Gone are the days of PB&J, potato chips, and a juice box for lunch, for better or worse. We’re adults now, and that kid’s lunch is not filling, satisfying, or even all that healthy (refined carbs, oils, and corn syrup, anyone?). Most young adults end up defaulting to lunches out, pre-made salads, or worse, vending machine snacks, once they get a grown-up job and realize they need to eat during the day. I’ve made all these mistakes and I’m here to give you my top 5 packable lunches! As a heads up, all of these will be vegan-friendly, but they can easily be made non-vegan if that’s your preference. These will also be meal-prep friendly, meaning you can make it all at the beginning of the week and it will keep until you’re ready to eat it.
Salads are number 5 on this list because, to me, salads are boring, and we can do better. I do, however, recognize the power of a tasty salad. Salads can be delicious, healthy, and filling. The above graphic is one I used in an earlier blog post and it still stands. If you’re just using lettuce and tomatoes with some dressing, no wonder your salads suck! Just remember that if you’re packing any wet ingredients (so dressing or wet fruits and veggies), pack them in a different container than your dry ingredients, that way your salad is fresh and doesn’t wilt or get soggy.
Pasta is a really great option to pack for lunch as once it heats up in the microwave, it’s right back to how it was when it was fresh. Because pasta is one of those foods that is either extremely easy or very difficult, remember to keep your skill level in mind. There’s no shame in using pre-made pasta sauce from the grocery store that you heat up on the stovetop, but if you want to get fancy with some basil and nutritional yeast, go for it! Also, vegan pasta is probably the preferred option here because the absence of slow-digesting meat and dairy will keep you from being tired or bloated after lunch.
3. Fruit Salad or Juice
Fruit is always a really fun option for me because the fruits I eat change with what’s in season, so it never gets boring! In the summer, cantaloupe is my go-to fruit, which I just cut up on Sunday and divide into containers to take to work throughout the week. In addition or alternatively, you can blend the fruits up into a juice or smoothie, especially for days that you’re really busy and don’t have much time to actually sit down and eat lunch. Fruit is also something that can be filling but, again, won’t leave you feeling tired or bloated, and is probably going to actually give you more energy!
2. Black Bean Soup
Black bean soup is one of my favorite packable lunches, which probably explains it’s place on the list! Tasty, protein packed, and customizable, Bush’s Best Black Bean Soup is a recipe that I veganize by replacing chicken stock with veggie stock, but you do you, boo. For a more protein packed and satiating option, replace the salsa with a can of red kidney beans and a half a can of corn. You can also experiement with peppers, tomatoes, other types of beans, really whatever excites you.
1. Roasted Veggies
Roasted veggies are my number 1 favorite packed lunch! You get a hearty meal (seasoned however you like) and you’re able to knock out a serving or two of veggies early in the day, setting the tone for a healthy afternoon and evening! In my photo, you can see that I roasted 5 servings of potatoes (so a whole cookie sheet), and while I waited for those to finish cooking, I opened up some cans of my favorite veggies and divided those up into each container. I used about 4-5 potatoes here, two cans of veggies, and a can of red kidney beans, which brings the total price to about $8, which includes the potatoes that I didn’t use (I bought a 5 lb bag)!
Roasted veggies are a cheap and healthy way to do lunch, but any of the above lunches are going to be a lot healthier and satisfying than the PB&J from elementary school. Let me know in the comments what your favorite packable lunch is!