For some of us, the arrival of fall means a return to the lunchtime grind. For others, that lunchtime grind goes on Mon-Fri, 365 days a year, making it easy to lose steam and creativity. Whether you’re packing lunches for your school-aged children or yourself, getting confident with a basic, Eat Pretty-approved formula for the meal you assemble is a key jumping off point for (no exaggeration) thousands of lunchbox variations. Once you know the formula, you can get creative and listen to your body, knowing that there’s pretty much no way to mess up! And heads up: this is essentially the formula I use for every meal, every day, and one that has helped me to rebalance my hormones, find my healthiest weight, and enable my skin to glow. It’s also helped so many of my clients to do the same. So, here we go!
The Eat Pretty-Approved Lunch Formula
Ready to make lunch?
Here’s the formula: veggies + protein + healthy fat + bonus foods.
No question, more than half of your plate (or lunchbox) should be colorful, antioxidant-packed veggies. Roast them, steam them, eat them raw, dice them, spiralize them— it doesn't matter what form they come in. This part of your meal is super nutrient-dense, delivering fiber and phytochemicals that keep you glowing. Rotate these ingredients according to color, season, and/or cravings.
Your lunchbox also needs protein. It can be plant-based or clean animal-based, depending on your body and your preferred diet. Aim for at least 10-15 grams of protein to help you feel full, burn food slowly for sustained energy, and deliver the building blocks of skin, hair and nails that is essential to your body.
Now make sure that your lunchbox has some form of healthy fat. Fat nourishes strong cell membranes (locking in youthful moisture), and is an essential building block of your hormones (hello, better moods and clear skin). Think avocado, raw seeds or nuts, a drizzle of olive oil or a healthy fat-rich dressing.
As a bonus, you can add something special that brings it all together and makes the benefits even more amazing, like fermented pickles or sauerkraut, dulse flakes, gomasio (check out the recipe in Eat Pretty Every Day), nutritional yeast, etc. If you’re packing lunch for kids or you’re going to be in a crowded place where you want to make sure your lunch doesn’t stink too much, leave out the smelly stuff. But this category can be an important bonus on days when you want to feel and look extra amazing. And if you know your goal is to eat more fermented foods every day for better skin and overall health, pack some in your lunch!
If you’ve used the Eat Pretty, Live Well journal, you already know what an Eat Pretty plate looks like. If not, here’s the visual:
Your Lunch Style
I find that everyone has unique preferences when it comes to lunch style (hello, bioindividuality). I prefer a salad to a sandwich. During the warmer months, I prefer greens over grains as the base of my lunch, but as fall and winter arrive I turn to grains and warm lunches that need to be reheated. What’s your style?
Foundations (start with these and then pile ingredients on top)
Quinoa, buckwheat or other GF grains
Shredded brussels sprouts
GF pasta— try chickpea or lentil pasta for extra protein
Colorful Veggie Examples
Any roasted veggies you have on hand (I love broccoli, cauliflower, butternut squash, carrots)
Chopped raw peppers
Steamed green beans
Cooled cooked potatoes- white or sweet potatoes
So many more!
Clean Protein Examples
Hard-cooked pastured eggs
Beans- lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans are all amazing
Shelled hemp seeds
BPA-free cans of wild salmon, sardines, naturally smoked oysters (I like the Crown Prince brand for sardines and oysters)
Clean animal proteins that fit your diet.
Plant-based protein powder
Healthy Fat Examples
Raw seeds and nuts
Dressings (see below)
Dressing and Sauce Ideas:
Green goddess dressing
Romesco- red pepper and almond, parsley
Lemon and olive oil
Bonus Food Examples:
Raw seeds and nuts
A few past recipes that fit the bill:
Notes for success:
Along the way, you’re going to find meal combinations that you love (and some you don’t). Make sure you write down the combinations that are winners to your body and your palate. I keep a list on my fridge of meals that I want to remember because inevitably when it’s time to grocery shop my brain draws a blank. As the seasons change, it’s also easy to forget meals that you aren’t cooking because ingredients are not in season. So next time fall rolls back around, you’ll remember exactly what meal you loved to cook with your butternut squash, figs, pumpkin, etc.
Shift your mindset: Instead of ‘I have to,’ choose ‘I get to!’
This is big- changing the way you approach making lunches can make all the difference. Instead of “Packing my lunch is exhausting. I’m too busy to do this for myself. I don’t have time.”
Think: “Cooking is empowering, strengthening, even a rebellious act to some degree. I can make a little time. A little investment can change the way I feel day to day, and the trajectory of my health and appearance.”
So, what lunch are you having today?