Make the Ultimate DIY Bistro Box in 5 Easy Steps

By: Joy Howard

Whether you're a meal-prepping pro or just want some new healthy lunch and snack ideas, these copycat Starbucks bistro boxes are a game changer in packable meals. Find out what you need and how to do it to save time and money—and keep it healthy.

Making your own lunch or nutritious snacks to eat at work or while you're traveling doesn't have to be a hassle. You don't even need a ton of time. With just the right ingredients, you can meal-prep an irresistible mini feast that you'll crave and that happens to actually be good for you.

If you've never heard of a bistro box, it's a concept that started with prepackaged picnic-like meals sold at Starbucks. It's a light meal or generous snack box meant for toting along with you when you're on the move. The box is usually filled with a healthy balance of proteins, whole grains and fresh fruit and veggies. Even better, its contents require low or no prep, so putting one together yourself can be as easy as a plucking a few items from your fridge or pantry.

Want to give it a try? Follow our easy instructions and tips below.

1. Grab a Container

Fruit & Cheese Bistro Lunch Box

Pictured recipe: Fruit & Cheese Bistro Lunch Box

We tested several options and like the ease of sealable, divided glass containers best for packing a box. Ideally a vessel that holds about 4 cups is just right, but a 6-cup rectangular dish (like the ones often found in glass storage sets) will also work well. If your container isn't divided, you can use silicone baking cups to separate items in your box.

Related: The Best Meal-Prep Containers for Work Lunches

2. Start with Protein

Protein Bistro Lunch Box

Pictured recipe: Protein Bistro Lunch Box

Why begin here? Foods packed with protein will make you feel full and stay full for longer—helping to combat urges to grab less-healthy options later in the day. Aim to add at least 1 ounce of protein in each box you make. Try:

  • plain Greek yogurt
  • low-sodium tuna
  • boiled eggs
  • hummus
  • cheese
  • nuts
  • sliced deli meat (Want to get creative? Try rolling a slice up with a piece of cheese or around a cheese stick)

Related: Healthy High-Protein Snack Ideas

3. Add a Whole Grain

PB&J Bistro Lunch Box

Pictured recipe: PB&J Bistro Lunch Box

In addition to protein, fiber-filled whole grains score high on the satiety index. Whole-grain foods also aid digestion and offer a ton of other benefits to overall health—from reducing the risk of heart disease to providing essential vitamins and minerals. Aim for about 1/2 cup whole grains per box, like:

  • whole-wheat bread
  • whole-grain crackers
  • lightly salted popcorn
  • whole-wheat pita

Related: 4 Whole Grains You Should Be Eating

4. Round It Out with Fresh Fruits and Veggies

Charcuterie Bistro Lunch Box

Pictured recipe: Charcuterie Bistro Lunch Box

Fresh fruits and veggies are the cornerstone to any balanced meal. Try to include at least one serving each of fresh fruit and veggies, or small servings of two different types of vegetables. Keep things simple by choosing ones that require no prep or low prep:

  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • grapes
  • clementines
  • baby carrots
  • sliced celery
  • cucumber spears
  • apple slices
  • bell pepper strips

Related: 4 Healthy Foods to Pack in Your Kid's Lunchbox

5. Spice Things Up

Vegan Bistro Lunch Box

Pictured recipe: Vegan Bistro Lunch Box

For some simple (and flavorful) flair, try adding spices, fresh herbs or a little dollop or swirl of your favorite condiment to the box ingredients. Try these:

  • Scatter chopped dill onto cucumber slices.
  • Sprinkle fresh fruit with cinnamon.
  • Add a few pinches of za'atar to hummus.
  • Swirl honey into plain Greek yogurt.
  • Dollop some jam on cheese and crackers.

Related: Cheap, Healthy Lunch Ideas for Work

Watch: How To Make DIY Bistro Lunch Boxes