Veganism is growing more and more popular, but it can still be really hard to find restaurants with good vegan menu options, much less fully vegan restaurants. So when you’re planning meals for the workweek or for a road trip, you may have to plan on bringing your own food. Bento boxes are a great idea for preparing and packing vegan lunches for school time or any other busy period in your life.
What is a Bento Box?
A Bento box is a lunch box that is split into separate compartments. They allow you to plan your meals in advance and help ensure that you include all of the food groups in each meal.
There are several types of bento box options to choose from. You can pick plastic, glass, or stainless steel—some bento boxes come with utensils that snap right into place on the lid, so you are always ready to eat! You can even make your own bento box by separating your food in a normal container with silicone cupcake liners.
When it comes to packing your vegan bento boxes, you can stick to a basic formula if you’re struggling to come up with vegan bento box lunch ideas. There are four food groups you should include in your lunch: carbs, protein, a fruit or veggie, and a treat.
Even if you’ve been vegan for a while, it can still be difficult to come up with a healthy vegan bento box idea. Here are some ideas for each section of your box—you can mix and match these vibrant meals for a variety of lunch ideas:
Sandwiches are easy to make and there are endless combinations of fillings you can add to yours. Mix things up by building your sandwich on a bagel, wrapping it in a tortilla, or stuffing it into a pita pocket.
Tofu + rice
Get all your protein and carbs all in one main portion by making some tofu and rice. Add some sesame seeds and your favorite sauce for one of the easiest vegan bento box lunches you’ll find.
Just because you’re making lunch doesn’t mean it can’t be fancy! Your favorite vegan pasta dish is the perfect main portion for your bento box. As a bonus, you can make extras and have them as leftovers for dinner or tomorrow’s lunch too!
Quinoa is one of the best whole grains for a bento box. Combine it with some fresh vegetables (like sweet potatoes or a bell pepper), protein, and dressing or lemon juice and you’ve got a salad that’s tasty and healthy, and will fit right into the main components of your bento box. Add some extra healthy toppings such as pumpkin seeds for an extra crunch. You can find an easy recipe for a quinoa bowl online.
Make your favorite takeout at home and bring it with you to go in your bento box. It will go with any protein and you can experiment with different flavors and seasonings.
Pasta salad is a great option because it’s easy to make and it already includes most of the food groups. Grab your favorite pasta and add some vegetables and dressing. Throw in some tofu or beans for some additional protein. The best part? Pasta salad is eaten cold, so you don’t have to heat it up.
Is your burrito getting too big for your bento box? Try deconstructing it: instead of wrapping all your fillings in a tortilla, try putting them into the main section of your bento box. It’s like a burrito salad!
Just because green salads are healthy doesn’t mean they can’t be yummy! This is your chance to combine all your favorite foods into one big bowl. Every bite will be a surprise! Start with some leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, spinach, or mixed greens, and throw in all the meat, veggies, nuts, and fresh berries your heart desires! Seriously—when it comes to salad, everything is on the table. Finish it off by dousing it in your favorite dressing.
Add some sweetness to your lunch and keep it healthy with some sliced fruit or berries. Blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries all fit nicely in the smaller sections of a bento box. You could slice up an apple or a kiwi or peel some orange slices if you want to bring a larger piece of fruit. Add some peanut butter for dipping in a lidded separate container.
If you’re missing some crunch in your meal, try packing some vegetables in your snack compartment. Baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, or bell peppers are all healthy sides for your meal. Grab a small dipping container for some ranch dressing or hummus. If you have time in your busy schedule, you can make some hummus-stuffed mini peppers.
There’s no better snack than a cracker. Pack your favorite cracker in your bento box and top it with a dip like a nut butter, seed butter, or white bean hummus. Or pair it with some sliced vegetables or vegan cheese.
Nuts are great healthy snacks. Make sure you’re getting all of your protein in your meal by snacking on some nuts. Some nuts that pack a lot of protein include almonds, cashews, walnuts, and pistachios. Try them salted for a little extra flavor, or take it a step further and pack some trail mix in your bento box.
Still feeling a little hungry after you finish your lunch? Throw in a vegan granola bar on the side. You can eat it right after lunch, or wait a little bit until you’re feeling hungry again.
There’s nothing wrong with adding a little sweet treat to your lunch. Do you make a mean vegan brownie? Brownies are the perfect dessert for a bento box—their rectangle shape allows them to fit perfectly inside the small treat compartment.
Everyone loves cookies. Big or small, you can fit multiple cookies into your bento box as something to look forward to after lunch. And if you start with dessert before you eat your lunch, there’s no one to stop you!
If sweets aren’t your thing, try something salty and savory, like popcorn! Popcorn will fit into any section of your bento box, and it’s perfect to munch on throughout the day.
With these vegan lunch meal prep ideas, you have plenty of options to create your own healthy lunches.. Now, no matter what the food situation you find yourself in when you go to work or out with friends, you’ll be prepared with a tasty, healthy vegan lunch you know you’ll like—because you packed it yourself!