Disclaimer: The author received the PlanetBox "Launch" and accessories in exchange for an honest review of the product. That being said, read ahead!
In this post, I'll chat about: What is a PlanetBox? What are the pros and cons of using the PlanetBox as an adult? What are some lunch ideas for PlanetBoxes?
Ok, what is a PlanetBox?
If you don't have kids, you might not know about this "bento-style" lunchbox that's tearing up Instagram. I only heard about it because my cousin who has children in grade school raved about them. But once I learned about it, I knew I wanted one. As a nutrition wonk, the idea of an easy lunch box that came with portion controlled compartments and encouraged variety was potentially genius.
I initially bought myself the style I thought was the "cutest" (the Rover - with its 5 mini compartments appealed to me most).
The "Rover" (pictured above) came with two little stainless steel containers (the "Big Dipper" and "Little Dipper") which both have rubber seals, so you can keep yogurt, salad dressings, or veggie dip in them. I also opted to buy the colorful little "Pods" so I could add more variety to my lunch.
As you can see in the photo - I often keep lunches simple. The nice thing about the PlanetBox is that the compartments encourage variety, but you don't have to be a gourmet chef at all. In fact, my lunches are usually more "assembled" than cooked. The lunch above featured plain greek yogurt, some granola, pomegranate arils, colorful grape tomatoes, trail mix, and peanut butter (to eat with the apple I would have for an afternoon snack). The gummies are vitamins.
After using the PlanetBox Rover several times, I contacted PlanetBox and I was able to try out the "Launch," the more adult-appetite sized lunch box. In addition, I received taller "pod" containers, as well as a "Satellite Dish," which is their version of a glass tupperware that could be reheated in the microwave. It has gotten a lot of use as well.
Here is the "Launch" PlanetBox with some food in the glass "Satellite Dish" that can be heated in the microwave. This lunch has grape tomatoes, a roasted red pepper, fontina, and portobello panini, and a quinoa, kale, and chickpea salad with toasted pine nuts.
Pros and Cons (of having a lunchbox as an adult)
We all know that packing healthy lunches for work is great! And many moms and dads feel comfortable sending their kids to school with lunchboxes. But is it weird to show up at work with a compartmentalized lunchbox? And how convenient is it, really? Here were the pros and cons I experienced.
1. Insanely easy to clean.
Every part of these lunchboxes can go in the dishwasher. Pop them in and they're done with the dishes from dinner.
2. Helps encourage healthy eating.
When I have to grab lunch at work or school, 9 times out of 10, I'll grab a sandwich and nothing else. Or worse, I'll grab a snack that isn't healthy. The variety you can pack in the PlanetBox lets you throw in a bunch of baby carrots, or some grapes along with your sandwich. If I see an empty compartment, I start rummaging through the fridge to see if I have some extra veggies to add.
3. Super compact size. No bulk.
There are a lot of cute "adult" lunch bags. I'm thinking of those neoprene ones with handles. they stay very cool, but can take up a lot of space. Plus, you have to put your ziploc baggies or tupperware in them, which is a lot of moving pieces.
PlanetBoxes are very slim and all your food is conveniently in one location. I opted to get the PlanetBox insulated "sleeves" rather than the colorful lunch bags and this further added to the sleek look. One of my coworkers remarked that my lunchbox looks a lot like a tablet. The sleeves come in black and have a shoulder strap, but don't scream "THIS IS MY LUNCH" the way other lunchboxes can. Also, they can slide neatly into tight spaces in a work fridge!
4. Fun to use!
Speaks for itself- it's fun to pack and eat from these lunchboxes! I find I like to be creative with how to pack lunches and find interesting ways to use all the compartments!
5. Encourages slower eating.
Especially with the PlanetBox "Rover" - the many compartments that allow for small amounts of different foods really makes me take my time eating. Rather than scarfing down a fast sandwich or piece of pizza, my lunch has multiple pieces and I think this helps me feel fuller and more satisfied after I eat.
6. NO WASTE!
No need for pre-packaged snacks, ziploc baggies, or tin foil! Everything can fit in the one container. It makes packing lunches feel at least a little more eco-friendly.
1. You need an ice pack if there is no fridge at your work.
The sleeves don't insulate particularly well, so you'll need to slip an ice pack in the bag. PlanetBox sells their own branded ice packs that fit into the sleeves or lunch bags, but you could also throw in a slim ice pack from anywhere.
2. Yes, it could be a little awkward.
As a nutrition-y-person, I have no problem talking about lunchboxes forever! But be prepared to answer some questions about your lunchbox that folds out like a laptop full of snacks. People will just walk up to you to chat about it.
One coworker took a picture of the lunchbox to buy for his daughter, but others gave a little side eye. Let's face it, adults aren't used to seeing one another unlatch old school lunch tins! If you want to eat your lunch in peace or feel self conscious with flashy lunch accoutrement, this may not be the lunch pail for you.
3. No hot lunches (Sort of).
Planetboxes obviously can't be heated in the microwave, so you need to get used to cold lunches. If you do get the larger box, the "Launch," you can opt to buy the microwavable, liquid-tight "Satellite Dish."
However, this dish does not fit a ton of food, so don't expect to reheat a full serving of last night's leftovers.
This could be a major downside for someone who uses dinner leftovers for lunches frequently.
4. Huge appetites need not apply.
Yes, you can get a ton of food in these things, but it takes a little finagling. I am perfectly happy with the amount I can pack in either size "Rover" or "Launch," but if you have a partner or family member who is a marathoner, these just might not pack enough food.
These lunchboxes are ideal for someone who wants to eat without overeating, but maybe not for someone with high calorie needs.
5. Awkward sizes for sandwiches.
Neither the "Rover" nor "Launch" have compartments that are quite the right size for a normal-sized sandwich. On one hand, this is good because it prevents you from getting into a sandwich rut and encourages you to be more creative. But sometimes you just want a sandwich. In fact, I usually pack some form of sandwich in every one of my lunches and I wind up chopping them into squares just to fit them in.
Note the *creativity* I had to use to smash this normal-sized turkey provolone sandwich into my partner's lunchbox! If you're a sandwich-every-day person, this might be frustrating! They don't all look like this though, see below for other ways I've fit the standard sandwich into the PlanetBox.
Some Lunch Ideas!
I've spent some time playing with both PlanetBoxes and here are some lunches I've come up with. Most of them are really easy to assemble and they'll be tasty for adults or kids!
Healthy comfort food - this lunch had a lunchable feel. Sliced celery and radish with hummus dip. Tiny PB sandwich. Greek yogurt with frozen berries and All Bran Buds cereal for crunch. Chocolate!
Turkey Cheese Sammie - Note the *creativity* I used to get this sandwich in the lunchbox! I found that Pepperidge Farm very thin sliced bread fits well. In addition to a turkey and cheese sandwich I've got fresh spinach and tomato with a vinaigrette and blueberries.
BRAT Diet - I wasn't feeling so hot and so I fell back on a (NOT evidence based) old favorite for sour stomaches, the BRAT diet. Homemade granola and apple sauce with rice cakes cut to fit. *Lifehack* Carrot chips are awesome!
Banana PB Sandwich - You're missing out if you haven't had one of these since childhood. I decorated this one with some yellow raisins. Plus pomegranate arils and fresh chopped salad with vinegar and oil.
The trick to all of these? Pre-made salad mixes make the base for all of them. The top row has an Asian style salad with a sweeter dressing. The bottom row has salads heavy on seeds with creamy dressings. These are the easiest way to have fancy salads that are as easy to make as opening the bag!
Top Row: Asian style salad, banana peanut butter sandwich, quinoa with craisins and parsley.
Bottom Row: Salad with dressing, wheat wraps with turkey, veggies, and mustard, clementines, banana bread. The lunch on the right also has carrot and radish slices.
These ones were a little more cooking intensive, but still very easy and delicious!
Two Lunches! In the left lunch, the "Satellite Dish" has pulled chicken and rice with sliced grape tomatoes and sriracha. This can be heated up later. It also has a PB and Banana sandwich (so good, seriously), a chopped green salad and fruit salad made from apples, pomegranate, and yellow raisins with lemon juice. The right lunch has the same chopped and fruit salad, but also has pasta with parsley, feta cheese, grape tomatoes and olive oil as well as greek yogurt with All Bran Buds for crunch.
Grilled Portobello Sandwich: I grilled portobello on the stove griddle, added roasted red pepper, fontina cheese and whole grain bread and made mini paninis. The "Satellite Dish" is quinoa cooked and combined with sautéed chopped kale and chickpeas. Toasted pine nuts were added after. Also grape tomatoes!
Hopefully, this gave you some ideas for healthy lunches and helped you decide whether a PlanetBox could be good for you or a friend!
For more lunch ideas, follow @nutritionwonk on Instagram.
Click "Subscribe" in the bar above to subscribe to TWIN, the weekly nutrition newsletter!