Even if you love to cook, packing lunch can be tricky since it requires coming up with meals that will pack, travel, reheat well — and, of course, you’ll look forward to. However, with some consistent practice, nailing that weekly lunch prep can become second nature.
To whip your lunch game into shape — and to hold you accountable — we’ve put together a two-week packed lunch plan that’s flexible enough to fit your tastes, schedule and food preferences, but structured enough that there’s no excuse to quit. Even more, our goal is to help you establish the lunch-packing habit beyond two weeks.
THE SIMPLE FORMULA FOR A HEALTHY PACKED LUNCH
Whether it’s a sandwich or grain bowl, the formula is going to be roughly the same. Choose from a serving of macros then pile on as many veggies as you want. To keep things interesting and to keep you looking forward to your lunch, remember to change the ingredients as much as you can — and try to keep discovering new grains and vegetables, too.
HOW TO PREP
- Pick a day (most people opt for Sunday) to shop and prep.
- Roast, grill or pan-sear your protein with salt, pepper and your favorite spice. Note: Protein will stay the most tender if you don’t cut it ahead of time, so try leaving whatever you have (i.e., chicken breasts or skirt steak whole, then cut off what you need as you go).
- As your protein cooks, hard-boil the eggs. Peel and refrigerate. (You’ll only need 4 for lunch, but you can eat the rest for breakfast or as snacks.)
- Cook 4 servings of your whole grain in a pot or a rice cooker. Refrigerate.
- While the grains are cooking, chop the vegetables you bought, then roast them in the oven at 400ºF (204ºC) with olive oil, salt, pepper and your favorite spice. Once cooled, refrigerate.
- Make an easy salad dressing out of two parts olive oil, one part vinegar or lemon juice, a handful of chopped herbs, salt and pepper.
- Store salad greens, raw salad vegetables, cheese and parsley in the fridge.
- Store bread in the fridge or on your counter.
SAMPLE COMBINATIONS FOR WEEK 1
VEGETARIAN GRAIN BOWL
1 CUP GRAINS + 1 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES + 2 HARD-BOILED EGGS + 1/2 CUP CHOPPED RAW VEGGIES + 1 TABLESPOON HOMEMADE VINAIGRETTE + 1/4 AVOCADO
EASY AVOCADO-HUMMUS SANDWICH
2 SLICES 100% WHOLE-WHEAT BREAD + 1/4 AVOCADO + HUMMUS + 1 SERVING PROTEIN + SLICED TOMATO + LETTUCE
NOT SAD DESK SALAD
2 CUPS SALAD GREENS + 1 SERVING PROTEIN + 1/2 CUP RAW VEGGIES + 1/2 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES + 1 OUNCE CHEESE + 2 TABLESPOONS HOMEMADE VINAIGRETTE
CHICKEN GRAIN BOWL
1 CUP GRAINS + 1 SERVING CHICKEN + 1 CUP RAW VEGGIES + 2 OUNCES CHEESE + 1 TABLESPOON HOMEMADE VINAIGRETTE
EGG AND AVOCADO TOAST
2 SLICES 100% WHOLE-WHEAT BREAD + 1/2 AVOCADO + 2 HARD-BOILED EGGS + 1 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES
SAMPLE COMBINATIONS FOR WEEK 2
GREEK-INSPIRED GRAIN BOWL
1 CUP GRAINS + 1 SERVING CHICKEN + 1 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES + TOMATO + CUCUMBER + 2 OUNCES FETA + KALAMATA OLIVES
SALMON GRAIN BOWL
1 CUP GRAINS + 1 SERVING SALMON + 1 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES + 1 CUP RAW VEGGIES + 1/4 AVOCADO + 1 TABLESPOON HOMEMADE VINAIGRETTE
TOFU-HUMMUS GRAIN BOWL
1 CUP GRAINS + 1 SERVING TOFU + 1 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES + 1 CUP RAW VEGGIES + 1/4 AVOCADO + 2 TABLESPOONS HUMMUS
HIGH-PROTEIN CHICKEN SALAD
1 CUP GRAINS + 2 CUPS SALAD GREENS + 1 SERVING CHICKEN + HARD-BOILED EGG + 2 OUNCES CHEESE + 1 TABLESPOON HOMEMADE VINAIGRETTE
LOADED VEGAN SANDWICH
2 SLICES 100% WHOLE-WHEAT BREAD + 1 SERVING SEITAN + 1/2 AVOCADO + 1 CUP ROASTED VEGGIES + CUCUMBER + TOMATO + 2 TABLESPOONS HUMMUS
PRO TIP: PACK YOUR LUNCH AT NIGHT FOR THE FOLLOWING DAY
Once you get into the habit of prepping ingredients ahead of time, you’ll realize that there are so many possible lunch combinations. Plus, you can repeat the same basic dishes week after week using different meats, grains, cheeses and veggies. That means your meal prep and packing routine will be on autopilot, but your lunches will stay interesting.
One thing to note: Cooked meat should only be kept in the fridge for 4 days, so opt for a meat-free lunch on Friday.