The Lunch Box Column: Boost Fruit and Vegetable Content in a Packed Lunch + Recipes

By: Katie Evers

Low fruit and vegetable consumption is a significant dietary concern. During young adulthood it can be a particularly challenging time to include fruits and vegetables1. For many, the transition from college to work life can be stressful. High stress is correlated with low fruit and vegetable intake2. However, young adulthood is a great time to focus on healthful eating patterns, as habits developed during this time can help to create healthy lifestyle patterns that can last throughout adulthood1. As students are often in class or working around lunchtime, it is a particularly easy time to choose more convenient, less nourishing choices. Business around lunchtime can cause even the most devoted fruit and vegetable eater to choose fast food options. That is because there are readily available in the workplaces and on college campuses. Below are two delicious, easily made, and packable options for lunchtime. They can be whipped up the night before, or quickly in the morning. Toss in a packable fruit (like banana, apple, or a couple of small clementines) and a Greek yogurt and you can expect a nutritious, satisfying lunch ready to be enjoyed anywhere you can find a seat. Be sure to add an ice pack or frozen water bottle to keep everything cool until lunchtime.

fruits and veg nutrirecipes

Hummus Wrap3 adapted from Robyn Coale, RD, FNP

  1. Take a large whole grain wrap or tortilla and spread with about 2 Tbsp. of hummus of your choice (black bean and chickpea are my favorites).
  2. Add 1-2 heaping handfuls of leafy greens (spinach is by far my favorite but any relatively tender green will work).
  3. Add another handful (about ½ cup) of chopped crunchier vegetables like cucumber, bell pepper, or carrot.
  4. Wrap in foil and pack!

veggie wrap nutrirecipes 

Hearty Lunch Salad4 adapted from Anne Mauney, MPH, RD

  1. Fill a medium-large size container (with a lid) with 2 heaping handfuls of leafy greens of choice.
  2. Add about ½ cup of cooked brown rice or quinoa (or any whole grain!)
  3. Add about ½ cup cooked beans (or rinsed and drained canned beans).
  4. Add about ½ cup of chopped vegetables (raw or leftover roasted vegetables are both great).
  5. Add either another ½ cup of vegetables or ½ cup fresh fruit (like blueberries, sliced strawberries, or peeled orange wedges) or ¼ cup dried fruit (like raisins, cherries, or cranberries).
  6. Then add a source of fat: avocado, shredded or feta cheese, nuts, seeds, dressing (olive oil and red wine vinegar is a great and simple option).

salad nutrirecipes


  1. Tomasone J, Meikle N, Bray S. Intentions and Trait Self-control Predict Fruit and Vegetable Consumption During the Transition to First-Year University. Journal Of American College Health. 2015;63(3):172-179.
  2. Kiviniemi M, Orom H, Giovino G, et. al. Race/ethnicity, psychological distress, and fruit/vegetable consumption. The nature of the distress-behavior relation differs by race/ethnicity. Appetite. 2011;56(3):737-740.
  3. The Real Life RD Web Site. Accessed May 15, 2017.
  4. Fannetastic Food Web Site. Accessed May 15, 2017.
  5. Randy Mayor. Cooking Light Web Site. September 1, 2011. Accessed May 15, 2017.



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