This is my ultimate guide to adult lunchables to keep lunch easy, healthy and fun for you! I'll be sharing my easy formula, adult lunchable ideas, and a full recipe for you to try.
Did you ever have lunchables as a kid? I don't know about you, but there was something super fun about having an assortment of snacks for lunch. Just because we're adults, it doesn't mean we should have to leave that behind! Let's bring back the nostalgia of lunchables with my healthy lunchables for adults- but more elevated, balanced and packed with nutrition. And most importantly, just as fun.
Speaking of fun, I also find that it can often be missing in lunch. For a lot of adults, lunch can be boring, repetitive, and a hassle to prep or make in the middle of the work day. Even as a food blogger, I definitely get in lunch ruts easily.
Still, I do my best to prioritize lunch. I know it's easy to work through lunch and skip it altogether or routinely buy lunch out, but healthy balanced lunches from home can be pretty simple! It all comes back to the basics, and today we're breaking it all down.
Why Is Lunch Important?
Lunch is our mid-day meal, so it's super important to refuel after a busy morning and make sure you are energized for the rest of the day. A balanced lunch can help keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent that 3pm energy slump.
This isn't lunch-specific, but eating around three meals a day is important regardless, for meeting your nutrient and energy requirements. Even if you don't feel hungry around lunchtime, I find that skipping lunch will often leave you feeling irritable, tired or ravenous later in the day. On days with low appetite, I would encourage you to try to get in some fuel- lighter options like a chopped salad or soup with toast can be an easy choice. An adult lunchable is also a GREAT choice for a more snack-y lunch!
The Key To Amazing Work Lunches
So now you know why lunch is important, but what makes a really amazing work lunch? There are a couple key criteria that I look for:
- Easy to make: Prioritizing ease when choosing recipes is important for building a sustainable habit! Sometimes the simplest recipes are the best option, especially when going back to basics.
- Stores well: No one likes a soggy sandwich. Trust me, I know. When I'm packing a work lunch, I always make sure it's something that will stand well after sitting in my bag for a couple hours.
- Reheats well: If I'm packing something best enjoyed warm, I like to make sure that it reheats well in a microwave. This could include soups, fried rice, or leftovers from a sheet pan meal. Alternatively, choose items that are meant to be enjoyed cold, like a pasta salad.
- Variety: This is the secret that you may be missing in your lunches! If you find lunch boring, I highly suggest packing a variety of different items instead of one main. I'll be providing tons of adult lunchable ideas later on!
- Balanced and nutritious: Like I mentioned earlier, lunch is important for balanced energy levels so I do prioritize all food groups and as much nutrient density as possible.
This may sound like a lot of considerations, but my formula for adult lunchables checks every box!
My Formula for Healthy Adult Lunchables
Following this formula guarantees you get a delicious and healthy lunchable every time! It's truly that simple. I suggest aiming for 1-2 items in each group, depending on your needs.
Protein + Fibre-Rich Carbohydrate + Fruit and Veggies + Snack/Sweet Treat
My motto is always- nutrition doesn't need to be super complicated so you might notice that this formula is super similar to my balanced snack formula! It really all goes back to making sure we are adding in nutrients to keep us feeling full and satisfied!
Protein acts as a building block in our body! We know it's important for muscle maintenance and growth, but it's also the base of hair, skin, nails, and tons of other important cells. Protein is also essential for satiety, meaning it keeps you full. This is key because we want our lunch to keep us full for longer.
Examples of proteins:
- Boiled eggs
- Tuna, chickpea or chicken salad
- Cottage cheese
- Chickpea fritters
- Deli meat
- Cheese cubes
- Greek yogurt
- Cottage cheese dip
- Edamame beans
- Crispy chickpeas
- Canned tuna
Carbohydrates are definitely NOT bad for you; they are our cells' preferred energy source! This means that they are the main way our bodies get the energy they need to power them through our days. Please don't let anyone convince you that lunch should be a no-carb event. How else are you going to feel energized during the afternoon?
With that being said, I like to prioritize fibre-rich carbohydrates to promote balanced blood sugar. This ensures a slower release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream, so you don't have any energy crashes and feel alert hours after your meal.
Examples of fibre-rich carbohydrates:
- Whole grain crackers
- Beans, legumes and pulses
- Whole grain pita, tortilla or toast
- Quinoa or rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Oatmeal muffin
Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and veggies are fundamental for providing us all the vitamins and minerals our body needs to function properly. You may not realize, but they are also carry a ton of water, contributing to our overall hydration! Definitely very important as we enter the summer.
Fruits and veggies also play more hidden roles in our meals. They are great for rounding out our meals with volume and provide colour, which visually enhances the plate. I don't know about you, but having a pretty lunch to eat is always more exciting!
Examples of fruits and veggies:
- Baby carrots
- Cherry tomatoes
- Cucumber slices
- Orange slices
- Apple slices
- Bell peppers
- Diced melon
Tip: try to choose at least two different coloured fruits/ vegetables to add to your lunchable. Different colours typically mean they provide different sources of nutrients. Ie. orange= Vitamin C, Beta carotene (Vitamin A), Green= iron, folate
Let's be honest, is any meal complete without a fun snack or lunch dessert? These may be grown up lunchables, but I still like to include something fun. You may be wondering why a dietitian is recommending dessert with lunch. The truth is, incorporating treats throughout the day can be a helpful way to practice balance. By intentionally including treats, we put them on the same moral playing field as other foods and remove the novelty factor. Normalizing sugar or "fun foods" in our diet can help us feel less crazy around them, especially for anyone who has struggled with diet culture or restriction.
Examples of snacks/sweet treats:
- Granola bars
- Peanut butter banana oatmeal bars
- Cookie dough bites or protein balls
- Chips and guacamole
- Banana bread
- Cookie bars
Complete Adult Lunchable Ideas
Now that you know my formula, what does it look like in action? I always say to let your fridge/pantry, budget, taste buds, and seasonality guide you. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Pescatarian: tuna salad + bell peppers and apple slices + whole grain crackers + protein peanut butter cups
- Vegetarian: boiled eggs and cheese cubes + cucumbers and grapes + whole grain crackers + peanut butter oatmeal balls
- Nut-free: edamame fritters + baby carrots and orange slices + popcorn + nut free granola bars + hummus
- Gluten-free: chicken salad + celery and strawberries + gluten-free tortilla + chocolate covered dates
- Vegan: chickpea salad + cucumbers and berries + whole grain pita + vegan protein cookies
- Sweet + Savory: Diced cheddar cheese + deli turkey meat + chopped vegetables + hummus + Greek yogurt + cinnamon + granola + fruit
I know you've seen those fancy bento box lunch containers on Instagram, but no need to order one if you don't have one already! I like them to help compartmentalize different items, but you can easily do this using mini muffin liners. These are super handy for storing seeds, sauces and dips separate from other ingredients.
If you are in search of some new containers to help store your adult lunchables, look no further! I've rounded up a few of my favourite below:
- Stackable Bento Box
- Glass 3 Compartment Divided Container (set of 3)
- Plastic 3 Compartment Divided Bentox Box (set of 6)
- Glass 2 Compartment Container (set of 5)
- Plastic 3 Compartment Container (single)
Sauce dividers (Muffin liners)
More Packed Lunch Ideas
I hope you've found at least one idea you want to try! Here are some more packed lunch ideas to try next:
- Turkey and Cheese Roll Ups
- Chicken Pesto Pasta Salad
- Kale Chicken Caesar Wrap
- Copycat Costco Quinoa Salad
- DIY Adult Pizza Lunchable
PS. I love seeing my recipes in action! If you decide to make these adult lunchables, don't forget to snap a photo and tag me on Instagram- @nourishedbynic or leave a comment and rating below letting me know how you liked it!
Easy Adult Lunchables
- 2 eggs
- Sprinkle of Everything But The Bagel seasoning
- ½ cup sliced cucumbers or vegetables of choice
- ½ cup grapes or fruit of choice
- ½ cup crackers
- 2 ounces aged cheddar cheese or cheese of choice
- 2 tablespoon hummus
- Place your eggs in a single layer on the bottom of your pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil.
- Remove from heat and let stand in water for 10-12 minutes. Drain water and immediately run cold water over eggs until cooled.
- Peel the shell of the eggs and cut in half. Arrange the eggs in your container and sprinkle with everything but bagel seasoning.
- Finish off your lunchable box with sliced cucumbers, grapes, cheese and hummus.