20 Deliciously Healthy Lunch Ideas That Aren’t Salad
Step aside, lame iceberg salad! Who wants wilted, flavorless leaves smothered in bottled salad dressing? Ramp up your options with these delicious and nutritious creations from professionals.
Asian-Style Farro Buddha Bowl with Crispy Baked Tofu
One of the best healthy lunch ideas comes from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, and makes an all-in-one balanced meal filled with whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein. It’s an easy make-ahead meal, and you can individualize it depending on your taste preferences. Baking the tofu at a high temperature will give you a crispy outside without the added calories and fat from frying. This meal is bursting with vitamin A from sweet potatoes and vitamin C from Brussels sprouts—your body will thank you for this nutritious midday meal. Learn more about farro as a healthy vegan protein source.
Nourish Lentil Bowl
With a foundation of lentils and toppings of roasted squash, onions, mushrooms, pomegranates, and pecans, this lunch from Sharon Palmer, MS, RDN is a fresh spin on the bowl craze, which often features a whole grain as a base. But what about featuring a pulse as a base? The lentils are rich in fiber and protein; the vegetables add vitamins, minerals, and more fiber (squash is rich in vitamin A); the pomegranates provide a dose of vitamin C and phytochemicals; and the pecans are rich in heart-healthy fats. This recipe provides everything you want from your healthy lunch ideas—you can also meal-prep it. Make it up on your easy day of the week, and package several servings up to grab and go for lunch during the week.
Tamari Freekeh Bowl
This tamari freekeh bowl from Tracee Yablon Brenner, RDN is one of the healthy lunch ideas that’s packed with nourishing avocado, tomatoes, red leaf lettuce (or your favorite leafy green), and a nutrition booster of hemp seeds. A three-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds equals ten grams of protein and ten grams of omega-3s, the healthy fats. Half your daily servings of vegetables are covered in this delectable lunch. Freekeh, an ancient grain, is getting lots of attention these days and for good reason—it’s full of fiber. Personalize your lunch with hard-boiled egg, cheese chunks, or nuts. Don’t have time for the full recipe? Here are some more ways to incorporate protein into your lunch.
Quinoa Edamame Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette
Looking for healthy lunch ideas that don’t involve droopy lettuce-based salads? Jennifer Hunt, RDN shares a ramped-up salad. Vibrant and flavorful, this hearty grain and veggie bowl is the perfect complete meal. One large serving contains 22 grams of protein and ten grams of fiber, keeping you pleasantly satisfied all afternoon. It is also rich in vitamins A and C, supporting healthy immune function through the flu season. Serve it as is, over a bed of baby spinach or mixed greens, or stuffed into a hollowed-out bell pepper. Check out these tricks nutritionists use to eat more protein.
Crockpot Salsa Chicken Bowls
Talk about one of the easiest healthy lunch ideas ever: Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN created these five-ingredient crockpot salsa chicken bowls. They can be pulled from the freezer, and eating them with a can of beans makes them one convenient healthy meal! Shredded chicken provides flavorful lean protein to keep you full for hours. The beans provide energizing carbs, a little bit of protein, and a ton of fiber. Then, you mix it with taco-flavored cauliflower rice, which helps keeps your carb levels in check.
Avocado Yogurt Soup
Avocado and yogurt combine to provide a natural creaminess in one of these healthy lunch ideas from culinary nutritionist Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN. Your prep couldn’t be simpler—dump the ingredients into a blender, then pour it into bowls and garnish with chopped cucumber and cilantro. This cold soup boasts high amounts of protein and healthy fats, with a kick of vitamin C from fresh jalapeño peppers. Learn some clear signs you’re not eating enough healthy fats.
Roasted Radish Greens and Grains Bowl
This warm comforting bowl created by Whitney English, MS, RDN is packed with flavor and color! You get nearly 12 grams of fiber—about half of your daily needs in one bowl. It also delivers about 15 grams of plant-based protein thanks to the chickpeas and brown rice, and you’ll be knocking off two servings of veggies. If you haven’t tried roasting radishes as part of your healthy lunch ideas, you’re in for a tasty treat!
Quick & Easy Tuna Edamame Salad
Ready in less than ten minutes, this healthy lunch idea from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN is one efficient meal: Put the tuna edamame salad between two slices of whole grain bread, scoop it up with whole grain crackers, or add it to a bed of mixed greens, and lunch is done! Try packing this in bento boxes for the kids. You can swap out canned salmon, if you prefer. This egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free lunch is sure to please.
Mango Farro Salad with Tomatillo Dressing
Tomatillos take center stage by spicing up this tasty lunch from Christy Wilson, RDN. Ingredients include the high-protein, high-fiber ancient grain, farro; vitamin C-rich red pepper; chile and tomatillos; and toasted pepitas that contain zinc, which boosts your immune system. Rich in vitamins A and C, mangoes seem to help reduce inflammation. Each lunch serving has fewer than 300 calories, no added sugar, five grams of fiber, and a mere 30 mg of sodium. How’s that for your healthy lunch ideas? And if you’re looking to get more vitamin C, here are 9 foods with more than an orange.
Chickpea Salad Sandwich with Sweet Apple Slaw
Natalie Rizzo, MS, RDN is an athlete and a vegetarian, making her an expert on healthy lunch ideas. She admits it’s really hard to find a good meat-free sandwich that isn’t just cheese, lettuce, and tomato, which is not just boring but lacks enough protein to keep her full for hours. Rizzo created a chickpea salad that you can make on Sunday and enjoy all week long. It doesn’t contain any mayo, but it subs in a mixture of mashed avocado and cottage cheese so you get healthy fats and a bit more protein. Winner!
Turkey Bacon Ranch Bowls
This easy sheet pan recipe comes from Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN, and it creates a balanced meal in one shot. The turkey bacon provides savory flavors and filling protein. The Brussels sprouts are low in calories, high in nutrients, and loaded with fiber to provide satisfying volume. Sweet potatoes give you healthy complex carbohydrates that will top off your energy for the afternoon. Don’t miss these healthy vegetables you didn’t know you liked to also add to your healthy lunch ideas.
Korean Beef Bowl with Cauliflower Rice and Broccoli
A delicious Korean beef bowl from Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RDN is sure to satisfy your taste buds and your urge for creative, healthy lunch ideas. Rather than loading you up with simple carbs from white rice, this dish uses cauliflower rice. Nutritionally, it’s a triple threat—in a good way! It’s rich in veggies, protein-packed, and loaded with vitamins and minerals. With just one serving you’ll cover more than your daily need for vitamin C (thanks to the broccoli), a quarter of your iron needs (hello, lean beef), and over 1000 mg of potassium (more than double the amount in one banana). And, it only requires seven ingredients! Here are 10 more foods with more potassium than bananas.
Need some warm, healthy lunch ideas for your winter day? Sharon Palmer, MS, RDN shares a vegan, gluten-free tortilla soup that hits the mark. Using pantry staples such as canned tomatoes, frozen corn kernels, and canned black beans, this soup can be made year-round. Nutrient-rich with vitamin C, folate, potassium, and fiber, it’ll satisfy you with fewer than 150 calories per serving. The recipe makes enough to meal prep on the weekend and enjoy the soup for your work lunch all week long.
Eat like a kid! This healthy adult lunchable from Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN is a fun way to enjoy finger foods as an adult. With this mix-and-match, personalized combo, you choose your favorite ready-to-eat lean proteins, healthy fats, and veggies. Upgrade your dessert with a nutritious goodie that will give you energy and satisfy your sweet tooth.
White Turkey Chili
Nothing warms you up from the inside out like a bowl of chili. Chef Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN created a healthy and hearty chili perfect for lunch. This chili is perfect for prepping over the weekend and enjoying throughout the coming week. Rich in protein from lean ground turkey and white cannellini beans, this chili is also an excellent source of fiber (thanks to the bulgar, onions, and zucchini). With fewer than 400 calories, it’s also easy on your lunch calorie budget. Here are some more ways to sneak fiber into your diet.
Beet and Goat Cheese Quinoa
Get healthy carbs, lean protein, and delicious veggies in one balanced dish from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN. This beautiful mix is delicious on its own or tossed with salad greens. Add grilled chicken breast or a piece of fish for a protein boost. Don’t have time to roast your fresh beets? Look for ready-to-serve roasted beets in your produce refrigerator case. Beets are rich sources of fiber, folate, and iron. And don’t toss the beet greens—just stir-fry them with a bit of olive oil and garlic for a side dish rich in the B vitamin folate. Here are some more ways to cook up quinoa.
Thai Buddha Bowl
What’s a Buddha bowl, you ask? Basically, it’s a combo of cooked and raw vegetables with a grain on the side—one of the most versatile healthy lunch ideas. (You can add fish or lean meat if you want more protein.) Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RDN shares her take on the Buddha bowl craze with a flavorful combination of raw veggies, cooked quinoa, and a quick homemade peanut sauce. With more than half of your day’s needs for fiber, this lunch will keep you full throughout the afternoon. You can prep this ahead of time for convenient grab-and-go meals all week long; it’s an easy vegan, gluten-free lunch packed with vitamin A (more than your daily needs) and healthy fats from the avocado and peanut butter.
Curried Lentil Quinoa Soup
Looking for a lentil soup with a kick? Try this Indian-inspired soup with a tikka masala spice blend from Sharon Palmer, MS, RDN. If you can’t find the blend pre-made, mix up your own with a blend of garam masala, ginger powder, paprika, fenugreek, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, chili, and caraway seeds. This soup’s packed with a ton of vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, onion, and peas) and bulked up with fiber-rich quinoa and lentils. It boasts a whopping 20 grams of fiber—more than half of your daily requirement—in just one serving. Here are more great protein sources for vegans.
Turkey Lettuce Wraps
Asian-inspired lettuce wraps get a healthy makeover from Christy Wilson, RDN, who explains that “this is quick, simple, and a great way to incorporate lots of colorful and nutrient-rich vegetables into a family meal.” This dish is bursting with vitamin A thanks to all the carrots, and the mushrooms provide your body with vitamin D. Using crispy lettuce leaves as the wrap is an excellent way to control calories while boosting fiber and antioxidants.
Bean and Barley Chili
If you’re in the mood for a vegan chili option, this is for you. Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN offers a delicious twist on the traditional bean chili by adding barley for additional fiber and protein. Mixing up different beans (black, white, pinto, and navy) creates a beautiful dish packed with fiber. Add smoky chipotle peppers, a smidge of cocoa powder, and honey for a sweet, spicy lunch that’ll satisfy your taste buds and hunger. Next, don’t miss these healthy lunch ideas from around the world.