The busier life gets, the easier it becomes to overlook lunch—especially if you’re away from the house all day!
But constantly eating out for lunch can quickly get expensive and unhealthy. With a little bit of preparation ahead of time, you can pack healthy and inexpensive lunches that will leave you feeling full and focused all afternoon. Here are six great recipe ideas to get you started.
What’s a better healthy lunch than a salad? Heading to a restaurant to pick up a plate of greens is more expensive and time-consuming than it’s worth. Instead, master the art of making salads in a jar—you can prep for the whole week and grab one each morning on your way out the door! If you like a lot of lettuce with your salad, use quart-size jars; otherwise, a pint-and-a-half is enough for more substantial ingredients. Make sure to put your dressing in first and then layer crisp, hard veggies immediately on top so that sogginess isn’t an issue. Consider including beans, corn, and whole grains in your salad to add more protein and nutrients.
Sheet pan meals are easy to make and can be boxed up in single portions for easy lunches throughout the week. This healthy sausage and veggie recipe gives you a good mix of protein and filling vegetables so that your afternoon focus and energy levels are on track. Plus, it’s gluten-free, dairy-free, and paleo, so you can use it no matter which wellness goals you have this year. Use chicken or turkey sausage for a healthier protein option, and choose vegetables with lots of fiber and vitamins (think sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, etc.). Package with some brown rice or quinoa for a complete lunchtime meal that’s inexpensive and healthy!
Nothing is more straightforward than a cup of noodles you can pop into the microwave at lunchtime, but we all know the typical options aren’t very healthy. With a little bit of prep, you can create your own to have an easy meal the next day when you’re out of the house. Similar to preparing a salad in a jar, this ramen recipe relies on layering ingredients in a jar for maximum flavor retention. Putting the spices in the bottom with the uncooked noodles on top will allow everything to mix up evenly when you add a cup of boiling water as you sit down to eat. Include hard-boiled eggs, tofu, or cooked meat for extra protein and variety.
Wraps are a popular lunchtime option—you can pack in a lot of flavor and nutrition, all in a convenient package! This hummus version uses collard green leaves as the “wrap” portion (think lettuce wraps) for an even healthier twist. Layer a generous scoop of hummus inside the collard leaf, then pile high with the vegetables of your choice. If you have veggies like tomatoes, put them in the very middle, so they’re less likely to leak out the sides during the day. You can keep these wraps unrefrigerated for the morning, too, so they’re a great option if you’ll be out and about before lunch!
This chickpea and spinach mixture is simple to make ahead of time and can be frozen in small amounts for individual lunches. If you grab a portion from the freezer in the morning, everything should be ready to eat by noon! The blend of spices in this chickpea mix makes it rich and hearty even though it’s healthy. Use a whole-wheat pita pocket for even more fiber to keep you full until dinner.
These protein-packed muffins are an excellent lunch to pack for a busy day out of the house. Because they’re small, you can eat a couple as you run between obligations or sit down and have several along with some fruit or yogurt for a complete meal. Quinoa provides the bulk for these muffins and is a wonderful source of whole grains and protein. You can use whatever vegetables you’d like (this is a great way to use up the almost-wilted greens, for example), along with eggs and cheese. Hot or cold, these mini muffins hit the spot!
Next time you’re planning meals for the week, add these to your lunchtime rotation for easy and healthy meals away from home.