Sure, we're all into the idea of packing a healthy lunch to bring to work. But between the unappealing Tupperware, figuring out which items may or may not get soggy, what food should be packed separately to not spoil everything else, etc., $10 for a mediocre sandwich/salad at the deli suddenly seems like a great deal.
The following four options, with fresh, plant-based ingredients stacked strategically in pretty glass jars, will change the way you feel about packed lunches. And just in time for the start of summer.
Burrito Bowl Jar
- 1 large or 2 small tomatoes, chopped
- ½ red onion, finely chopped
- 3-4 sprigs cilantro, finely chopped
- ¼ jalapeño, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 2 limes
- ½ small can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 ear of corn
- 1 ripe avocado
- handful of corn tortilla chips
- 2-3 tablespoons regular or vegan sour cream
- ½ cup chopped Romaine lettuce
- sea salt
- olive oil
1. First, make the salsa. Combine the tomatoes, onion, cilantro and jalapeño in a small bowl. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the juice of half a lime. Season with salt and mix to combine. Divide this mixture between two glass jars.
2. Place the black beans in a small mixing bowl. Season with a teaspoon of olive oil, a healthy squeeze of lime (about a quarter) and sea salt. Mix. Divide this mixture between the two glass jars on top of the salsa.
3. Place the corn on a grill or grill pan and grill for about 5 minutes or until browned, making sure to turn the corn to get each side cooked. Allow to cool, the cut off the kernels by holding the ear vertically stem side down and slicing downward with a knife. Add the corn on top of the beans in each jar.
4. Slice the avocado and place in a small mixing bowl. Add a teaspoon of olive oil, a healthy squeeze of lime (about a quarter) and sea salt. Using a form, mash until smooth but still chunky. Divide between the two jars on top of the corn.
5. Place the corn chips in a clean dish towel. Pound them a few times with your palm to break them into small pieces. Divide between the two jars on top of the avocado.
6. Top the corn chips with a healthy dollop of sour cream. Top that with the lettuce. Finish off each jar with the remaining lime (you should have half a lime which you should cut into two quarters).
Grilled Vegetable + Quinoa Jar
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- ½ small can of chickpeas, drained + rinsed
- 4-6 asparagus stalks, trimmed
- 6 radishes, quartered
- 1/4 of a fennel bulb, trimmed to the root + sliced
- handful of baby arugula
- ¼ cup feta cheese
- a few sprigs of mint
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon raw honey
- 3 tablespoons olive oil + more for drizzling
- sea salt + pepper
1. Make the dressing: Place the vinegar, mustard and honey in a small mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle in about 3 tablespoons of olive oil while whisking. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the dressing between two glass jars.
2. Divide the quinoa between the two jars. Then add the chickpeas on top of the quinoa.
3. Season the asparagus fennel and radishes with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Place on a grill or grill pan on medium high and grill until browned on all side, about 5-8 minutes. Slice the asparagus into bite-size pieces and place all the veggies in the jar on top of the chickpeas.
4. Crumble the feta on top of the veggies. Top with arugula and mint. Season with salt and pepper.
Kale Pesto Zoodle Jar
- 4-5 kale leaves, stemmed + chopped
- fistful of basil leaves for pesto
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese
- juice of 1/2 a lemon
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 large zucchini
- ½ small can of cannellini beans
- 8-10 baby tomatoes
- 8-10 pitted black olives
- handful of basil leaves to top
- small handful raw pumpkin seeds or pine nuts
- sea salt + pepper
1. Place the first 4 ingredients in a small food processor or blender. Pulse to combine while slowly drizzling in the olive oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide the pesto between two jars.
2. Using a spiralizer, spiralize the zucchini. Add on top of the pesto. Add the cannellini beans on top of that.
3. Pre-heat oven to 425 ºF. Place baby tomatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. Place in oven and cook for about 8-10 minutes until starting to brown. Place tomatoes on top of beans. Add olives on top of that. Top with basil and pumpkin seeds or pine nuts.
Thai Rice Noodle Jar (Just Add Water!)
- 1 small packet of instant rice noodles (about 2 ounces)
- 1 bouillon cube (chicken, beef or veggie), cut in half
- 1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 2 teaspoons of chili paste (more or less according to your heat preferences)
- ¼ red pepper, sliced
- handful mung bean sprouts
- 2 scallions, sliced
- handful of dark leafy green of your choice (spinach, kale, dandelion, etc.)
- 4-6 leaves of Thai basil
- 10 crushed peanuts
- 2 wedges of lime
1. Place half a bouillon cube in each jar. Divide the fish sauce, coconut oil, tamari and chili paste between each jar. Add rice noodles on top. Add the veggies, then the greens, then the basil. Top with crushed peanuts and lime wedge.
2. When you’re ready to eat, add hot water and mix to combine.
Photography by Vanessa Rees
Recipes + Styling by Christina Liva
Christina Liva is a writer, recipe developer, and former food editor at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's degree in english from Georgetown University, and has also written for Goop and Zagat. Liva is the founder of Yay Lunch, a company based in Virginia that helps provide healthy lunches to kids.