Delicious lunch ideas for the middle of the day, whether you’re gluten-free, vegan, or simply searching for a quick, refreshing working lunch.
Many of my customers who work away from home have one thing in common: they don’t plan ahead of time for lunch. As a result, people often eat something like a fast-food burrito, a jumble of processed snacks, or hefty takeout that leaves them drained of energy and sluggish all afternoon.
Bringing a healthy lunch to work takes more time and effort, but the benefits are well worth it. Workplace meal planning is more nutritious, can help you better balance your blood sugar, and can keep you focused and productive all afternoon. Eating a healthy breakfast and lunch may also increase your motivation to prepare a healthy dinner.
Here are ten simple and nutritious lunches to prepare and pack for work. Whatever your dietary needs are, vegan, gluten-free, or low-carb, you’ll find a delicious and healthy meal on this list.
1. 15-minute lentil soup
Soup is the ideal make-ahead dish since you can create a large pot that is easy to store and reheat. Because of its main ingredient, lentils, this simple variant will leave you feeling filled and energized. Lentils provide more than 15 grams of fiber per cup. Fiber consumption has been linked to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. This recipe is also gluten-free and readily vegan if you use vegetable broth.
2. Shrimp summer rolls
Summer rolls are a great packed lunch option because they don’t need to be reheated and are small enough to consume at your desk. This recipe mixes vegetables with shrimp for lean protein and delicious garlic, lime juice, ginger, and cilantro. Incorporating lean protein into your lunch breaks is critical for maintaining consistent energy levels throughout the afternoon. Why? Protein reduces blood sugar spikes and crashes, making us sleepy and grumpy a few hours after eating. Then, add a healthy fat like sliced avocado or a side of chopped almonds to fill out the meal even further.
3. Quick chickpea curry
This quick and easy meal uses things you already have, such as canned chickpeas and ketchup. Pulses are legumes that include chickpeas, lentils, beans, and other legumes. Blood pressure, inflammation, and body composition all improved in those who ate roughly 150 grams of pulses each day. Add a handful of fresh baby spinach for more fiber, antioxidants, and vitamin A for an extra nutrient boost.
4. Egg salad with herbs and pickles
This recipe replaces regular mayo, which lacks protein and may include artificial preservatives, with hard-boiled eggs and Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt has more than 16 grams of protein per person container. Protein is essential for forming and maintaining bones, muscles, skin, and even immune cells.
For added nutrients, consider adding extra veggies, such as minced bell pepper, chopped kale, or sliced grape tomatoes. You should also include a slice of whole-grain bread to serve with the salad and a side of fresh in-season fruit.
5. Vegan chili
This hearty recipe is high in fiber and minerals due to the variety of vegetables, beans, and chickpeas used, and it also packs a punch. It also contains avocados, high in healthy fats known to protect heart health and raise HDL cholesterol levels. Avocados are also high in polyphenol antioxidants, which protect cells from damage that can contribute to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Pack your avocado garnish separately so it can stay smooth by mealtime.
6. Lentil quinoa lettuce wraps
One of my own recipes employs tinned lentils as a fiber-rich protein source. This lunch option is also seasoned with healthy Mediterranean-inspired ingredients such as extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon, and herbs. Because of its anti-inflammatory antioxidant content and capacity to relax blood vessels, extra pure olive oil helps to prevent arterial hardening.
When packing this dinner for work, combine the pre-cooked quinoa with the lentil mixture and bag the lettuce separately to avoid it becoming soggy. When ready to serve, ladle the mixture into the lettuce cups or serve over a bed of chopped greens.
7. Salmon and sweet potato bowl
One of my favorite aspects of bowls is how simple it is to personalize them. Salmon, spinach, roasted sweet potatoes, farro, and harissa make up this dish. Salmon is not only high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, but a 2020 study of over 900,000 participants discovered that for every 20 grams of fish ingested per day, the average risk of death from cardiovascular disease fell by 4%.
Replace the farro with brown rice to make this bowl gluten-free. If you want a lower-carb lunch, keep the sweet potato and replace the grain with more spinach.
8. Lemon thyme chicken salad
Salads have a bad reputation for being bland, but this dietitian-created dish is packed with flavor thanks to olive oil, lemon zest, feta, and fresh thyme. Choosing a salad over a sandwich or wrap for lunch can instantly double your veggie intake and reduce unnecessary carbs, increasing post-meal energy levels. How? The antioxidants in vegetables increase blood circulation while avoiding excess carbs prevents the dreaded afternoon slump.
9. Tuna salad from the Mediterranean
Make a Tuscan-style dish of tinned tuna with pesto, chickpeas, and olives. This filling meal includes two cups of vegetables, including arugula, iceberg lettuce, and grape tomatoes. It also maintains a healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, allowing you to consume a more excellent range of nutrients and benefits. So what’s the best part? It takes only around 15 minutes to prepare.
10. Tofu Ceviche
Tofu is a quick, handy protein alternative for plant-based eaters and omnivores alike, as it is sold ready-to-eat, making it ideal for when you’re pressed for time before work. This dish also has 17 grams of protein per serving. Tofu, avocado, and a tart vinegar-based sauce are combined in this recipe. Then, add chopped jicama, a Mexican root vegetable that may be eaten raw, or a side of fresh fruit for some extra nutritious carbohydrates.
Learn more: Jalapeño Lime Chicken Soup