Then for a healthy dessert, I’ll include a 100-calorie pack of Pom Poms, which are pomegranate arils that deliver fiber and a little bit of protein.
4. Invest in a bento box.
“Pack lunch in a bento-style box to ensure a balanced meal. The pre-divided boxes are perfect for making sure you have a place for your protein, carbs, fruit, and veggies. If you have extra room, you may even be able to fit in a little treat. I love using these for the kids too and the kids think it’s so much more fun than just a plain old sandwich every day.”
5. Defrost frozen, cooked vegetables in your fridge at the beginning of the week.
“Already cooked and ready-to-go, frozen veggies are an easy, nutrient-dense way to include vegetables in your lunch box. Add them to some pre-cut raw vegetables like snap peas and baby carrots. This helps me meet my personal goal of eating two servings of vegetables at lunch.”