6 Ways to Pack a Clean-Eating Lunch

By: Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D., Digital Nutrition & News Editor  |  EatingWell.com

When it comes to eating clean at lunch, there are lots of healthy options. It helps to plan ahead and pack your lunch—so you don't get stuck with random takeout or a vending-machine trip. With a little bit of prep, you can enjoy lunches that help you feel good and power you up for the afternoon. Make sure to include some protein (for staying power), whole grains and plenty of vegetables. These clean-eating lunch ideas show you just how easy and delicious your midday meal can be.

1. Swap Noodles for Veggies

Swap Noodles for Veggies

You can eat carbs when you're eating clean, especially whole grains. But trading in noodles for veggies is a great way to eat more vegetables—another key food group most of us don't get enough of. Veggies are low in calories and packed with nutrition, so you get big portions and feel satisfied. Try making noodles out of sweet potatoes or zucchini to bump up your veg intake.

Try It: Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp

2. Mix & Match

Bento boxes aren't just for kids. Eating a mix of this and that allows you to be satisfied and pack in the nutrition. Include some fruit, vegetables, protein and a whole grain. This bento-box lunch includes crackers with no added sugar. Just be sure to check the ingredients on any packaged food you're using—look for an ingredient list that's short and simple.

Try It: Bento Box Lunch

3. Power Up Your Salad with Protein

Green Goddess Salad with Chickpeas

A salad at lunch is a great way to make sure you're eating more vegetables. Two cups of lettuce or other leafy greens gives you 1 vegetable serving. Top your salad with 1 cup of other chopped veggies and you're at 2 servings right there (most of us need 2 1/2 to 3 servings daily). To avoid feeling hungry after lunch, add some protein. Plant-based proteins like chickpeas or tofu are great options or try a hard-boiled egg or simple grilled chicken or shrimp.

Try It: Green Goddess Salad with Chickpeas

4. Make It Homemade

Chicken Salad-Stuffed Avocados

When you cook at home, you control the ingredients. That means no weird fillers or words you can't pronounce end up in your body. When it comes to foods like hummus and salad dressing, you can make your own or check labels at the store to make sure the packaged version meets your clean-eating standards. For lunch, chicken salad stuffed in an avocado half (instead of bread) is a great clean-eating lunch riff on a classic deli staple.

Try It: Chicken Salad-Stuffed Avocados

5. Trade Up Your Sandwich for a Lettuce Wrap

Kale, Chicken & Apple Wraps

Another fun way to eat more vegetables at lunch is to use them in place of a wrap. Kale, chard and lettuce can all be used to wrap up your sandwich fillings.

Try It: Kale, Chicken & Apple Wraps

6. Go for the Grain Bowl

Vegan Buddha Bowl

Eating more whole grains, instead of refined grains, means you get more fiber, antioxidants and inflammation-fighting phytonutrients in your diet. Grain bowls make a great clean-eating lunch. If you want to prep ahead: cook up a batch of whole grains, add some veggies, a protein and a flavorful sauce (on the side) and you can have ready-to-go lunches for the week.

Try It: Vegan Buddha Bowl

Related:
7 Tips to Clean Up Your Diet
1-Week Clean-Eating Meal Plan
Healthy Proteins to Amp Up Your Salad