September is here, which means it’s time to go back to school or work (or both if you’re a teacher!). Whatever your particular situation is, odds are that the idea of having to pack your lunch box every day is filling you with dread. Let’s face it, we’re all leading busy lives, and coming up with exciting lunch ideas for the whole week is not always easy. While eating out may be a tempting option, it can get costly. Indeed, Americans spend almost $3000 a year on lunches! Eating homemade meals instead of packaged processed foods can save you the unnecessary expense and calories. Going out to eat often is linked to an overall poorer diet and increased risk of obesity. If that’s not food for thought, we don’t know what is!

Apart from saving you a ton of money and being generally healthier, bringing your own lunch can also be more ecofriendly if you follow the simple steps of our How to Pack a Zero-Waste Lunch guide.

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Better for your health, your wallet, and the environment? Looks like Brown-Bagging It the Plant-Based Way really is the way to go! Here’s how you can eat healthy and delicious lunches all week without ever getting bored:

1. Reinvent Your Salad

Greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, making salads a solid healthy choice for lunch. However, they can easily become boring if you eat them plain and stick to the same combos.

Are you guilty of using the same old pre-packed iceberg lettuce in all your salads? There’s no shame in it (we’ve all been there!) but switching up your greens goes a long way in making your lunch more interesting. Try using massaged kale, baby romaine, cabbage, and even bok choy in your next salad. Check out these 5 Nutritious Underrated Greens You Should Put in Your Salads for more ideas.

Although greens are great, there are so many other things that should be considered when constructing your salad (check out our 5 Step Guide to Making Vegan Super Salads). One of them is your protein source. Adding amino-acids rich foods in your salad not only adds some bulk, which will keep you fuller longer, but also brings extra flavor. Tofu, tempeh, shelled edamame, kidney beans, brown rice, chickpeas, and lentils are some examples of healthy plant-based protein sources you can add. Want some ideas of protein-rich salads? Give this Turmeric Tofu Sesame Salad, Edamame Seaweed Salad, Minced Tempeh Salad With Lemongrass, Sesame, and Cashews, and Golden Raisin and Beluga Lentil Salad With Cumin Caramelized Vegetables a try!

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Last but not least, let’s talk dressing. A good dressing can bring a salad from ‘A-Okay’ to downright amazing. If you’ve been using lackluster and unhealthy store-bought dressings (or none at all — gasp!), it’s time to step your game up. These 5 Oil-Free, Dairy-Free Salad Dressings and this Miso Turmeric Ginger Dressing will be the perfect addition to your salad. You can also look up These 19 Salad Dressing Recipes  You Won’t Believe are Vegan!

We suggest learning How to Make Vegan Mason Jar Salads for Make Ahead Lunches then trying out this amazing Nicoise Salad With Grilled Orange Tofu and this Roasted Cauliflower Salad With Miso Pear Dressing. We promise You’ll Never Be Bored With These 31 Satisfying and Scrumptious Salads! You can also check out these vegan salads for more ideas.

2. Rethink Your Classic Sandwich

Gone are the days of the classic mayo and ham sandwich that we used to eat as kids. Thankfully, the world of plant-based sandwiches is full of exciting and tasty combos. Don’t believe us? Check out These 12 Sensational Veggie Sandwiches and these 31 Delicious Vegan Sandwich Recipes.

The key to keeping things interesting in the sandwich department is thinking outside the box. Who said that a lunch sandwich had to be —  well an actual sandwich? Here’s 6 Creative Pita Sandwich Ideas and 4 Vegan Gyros That Are Better Than ‘the Real Thing’. If these don’t totally rock your world (which we doubt!), try these 15 of our Most Delectable Vegan Wrap Recipes.

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If you insist on sticking with your beloved classic sandwich, switch things up by using sourdough or whole grain bread instead of white. Then try these Rice Paper Ham Deli Slices or this Tempeh Bacon as lunch meat. You can also ditch the mayo and mustard and try these 10 Dairy-Free Spread Ideas to Transform Your Next Sandwich. We also recommend this amazing Smoked Tofu and Artichoke Spinach Sandwich, these Bean and Mushroom Fajitas, and this Simple Turmeric Chickpea Sandwich.

You don’t have to eat a boring sandwich ever again with all our tasty recipes!

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3. Don’t Make it All About the Main Event

Do you remember your excitement as a kid when you found out Mom had packed Oreos in your lunch box? We do, and we see no reason why we shouldn’t recreate this feeling for ourselves as adults.

It doesn’t have to be unhealthy cookies per say (although we do have a healthier recipe for Oreos — if you must!) but packing a variety of fun and delicious snacks will make you look forward to lunch time a lot more. Having healthy snacks like these Oat and Spelt Crunchie Bars or this Curried Cashew and Veggie Trail Mix around can also help you power through your day and keep the late afternoon cravings at bay. If you do get the munchies, check out these 25 Recipes for Healthier Snacks.

If you want more ideas for creative and tasty snacks, try these 25 Energy-Packed Snack Balls That Will Jump-Start Your Day and these 10 Snack Ideas That Are Made From 5 Ingredients or Less. You can also check out our collection of snack recipes.

4. Re-purpose Left-Overs or Skip Meal Prep Altogetherspicy bean chili wth roast potatoes

Although meal prep is touted as the end-all, be-all for busy people, it can make for repetitive meals, and dare we say it — a boring lunch experience. While we don’t suggest necessarily ditching the time saving effort of cooking large amounts of food at once, we do encourage you to rethink the whole process. Preparing in advance doesn’t have to mean sitting down to the same exact meal every day. With a little creativity you can re-purpose your left-overs and create different meals with the same basic ingredients. The secret? Not being afraid to try new flavor combos!

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Not sure where to start? Here are 10 Flavor Combinations You Must Try for Your Cooking and 15 Vegan Recipes Featuring the Biggest Global Flavors of 2017. Getting yourself acquainted with The Ultimate Spice Guide for Vegan Cooking is a good idea also!

Need more ideas? Check out these 15 Easy Vegan Recipes You Can Prep in Advance That Will Save Time and Money and try this Spicy Bean Chili With Leftover Roast Potatoes. You can also skim through our guides on How to Throw Together a Quick Lunch With Dinner’s Leftovers and How to Reuse Leftovers to Create New Dishes and Reduce Waste.

5. Pack Realistically

This one may seem a given but it’s actually easy to get it wrong. Going back to school or work after a vacation time full of indulgences and lax eating habits can lead us to go overboard on healthy lunches. Packing what we think the healthiest version of ourselves needs may appear to be a good idea at first but come lunchtime our hunger cannot deal with the disappointment.

There’s a time for plain kale salads but every day is definitely not it! Thankfully, there’s a happy medium between chowing down burgers for lunch and salad leaves, and we have it for you — actually tasty whole food-based meals!

Case in point, this Kale and Grilled Tomato Salad,  Warm Cauliflower, Chickpea, Kale, and Harissa Salad, Kale Falafel Salad Bowl, and Mushroom and Kale Farro Salad, are nothing but boring.

Want more ideas for recipes that are as tasty as they are healthy? We have these amazing 15 Healthier, Vegan Versions of All Your Junk Food Favorites, 31 Healthy and Delicious Vegan Recipes, and These 15 Healthy Vegan To-Go Snacks and Meals That Will Keep You Energized This Semester (or at work). You could also Learn How to Whip Up One of These Healthy Vegan Meals in 10-Minutes or Less. Last but not least, give any of these 21 Healthy Recipes With 5 Ingredients or Less That Are Completely Vegan a chance. Your taste buds won’t be disappointed!

In the end, it’s a no-brainer — pack what you want to eat and not what you wish you wanted to eat!

Recommended Resources and Recipes to Get You Started

Want more lunch packing tips and recipes? Here are a few articles that might interest you:

If you enjoy articles like this and want to find more healthy and tasty lunch ideas, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s a brilliant food app available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. It’s a great resource for anyone looking to eat healthier, cut out or reduce allergens like meat, dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, grains, and find more awesome recipes, cooking tips, articles, product recommendations and how-tos. The app shows you how having diet/health/food preferences can be full of delicious abundance rather than restrictions.

The Food Monster app has over 8000+ recipes and 500 are free. To access the rest, you have to pay a subscription fee but it’s totally worth it because not only do you get instant access to 8000+ recipes, you get 10 NEW recipes every day! You can also make meal plans, add bookmarks, read feature stories, and browse recipes across hundreds of categories like diet, cuisine, meal type, occasion, ingredient, popular, seasonal, and so much more!

Lead Image Source: Nicoise Salad With Grilled Orange Tofu