Whatever your work day looks like, many of us rely on a packed lunch. Despite rising food prices, a packed lunch remains the budget option when you’re eating away from home.


So, given the importance of your midday fuel, how can you make your packed lunch something to look forward to? Read on to find out.

Next, discover our best healthy dinner-to-lunch recipes, healthy snack ideas and check out our review of the best lunch boxes to buy.

How to make a healthy packed lunch

It's all too easy to fall into the trap of using ready-made options, but be aware that these tend to be high in fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar. Meal deals and pre-packed sandwiches may seem like a bargain, but when you break the costs down, you’re better off buying individual ingredients and making your own.

To make healthier lunches, concentrate on protein (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans and pulses), fibre (wholegrain versions of rice, pasta and bread) and vegetables. Focusing on these not only packs a lot of nutritional value into your lunch, but also keeps your blood sugar and energy levels balanced and your focus sharp for the afternoon.

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Open sandwiches

Healthy packed lunch ideas

Here are more tips to upgrade your lunchbox:

Bowls of different soups
  • Slash salt levels by using low-sodium stocks in your homemade soup. If you love a sarnie for lunch, choose lower-salt fillings such as the avocado and hummus in our green club sandwich.
  • Be good to your heart and include oily fish once a week – choose from sardines, salmon, trout or try mackerel in our smoked mackerel, courgette & butter bean salad.
  • Swerve the afternoon slump by packing in low-GI foods that help balance blood sugar. B vitamins as well as the mineral chromium are important for this, so include wholegrains, lean meats, fish, tomatoes, beans and onions. Opt for our tuna, asparagus & white bean salad.
  • If you like to finish on a sweet note, or you have a snack during the day, make it a nourishing one by choosing from our collection of healthy snacks. A handful (30g) of unsalted nuts is easy, portable and full of stress-busting nutrients.
  • Get more inspiration for lunchbox snacks.
  • If your job is a manual one and you need to keep your energy levels up throughout the day, smaller, more frequent meals may be the answer. Our steak & broccoli or tuna nicoise protein pots make a great choice for steady fuelling.

What to avoid

  • Sweets, pastries, chocolate and biscuits – use fruit or dairy to satisfy that sweet craving.
  • Tea and coffee junkie? Caffeine helps you stay alert and focused, but don’t rely on it. Instead focus on drinking water, unsweetened fruit juice, milk, a yogurt smoothie, green or herbal teas.

Get inspired with these delicious lunchtime suggestions:

Tortellini with pesto & broccoli
Chipotle & lime prawn burrito bowls
Lunchbox pasta salad
Coronation chicken salad
Super-green mackerel salad
Chicken, carrot & avocado rolls
Omelette in a bun
Chicken with Spanish-style butter beans
Vegan salad bowl
Chicken enchilada wraps

Now find healthy lunch ideas for teenagers and kids.

This article was updated on 20 May 2024 by Kerry Torrens.

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of both the Guild of Food Writers and the Guild of Health Writers. Over the last two decades she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including Good Food. Follow Kerry on Instagram at @kerry_torrens_nutrition_


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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