Fact: we have to (or at least should) eat lunch every day. But since we’re usually not at home at that time of day, we end up having to either pack something, or eat out in a restaurant, which could end up being costly. And even if you’re the most creative person in the world, for some reason the part of your brain that can come up with new ideas totally shuts down when it comes to trying to figure out what to make and then bring for lunch.
That inventiveness only gets harder for families who are super busy and have to make do with pantry-only recipes or yet another kid-friendly pasta recipe. And all this cooking is making you miss yummy fast food right about now.
We know we’re supposed to be meal prepping for the week, and that’s fine, but first you have to decide what to make. Ideally, it should be something that everyone in the household will eat (no one has time for making multiple lunches), travels well, and be healthy. If you’re as stumped as we are when it comes to the mid-day meal, you’ll want to keep these healthy lunch ideas handy.
1. Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
This Mediterranean chickpea salad may be the perfect lunch: It’s easy, filling, and full of flavor. The main component, of course, is chickpeas, but it’s the other stuff that really makes this salad. Take some of the chickpeas and roast them for an added lunch. The goat cheese adds creaminess, medjool dates highlight the sweetness, and the lemony dressing pulls it all together. Plus, it’s healthy AF.
2. Avocado Toast With Hardboiled Egg Slices
So, this one isn’t a recipe as much as it is a concept. You only need some bread, avocado, hard boiled eggs, salt and pepper. Just toast the bread, smash up that avocado, peel and then slice a hard boiled egg, spread the avocado on the toast, put the slices on the avocado, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tasty, cheap, and a good source of protein and good fats.
3. Sesame Soba Noodles
If you’ve never cooked with soba noodles before, now’s the time. They’re tasty, satisfying, and cook up in minutes. Throw in a few other ingredients like avocado, sesame seeds, sliced radish, and sliced cucumber, as well as a nutty sesame dressing, and you have a lunch everyone else will be jealous of.
4. Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps
If your idea of the perfect lunch is a giant plate of wings, but you also want to eat healthily, then this buffalo chicken lettuce wrap recipe is for you. Lettuce wraps may not seem like the most portable food, but just put the filling in a to-go container and throw some washed lettuce leaves in a baggie and assemble it when you eat.
5. Broccoli Tofu Ramen Noodles
Though this one is similar to the soba noodle dish above, it packs an entirely different punch of flavor. In addition to the ramen noodles, broccoli, and cubed tofu, what makes this one special is the the sauce. It’s a combination of white miso, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil, and it’s divine.
6. Steak Fajita Power Bowls
In case you haven’t noticed, bowls are all the rage these days. There are whole restaurants dedicated to combining a grain, protein, veggies, and a sauce, which charge way more than it costs to make these simple dishes yourself. This steak fajita power bowl is a great option. It’s easy to put together, delicious, and will make you feel on-trend.
7. Southwestern Burrito Bowl
While we’re on the subject of bowls, here’s another one that’s great for lunch. This Southwestern burrito bowl can be made in 10 minutes and is customizable, so if you want to use sweet potatoes, go for it. If you want a protein, throw some of that in, too. Plus, you’ll want to use this citrus vinaigrette on everything once you’ve made it for this bowl.
8. Green Goddess Tuna Melts
This green goddess tuna melt is not hard to make, as long as you have some sort of food processor. If you do, just pop avocado, yogurt, mayo, garlic, arugula, herbs, chives, lemon juice, salt and pepper in it, blend away, then spread the sauce in some bread. The combination of canned tuna, arugula, and some of the dressing comes next, and a slice of havarti cheese is melted on top.
9. Vegan Banh Mi Noodle Bowls
OK, fine, here’s another bowl recipe. But this one is different because it uses the flavors from the classic banh mi sandwich. It’s chock full of healthy veggies, sriracha tofu, rice noodles, and herbs with a tasty sriracha dressing. If you aren’t on-board with the whole vegan thing, you can add whatever protein you want. Leftover rotisserie chicken is perfect, as it shrimp.
10. Hummus and Avocado Quesadilla
While this may not be the best lunch to take to work, it’s perfect for a Saturday, or when you’re working from home and need a quick and tasty lunch. These hummus and avocado quesadillas also have feta cheese, and a runny sunny-side up egg (which doubles as a sauce). It’s also one of those meals you can make with what’s in your fridge.
11. Spicy Lentil Tahini Wrap
Lentils are such an underrated pantry workhorse. You can get them dry and soak them (which is cheaper), or get them in a can (which is more convenient and ready when you are). This spicy lentil tahini wrap is packed with flavor and protein and is vegan (unless you want to add some animal protein). You can make these ahead of time and keep the sauce separate until you’re ready to eat.
12. Carrot Quinoa Salad
Let’s end with another flavorful salad that’s perfect for packing ahead of time. This carrot quinoa salad has a tangy apple cider vinaigrette and chopped toasted almonds for a great crunch. Plus it’s one of those dishes where you feel healthy as you eat it and everyone who’s watching you eat will be simultaneously jealous and think that you have your shit together.
13. Caprese Salad
Who doesn’t love cheese, tomatoes, and basil? It’s the classic combination so delicious and colorful Italy used it as inspiration for its flag. Okay, so maybe that part isn’t true. But it’s still really yummy and healthy. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil and balsamic and you have a fantastic meal.
14. Sautéed Fish Tacos
Who says fish tacos have to include fried and breaded fish? Not at all. Sauté some white fish or Mahi Mahi, top with crunchy cabbage cole slaw, jalapeño slices, and lime juice for a super filling and nutritious lunch. If you’re really craving that crunch, however, you can use almond flour instead of bread crumbs.
15. Tabouli Salad With Feta
Soak equal parts bulgar wheat and water and set aside for 10 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. In the meantime, chop up tomatoes, cucumbers, cilantro, and red onions. Combine with the bulgar wheat and flavor with salt, olive oil, and lemon juice. Sprinkle with crumbled feta and et voilá!
16. Turkish Cauliflower Baked with Feta
Usually made with meat, this vegetarian Turkish dish will go down with the family like a savory and creamy baked potato. The recipe from Ozlem’s Turkish Table calls for cauliflower florets mixed with a healthy sprinkling of good fresh feta crumbles, chopped red onions, chopped scallions, chopped red onions, and chopped cilantro mixed and baked in a cheesy combo for 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Best party is this will reheat really well and is a hearty vegetarian dish or side-dish.
17. Greek Chicken Gyro Bowl
This chicken gyro bowl recipe is about as easy to pull together as chopping up a simple Greek salad, crumbling feta, and grilling some chicken breasts and topping with a healthy squeeze of lemon juice on top. Serve with toasted whole grain pita bread on the side for extra source of good carbs and chow down.
18. Greek Salad
While we’re still in Greece, how about a simple, clean, and fresh Greek salad. Something about the smell of dice cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, and feta is so intoxicating. And the salty and juicy mixed together make for a perfect afternoon meal or lighter evening fare.
19. Quinoa Tabouli Salad with Feta
Anyone with a craving for some tabouli will love this high-protein version made with quinoa in the place of couscous or wheat bulgar. Finely diced red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and cilantro are mixed with cooled plain quinoa, top off with some good quality olive oil and lemon juice before sprinkling with salt to taste. If you’re planning on adding some crumbled feta to the mix lay low on the salt as you don’t want to over do it. This makes for a healthy yet filling lunch or as a side to a grilled fish, chicken or portobello mushroom.
20. Peppers and Goat Cheese Frittata
Egg dishes don’t have to be just for breakfast, you know. A savory and rich frittata with a nice side salad can be healthy and filling all at the same time. This recipe from Eating Well will do the trick. Plus, you know it’ll cook fast and you can have a yummy lunch in less than 30 minutes. Hey, some pizzas take longer than that to deliver!
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