Lunch can be tricky, especially if you are at work or school during the day. But the traditional PB & J is not your only option when packing lunch. If you want to make packing lunch a quick and easy task, stock your kitchen with healthy options like those listed below. Pick a few foods that you like and keep them on hand.

Also – keep some storage containers, plastic sandwich bags, a thermos and an insulated lunch bag or cooler to transport and store your lunch.


  • Fresh vegetables – baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas and precut vegetables are quick to pack
  • You can also buy whole vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers and celery; chop them up when you get home to use throughout the week on sandwiches, wraps or salads
  • Fresh mixed greens or spinach – pile onto sandwiches, wraps or use in salads
  • Frozen vegetables – try those you can steam in the package; a great idea if you’ve got a microwave available to you during the day


  • Whole fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, pears, nectarines, grapes or peaches – these are easy to grab and go
  • Canned fruit (canned in juice, not syrup) – try individual serving cups or cans of mandarin oranges, peaches or fruit cocktail

Whole Grains

  • 100% whole wheat bread, pitas, and/or wraps – if you’re trying to cut back on carbohydrate, consider a low-carb version
  • Quinoa or quick-cooking barley

Protein Foods

  • Canned tuna
  • Reduced-sodium canned beans
  • Reduced-sodium lean deli meat – try roasted turkey, chicken or roast beef
  • Rotisserie chicken – buy a whole chicken and use it throughout the week
  • Eggs – hard boil these ahead of time
  • Unsalted nuts/nut mix


  • Skim or 1% milk – soymilk or almond milk are also god options, especially for those with a lactose intolerance
  • Light yogurt or non-fat Greek yogurt – plain is best, flavored varieties will have more carbohydrate
  • Cottage cheese – try 1% or 2% low-fat cottage cheese to cut back on the calories

Some Extras for Flavor

  • Hot sauce
  • Hummus
  • Light salad dressing
  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Lime and/or lemon juice

Quick & Healthy Lunch Ideas

Here are some ways you can put together the foods above to make a healthy, well-balanced lunch:

  • Put a healthy spin on the traditional sandwich: use 2 pieces of thin sandwich bread, 2 ounces reduced-sodium lean turkey, hummus, spinach, bell pepper and mustard. Add some carrot sticks and light ranch dressing on the side.
  • Mix together some cooked quinoa, white beans, chopped bell pepper, carrots and broccoli to make a grain salad. Toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add a nectarine or some grapes on the side and a small handful of dry roasted almonds, if desired.
  • Make a tuna salad with canned tuna, light mayo, diced celery, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Serve it over greens with an apple and peanut butter on the side.
  • Try a quick yogurt parfait with non-fat plain Greek yogurt, diced pineapple, peaches and a handful of pecans on the side.
  • Pack a cup of leftover chili or vegetable soup. Top it with some fresh tomatoes and non-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream.
  • Fill a whole wheat tortilla wrap with rotisserie chicken, hummus, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and greens. Add a side of fruit if it fits with your plan.
  • Try a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit, string cheese and 5 whole wheat crackers. You could also add some carrots, celery sticks and peanut butter.
  • Throw together a salad with romaine lettuce or spinach and any other non-starchy vegetables that you like. Top with some cottage cheese, chopped nuts and a tablespoon of light dressing.

Dining out for Lunch?

If you don’t have time to make a healthy lunch at home, follow these tips when eating out:

  • Try out a vegetarian option, like a grilled vegetable Panini or wrap with fresh vegetables and hummus.
  • Order a salad with the dressing on the side. (Watch out for salads with a lot of cheese or fried meats. Ask for less cheese and hold the fried onions and meats.)
  • Opt for grilled meat, fish, and poultry rather than fried.
  • Order the smallest sandwich. So, skip the double decker cheeseburger and choose a regular hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard. Or go for the 6-inch sub rather than the foot-long option.
  • Ask if whole wheat is an option for sandwich bread, wraps, or pitas.
  • Opt for fresh vegetables, fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt as side dishes.
  • Order broth-based vegetable or bean soup rather than creamy soups.

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