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The Low-Carb Lunchbox

Recipe Type

Go-to recipes for work day lunches, kids' lunchboxes, or even easy dinners and high-protein snacks​

Luckily, I love cottage cheese. Because the number of mornings I lean sighingly into the refrigerator and end up shrugging and plunking a tub of cottage cheese into my lunch sack? It’s a lot of mornings. I don’t want to pack a sandwich, because I’m trying to limit my carbs, and I don’t want to be the person nodding off during a meeting, my head falling back, my mouth falling open, my eyes rolling back into my head while people poke each other and point. But then, sometimes, I really can’t think of what else there even is. “What even is there for lunch?” I will say aloud, to nobody in particular, and nobody will answer me.

But then sometimes I’ll get in a really great phase where I buy a few ingredients and do a little prep work, and lunch turns into something easy and special and colorful and nutritious – an actual bright spot in my day, instead of a magical-thinking exercise of peering into my lunch bag and hoping I’ll see something other than the cottage cheese I know I packed. I’m in one of those phases now, so I’m sharing these recipes. They’re perfect for packed work-day lunches, or kids’ lunchbox lunches, but the salads would also make a great dinner, and the roll-ups are nice for high-protein snacking. Salad-wise, feel free to do whatever mixing and matching you like among dressings and proteins. And enjoy the moment when you open the refrigerator and the very thing you’ll want for lunch is already there, just waiting to be packed up and appreciated.

1. Hero Roll-Ups

These really are heroes of the packed-lunch world: easy, appealing, appetizer-y finger food with plenty of protein and pretty close to zero carbs. 

View the recipe. 


2. Classic Nicoise Salad

Thanks to the cool layering trick, the dressing hangs out on the bottom where it won’t make the lettuce wilty—but then, when you dump it out, it’s all perfect.

View the recipe. 





3. Tex-Mex Kale Bowl with Creamy Lime Dressing

It turns out that the cooked flavor is what lots of people might not love about kale—and if you serve it as a zippily dressed raw salad, then you eliminate that problem!

View the recipe. 




4. Basic Simple Chicken

This is just a perfect, basic chicken recipe that makes versatile, good-tasting chicken for salads, bowls, roll-ups, and whatever else you might want chicken for.

View the recipe. 


Other useful packable lunch items: 

5. Everyone’s Favorite Salad

6. Caprese Salad

7. Flavor-Saturated Tofu

8. Crustless Quiche

9. Lentil Salad

10. Two-Bean Beef Chili

11. Cheater Deviled Eggs

12. Smoky Feta Dip

13. Green Roll-Ups

14. Zippy Egg Salad

15. Lemony Hummus

16. Mason-Jar Salads

17. Any-Veggie Soup

18. Mini Ricotta Frittatas

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Last year they started the WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and are currently developing Seasoned, their senior version, commissioned by the AARP. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health and happiness at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]