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Healthy Lunch boxes for adults

By Claire Turnbull

Nutritionist for Millennium Institute of Sport, Healthy Food Guide Nutritionist, MD Mission Nutrition
For one on one nutrition advice, contact

There is nothing worse than a busy day at work and finally getting to take a quick break for lunch and being face with dry sandwiches, the same old salad or even worse – nothing, so you end up having to fork out $5-10 and buying something. The great news is that it doesn’t have to be like this! Here are some ideas and a little bit of inspiration to make lunch times exciting again…

What food do I need to take to work?

If you are at work for 7-8 hours you are likely to need a snack or two and a healthy lunch. Overall, this is the balance of foods you would be looking for during the work day:

1 – 2 handfuls of veggies – this could be raw veggies to munch on, salad veggies or veggies in a soup

1 piece of fruit – this can be fresh, but you can always have canned in juice or dried as an alternative

Something starchy – Ideally something wholegrain is the way to go. This could be brown rice in a salad, wholegrain bread or wholegrain crackers. You can also use wholemeal pita bread, wraps, pasta and couscous to mix things up! You can also include chickpeas, kidney beans, butter beans and lentils in salads or soups – these are starchy and have protein too.

Lean protein – Chicken, sliced lean meat, fish (fresh or canned), eggs or tofu

Healthy fats – This could be a little avocado in your salad or maybe some nuts and seeds

Some low fat dairy – ideally a low fat yoghurt, or glass of milk (this could be a morning trim latte if you liked that as part of your morning tea snack).

Making it happen

I am a big fan of making my lunches for my family either at the same time as I am preparing dinner or just afterwards. This way, the chopping board and food is already out and ready to go. I often use part of the dinner meal I am making for lunches the next day.

The Main EVENT

From the list above, the ‘main’ part of your lunch can be made from veggies, healthy starchy foods, lean protein and healthy fat. From this you can make:

salad A tasty salad: - If I am making a salad for dinner, at the same time I will make a mini salad into our lunch boxes. Whatever protein component I am cooking for dinner (it might be chicken, tofu, beef or prawns let’s say), I will often cook a little extra, and again, add that into my salad with a handful of chickpeas or butter beans (my new favourite), a few nuts or seeds – then lunch is done. I have a jar of dressing at work which I add when I am there.


  • Some people love leftovers, others hate them. If you, like me are a fan – here is a great tip. When you are serving up dinner, serve up a portion into a plastic lunch box at the SAME TIME as you are serving onto the dinner plates. That way you will have something tasty to take for lunch, not just to bits that everyone else has left behind! It also stops you from over eating at dinner and then having no leftovers to take!

Other ideas:

  • A filled roll/pita bread/wrap/sandwich with tuna, egg or sliced lean meat, hummus and salad
  • Frittata made with veggies and a handful of salad
  • Veggies and lentil soup with grainy toast or wholegrain crackers and cottage cheese
  • Leftovers from a healthy dinner
  • Pasta/rice salad – you can make something as part of your dinner meal, then take it for lunch the next day with a boiled egg/tuna and some nuts and seeds on top
  • Sushi – ideally with some extra salad or edamame beans


As well as whatever you decide to take as your main event in your lunch box, pack some extra chopped veggies into a container and munch on those in the afternoon. Also, pack a low fat yoghurt and a piece of fruit. A small handful of unsalted nuts and seeds can make a good snack too.

If you want more information on tips for eating well at work or on the run, please check out A Fit & Healthy You. This free booklet, covers eating for good health, keeping your body healthy, ideas for getting moving, hydration, how to balance your life and much more. Find out more information here