On-the-Go Low Carb Lunches
Updated: May 5
It’s time to think outside the sandwich.
Whether you’re back to school, packing lunch for work, or simply bored of what you’ve been eating, I have some ideas for you.
I’ve taken some pictures of my kids’ lunches but these ideas could work for anyone. Who ever said kid lunches should be PB&J, hotdogs and processed chicken nuggets?? Our growing kiddos need MORE nutritious food, not less. I can’t speak for everyone’s school but I can say our district has some pretty junky lunch options.
This means I feel the need to pack my kids’ food the majority of the time (I do allow them to buy once a month or so if they really want to try something). After awhile I feel stuck in a rut and need to break out of the norm.
You’ll notice I did NOT include much fruit in these lunch ideas. I don’t tend to pack fruit often. Why? Fruit, like any other sugar-containing food will spike blood sugar and insulin and can promote weight gain. Keeping these low carb means avoiding added sugar. When you compare an apple to, say a cupcake, of course the apple is better because it naturally contains fiber to slow absorption of the sugar into the bloodstream. It's also more satisfying and harder to overeat. Long story short, if you want to include fruit, you're adding more carbs.
In order to keep more of a balance, I sometimes don’t give them fruit for school so they can have their treat at home later. Oh, and juice boxes seldom appear. They drink water.
Yes, I realize they probably trade food!
I’ve made them aware of healthy choices and since they are still young, they tell me when their friends share food with them and whether or not they eat what I packed. More often than not, they eat their own food. If they don’t, I know what not to put in their lunch box.
But get this: I serve this stuff at home too. I’ve done this because A) I want them to have a nutritious lunch and B) I want to see if they like it before sending it to school. And they eat it ALL without complaining because I give them a choice between a couple ideas.
Keyword here is: OPTIONS
Many of us don’t have time to make cute cookie cutter shapes out of their lunchmeat, etc. I know I don’t. There are plenty of easier/quicker ways to make lunch more appealing.
Make lunch exciting by using colorful containers. If you are really on top of it, you can use complimentary colors to really make the food stand out. It also keeps food items separated so they can eat them in any combination they like.
Some of the supplies that I adore are shown here. Other pictures have tiny plastic cups with lids that I found on Amazon which are fabulous for condiments.
If you don’t have silicone muffin cups, you can use paper ones. That also eliminates the problem of kids losing them or throwing them out. Surprisingly the food stays inside the cups within the boxes the majority of the time, with the exception of small things like nuts.
Another easy way to make what my kids call a "snacky lunch" is to divide up lunch into snack size resealable bags. We usually put small items like nuts or food that's really wet like oranges into bags instead of the muffin cups.
If you are great at meal-prep, pre-bagging items like crackers, veggies, nuts, etc. makes packing lunches much faster with the added benefit of weighing or measuring so not to overeat.
Ready to make your own lunch??
Shown are some combos that my kids really like. Scroll down for a great infographic on how to build your own.
Tuna and Pickles with Veggies and Dip
My daughter’s FAVORITE lunch. Usually I’ll dice the pickles and mix it into the tuna per her request. Not a fan of fish? Use hardboiled eggs or chicken instead. I make my own mayo and you can find the recipe here. Mashed avocado or a small amount of olive oil with some seasonings can be substituted for mayo.
Kids love this one and it’s better than store-bought kits. I used kitchen scissors to cut a large flour tortilla into smaller shapes, but you could do the same with a low carb or sprouted grain tortilla. Toast the tortilla in the toaster oven to make it crispy. I pack a small cup of marinara (I usually save a small amount after a pasta night), shredded mozzarella, pepperoni or other uncured meat. Add healthy fat by including black olives.
Hard-boiled eggs are so portable and easy to make in advance. Add in some cheese, apple slices and nut butter and you’ve got a meal. Put in olives instead of cheese for more fat and a bit less protein as shown. Included some veggies here too and this makes a larger meal, especially for kiddos.
Meat and Cheese Rollups with Marinara
and Veggies and Dip
Bought these gems from Costco but it’s also super quick to make your own with any piece of lunchmeat and a cheese stick. I'm also a huge fan of either rolling lunchmeat inside lettuce or lettuce inside lunchmeat if you are eliminating dairy.
BBQ Chicken, Celery & Crackers
Mix a small amount of BBQ sauce in with leftover shredded or diced chicken. I included celery and blue cheese but any veggie and dip will do. Adults will love this chicken in a green salad also. See below for the healthy grain-free crackers we love.
Build Your Own Mini Tacos or Nachos
This is a fun one. Use leftover chicken, beef or pork or make it vegetarian and use cooked jackfruit or go meatless. Small tortilla circles/few chips keep these lower carb. Omit these entirely if keto or strict low carb & use large lettuce leaves instead. Obviously the cheese isn’t melted for a kid lunch but they love the idea just the same. Include other favorite toppings like avocado, lettuce, olives, salsa, etc.
Variation on above: Ranch chicken tacos
A more "grown up" option may be some variation of my Beef Taco Cups, substituting the beef for any protein you have on hand.
Salads are other easy make-ahead meals and can actually be low-carb if you use a handful of dark leafy greens, cruciferous veggies and lots of healthy fat and protein like avocado, full-fat cheese, eggs and olives. My Asian-Inspired Salad is a good one if you like variety.
Some of our favorite snack and "side dish" items are shown below.
Not a fan of these ideas? No problem! Here's the basics on how to make your own.