Packing lunches – whether for yourself or your kids – can be challenging. As a Registered Dietitian, I’m here to teach you how to pack a healthy lunch box easily that is tasty, nutritious, and filling.

DISCLAIMER: This post was developed in partnership with Egg Farmers of Nova Scotia, however all opinions are my own.

healthy lunch box ideas

What is a Healthy Lunch?

Before we learn how to pack a healthy lunch box, we have to understand what a healthy lunch actually looks like. A healthy lunch, like any healthy meal, is a well-rounded, well-balanced one.

A healthy lunch is one that is well-balanced, but also satisfying. It offers a variety of important nutrients, and the right foods to make you feel full and energized for the remainder of the afternoon.

Like any balanced and satisfying meal, typically a healthy lunch box offers a source of carbohydrates (preferably carbs rich in fibre that digest and absorb slowly), a solid source of protein, vegetables and/or fruit, and some healthy fats.

lunch box with hard boiled eggs, cheese, vegetables, crackers and fruit

Why is it Important?

A well-balanced lunch (or mid-day meal) is important for a few reasons. The first reason is that we need fuel and sustenance mid-day. Generally, we want to eat approximately every 3-4 hours, and for most of us, we don’t want to go any longer than 5 hours without eating. This means we need to eat something in between breakfast and supper.

Aiming to combine carbohydrates, protein, vegetables and/or fruit, and healthy fat at lunch will help keep your blood sugar levels balanced, increase your likelihood of meeting your daily nutrient requirements, and keep you feeling full for longer.

The carbohydrates give you energy, protein slows down digestion therefore keeping you full, fruits and vegetables offer important nutrients and fibre, and fat increases satiety, meaning you’ll feel more satisfied after eating.

healthy lunch box with egg bites, toast, nuts and fruit

How to Pack a Healthy Lunch Box:

If you know me, you know I’m a big fan of packing lunch boxes! Here are 4 dietitian-approved steps for packing a healthy lunch:

1. Make half your lunch box fruits and veggies

Aiming to make half of your plate (or in this case, your lunch box) fruits and veggies is an easy way to increase the likelihood that you’ll meet your recommended fruit and veggie intake and nutrient requirements for the day.

Here are some easy fruits and vegetable lunch box options:

  • Fresh berries, apple slices, orange slices, a banana, dried fruit like raisins or apricots, pineapple chunks, grapes, etc.
  • Baby carrots, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper slices, cucumber slices, celery sticks, radishes, broccoli or cauliflower florets, or a bed of greens like baby spinach.

2. Pick your protein

Choose a high-quality protein source like eggs, meat or poultry, tofu, tempeh, greek yogurt, beans, lentils, or chickpeas.

I love adding eggs for protein in my packed lunch boxes because they’re easy to prepare, affordable and nutritious. I like to do hard-boiled eggs, or my delicious broccoli cheddar egg bites. In just one large Grade-A egg, you get 6 grams of protein. You can easily pack two eggs for 12 grams of protein right there!

In addition to protein, eggs are also a source of important nutrients like iron, which is essential for carrying oxygen to our cells. They also offer vitamin A, which plays a role in eye health, and vitamin D, which we know is important for the strength of our bones.

3. Add a carb

Carbohydrates are the body and the brain’s preferred source of energy, so we don’t want to skip them. Try to opt for fibre-rich carbohydrates, including whole grain products like breads, crackers, pastas, quinoa, oats, and more.

4. Sprinkle in some fat

Lastly, we can’t forget about fat. Similar to protein, fat takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, so it helps to keep us feeling satiated throughout the day.

In addition to being a source of protein, eggs (with the yolk) are also a source of fat, making them another great lunch box choice. Other sources of fat include cheese and other fat-containing dairy products, nuts and seeds, avocados, and oils like olive oil.

My Favourite Lunch Boxes:

For my lunch-able style lunch boxes, these glass 2-compartment storage containers are my favourite. I also like these bento boxes for kids. Stainless steel lunch boxes are great, too!

Connect with Hannah Magee, RD!

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DISCLAIMER: This post was developed in partnership with Egg Farmers of Nova Scotia, however all opinions are my own.