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Published Aug. 12, 2021

Want to eat healthy? Want to eat cheaply? Want to eat anywhere? The best lunch boxes and lunch bags give you unlimited lunchtime possibilities. From new heated lunch boxes to the convenient bento boxes you can toss down a flight of stairs without spilling a drop of soup, there are dozens of great ways to pack your food quickly and safely. Skip the overpriced fast-food lunch line and run away from the dusty old vending machine in the break room. Pack your lunch in a lightweight, insulated carrying case. With extra features and extra storage, one simple lunch box transforms into your own portable cafeteria. Eating at your desk, in the car, or out at the park has never been cleaner, easier, and more stylish with the best lunch boxes for adults.

What to consider when shopping for the best lunch box

Ready to take lunch to work? We’ve come a long way since the days of brown paper bags. There are more options for lunch boxes and bags than ever, and some even have features and compartments for specific foods. For healthy eating, meal prep, leftovers, or just bringing your favorite snacks to the office, there’s a whole new way to eat.

Lunch bag vs. bento box

Lunch bags are great for toting just about any type of food to and from work. But Japanese-style bento boxes are becoming more and more popular in America. Bento boxes are slim, hard containers with dedicated compartments for various foods. These boxes were first designed to safely and securely hold rice or noodles in the main compartment and any accompanying sides of fish or veggies in the surrounding spaces. But you can use them for a wide variety of foods, from salad to chili. When packed right, a bento box looks like a delicious work of art.  

Modern bento boxes have a hard, airtight lid and can be easily stacked in groups of two or more. Many of the best bento boxes also include portable utensils that clip into the lid. They are also smaller than lunch boxes and bags, making it easier to slip into your laptop bag. Are these better than an insulated lunch bag? It depends on what you’re eating. If you want a separate area for various foods, a bento box is a good choice. If you want to eat leftover pizza or big sandwiches, you’ll have a tough time making them fit into these rectangles. 

Insulation 

The right insulation can retain your food’s temperature for several hours or more. (Just don’t mix the hot with the cold or else your lunch bag will get confused.) An ice pack will ensure the contents of the bag remain nicely chilled. 

Most lunch boxes and lunch bags on the market today have good insulation. Insulating material thicker than 5mm will keep food cold or warm for at least three hours in a typical office setting. For more insulating power, look for 8mm of thickness. Boxes and bags that thick are great for the outdoors and long work shifts.

What is a heated lunch box?

An electric lunch box is a half-step between a lunch bag and a microwave. These convenient cases can be plugged into a wall or car outlet and will heat up food using water and a heating element in the bottom. 

These bags are relatively inexpensive, but you do need to lug around the power cord. And don’t expect an electric lunch box to cook a Thanksgiving feast. These handy boxes are good for keeping things warm, not scorching hot. They’re perfect for those on the road or if the office microwave is disgusting and reeks of burnt popcorn. Electric lunch boxes may be a little bulkier and heavier than some of the slim lunch bags, but not by much. If you need to keep leftover lasagna at optimal deliciousness, a heated lunch box is a great office accessory. 

Safe food handling

One of the best reasons to upgrade your old lunch box is food safety. The lining of old lunch boxes may not be healthy. Linings can crack, giving mold and bacteria great places to hide and thrive. With a new lunch box, one with a food-safe, BPA-free lining, you lower the risk of consuming the potentially harmful chemical bisphenol A and any old, disgusting particles of food left over from lunch in 2017. 

You should also clean it regularly. Most lunch boxes are easy to disassemble, rinse, and clean. Don’t overlook the tiny nooks and crannies of food compartments. And it never hurts to check any zipper pouches at the end of the day for forgotten snacks.  

A good-looking adult lunch box makes a mature statement

Style is important. Unlike the Peppa Pig lunch box your kid loves, adult lunch boxes have sophisticated designs. Some look like sleek, imported luggage. Others will have a half-dozen zippers and compartments like a tackle box or tool kit. You can also go for a simple lunch bag that’s made of water-resistant material but looks like canvas or leather. If you plan to bring your lunch to work, it’s a good idea to make sure the lunch box has a long shoulder strap for easy toting. 

Size is also important. Many are made for single meals, but you can find bigger meal-prep lunch boxes that hold a week’s worth of containers. These are great if you make all your meals ahead of time and can stash the larger box in the office fridge all week. Meal-prep lunch boxes are also the modern-day equivalent of the wicker picnic basket, but with zippers and insulation instead of checkered blankets and ants. 

The best lunch boxes 

Taking lunch out into the world has never been easier or more professional. Find a lunch box or lunch bag that will fit your food and your workspace. While many look the same, various features and high-quality materials separate the best from the rest.  

The best lunch box for heated meals: U-Miss Electric Lunch Box for Car and Home

High-Tech Lunch Heater

Keep things toasty and warm even in the car with the best heated lunch box. U-miss

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Need to heat up last night’s leftovers, but the nearest microwave is miles away (or just down the hall, but still far)? The U-Miss Electric Lunch Box for Car and Home does a pretty good job at heating up food. Plug it into the wall or car outlet, add water to the bottom, and hit the power button. Drawing 40 watts of power, the little 9.5-inch-by-6.8-inch-by-4.4-inch box heats up soup in about ten minutes. Thicker meals will need longer cook times, so try to remember to start the cooking process well in advance. The walls are thin, so don’t expect the food to stay piping hot when not in cooking mode. And you’ll need to stir up the food often for even heating. Weighing in at less than two pounds, this is the best way to serve warm food just about anywhere. 

The best lunch box for long shifts: YETI Daytrip Lunch Box

Quality Insulation

Yeti coolers are still the coldest, even if it’s a small lunch box. YETI

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The Yeti lunch box continues the brand’s tradition of high-quality coolers. For keeping drinks icy, this little carrying case does an impressive job. Measuring 12 inches by 10 inches by 5.5 inches, the box is too small to be considered a party cooler. But for one person who packed their own treats for the day, this is a handy container. Use it for long work days and the dense insulation will keep food cold well past lunchtime. The company boasts of being able to store ice in it for days, but that’s asking a lot out of this soft Yeti lunch box. It’s also not cheap and lacks extra storage compartments. It’s best used for those who need all-day cooling.   

The best bento box: GRUB2GO Premium Bento Box

Great Design

The best bento lunch box keeps it all together while keeping it all apart. GRUB2GO

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A bento box is perfect for keeping food fresh and organized. The GRUB2GO Premium Bento Box has an airtight, leak-proof lid that feels sturdy. You can safely store soup and sauce in the chambers. There’s also a convenient place for utensil storage in the lid. The large boxes can hold 68 ounces of food, enough for a big meal of multiple ingredients. This is the best of the big bento boxes. It’s 70 percent bigger than the standard Grub2Go bento box, and it may be too big for those who only want to snack throughout the day. But it only costs a few dollars more than the smaller version so why not go big? If you love bento boxes or want to try a new way to pack a lunch, this is one of the options you can get. 

The best lunch box cooler: HSD Thermal Lunch Box Tote

Rugged Style

A well-insulated carrier that looks adult and professional. HighSpeedDaddy

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It can be hard to find a lunch box that doesn’t look like a purse or a toy. For those who want a lunch bag with a more masculine personality, the HSD Thermal Lunch Box Tote is the brawniest way to carry your PB&J into the workplace. Designed in the tradition of tactical military gear, the lunch cooler is made of some tough stuff, with a waterproof exterior and well-insulated interior. It keeps food cold for eight hours or more. You can store a six-pack for a tailgate party or pack up a big lunch. But unlike some manly-themed lunch boxes, this option is compact and doesn’t feel like you’re carrying a giant suitcase. The 10-inch-by-6-inch-by-7.5-inch lunch box is the perfect size for the office, camping, or anywhere else hunger strikes. 

The best budget lunch box: Reusable Neoprene Lunch Bag

Affordable And Versatile

A pragmatic way to carry your midday meal every day. Youkee

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This reusable neoprene lunch bag lacks all the zipper compartments and dense insulation of other lunch totes on this list. But the price is right. For carrying simple sandwiches and bottles of water, this is perfect. The bag feels sturdy enough and is sure to last much longer than a paper sack. The single pouch is sealed with a hefty zipper. And the design is basic enough for anyone in the family. But the best thing about this lunch bag is that if you forget it at work, it’s not the end of the world. 

FAQs

Q: How do I choose a bento box? 

To choose a bento box, think about size first. Many bento boxes are on the smaller side, which is great for kids or snacking, but not ideal for lugging around hearty lumberjack lunches. Larger bento boxes exist, so don’t assume you need to go small. Make sure the lid is airtight and watertight. The seal must be secure before you use it to bring rice or soup to work. You can find a lot of different colors and styles, from bright neon boxes to understated and elegant boxes. They should be easy to clean and made of food-safe material. And if they come with utensils that slip into the lid, that’s always a plus.  

Q: What makes a good lunch box?

Form and function make a good lunch box. The best lunch box must have good insulation to keep food hot or cold. It should also be able to fit the size of the lunch you eat. And it should have enough compartments to carry several types of food such as cold/wet food in one pouch, dry food, and snacks in the other. The exterior should be waterproof and all the zippers and lids must be secure. And it should look mature. Check all those boxes and you’ll have a quality adult lunch box that looks good. 

Q: How often should you replace your lunch bag?

You should replace your lunch bag about every year. Even the bags with reinforced liners and rough exteriors will wear out if used daily. If you take great care of your lunch box, it can last five years or more, but only if you keep it dry when not being used. Check the bag regularly for any spilled food or lost condiments. And to prevent the dreaded lunch-box smell, wash the bag every night. Mold and bacteria can start to grow in any cracks or crevices, so be thorough. With proper handling, it will last for years (and jobs) to come. 

Related: Stay comfortable while you wait for lunch in the best office chair.

The final word on the best lunch box

The best lunch boxes are modern tools to help workers eat healthy anywhere. By preparing meals at home, you are not only in better control of the ingredients, but you can also keep costs down. And packing your own lunch gives you more options than what’s available on the drive-thru menu. Today’s lunch boxes, bento boxes, and lunch bags are convenient and keep food fresh all day. Whether working in the office or outside at a jobsite, these lunch boxes offer unlimited options. Is it noon yet? 

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