9 Packable Veggie Lunch Ideas to Save You from Energy-Sucking Crap from a Drive-Through

You know the drill.  You are crazy-busy meeting deadlines and suddenly your stomach tells you that it is way past noon.

You don't have time for a real lunch hour so you swing through a drive-through and grab whatever is easy.

Never mind that it is a far cry from your healthy eating goals.

Nor that you are about to tank your afternoon energy-level with a fast-food coma.

After all, french fries are a vegetable.  Right?

Sometimes the hardest part of packing a lunch is coming up with an idea of what to pack. This post has 9 simple ideas for packable, plant-based lunches that will have you feeling great about your choices and fill you with energy.

1. Roll up a Sandwich. Hummus is incredibly packable. Spread it on a whole wheat flour tortilla, layer on some fresh spinach, kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes, roll it up and voila! A very satisfying sandwich wrap. Drop it in a plastic bag or wrap it in foil and it is suddenly portable.

2. Make a Three-Ingredient Soup. Did you know that 3 ingredient soups are a thing? The classic three-ingredient tomato soup is a sauteed onion, roasted tomatoes and heavy cream put in a blender. (Food 52 teaches you to do it faster using canned tomatoes and you can sub full fat coconut milk for the cream.)  You can also try these other three ingredient soups: Esther Schultz's Pea Soup, The Busy Baker's Broccoli Soup, Or the Budget Diet Girl's Black Bean Soup. Pack in a Thermos so it can sit at your desk and stay cozy hot until you are ready to open it.

3. Break out the Soba Noodles. The best thing about Japanese soba noodles is that they cook fast.  The second best thing? They are great cold.  For a delicious dish you can eat straight from your insulated lunch box or the company refrigerator...Boil a pot of water. Add soba noodles and 1/2 cup of frozen, shelled edamame then set a timer for 5 min. After you drain the soba noodles and beans, put back in the post and stir in some bottled peanut sauce (or other Asian sauce). Put it in a sealed container and refrigerate so it is ready the next morning.  Want to make your own peanut sauce? Check out this cold soba noodle recipe from Brown Eyed Baker.

4. Fancy up your leftovers. Polenta—while served in posh restaurants—is really just boiled cornmeal.  It is cheap and easy to make.  Just boil 1c of water or veggie broth and stir in 1/4c of corn meal. Reduce heat and keep stirring until slightly thick. Then put a lid on it, turn off the heat and let it sit for 10 min on the stove to thicken some more. Polenta makes a great base when you don't have enough leftovers to stand on their own for a second meal. Top with that last bit of chili, spaghetti sauce, sauteed vegetables or beans. To pack it, put in a thermos to keep hot or reheat in a glass dish in the company microwave.

5. Tofu Eggless Salad.  Tofu has very little flavor on its own—which is why so many people make fun of it.  But it is a good protein base for other flavors.  Mix extra firm tofu in a bowl with the same ingredients you would use for egg salad and you have a delicious spread for sprouted bread, toast, celery or crackers. Put it in something that will keep it cold like an insulated lunch box or vacuum seal container.  Check out this recipe from PETA.

6. Try Salad in a Mason Jar.  Why a Mason jar? Well, the idea is that because you pack the salad in reverse order, the dressing sits at the bottom so the lettuce doesn't get soggy. Put the dressing in an empty, clean Mason jar, then add ingredients like beans (chickpeas, kidney beans) and diced veggies (tomatoes, celery, carrots, bell peppers, etc) and fill the rest of the jar with greens which will stay nice and crisp on top.  At lunch time, simply dump it into a bowl and the salad will be "right side up." You can stash in the company refrigerator, but you'd better label it.  Salads in a jar are so pretty they might get stolen. Carolyn Kylstra offers 18 Salad-in-a-Jar recipe ideas.

7. Raw Cashew "Cheese" Dip. We understand that vegan cheeses are not always awesome. However, this raw dip made from cashews is pretty amazing and might make you forget that you used to love Velveeta. The key to this cheese dip's smoothness is soaking the cashews overnight in water. (You drain them before putting in the blender.) Spin all ingredients until smooth and you have a power-packed energy dip that goes great with carrot chips, celery, broccoli and pretty much any other vegetable you want to dip in it. Get the details from TheKitchn.

8. Try Making a Bento Box.  If you search for "bento" on Pinterest, you will fall down a dark hole of people who have spent way too much time making their lunches.  At it's simplest, a bento is a small box with different types of foods packed tightly in sections so they don't slide around.  If you want to test drive a simple one, fill one half of a small, shallow plastic or glass dish (one that has a lid that seals) with cooked rice, put in 4-5 veggie meatballs in one corner topped with BBQ sauce and fill the other corner with steamed (or raw) broccoli. Add a few cherry tomatoes down the middle of the rice, and it gets more aesthetically pleasing.  Brit+Co has some other fun vegetarian ideas for bentos that won't make you crazy.

9. Bake a potato. Did you know you can bake a potato overnight in a crockpot? Just take a baking-sized russet or sweet potato and wrap it in foil, put in a dry crockpot on low overnight (about 8 hours) and in the morning you will have a perfectly baked potato.  Try using coconut oil instead of butter and sprinkle with nutritional yeast (cheesy flavor). To keep it warm until lunch, don't remove the foil, wrap in a dish towel and put in your insulated lunch box. Pack your toppings separately.

Ready to start bringing your lunch to work? Pick one or two of the ideas above and try it this week.  Not only will your waistline and pocketbook benefit, but your energy will soar.
© Yogi with a Day JobMaira Gall