We’ve seen enough sad desk lunches in our day to know that it’s hard to pack a meal that’s healthy and delicious. And it gets much harder when we procrastinate to the point where we’re running out the door and grabbing the nearest food in sight.
So we asked the experts—nutritionists, doctors, and trainers—to share their go-to packed lunches. From mason jar salads to smoothies, these dishes are easy to prep (and transport) and chock-full of flavor.
Trainer and author of This Is Why You’re Sick and TiredMy favorite packed lunch is a simple (but still crazy delicious) avocado sandwich. I start with two slices of whole-grain bread and then add half an avocado (sliced), half a tomato (sliced), a handful of alfalfa sprouts, and a handful of dark, leafy lettuce. When I want to up my protein intake, I add 3 ounces of free-range grilled chicken breast or turkey.
Director of Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of Disease ProofUsually I eat a late breakfast and then snack until dinner, but when I decide to pack lunch, it’s often a black bean, tomato, and corn salad with a dressing made from extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of cumin. Sometimes I’ll add feta cheese for some more protein and flavor.
Founder of Hungry GirlOne of my go-to lunches is a mix of broccoli slaw, tuna, and chopped apple. I start with half a bag of the slaw, which is shredded broccoli stems, carrots, and cabbage. Then I mix in a 5-ounce can (or 4.5-ounce packet) of sweet and spicy tuna and half of a Fuji apple (chopped). It couldn’t be easier! The tuna is so flavorful, you don’t even need dressing. I love this lunch because it’s filling, convenient, and delicious.
Trainer and creator of the 20-Minute BodyOne of my favorite lunches is packed with protein and veggies: I start with a few homemade turkey meatballs that I season with mushroom, onion, ginger, and sodium-free herbs and spices. I put the meatballs on top of a cup of steamed Chinese cabbage that I season with fresh, shredded ginger, and then add a sliced avocado on top. I also opt for a small baked sweet potato and a couple of slices of fresh jicama on the side.
Founder of Reboot With JoeI travel constantly, so my lunches are far from routine, but you can never go wrong with a smoothie. It’s something you can make in the morning and pop into a travel bottle. At lunchtime, add a few ice cubes, give it a shake, and you’re golden! A favorite of mine that’s packed with antioxidants is 1 1/2 cups almond milk, 1 cup frozen mango, 2 handfuls spinach, and 1 tablespoon each cacao powder, hemp seeds, and almond butter.
Host of Food Network’s Healthy Appetite and author of Weeknight WondersMy favorite packed lunch is a take on the classic niçoise salad. Whenever I make salmon for dinner, I’ll cook up one extra 5-ounce fillet to pack for lunch the next day. Salmon is so good when chilled. I just place it on top of some pre-washed mixed greens, and toss in olives, cherry tomatoes, and whatever vegetable I have left over in my fridge (cooked green beans, asparagus, new potatoes… ). I always pack a little container of extra-virgin olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper and a big wedge of lemon so I can dress it right before eating.
Founder of Precision NutritionIf I’m packing a lunch, I like to eat tapas style. I’ll fill several small containers with things like a handful of all-natural beef jerky, a few slices of goat’s milk cheese, a couple hard-boiled eggs, a handful of green and black olives, a scoop of mixed nuts, a cup of veggies, and hummus. If it’s a workout day, I might include a slice or two of olive bread for additional carbohydrates. If not, I might include a small piece of fruit like an apricot, peach, or plum.
Author of The Primal Blueprint and founder of Mark’s Daily AppleLunch is typically my first real meal of the day, since I usually practice a compressed eating window. I like to throw together some tuna salad: I mix together a can of pole-caught tuna, a quarter cup of mayo (with avocado oil), a chopped organic celery stalk, half a diced red onion, sea salt, and pepper. It has everything I need: hunger-satisfying fat from avocado oil, protein and omega-3s from the tuna, and a killer flavor that makes eating healthy enjoyable.
Author of The Diet Fix and assistant professor of family medicine at University of OttawaMost mornings, my brown bag has leftover dinner from the night before. But every once in a while leftovers aren’t available, and I rely on my go-to “crappy” lunch: two slices of quality whole-grain bread, 60 grams of whatever cheese we’ve got on hand in the fridge, a tomato if available, and one or two pieces of fruit. I call it crappy, but in actuality it’s pretty tasty for less than a minute of prep time in the morning.
Family physician and author of Eat to LiveI generally pack an apple, raw walnuts or pistachios, and a sandwich made from coarsely ground and toasted whole-grain bread, roasted mushrooms, slivered red onion, avocado, sliced tomato, and a garlicky pesto sauce made from raw cashews, roasted garlic, nutritional yeast, soy milk, and fresh basil.