Before you run out the door in the morning, pack yourself something to eat. Wondering what to put in packed lunches for adults? This resource will help.

When I was in elementary school, my packed lunches usually contained a ham and swiss sandwich on white bread, a juice box (Ecto-cooler if I was lucky!) and a snack item like Dunkaroos or chips.

It was easy, basic and quick for my mom to put together.

These days, my nutritional needs are a little different. Plus, I know a lot more about balanced eating then I did at 6.

Nutrition has gotten a lot more press than it did in the ‘80s. So we’re hyper aware of the nutrients needed to optimally fuel bodies for learning, working, sports and more.

And it’s not just for kids. Packed lunches are for everyone. As a professional in an office, my colleagues and I often bring lunches from home to save money and make smarter decisions about what we’re eating.

Now, what to put in packed lunches for adults.

Fruits and vegetables

It’s recommended that you eat at least five portions of fruits and vegetables daily. So, you want to pack some of those portions for lunch and snacking.

Clementines are easy to pack and peel.

Berries can be washed and packed into containers.

Bananas give a good energy boost.

Carrot and celery sticks, slices of bell peppers and itty bitty grape tomatoes are all easy to pack — and can be delightful with hummus or other dips.

But a caution: Pack the fruits and vegetables that the eater will enjoy. If they don’t like apples, packing one in the lunch sack isn’t going to make them suddenly change their minds. 

Lean proteins

Your body needs protein for repairing muscles and maintaining a healthy immune system. And lean proteins are the best of all. White meats like chicken and turkey, hard boiled eggs, lentils, fish, Greek yogurt, oats and quinoa are all good examples of lean proteins perfect for packing in lunches. 

Whole grains and other complex carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the fuel that powers your body. But simple carbs like refined sugars and grains only provide a short spurt of energy. For more prolonged energy, you need to turn to complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, legumes, vegetables and more.

Think multigrain bread for your sandwiches, garbanzo beans on your salads and brown rice with your veggie stir-fry.


A healthy body is a hydrated body, so don’t forget the drinks. If you have an office cooler, bring a reusable water bottle and fill it up a few times throughout the day. Or pack other sippers you enjoy — tea, juice or seltzer can be good as well.

How much should you pack?

The question really comes down to what you are packing for. At a base level, packing a main item for lunch, a side item and a drink, plus a drink and a snack item is a good rule of thumb for the workday.

For longer days, add another snack food.

And if you’re going to have a physically active day, make sure you aim for a protein-rich meal with complex carbs to fuel you through.

Whatever you pack, know that packed lunches for adults is a good habit to get into.

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