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Nutritionist’s Lunch Box Ideas To Stay On Top Of Your Macros

Nutritionist’s Lunch Box Ideas To Stay On Top Of Your Macros
Jamie Wright
Qualified Nutritionist2 months ago
View Jamie Wright's profile

I get it. Keeping lunch interesting every single week can be tricky. Enter, the adult lunch box.

Instead of reaching for something just to “make it through, a nutritious lunch helps you to be just as productive in the afternoon as you were in the morning and avoid cravings. Plus, it can help massively towards any health and fitness goals you might have.

In this article I'm going to cover why and how to fall in love with lunches again, why they’re so important and how you can build yourself the absolute perfect lunch box for all your daily adulting adventures!

This article dives into the details on lunch. Why it’s so important and how to build the perfect lunch box for all your daily adventures and I promise by the end you’ll fall in love with lunch again.

Jump to:

Why is lunch important?

Why is lunch important? It feels almost offensive to be asked this question as a nutritionist. Lunch is amazing. Does no one remember primary school lunch boxes packed with exciting little treats?

But nostalgia aside, lunches serve an important role in our lives.

They provide a welcome break in the day to briefly separate ourselves from work; a reprieve from emails, calls and meetings with a wonderfully timed box of nutritious joy and peace.

When designed with care, a good lunch can help to push us ever further forward towards our goals.

They fuel us to avoid those mid-afternoon slumps, cravings, drops in blood sugar and aid muscle recovery.

Lunch is not to be skipped. Lunch is not to be avoided. Lunch is not to be forgotten.

They are to be welcomed. They are to be celebrated. And, they are, to be created with the healthiest, happiest version of you in mind.

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The secret to great work lunches

It’s not having a private chef (although, that would be lovely) or ordering them online in bulk; rather, the secret is… sticking to a lunchbox building blueprint;

Easy to make

I know that Instagram Buddha Bowl with 1,000 ingredients looks tempting, and while I’m sure it’s delicious, it’s not always realistic.

If you’re busy, which so many of us are, you need to make your meals as sustainable and easy-to-make as possible to avoid any unwanted cafe trips.

It doesn’t need to be “aesthetic”, it just needs to fuel you with everything you need to have a great day.

Variety

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Unfortunately, a lot of us can get bored after repeating the same lunch for weeks on end. So making little tweaks like a different protein, different veggie etc. Can really help you stay on track with prepping.

Travels & stores well

You want something practical to transport (ideally fitting into one handy lunchbox) and something that still tastes just as good a few hours or days after prepping.

Best lunchbox containers

Want to know something great? This is the best time to start loving lunches again. There are so many options for lunch box containers now with all the compartments you could want.

Myprotein have a few great options for lunch boxes, where you just want one big easy container, or some stackable ones for all your snacks and goodies.

Balanced and nutritious

The most important aspect to having the best work lunch is making sure it’s balanced and packed with the nutrients you need.

It goes without saying, we’re anti-restriction here, so be sure to include protein, plants, carbohydrates and fats in your lunches — your body thrives when it has all these in tandem.

Adult lunch boxes for weight loss

Lunch boxes are a great tool for weight loss for several reasons, all tied to the control and convenience they offer.

When you pack your lunch, you're in charge of the ingredients and portion sizes, which means you can tailor your meals to fit your nutritional needs and weight loss goals. This makes it much easier to follow your energy and macronutrient needs and stay on track.

Having a balanced lunch packed and ready to go also limits the possibility of impulsive food choices which can often be processed foods that are more energy dense. These cravings can sneak up on you throughout the day as your hunger increases and blood sugar levels drop.

The portion control aspect is also key; by packing your lunch, you can ensure you're eating just the right amount to fuel your body without overeating. Plus, you’re selecting the foods your body needs to recover and adapt to any exercise you’re doing.

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Things to include in a weight loss lunch box

When focusing on weight loss, the goal is to include foods in your lunchbox that are nutritious, filling and low in calories.

Here are some ideas for foods you might want to include for a weight loss lunch box.

Lean proteins

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Tofu
  • Lean cuts of red meat
  • Fish like cod or haddock

Lean proteins help keep you full for longer periods, reducing the likelihood of snacking on less balanced options. They also require more energy to digest, which can help boost metabolism (1).

I love fish but often find that having them contained in a lunch box overnight and or throughout the morning can lead to a bit of a “smell” and certainly unleashes a pungent waft of fishiness when you finally open your lunchbox. But if fish is your thing, halibut, cod and haddock are great lean options.

Fruits & veggies

  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Leafy greens
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers

These are high packed full of fibre, vitamins, and minerals while being low in calories. Fruits and veggies like the above add bulk to meals, helping you feel full without adding a lot of calories. Their high fibre content also helps regulate digestion, contributing to weight loss (2).

Whole grains

  • Quinoa
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Millet
  • Barley

Whole grains like these provide sustained energy and keep you feeling full longer than their refined counterparts because they contain more fibre. This can help manage hunger and prevent overeating (3).

Healthy Fats

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Olive oil

Including a moderate amount of healthy fats in your lunchbox can increase satiety, making you less likely to reach for less balanced snacks later. These fats also support heart health and provide essential fatty acids your body needs (4, 5).

Yogurt or cottage cheese

These are good sources of both high-quality protein and calcium. Opt for low-fat or Greek yoghurt to get a good dose of protein with fewer calories. They can also be beneficial for gut health, thanks to their probiotic content.

Hard-boiled eggs

Easy to prepare in advance and portable, eggs are a great source of protein and can help keep you feeling full. Be wary though; they don’t always have the nicest smell when opening the container. Be sure to wait until they’ve cooled down before adding them to your lunchbox to help minimise the smell!

Adult lunch boxes for muscle gain

Building muscle requires a strategic approach to nutrition, focusing on increasing calorie and protein intake to fuel muscle repair and growth.

You can transfer many of the same principles and foods over from building a lunchbox designed for weight loss as these are centred around nutritious foods that contribute to fuelling recovery and body composition.

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Protein sources

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey
  • Salmon
  • Mackerel
  • Beef

A lot of the protein sources for a weight loss box, work for muscle gain too. But you can add in things like fattier cuts of beef, and oily fish like salmon and mackerel.

These are excellent sources of high-quality protein and, for the fish, are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which may help reduce inflammation and support muscle recovery, performance and function (6).

Portion sizes

Your portion sizes may be a little bigger here if the goal is muscle gain but of course that will depend entirely on the framework of your entire daily food intake.

If it’s a lean bulk you’re after, check out this video:

Energy-dense foods

  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil

Almonds, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts provide healthy fats, protein, and calories needed for muscle building. They’re also packed with antioxidants and essential nutrients like magnesium, which is important for muscle function.

Avocado and or olive oil are sources of monounsaturated fats, they support hormone levels and provide the energy your body needs for muscle building without contributing to unhealthy fat accumulation.

Eggs & dairy

Cheeses, eggs and dairy products are packed full of muscle-building high-quality protein that’ll help you get up that energy intake. Going for the regular versions rather than the low-fat may be best if you’re trying to up your daily kcals.

Building the perfect adult lunchbox

Balance is key to the perfect lunch box.

Macronutrients, or “macros”, refer to the three key food groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fats, with each serving essential roles in our body's functioning and health.

A balanced intake of these nutrients is crucial for supporting energy levels, muscle growth and repair, and overall metabolic health, ensuring the body operates optimally.

Let’s briefly talk about why they matter and some quality sources you’ll want to consider.

Protein

Dietary protein is, in my opinion, the most important macronutrient. Protein is composed of amino acids, which are the building blocks of our body's cells and tissues.

The importance of protein spans across the day as it helps stabilise blood sugar levels, providing sustained energy and reducing undesired snacking.

For weight loss, protein enhances satiety and increases metabolic rate, aiding in fat reduction while preserving lean muscle mass.

In muscle building, it's essential for repairing and growing muscle tissue, especially after exercise. For those aiming for weight gain, protein supports the addition of muscle mass rather than fat.

Beyond these goals, adequate protein intake is vital for overall health, supporting immune function, hormone production, and the health of hair, skin, and nails.

Experts recommend distributing your protein intake across your meals for optimal muscle protein synthesis (7).

Try to aim for around 25 to 30g of protein per meal, and 10g for snacks. It would be worth noting that too high a protein intake may conflict with intakes of other nutrients and or cause digestive issues that can be very uncomfortable.

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Good sources of protein for lunch

  • Grilled chicken breast
  • Salmon fillet
  • Mackerel fillet
  • Lean cuts of red meat
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Cottage cheese or other forms of higher protein cheese
  • Tofu (firm or extra firm)
  • Sliced turkey breast
  • Chickpeas or edamame beans

Carbs

Dietary carbohydrates are essential for providing the body with its primary energy source, crucial for brain function, and supporting physical activity.

Fibre-rich carbs like whole grains, vegetables, and fruits improve digestion, enhance satiety, and provide a steady energy release (9).

Consuming simple carbs like fruits or energy bars closer to training can offer an immediate energy boost, optimising workout performance and aiding in quicker recovery (9).

The aim is not to be restrictive but to balance high-quality, fibre-rich carbs throughout the day, along with strategic timing of simple carbs to support overall health, energy levels, and athletic performance.

Good sources of carbohydrates for lunch (outside of your training window);
  • Quinoa
  • Sweet Potato
  • Brown Rice
  • Whole Wheat Pasta
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Black Beans
  • Whole Grain Bread
Good sources of carbohydrates for lunch (inside of your training window);
  • Bananas
  • White Rice
  • Dried Fruit
  • Beige baked goods
  • Rice Cakes

Fats

Healthy dietary fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are essential for overall health, playing a crucial role in absorbing vitamins, supporting cell growth, and protecting organ health. Throughout the day, they provide sustained energy, aid in satiety, and can help stabilise blood sugar levels.

Quality of dietary fat is paramount; sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil are rich in nutrients and beneficial for heart health (5).

Trans fats and excessive saturated fats, found in processed foods, should be minimised due to their association with health risks. Prioritise high-quality fats supports long-term health, energy levels, and well-being (5).

Good sources of healthy fats for lunch:
  • Avocado
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Chia Seeds
  • Flaxseeds
  • Olive Oil (for salads or drizzling)
  • Natural Peanut Butter
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Fatty Fish (like salmon or mackerel)

Fruits & veggies

Fruits and vegetables are vital for maintaining overall health due to their high content of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibre.

Having a variety of these throughout the day ensures a steady intake of nutrients essential for immune function, digestion, and preventing chronic diseases.

Packing plenty of fruit and veg in at lunch also increases meal volume and fibre content, enhancing satiety without significantly adding calories. This can aid in weight management and ensure sustained energy levels throughout the afternoon.

Fruit and veggie ideas for your lunchbox
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sliced bell peppers
  • Cucumber rounds
  • Apple slices
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Orange segments
  • Grapes
  • Snap peas
  • Sliced mango

Sweet treats and snacks

Enjoying the foods you love, including sweet treats, is essential for a sustainable and balanced approach to achieving fitness goals.

Restriction can lead to cravings and eventually overeating, which can be incredibly detrimental to your relationship with food.

Incorporating favourite foods in moderation allows for satisfaction and mental well-being, making dietary habits more enjoyable and sustainable.

High-protein snacks, like protein bars, can be especially useful in this balanced approach. They are super tasty while providing valuable nutrients and protein, supporting muscle repair and growth, and keeping you fuller for longer. This strategy ensures that pursuing fitness goals doesn't mean giving up the joy of eating but rather finding a healthier balance that includes all your favourites!

Tasty snack ideas for your lunchbox

  • Trail Mix: Combine nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a sweet and crunchy snack.
  • Greek Yoghurt Parfait: Layer yoghurt with berries and a sprinkle of granola.
  • Hummus and Veggie Sticks: Dip carrots, bell peppers, and cucumbers into creamy hummus.
  • Protein bars: Myprotein Layered Bars, Impact Bar, Carbcrusher, Hazelnut Whip and more.
  • Protein Cookies
  • Cheese Cubes and Whole Grain Crackers: A satisfying mix of protein and fibre.
  • Apple Slices with Peanut Butter: A classic pairing that's both tasty and filling.
  • Flapjacks
  • Air popped Popcorn: Lightly seasoned with a touch of sea salt for a healthier, whole-grain snack.
  • Protein Balls: Made with oats, peanut butter, and chocolate chips for a protein-packed treat.
  • Mini Rice Cake Sandwiches: Spread with almond butter and banana slices.
  • Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds: For a sweet yet heart-healthy indulgence.

Complete adult lunch box ideas

Here are some practical recipes you can try for simple throw-together lunches that require limited prep-time but deliver big on macros.

Vegetarian lunch box

Yoghurt & Chickpea Salad Wraps + Greek Yogurt with Honey. Almonds or low-fat cheese sticks or Babybels for a snack with a serving of hummus and a sliced bell pepper.For the yoghurt and chickpea wraps:Ingredients (for two servings)
  • 200 g canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 150 g Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 50 g diced cucumber
  • 50 g diced tomato
  • 20 g chopped fresh mint or parsley
  • 2 large whole wheat tortillas
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, mix the Greek yoghurt with lemon juice, garlic powder, salt, and pepper until well combined.
  2. Add the chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, and fresh herbs to the yoghurt mixture and stir until everything is evenly coated.
  3. Divide the chickpea and yoghurt salad between the whole wheat tortillas, placing the mixture in the centre of each tortilla.
  4. Roll up the tortillas tightly, folding in the sides to enclose the filling. Pack in your lunchbox and then keep in the fridge overnight.

Pescatarian lunch box

Sweet Chilli Salmon Pittas + a small portion (around 15 - 20g) of mixed nuts or a piece of fruit.For two servings:Ingredients:
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 1 tsp. fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 tbsp. sweet chilli sauce

Make the salmon according to this recipe, and add to pitta with cucumber and whatever other veggies you fancy.

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Vegan lunch box

Crispy Tofu & Teriyaki Noodle Meal Prep + carrot / cucumber / bell pepper sticks and a portion of hummus.

This crispy tofu is the perfect vegan lunch option to keep you full for ages. Another option is to tweak this recipe by marinating the tofu in the teriyaki sauce, and adding them to a wrap with some salad if you don't fancy noodles.

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Gluten-free lunch box

Easy Protein Bowl + low fat cheese stick or a piece of fruit
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Sweet lunch box

Blueberry and Butterscotch Pancakes + a size serving of greek yoghurt with clementine segments and a drizzle of honey.

Savoury lunch box

Turkey & ham wraps + cheese squares + cucumber + a portion of roasted chickpeas or edamame beans with rock salt.

Take home message

By the end of this article, you should have one clear takeaway; these people love their lunches and their lunchboxes.

Just kidding (although we seriously do). But ultimately, lunch is incredibly important, and should never be skipped. It’ll keep your mind and body going for the day, and help you reach whatever health and fitness goal you're after.

Here’s to lunchtime. Long live the lunchbox.

 

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

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  2. Miketinas DC, Bray GA, Beyl RA, Ryan DH, Sacks FM, Champagne CM. Fiber Intake Predicts Weight Loss and Dietary Adherence in Adults Consuming Calorie-Restricted Diets: The POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies) Study. J Nutr. 2019 Oct 1;149(10):1742-1748. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz117. PMID: 31174214; PMCID: PMC6768815.
  3. Maki KC, Palacios OM, Koecher K, Sawicki CM, Livingston KA, Bell M, Nelson Cortes H, McKeown NM. The Relationship between Whole Grain Intake and Body Weight: Results of Meta-Analyses of Observational Studies and Randomized Controlled Trials. Nutrients. 2019 May 31;11(6):1245. doi: 10.3390/nu11061245. PMID: 31159235; PMCID: PMC6627338.
  4. Samra RA. Fats and Satiety. In: Montmayeur JP, le Coutre J, editors. Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2010. Chapter 15. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53550/
  5. Forouhi NG, Krauss RM, Taubes G, Willett W. Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance. BMJ. 2018 Jun 13;361:k2139. doi: 10.1136/bmj.k2139. PMID: 29898882; PMCID: PMC6053258.
  6. Jeromson S, Gallagher IJ, Galloway SDR, Hamilton DL. Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Skeletal Muscle Health. Marine Drugs. 2015; 13(11):6977-7004. https://doi.org/10.3390/md13116977
  7. Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 10 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
  8. Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, Casperson SL, Arentson-Lantz E, Sheffield-Moore M, Layman DK, Paddon-Jones D. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr. 2014 Jun;144(6):876-80. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.185280. Epub 2014 Jan 29. PMID: 24477298; PMCID: PMC4018950.
  9. Kerksick, C.M., Arent, S., Schoenfeld, B.J. et al. International society of sports nutrition position stand: nutrient timing. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 14, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4
Jamie Wright
Qualified Nutritionist
View Jamie Wright's profile
Jamie Wright has a bachelor's of science in Sports and exercise science and a Master's degree in Human Nutrition (specialising in obesity and weight management). Jamie specialises in nutrition centred around body composition change, sports nutrition and helping people improve their relationship with food. His company Balance are one of Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietetics services and he has worked with hundreds if not thousands of clients to help them solve all manner of nutrition related problems and achieve a vast range of diet related goals. They have recently launched the life changing course Be Binge Free, the first of its kind, and are continuing ongoing works on a range of projects. Jamie has worked with a range of industry leaders and featured as a nutritionist expert for Myprotein for over five years and with other brands like Insider, Adidas, Women's Health and more. Jamie's experience ranges from working in research trials to advising on product formulations, working with clients one to one, in group settings and presenting to public and private companies. He continues his professional development to this day and is currently undergoing his personal training qualifications. Having recently become a Dad, his spare time is filled spending time with his family, training, running, socialising and spending time cooking.
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