When you’re looking to eat healthier, salads are usually a go-to healthy meal choice, especially for lunch. They are chock-full of healthy veggies, filling, and easy to eat in between meetings. But five-times-a-week salads can get redundant, especially if you turn to the same combo day after day. This could lead you to become so bored with your go-to meal, you reach for something entirely unhealthy instead. Change things up by incorporating these healthy lunch ideas, each of which is packed with nutrients that provide much-needed energy to get you through the rest of the day.
Upgrade your whole wheat toast with tasty avocados. Not only are they a delicious topping to your toast (we recommend Ezekiel bread), but they’re also full of healthy monounsaturated fats. Add an egg on top of this nutritious lunch choice for an added boost of protein. Make sure to use no more than half an avocado, which clocks in at 161 calories and 14 grams of fat.
BROWN RICE TORTILLA QUESADILLA
Courtesy of Running To The Kitchen
Cut calories and carbs by making the switch to brown rice tortillas for your quesadilla. Fill this up with your favorite veggies, like corn, peppers, and beans, and add a lean protein like grilled chicken for a satisfying lunch loaded with the perfect balance of protein and carbs.
Get the recipe from Running to The Kitchen.
PESTO ZOODLES WITH CHERRY TOMATOES
You don’t need carbs to enjoy your favorite Italian dish. Substituting regular pasta with zucchini noodles is a great way to cut off excess carbs and calories. Instead of using a creamy sauce that’s loaded with fat, try using a simple basil and olive oil pesto: it only has 80 calories in one serving.
Creamy soups are packed to the brim with extra fat and calories, thanks to a cream base and usually lots of cheese. Go for something broth-based, like a cup of lentil soup. Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber, and according to a study conducted by St. Michael’s Hospital, they can also help lower your cholesterol.
CAULIFLOWER CRUST PIZZA
Instead of using white bread pizza dough, which is filled with refined carbs, use this versatile veggie to make a yummy and perfectly crunchy pizza crust. Cauliflower is a great crust substitute, and only has 146 calories per serving. Make sure to top off your pizza with nutrition-packed veggies and low-fat cheeses, like feta or mozzarella.
PEANUT BUTTER AND BANANA TOAST
If you’re craving something sweet, this toast will definitely leave you satisfied. Peanut butter and bananas on whole wheat toast is a perfect lunch that’s packed with protein that will leave you full until dinnertime. Be sure to stick to the two tablespoons serving size of your favorite nut butter.
LIGHTENED UP BREAKFAST SANDWICH
Who said breakfast sandwiches can only be enjoyed in the morning? Give this sandwich a healthy upgrade so you don’t feel guilty about having brunch: try using egg whites, low-fat cheeses, and lean meats like ham or turkey bacon for a triple-dose of protein. For the bread, use a whole wheat English muffin for some added fiber without too many calories.
Courtesy of Natasha’s Kitchen
Ditch the white tortilla and try using some leafy greens as a wrap instead. Lettuce and collard greens are great tortilla substitutes and don’t have nearly as many calories and carbs as regular flour tortillas do (one 10-inch flour tortilla has 218 calories!). Fill this wrap up with veggies and lean meats for a delicious and nutritious lunchtime meal.
PROTEIN BENTO BOX
We’ve all seen the protein boxes from Starbucks, most of which are a definite Eat This! winner over their not-so-healthy peers in the café’s cooler. Save a few dollars by making your own at home by using two hard boiled eggs, a few slices of cheese and turkey, plain Greek yogurt, and carrots with hummus.
ITALIAN LENTIL PASTA SALAD
Courtesy of FoodieCrush
Pasta salad is a lunchtime favorite for many people, but it can also be packed with calories, fat, and carbs if made wrong. Give your pasta salad a nutritional upgrade by adding a colorful mixture of vegetables, and use lentil pasta noodles (or any other vegetable-based noodles of your choosing) instead of regular white pasta.
Get the recipe from FoodieCrush.
You don’t need the calorie and carb-filled tortilla to enjoy all of the fun flavors of a burrito. Cutting out the tortilla will save you the refined carbs. Choose your toppings wisely: load up on lettuce, peppers, and black beans and avoid the cheese and sour cream.
Tacos are also a healthy Mexican option for your next lunch break. Make them with lean meats like spicy shrimp or chicken tacos, or make them vegetarian by combining black beans, sweet potato, and homemade guacamole. The American Heart Association recommends legumes like black beans as a key food group to help prevent heart-related diseases. They’re also high in fiber, which provides extra help for easy digestion.
Turkey is a great base for your next wrap to get a boost of protein without all of the saturated fat of red meat. A serving of turkey breast has approximately 125 calories and wrapping it with healthy additions like lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers are a great way to add some extra nutrition to your meal. Make sure you use a whole grain wrap (or even a lettuce leaf!) instead of white flour tortillas to cut down your calorie and carb intake.
Using a patty made with grass-fed beef instead of the regular stuff is not only tastier, but also better for you. Grass-fed beef contains more Omega-3 fatty acids, which are healthy for your heart, and is lower in saturated and trans fats in comparison to grain-fed beef. If you’re not a fan of red meat, use lean ground chicken or turkey with fresh herbs to make a burger patty that will cut the fat in half and still give you that hearty burger taste. Go for a whole wheat bun or skip it altogether and just use lettuce. When it comes to classic condiments, switch out mayo for Greek yogurt, avocado or hot sauce for a protein-packed lunch.
If you’re craving Asian food, put down the takeout menu and grab a bowl of pho. These Vietnamese noodles can be light and healthy if made right. Instead of adding sauce, use veggies for a flavorful meal and stick to lean meats and low-sodium broths (or even go meatless!) to cut back on calories.
CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP
There’s a reason why chicken noodle soup has such a great health reputation: it’s a low-calorie meal, and is filled with protein, vitamins, and is filling. However, some canned soups can carry a hefty amount of salt, so try to get a low-sodium soup or go the homemade route to cut down on your salt intake.
CAULIFLOWER ‘FRIED’ RICE
Courtesy of SkinnyTaste
Instead of using regular rice, shave some carbs off your lunch plate with cauliflower rice. This tasty alternative is much healthier than traditional fried rice since it’s filled with low-calorie, vitamin-rich veggies like carrots and peas. The best part is that you don’t have to make the rice yourself: many places, like Trader Joe’s, Target, and Walmart, now sell cauliflower rice!
Get the recipe from SkinnyTaste.
VEGGIE FARRO BOWLS
Courtesy of FoodieCrush
If you’re really craving some grains, try swapping refined grains for whole ones like farro. These grains still contain their bountiful nutritional content, unlike bleached white grains.
Get the recipe from FoodieCrush.
CHICKEN STIR FRY
Chicken, a lean meat with a high protein count, is a great base for this stir-fry. Cook this with low-sodium soy sauce and veggies like peppers, onions, and mushrooms for an added fiber and vitamin boost.
Sushi is a very hit-or-miss meal when it comes to a healthy lunch pick, but if you make the right choices, you can find something light and low-calorie. You want to ditch the heavy sauces such as spicy mayo, and swap tempura rolls for lighter ones like cucumber-avocado or salmon rolls. Also, subbing white rice with brown rice will give you a boost of complex carbs and fiber.
If you want a light lunch, sipping on a protein-packed smoothie will do the trick. Grabbing a smoothie or shake that has a filling protein powder and lots of green veggies will keep you satisfied for the rest of your day.
Put down the sloppy Joe and grab a cup of this hearty turkey chili. It has all of the mouth-watering flavors of regular chili without all of the fat. Load it with some beans to get an added protein boost.
Swap regular spaghetti pasta for spaghetti squash, which is a healthy low-carb alternative. Cut your squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some salt, and roast in an oven at 400 degrees until tender. When it’s cooked, just scrape out the “noodles.” Top with some low-fat turkey sausage and your favorite veggies for a quick and easy Italian-inspired dinner.
NO-MAYO CHICKEN SALAD
Courtesy of Panning The Globe
Although mayo is fine in moderation, it can quickly become a calorie and saturated fat bomb when used in abundance in recipes like chicken salad. If you’re craving some savory chicken salad, try using heart-healthy avocado for a creamy base. Although calorie-dense, a little avocado goes a long way in this recipe and is much healthier than oily mayo. If avocado isn’t your thing, you can also use unsweetened Greek yogurt as the main ingredient for a tangy, yet creamy taste.
Get the recipe from Panning The Globe.
GREEK YOGURT PARFAIT
Mixing some unsweetened plain Greek yogurt with fresh fruit will definitely stop your sweet cravings while giving you all of the calcium, protein, and vitamins you need to get through the rest of your day. Adding low-sugar granola or chia seeds will give an added nutritional bonus while giving your parfait some texture.
MEDITERRANEAN BEAN SALAD
Courtesy of SkinnyTaste
This isn’t your average salad: this one ditches leafy greens and instead uses protein-packed black beans, chickpeas, and fills it up with veggies including onion, tomato, and cucumbers for a Mediterranean flare. The combo of complex carbs and protein will keep you full until dinnertime!
Get the recipe from SkinnyTaste.
If you’re craving something simple (and cheap!), go for a tuna sandwich. Tuna is a great source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3s, and one of the most affordable sources of fish you can find. To cut back on the mercury intake, opt for canned chunk light tuna.
GREEK CUCUMBER SALAD
If you’re not a fan of lettuce, you’ll love this Greek “salad.” Just chop up some cucumbers, tomatoes, and other tasty veggies like onions and kalamata olives, and mix them together with orzo pasta for a scrumptious lunch that’s packed with good-for-you ingredients. Top it off with a little bit of feta cheese for a hearty kick.
ROASTED VEGGIE WRAP WITH GOAT CHEESE
You don’t need meat to have a hearty and tasty wrap; roasted vegetables will give you some juicy and savory flavor. Grill up some zucchini, peppers, and/or portabella mushrooms and put them on a whole wheat wrap with some goat cheese for a filling lunch with half the calories of your usual wrap.
This Italian sandwich is filling and relatively low-calorie; one ounce is 90 calories. Up the flavor with fresh basil and sliced tomato. Adding a lean protein like grilled chicken and using whole wheat bread with a light drizzle of low-sodium balsamic dressing will keep you satisfied and keep hunger at bay until dinnertime.