10 Do’s and Don’ts for Healthier Packed Lunches

Healthy habits are not created overnight — but you can start by packing a healthy lunch

Photo Modified: Flickr / Melissa / CC BY 4.0

What’s in your lunchbox?

The effort to live a healthier life takes more than just a step in the right direction. Healthy eating takes extra time, more trips to the grocery store, and meal preparation.

Click here for the 10 Do’s and Don’ts for Healthier Packed Lunches slideshow.

"Meal preparation" doesn't mean that you can never go out to dinner or have a healthy food truck lunch every once in a while. It's to help you during the busy weeks when you would typically reach for a quick, unhealthy meal, but instead have a delicious and healthy meal already at hand. If you are new to packing lunches, knowing which foods to include may be a learning process. But it's worth the time and trouble. A healthier packed lunch will keep you satisfied throughout the day, and give you enough energy to power through the afternoon.

We spoke with Lori Zanini, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, about what you should and should not do when packing a healthy lunch.

Do Add Protein and Healthy Fats


Grilled chicken is a great source of protein.

“Add variety to lunch by pairing a lean protein or healthy fat to every carbohydrate source whether it be grains, fruits, or veggies,” says Zanini. “Adding a lean protein or healthy fat will help you keep fuller longer by slowing down digestion and preventing spikes in energy and blood sugar. Lean proteins include deli slices, grilled chicken, yogurt, hummus, low-fat milk, and string cheese. Healthy fats include nuts, nut butters, avocado, and olive oils.”

Do Chop Your Foods

Photo Modified: Flickr / Grant Guarino / CC BY-SA 4.0

Chopped fruit is a great snack throughout the day.


“Chop your fruits and veggies the night before. This helps increase focus and it is less noisy when in class or at an office desk,” Zanini notes. You can snack on fruits and vegetables throughout the day or put them on your salad or sandwich.