I have a friend whose discerning toddler refuses to eat her preschool lunch unless it's in a bento box. I get it; baby carrots are much more appealing when stacked in their little compartment than not. That made me think: when did adult lunchtime stop being fun? When did a soggy sandwich brought from home or a $12 bowl of greens, scarfed down in 10 minutes while scrolling through emails, come to define midday sustenance? Enter adult lunchables.
If you were a kid (or had a kid) in the 90s, you remember the original Lunchables: circles of meat, squares of yellow cheese, and a stack of crackers that you could build into little saturated-fat-heavy towers. This list of ideas and recipes for adult lunchables avoid the wasted plastic and cardboard of the children's product that inspired them and are healthier to boot.
Tips for making your adult lunchables work for you:
1) Invest in a good system. You can go with a bento box (a reusable lunch box with compartments for a main and sides that's common in Japanese cuisine) or use high-quality, food-safe glass or plastic storage containers. If you don't pick something with that comes with compartments, you may need to use multiple containers to keep ingredients separated.
2) Pick fruits and veggies that hold up to travel. Bananas may brown or get mushy, but apples, berries, and mandarin oranges, are good choices; lettuce can wilt, but carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, and cherry tomatoes do well in transit.
3) You don't need to follow a recipe; just keep in mind core food groups. While the recipes below are beautiful, fun, and tasty—I chose them carefully!—don't worry if you're missing a few ingredients. You can make your own adult lunchables with whatever you have at hand. Try for 1-2 proteins (meat, hardboiled eggs, nuts, cheese, peanut butter), a veggie, a fruit, and a carb (crackers, pita, tortilla).
And onto the recommendations!
1) Adult cheese and crackers lunch from Project Meal Plan
Cupcake liners are a great option to keep crackers dry if you don't have a bento box or compartmentalized storage!
2) Chickpea salad lunchbox from Sweet Peas and Saffron
Make a big batch of protein-packed chickpea salad for the week, swap out your fruits and vegetables each day, and enjoy your very not-boring desk lunch situation.
3) Egg salad bento box from Celebrating Sweets
If you're not a fan of egg salad, 1. Why? It's so good; 2. Sub for tuna or chicken.
4) Energy-boosting breakfast box from Gathering Dreams
Who says adult lunchables have to include lunch foods? Bring Greek yogurt, nuts, and berries for a delicious breakfast-inspired midday meal.
5) Chicken pesto pasta skewers lunch box from Project Meal Plan
All the greatness of a pasta salad, but with the ingredients separated so you can make the perfect bite. Genius.
6) Mediterranean salad with crackers from The Nutritious Kitchen
Go for hearty crackers with scooping power so they can stand in for a spoon.
7) Teriyaki chicken stir fry lunch box from My Food Story
Separate the ingredients when you prep your lunch so nothing gets too soggy, then mix to your heart's content when you're ready to eat.
8) Smoked salmon and cream cheese keto roll-ups from The Kitchn
If you're on the keto diet, this high-fat, low-carb bento box is perfect for weekday lunches.
9) Vegan falafel wraps adult lunch box from The Green Loot
This vegan option should be appealing to eaters of all sorts. Just look at those colors!
10) Sushi sandwich bento box lunch from Cooking Light
If you're ready to up your lunch box game, these sushi sandwiches—based off a Japanese dish called onigirazu—are calling.
- 1) Adult cheese and crackers lunch from Project Meal Plan
- 2) Chickpea salad lunchbox from Sweet Peas and Saffron
- 3) Egg salad bento box from Celebrating Sweets
- 4) Energy-boosting breakfast box from Gathering Dreams
- 5) Chicken pesto pasta skewers lunch box from Project Meal Plan
- 6) Mediterranean salad with crackers from The Nutritious Kitchen
- 7) Teriyaki chicken stir fry lunch box from My Food Story
- 8) Smoked salmon and cream cheese keto roll-ups from The Kitchn
- 9) Vegan falafel wraps adult lunch box from The Green Loot
- 10) Sushi sandwich bento box lunch from Cooking Light