Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best Lunch Boxes

Updated August 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 35 Models Considered
  • 6 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 203 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best lunch boxes

    Last Updated August 2018

    Are you sick of soggy salads and flattened sandwiches at lunchtime? Are you trying to stay on track with healthy food choices throughout the week? A good lunch box can keep all your favorite foods and snacks fresh and in one piece. Spend a little money on the perfect food carrier and you can avoid shelling out extra cash for store-bought sushi or a wilted cafeteria salad. Having trouble packing a lunch your young picky eater will like? The right lunch container can make mealtime fun again. Now you just need to find it.

    The BestReviews team wants to make sure you and your family enjoy nutritious lunches by providing you with all you need to know about lunch boxes. Our shopping guide includes information on what to look for, as well as essential features and food safety considerations to keep in mind.

    Pick a lunch box that meets your needs and never throw out crumbled crackers or suspect foods again!

    Some lunch boxes come with a sturdy matching thermos to keep beverages at the right temperature.

    Lunch box factors to consider

    Why should you spend money on a lunch bag or box? The answer is simple. You could put your egg salad sandwich in a reclosable plastic bag and throw it into your backpack or briefcase, but it’s not an ideal solution. A good lunch box preserves the freshness of the food and prevents it from getting crushed. Having the right lunch box means you’re more likely to eat healthy homemade meals instead of splurging on takeout. Choose a lunch box with the proper insulation and you won’t have to worry about food going bad.

    Types of lunch boxes

    Before deciding on which lunch box to buy, here are some of the different kinds of lunch boxes you might find.

    Basic bag or box: These are simple bags or boxes, typically made of nylon or some other waterproof material, designed to hold a single lunch.

    Bento box: Originally from Japan, bento boxes are lunch containers with various compartments. There’s a wide variety of bento-style boxes, and each is great for controlling portions and keeping lunches organized. Bento boxes are ideal for kids, and the compartments make it easy to label each food. A quick web search will reveal many fun ideas for packing a bento lunch box and adding a bit of whimsy to a meal.

    Meal prep: Meal prep lunch boxes are perfect for folks who want to keep careful tabs on their nutritional intake. Many of these models are larger than other types of lunch boxes because they’re designed to hold a day’s worth of food, snacks, supplements, and shakes. Some even come with extra containers so you can have all your week’s meals ready to go. If you’re someone who carefully plans and records what you eat, a meal prep bag is an indispensable tool.

    Cooler: These types of lunch boxes are perfect for outdoor enthusiasts or people who don’t have access to a fridge at work but still want to enjoy things like yogurt or cold beverages. These are extremely well insulated and durable enough to withstand some knocks and bumps.

    Kid-friendly: You can find most lunch boxes in kid-friendly varieties. Cute patterns, colors, and shapes make them appealing to little ones. When buying a lunch box for children, choose one that’s durable enough to be knocked around a bit. Boxes designed for kids are often made to fit into a school bag or backpack.

    Food and drink

    What do you usually like to pack for your meals? Knowing that will help you choose a lunch box. It’s essential that your selected option be compatible with your favorite lunchtime food. If you love to eat large sandwiches on ciabatta bread, a bento box is a poor choice. Do you normally like to graze on finger foods throughout the day? Lunch boxes that come with multiple containers or compartments are perfect for housing veggies and dip. No microwave at work? Look for a well-insulated lunch box that can keep your hot soup hot.

    Size and weight

    A lunch box might have all the bells and whistles you’re looking for, but if it’s heavy and bulky, you could find yourself “forgetting” it at home more often than not. A lunch box should be easy to carry, especially if you have a long commute via public transit. If you’re walking or biking to work or school, choose a model that can fit inside a backpack or pannier. If you need extra space for snacks throughout the day, make sure your chosen box has enough room for bonus munchies. You’ll need a larger bag, too, if you need to pack more than one meal on a regular basis. Kid-friendly lunch boxes should be easy for little ones to tote around or compact enough to fit inside a school bag or backpack.

    Everything for healthy lunches on the go

    The ThinkFit lunch box is double insulated, so everything you pack stays fresh. Go from the gym to work and refuel with a ready-made smoothie, thanks to the included 20-ounce shaker cup. Plan ahead and eat healthful meals from the included containers that are safe for the microwave and dishwasher. There’s also a pillbox for easy tracking of your supplements.

    Construction

    Most lunchboxes on the market are made of BPA-free materials. Regardless of the type of lunch box you choose, it’s best to settle on one with enough structural integrity to avoid squished foods. Most lunch boxes claim to be leak-proof, but check user reviews to make sure. No one wants to deal with spills in their purse or bag. Drop-resistant lunch boxes have a hard liner that protects food from impact. Most of these are designed for kids.

    • Metal: Lunch boxes made of stainless steel, aluminum, or tin are very durable but not microwave safe, so keep that in mind if you like to pack leftovers.

    • Nylon: This material is easy to clean and wipe down if there’s a spill. Some nylon lunch boxes have removable liners, making it easy to deal with messes.

    • Plastic: Plastic is lightweight, but poor-quality plastic lunch boxes are prone to cracking.

    Lunch box features

    Compartments or containers: Some lunch boxes come with containers or have dividers to keep foods from intermingling. These are useful for keeping foods separate, packing a variety of snacks, and portion control.

    Insulation: Insulation is a must for keeping meals hot or cold. For those without access to a microwave or fridge, or people with long commutes, insulation is necessary for food safety. Perishable items can spoil in less than two hours if not refrigerated. If you’re worried about spoilage, look for lunch boxes that come with extra ice packs in addition to insulated walls.

    Handle: You’ll need a handle or strap if you intend to carry your lunch box on its own. Most options have one or the other or both. Some lunch boxes (such as bento boxes) are designed to be carried in a purse, bag, or backpack.

    Accessories: Many lunch boxes come with a variety of containers to make packing lunch easier. If you already have plenty of good-quality storage containers of various sizes, you don’t need to invest in a lunch box that comes with extras. Other commonly available accessories include water bottles, shaker cups, and utensils.

    Easy to use and clean

    Most lunch boxes are straightforward and easy to use. If you’re buying a lunch box for a child, make sure the lid is easy to open and secure closed. Some lunch boxes don’t have a zipper, so they’re easier to get open.

    Even the sturdiest container can spring a leak, and messes are annoying to clean up. Make your life simpler by choosing a lunch box with a plastic or vinyl liner. Some are even machine washable. Dishwasher-safe models offer the easiest cleanup, but most insulated lunch boxes must be hand-washed. If a lunch box comes with storage containers, check to make sure they can go in the dishwasher.

    EXPERT TIP

    If you opt for a bento-style lunch box, make sure the lid fits tightly to prevent spills and contamination between compartments.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    If you take vitamins and supplements, look for a meal prep lunch box that comes with a pill compartment or container so you can store and keep track of your tablets.


    Staff  | BestReviews
    EXPERT TIP

    If you love eating a hearty salad for lunch, choose a lunch box that comes with small, leak-proof dressing containers. You won’t have to dress your salad beforehand and risk finding it soggy by noon.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • Plan lunches ahead of time. Include lunch-specific items on your grocery list to avoid last-minute packing struggles. And choose foods you enjoy. You’re more likely to give into temptation and not eat your prepared lunch if that homemade lunch is bland.

    • Keep it simple. You don’t need to pack elaborate lunches if you don’t have the time. If you’re at a loss for what to pack, check out Instagram or Pinterest for ideas.

    • Get the right tools for your kitchen. Want to include smoothies in your lunches? Buy a blender. Want to chop up veggies to snack on? Invest in a  good quality knife set. You can also use a slow cooker or Instant Pot to help with lunch prep.

    • Prep freezer meals ahead of time. You’ll just need to pop the breakfast sandwiches or burritos in the toaster oven or microwave.

    • Vary the menu. There’s no shame in packing up last night’s leftovers for lunch. Try a meal kit delivery service and order extra portions to be used for lunches. Or put aside a chicken breast from dinner and use it in a salad for lunch.

    Budget-friendly reliability

    The insulated MIER lunch box is a low-cost option for those on a budget. The dual-compartment bag features a top area designed to hold easily crushed foods, pockets for incidentals, and an adjustable strap. This easy-to-carry bag is roomy enough to fit lunch and plenty of snacks.

    Lunch box prices

    You shouldn’t need to pay more than about $30 for a good lunch box unless it’s a meal prep box. In general, while the cost varies according to quality and brand, larger lunch boxes with more accessories come with a higher price tag.

    Inexpensive: Budget lunch boxes that are little more than sectioned containers or single-compartment nylon bags cost less than $15.

    Mid-range: Hardshell bento-style lunch boxes for kids and adults cost from $25 to $35.

    Expensive: Meal prep bags and boxes are larger and come with more accessories, so these range from $40 to $100.

    A waterproof lunch box is the right choice if you’re heading out for a day of canoeing, kayaking, or beachcombing.

    FAQ

    Q. I work outdoors and don’t have access to a kitchen or refrigerator. What are some ideas for lunches that won’t go bad?

    A. Some easy lunch options that won’t spoil include peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, dried fruit, nuts, crackers, and basically any ready-made foods in your cupboard.

    Q. I produce so much waste when packing lunches. What can I do to cut down on my plastic use?

    A. Opt for a lunch box that comes with reusable containers or separate compartments, so you don’t have to wrap everything in plastic or aluminum foil. If the lunch box you’ve chosen doesn’t come with extra containers, use your own. Choose containers that are dishwasher safe so that they’re convenient to use. You won’t be tempted to reach for reclosable plastic bags that you’ll end up throwing away.

    Q. Is there anything I should avoid packing for lunch?

    A. Unfortunately, some items spoil more quickly than others. We don’t recommend packing sushi or raw fish for lunch unless you’re using plenty of ice packs and have access to a fridge. Many dairy-based products spoil quickly, too.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alvina
      Alvina
      Photographer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Melinda
      Melinda
      Web Producer
    • Moriah
      Moriah
      Writer
    • Steph
      Steph
      Writer