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Portable Lunch Ideas

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Never worry again about staying healthy on vacation. Just read all of the comments left yesterday re: “Healthy-eating on Vacation.” Thank you all for taking the time to leave such a plethora of good advice.

Yesterday, I mentioned some portable snack ideas for healthy eating when you’re not at home. But sometimes—especially on vacations—circumstances call for portable meals as well as snacks.

That’s where tupperware comes in!

And coolers. Coolers are your best friends. Basically anything can be turned into a portable meal if put into a tupperware container (and then, optionally, a cooler). Okay, maybe not anything. Leave the Vita-Mix ice cream at home! Another good idea is to bring part of a meal and supplement the rest with something you buy while out. And even more options are open to you if you’re strange lucky like me in that you actually prefer most foods at room temperature or cold.

Some of my favorite portable lunches include: Soups, salads, sandwiches, blended grain puddings, and stir fries. Sometimes, it’s easier to “picture” meals when there are actual pictures (go figure). So I put together a photo essay with some ideas:

Starting with the Banana Butter

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And then there’s also: Strawberry Shortcake Sandwich


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Either savory or sweet Love Muffins


All the Way Arame Salad


Soups, such as “No Cream” Cream Of Broccoli Soup

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Pasta salads (w/veggies and dressing, like Newman’s sesame) or any cold pasta dish


“Somewhere over the Rainbow” Sandwich


And finally, salads, such as “Colonel Mustard” Salad

I could go on and on with my portable meal photos, especially with soups, salads, and leftovers. But everyone knows what a stir fry looks like, so I’ll spare you.

Photos in order of appearance:


Katie is the baker, photographer, and author of the popular blog Chocolate-Covered Katie. Her favorite food is chocolate, and she believes in eating a balanced diet that includes dessert every single day. More about Katie—> 

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  1. abby says:

    wowowowowow that “strawberry shortcake” sammie looks amazing!!!

  2. I must say, banana butter makes THE BEST grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich. Everyone should try that. 😉 And for portable options, I’ve been packing up my mango salsa to the pool. It’s easy to put into tupperware, and it’s excellent with corn chips. :)

  3. Rick says:

    my new favorite portable lunch is sprouted quinoa tabbhouli…amazing stuff

  4. Leslie says:

    I’m with you on the salad thing. I like wilted lettuce, so I’m always happy to pack my salads in the AM. But I could go down with that carrot cake sandwich too!

  5. Jenny says:

    I love veggie wraps with goat cheese! Yumm:)

  6. My favorite portable lunches are probably Clif bars or something like that, so my clumsy self doesn’t end up with a handbag full of noodles or salad… 😀
    You’re so sweet to even care about not being able to reply while you’re on vacation!

  7. I love your food 😀
    I like big salads as portable lunches..and the occasional sandwich, but I’m really not a sandwich person :(

  8. Sarah says:

    Aw do NOT NOT worry about getting back to my email (or any others) anytime soon. Just enjoy your vacation and get back to me when you can :).

  9. Jennifer - jcd says:

    Oooh, your carrot cake sandwich looks like a great lunch! I think I’ll try that next week.

    I like eating most things cold or room temperature as well, so it’s not uncommon for me to take leftovers to work for lunch. Otherwise, our favourite portable meals include celery with peanut butter and raisins (celery canoes/ants on a log), quinoa mixed with fruit and veggies with a light dressing, muffins, fudge babies, cold pasta salad (sans mayo), pita pizzas, cold pancakes, veggies in a rice paper? wrap, and baked beans alone or in burritos.

  10. JCD,
    Yay! I’m not the only crazy one who doesn’t like hot foods! Actually, it’s not that I don’t like hot foods, it’s just that they get cold so quickly that I’ve just learned to like the foods cold because it’s such a pain having to get up between courses all the time to re-heat food!

  11. Sarah,
    I will get back to ya soon, I promise :).

  12. Sarahishealthy says:

    I love the photo essay! You should do more of those because your pictures always look so yummy. :)

  13. welshsarah says:

    I love salads as portable lunches, and i’m addicted to tupperware! What a life saver. Is it weird that I often like to eat my lunch out of a tupperware lunch box even when I’m at home?

    For example, see


  14. Marina says:

    Thanks for the amazing ideas! I usually pack some kind of sandwiches, salads, or maybe some kind of stir fry, grains and veggies. I always try to make something yummy, that tastes good cold and won’t spill in my backpack 😀

  15. Danielle says:

    I totally agree- anything that can fit in a tupperware container is portable! I even bought these nifty containers that have different sized sections so you can pack different things without them mixing together. Sort of like an “adult lunchbox” 😀

    I forgot I still had some Arame left!

  16. maxinthegym says:

    I usually carry a basic PB and something sandwich around in my purse hahaha but for an actual lunch I’ll make a huge salad beast with all the components in separate containers and combine when
    I sit down to eat!

    1. Maxinthegym,
      I love your idea to combine everything at the end. Good way to fix the “lettuce wilting” dilemma :).

  17. mapledreams says:

    OOOhh some really creative and delicious looking ideas, i’d never have thought of a few of them! (espescially the over the rainbow sarnie!) i don’t think i really have a portable lunch fave as i don’t tend to eat on the go! but i would never say no to a delicious wrap xx

  18. Serena says:

    Hummus/honey sandwiches, a la Tatianna, are simply FABU and easy to eat on the go!

  19. I still really need to try your open-faced carrot cake sandwich!!

  20. Cecilia says:

    Hey Katie, this is going to be a totally off topic comment, but I wanted to ask you for a favour.

    Can you please recommend me some beauty (make up stuff), that is cruelty free – ones that are sort of readily available?? I recently looked up the brands of most of my favourite make up stuff and I am so sad/angry that they carry out animal testing (i.e: not Bobbie approved) :(

    Thank you so much for your suggestions, it will be greatly appreciated :)

    1. Cecilia,
      Aww poor Bobbbie!! It’s hard to believe that companies are allowed to force chemicals and needles and toxic products into little guys like Bobbie :(.
      My favorite make up products are by Urban Decay and Clinique. But if you go here, you can find a whole list:

  21. Joliene says:

    When I’m running around and don’t have time to eat, but am hungry, I grab a bottle of kombucha; it’s vegan, filling, and easy to consume while driving and stuff.

    One of the easiest things to grab and go for me is hummus and flat bread. It travels well and is yummy!

  22. emily says:

    i love all the lunch / eating on vacation ideas. figuring out how to handle those situations adds anxiety that’s more fun to go without. 😉

    a few questions i had– unrelated to your post– just if you have the time.
    – i made your blended barley for the first time (as in: i’d never even had barley before) the other night with trader joe’s chickenless strips on the side, & i was glad to branch out. i found it a little lacking in flavor, though. i added a couple seasonings (italian seasoning grinder, freshly ground black pepper & kosher salt) but was interested in your thoughts…. whether you ever add anything or just have it as is.
    – i want to try your adorable love muffins. :) i’m lacto-ovo & don’t have ener-g egg replacer. do you know how much egg (i use eggbeaters or egg whites) to use instead of the 1 1/2 tsp. called for? i know it can change the liquid amount or something.

    thank you! :) & enjoy your vacation (i’m sure you are!).

    1. Emily,
      If you add just a smidge of butter (or vegan butter such as Smart Balance light), it really ups the flavor :).

      It says on the back of my egg replacer box that 1 and 1/2 tsp ener-g is equal to one egg. I hope that helps!!

  23. carrot cake sandwich is my favorite idea. oh what, did you come up with it? surreee :)
    I’m in need of a good portable lunch holder!


  24. Ilana says:

    Oh maaaan. I love your Chocolate Covered Food Porn posts. Seeeriously. Good thing I’m eating lunch right now while I read this or I’d be really hungry!! My portable lunches and dinners of choice are salads – I pack a container with the greens and most of the veggies and usually bring some oil, half a lemon, and half an avocado in separate baggies or containers.

  25. Ilana says:

    BTW I know you’re busy right now but let me know if you ever head NYC-way and wanna meet up!! I’m dying to get together with you!!

  26. Valerie says:

    I’ve made those Love Muffins before, but now you have me craving them again. Off to make another batch! I think I’ll do Elvis ones this time.

  27. eatandrun says:

    I’ll take one of everything, please!

  28. I’m a big fan of putting leftovers from dinner into individual serving sized pyrex containers when I’m able. Salads, soups, stews, pasta dishes, etc. all work well. That way when I’m packing food for work, all I have to do is grab a container and maybe a piece of fruit or some nuts and volia, lunch! Also works well if you need to freeze anything; grabbing a frozen pyrex with soup inside will be mostly thawed by lunch.

    You can also make bean burgers and individually freeze them. Much cheaper and healthier than Boca-style burgers and just as easy to heat and eat!

  29. Jenny says:

    We sometimes take veggie burgers on the road with us and microwave them in gas stations. Other than that, it’s Tofurky deli slices and lettuce on bread or nutbutter/agave. You definitely get fancier than us away from home. Maybe I need to step it up. :)

  30. Mmmm those are all great ideas! The last couple of days I had to bring lunch to tennis practice, and I will have to bring lunch until the end of the summer! So its good to see all the ideas.

    I usually bring a leftover, thats turned into a salad. For example, spinach, bell pepper, onion, olive, topped with black beans and rice. I also recently found stuffed grape leaves in bulk at costco, and they taste soooo good! I throw a couple of those into my salad. I also like making wraps on a whole wheat tortilla with hummus or guacamole and veggies. Today, I made myself a smoothie and packed it in the cooler with some pretzels and peanut butter!!!! Delicious! Then, there are my lazy days when I just make a pb&j :)

  31. Abby S. says:

    Hey Katie,
    umm… what do I say…. EVERYTHING LOOKS DELISH!!!!!! Wow!! Hope that you are enjoying your vacation, at my house!!!!! LOL(lots of love)!

  32. The Somewhere over the Rainbow sandwich. I want…no, I NEED right now! :)

  33. kelli says:

    love this! I am going upstate this weekend with family..brining my vita-mix and all my fave healthy foods..chia seeds,oatmeal,nut butters,dr.krackers,spelt&grain bread, exekiel tortillas,almond and soy milk…basically everything I eat that my family doesnt because no one else is vegetarian let alone vegan like me. def going shopping there, but upstate has alot less food stores. I may bring my tempeh chili with me on the ride up bc cold chili is good and is substanial,and fruit&nuts of course. or maybe see if we can stop at moosewoods to eat, always wanted to go there!

  34. kelli,
    Haha I kinda wish I’d brought my Vita-Mix.
    Ahhhhhh Moosewood! I went with my mom, when we visited Cornell, and SHE dragged ME back the next day, it was so good :).

  35. okay i NEED to save that Colonel salad link for reference! u had me at MUSTARD!!!

    i think arame is the best sea veg in the world. i do love my dulse, but arame is so much more subtle and tastes really good with almost anything :)

  36. kelli says:

    ahahah you should have… I will have to see if madre is up for it, it is on the way 😉

  37. Lindsey says:

    Usually just a nutrition bar, maybe some fruit or nuts too. I hardly ever eat sandwiches, and I get nervous carrying containers.

  38. banana butter + extra PB + chocolate chips on cinnamon raisin bread = EPIC deliciousness, resulting in mega ultra happy vegan face!
    all of your lunches look fab… i’m about to write up a post on healthy portable lunches in a few days, so i’ll definitely link back to this post!

  39. I’ve wanted to buy a cooler for weeks now, but haven’t managed yet!

  40. I love your portable lunch ideas!! I’m definitely in need of some a few days so thanks! :)

  41. Melinda says:

    I just got back from vacation and it was more exciting to eat mostly healthy and enjoy the tastes of other cultures. In the States it is different, but my main goal in Europe and Morocco was to try traditional foods and experience meals that a local would eat. I did discover that you can get good traditional foods from the local markets and grocery stores, and I do encourage doing this in Europe to not only save money, but enjoy a an outdoor picnic with local treats. Another thins we did was stop while we were out walking for hours and buy fresh fruit at a market or street vendor and munch on fruit for snacks all day long, and then have other foods for meals at restaurants. One of my favorite parts of Spain was enjoying Sangria and tapas while eating outside with the sun still out at almost 10 pm. As for Morocco, I had an insane vegetarian meal, and if you want to see pictures, it is on my current post that is up right now.

  42. Eric says:

    Hmm I don’t think I’ve ever seen a carrot cake sandwich before. Interesting :)

  43. Serena says:

    I’ve hugged a fruit! What a productive morning. Not even 9am and the fruit is not only hugged, but gobbled. :)
    ^up tharr.

  44. Ah, thank you for this post. It seems like I’m always on the go, which means I always have to bring food with me. I’ve gotten it down pretty well, but I’m still grateful for any new portable lunch options. Sandwiches with hummus are great for me, and I like keeping Larabars, Raw Revolution bars or Gnu bars on hand to eat with roasted edamame (protein!). I have also found that coolers are your best friend. They make things so much easier, especially when you bring re-freezable ice packs. :)