Making time to eat a healthy lunch is an act of self-care. And taking care of yourself is the greatest gift you can give the people you love. Why? Because when you’re healthy, you have more to share.
If the idea of making and packing a healthy lunch for yourself still feels like a chore, we have good news—we can help you pack a healthy, satisfying lunch in minutes.
Investing in your health is no small thing. But it’s not an unrealistic goal or insurmountable wall that only those with special skills, abundant resources, and the luxury of time can pursue or accomplish. Rather, it happens through tiny—and achievable—actions and small healthy choices that add up over months and years.
The Canada Food Guide1 and USDA MyPlate2 both agree that healthy eating is a daily practice, not a one-time event. (Learn everything you need to know about the new Canada Food Guide.)
Healthy eating is not about checking boxes, counting calories and macros, or following a complicated, time-consuming set of rules. It’s simply about filling your plate—or your lunch box—with a wide variety of delicious and colourful plant-based whole foods that serve up a wealth of nutrition.
You deserve to have an awesome lunch! Keep reading to discover low-effort, highly nutritious lunch box ideas for grown-ups, and fast, easy tips to help you have more time and energy to share with the people you love!
(Or take 54 seconds before you dive into our full why- and how-to guide to get registered dietitian Desiree Neilsen’s take on why nutrition is a tool to help you live better—and watch her make a fast, healthy sandwich!)
What to Pack for a Healthy Lunch (and Why!)
Think of your lunch box like the plates now featured in the Canada Food Guide and USDA MyPlate—fill half your lunch box with fruits and veggies; make half your grains whole; include some satisfying plant-based protein; and don’t be afraid to make friends with healthy fats.
But knowing what to do often doesn’t matter if it doesn’t come with a compelling why (followed by some handy how-to), so let’s start with why.
Why the Plate Approach Matters in a Healthy Lunch
Those four sections aren’t arbitrary—they’re backed by a solid body of scientific evidence on nutrition and health that shows we need all of them to thrive.
Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies give you healthy carbohydrates that provide energy to fuel your body—and your brain. They’re also packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that help all the different systems of your body function.
Natural sugars in fruits and vegetables give you quick energy from simple carbs, but there’s a reason to eat them whole instead of drinking a glass of juice and checking the fruit and veggie box. Whole fruits and veggies also serve up complex carbs—slower burning starches and fibre that give you energy that lasts.
Speaking of lasting energy—fibre is an energy-sustaining nutrient few of us get enough of3. And that’s where whole grains come in.
Whole grains are rich in both soluble and insoluble fibre. On top of giving you steady energy and helping you feel full for longer, getting enough fibre is associated with a long list of well-substantiated health benefits, from supporting healthy digestion to reducing your risk of heart disease, cancers, and diabetes4. (So there’s plenty of good reasons to give whole grains a starring role in your lunch box!)
Not all fats are bad. And a little healthy fat goes a long way in your lunch—especially when we’re talking about polyunsaturated fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6) from nuts and seeds, and monounsaturated fats from foods like olives and avocados. Healthy fats team up with protein and pair well with fibre to help you feel satisfied for longer. And they play a major role in managing cholesterol and helping your body absorb important nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Finally comes the macronutrient that never goes out of style: protein. Although it has a muscle-building reputation, protein isn’t just your post-workout pal. Protein helps build, maintain, and repair your body’s tissues (among many other functions).
Whether your calendar includes a trip to the gym, training for a race, or the only running and weightlifting that fits in your full schedule is chasing your toddler and carrying them to bed, you want to pack protein in your lunch because of its power to fill you up and help you feel satisfied.
Want the secret to beating the 3 PM slump?
Pack a lunch that includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and plant-based protein. Together, they’ll give you energy to power through your afternoon, and keep going until dinner.
Ingredients for a Healthy Lunch
1. Fruits and Veggies
(half your lunch box)
- bell peppers
2. Whole Grains
(one quarter of your lunch box should be grains—and at least half of those should be whole)
- your favourite Silver Hills Bakery breads, buns, tortillas, and bagels
- oats and oatmeal
- brown rice
3. Healthy Fats
(think small—a handful, a sprinkle, a drizzle, or a generous smear is all you need! Note: in the case of nuts, seeds, and butters made from them, healthy fats come along for the ride with protein!)
- nuts and nut butters
- seeds (chia seeds, flaxseeds, and more)
- olive oil
(most of the remaining quarter of your lunch box)
- nuts and nut butters
- beans and lentils
- plant-based cheeses—from shreds or spreads to blocks.
Build your lunch box around these four sections, and you’ll have a healthy lunch ready to go—fast! How you combine these groups is totally up to you. Use our short list of starter suggestions as a jump-off point to customize your list of healthy lunch box ingredients you like most.
Now you’ve got some healthy lunch ingredient ideas (the what)—and an approach to guide your choices (the why with a whiff of how-to). But there’s more we can help you with when it comes to packing a healthy lunch that feels like an act self-care (and not just a chore).
Read on to dig deeper into the how-to part!
How to Make a Healthy Lunch the Easy Way: Grown-up Edition
Start with a Lunch box Classic
We know our sprouted bread bakery bias is showing when we say this but hear us out—sandwiches are a lunch box classic for good reason! Sandwiches are more than an amazingly convenient handheld delivery vehicle for nutrition. They’re also an excellent way to cover the four healthy food categories mentioned above.
Start with a satisfying sandwich stuffed with plant-based protein. Fillings like our Vegan Chickpea Tuna Salad Sandwich or our Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich recipes are fast and easy classics that will fill you up any day of the week. And a simple PB & J never goes out of style. But if you’re someone who seeks variety, don’t be afraid to switch it up and swap things out.
You Don’t Need to Pack a Sandwich to Make a Healthy Lunch!
Even if you find comfort in playing the same favourites on repeat, it’s good to switch things up sometimes. Whether you crave the occasional boredom-busting alternative or you’re a variety-seeker who’s sick of sandwiches, don’t worry—sandwiches aren’t the only way to pack whole grain goodness for lunch!
If you’re more of a grazer (or you’ve got a full day with no lunch break in sight), pack yourself a smorgasbord of satisfying snacks! Bagel bites, crackers, or slices of bread to load up with spreads like hummus are a perfectly snackable way to enjoy whole grains. There’s no rule that says a main course is mandatory (being a grown-up has to come with some perks, right?!)
And speaking of perks…
Pack Yourself a Lunchtime Treat!
Why should kids’ lunch boxes have all the fun? Grown-ups deserve treats, too! Whether it’s a couple cookies, some crunchy salted chips, or a square (or two!) of 70% cocoa chocolate, pack whatever will make you happy come snack time. (A little indulgence after a healthy lunch can be a just the pick-me-up you need to help you finish your day with a smile).
Healthy Lunch box Ideas for Adults
If you’ve read this far, you know why a healthy lunch matters for grown-ups, too; you have a list of lunch box-friendly ingredients to start with (and know why they work together); and you have an easy, sustainable strategy for how to make a healthy lunch for yourself.
Knowledge is power. And sometimes we all need a little inspiration to put what we’ve learned into practice. That’s where these three work-friendly, grown-up healthy lunch box suggestions come in!
Like our short lists of foods for each section of your plate, these lunch box combos help show how you can put all the ideas above together in a healthy lunch. (And they’re just a fraction of what’s possible when you add a dash of creativity and a pinch of personal preference to your new healthy lunch packing routine!)
Sweet & Savoury To-Go
You don’t have to choose between sweet or savoury—you can have both! Although an assortment of naturally sweet berries is almost a dessert in its own right, there’s no harm in packing yourself a chocolatey treat too! Just make sure you eat your lunch before your dessert. (Or don’t, we won’t tell anyone!). With a refreshingly light and flavourful combination of snacks like cucumbers, pickles, and vegan cheese, the only problem you’ll have is deciding where to dig in first.
Mediterranean Picnic Basket
Watch your tastebuds takeoff with a tasty combination of veggies and dip, and crunchy all natural chips. Chow down on a satisfying high-protein plant-based sandwich, and finish off with sweet, sun-ripened fruit. By the end of your lunch, you’ll feel like you just got back from a Mediterranean getaway!
- Vegan Chickpea “Tuna” Salad Sandwich
- bell peppers
- garlic hummus
- kiwi slices
- chips (we used Hardbite All Natural Chips)
Lunchtime’s Greatest Hits
Sometimes there’s just no beating the classics. This timeless lunch box arrangement got many of us through school days, so it should have no problem helping us tackle workdays too. It’s the perfect easy lunch box for both the young and the young at heart!
- Vegan Chickpea “Tuna” Salad Sandwich
- nut or seed butter (WowButter is one of our favourite allergy-friendly options)
- baby carrots
Watch Desiree RD’s Instagram Reel for a Fourth Fast and Fresh Healthy Lunch Idea for Grown-ups
Tips for Packing a Healthy Lunch
Follow these tips to make packing lunches a breeze!
- Be proactive. You know you best. Night owl? Pack the night before. Early riser? Pack in the morning. Burning both ends? Meal prep a few days of lunches when you can. Whatever works!
- Don’t forget about leftovers! Last night’s dinner can be tomorrow’s lunch! (You can even make extra on purpose! (Bean salads, stir-fry, and leftover quinoa or brown rice make fun fillings for wraps—and nothing screams sandwiches like leftover lentil loaf!))
- Treat yourself! Reward yourself for eating healthy and packing a lunch! Don’t be afraid to throw a little treat in there to keep lunch fun!
Healthy Eating Leads to Healthy Living
When we eat with intent, we live healthier, happier lives. As you assemble your lunch, remember that including fruits and veggies, whole grains, protein, and healthy fats isn’t about checking some food guide box.
On a day-to-day level, it’s about enjoying healthy, plant-based whole foods that will fill you up, keep you satisfied, and help you push past the 3 PM slump with energy to spare. All because you’ve fuelled your body and brain with the nutrition you need to do your best work—no matter how busy your day gets.
In the big picture, remember that packing your lunch is small daily act of self-care that’s also an investment in your own health. And making time to invest in your health is one of the most powerful ways to show your family you love them.
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