How to Pack a Nutritionally Dense Lunchbox

Packing a nutritious and exciting lunch can be quite a challenge- for young eaters and adults alike! The key to the packed lunch challenge is keeping nutritional density in mind. Foods that contain optimal amounts of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other healthful nutrients or ingredients, all while keeping your caloric needs for your specific body in mind. Choosing local food is the best way to ensure the highest level of nutrient density; local foods take less time to travel to your plate and therefore carry more nutritional value. (Source: Rodale Institute)

“The most nutritious or nutrient-dense foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seafood, eggs, beans and peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and lean meats and poultry – all with little or no saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars.” (Source: USDA)

“Lunch is the most important meal of the day, and children [especially] need a balanced meal in their formative years for essential developmental needs. So I spend the extra time with meal prep to make sure they get a proper lunch the 5 days they go to school,” says Hema Reddy, mom of two and founder of Crafty CounterRead on for tips on packing a nutritionally dense lunchbox, from keeping a balance to making your week easier by prepping ahead of time.

All About Balance

The easiest way to get the most out of your lunchbox is to balance all of the components of your box:

  • 1 Part Veggies: Cubed and steamed butternut squash, fresh green salads with chopped raw vegetables, plant-based soups
  • 1 Part Fruit: Sliced apples, diced melon, peachesmuscadine grapes* (contains seeds)
  • 1 Part Protein: Hard-boiled eggs, shredded rotisserie chicken, sliced avocado, low-sodium deli meats, nut butter on crackers
  • Occasional Sweet, Salty or Crunchy Snacks: It isn’t realistic to think your lunch shouldn’t include something fun or indulgent every so often— opt for crunchy snack mixes (we like Coconutty Sprouted Cashews) or a sweet treat

Include a Warm Element

Lunch doesn’t have to be cold, even if you don’t have access to a microwave. Prepare easy heat-and-eat items in the morning, wrap tightly in foil (or beeswax coated paper for a more environmentally-friendly option), and enjoy warm at lunch. It’s easy to include protein-packed items such as:

WonderNuggets, Various Flavors
Crafty Counter
$9.99, 8 ounces

Brazillian Cheese Bread
Lua Brazil 
$10.99-$11.00, 15.6 ounces


Afia Foods
$4.99, 16 count

Make It Ahead

The key to mindful eating is dedicating time to meal planning. Because most mornings are a scramble to get out the door, having a selection of good foods to choose from will make packing lunch so much easier. Even if you start small by making a batch of soup, chopping veggies and portioning into bags, or hard boiling a dozen eggs to peel throughout the week.

“I love making a super duper cream cheese spread for quick sandwiches by combining low fat cream cheese with finely chopped cooked chicken, finely chopped mixed bell peppers, fresh minced garlic, pinch of celery salt, pinch of celery seed, and black pepper. Mix it all up and store in an airtight container. All you need to do is spread it on the bread and off they go!” – Hema Reddy, mom and Crafty Counter Founder

Comments are closed.