By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Want a fast, healthy lunch? Grab this list of easy and healthy lunch ideas and easy things to make for lunch. You won't run out of quick, healthy lunch ideas anytime soon!
Looking for a fast, healthy lunch–especially with back-to-school season upon us? You're in luck! These quick and easy lunches will have you set up for healthy-eating success in no time at all.
How to make a healthy lunch? When you're in a time crunch in the morning, I know how tempting it can be to skip packing your lunchbox with nutritious recipes and instead head out for a quick burger and fries come lunchtime.
But hold on a sec. A nutritious lunch doesn't have to require hours of grocery shopping and meal prepping. You just have to follow a simple checklist and take a few minutes to pack up your quick, easy lunch. Ready to find out how to do it?
Dietitian Tips for Making a Fast, Healthy Lunch
I asked some of my dietitian colleagues for their best tips to make nutritious cooking a no-brainer. Many of these tips utilize storebought favorites, which is totally OK!
1. Buy Pre-Cut Produce
“Don’t be afraid to spend a little extra money by buying fruits and veggies pre-cleaned and chopped ahead of time,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It. “Although you pay a little more money, it’s better than buying a full head of cauliflower–and then throwing it away because you didn’t feel like preparing it.” Think vegetables like carrots, onions, and even bell peppers.
2. Hard-Boil Eggs in Advance
“I tend to buy an extra carton of eggs just for hard-boiling when I shop,” says Hope Paul, RD, certified diabetes educator coach for WW. “I’ll cook the whole carton when I get home from the store and stick in the fridge so I always have that to grab.” You can eat the eggs whole, or you can add them to an egg salad sandwich.
3. Take Inventory of Your Fridge
No time to head to the grocery store? No problem. Just take inventory of what's in your fridge, freezer, and pantry—and more than likely, you have the makings for a fast, healthy lunch on hand. In this Well+Good article, I share a simple checklist of the five things you should definitely be including in your mid-day meal.
Want more healthy meals to make? Maybe you'll whip up a pasta salad, black bean grain bowls, rotisserie chicken avocado salad, chicken salad sandwich, a healthy grilled cheese, or even a Greek yogurt bowl for a delicious lunch.
4. Use Up Leftover Produce
Wilted salad greens? Browned bananas? Don't toss that produce! You can create a nutritious lunch with less-than-perfect fruits and veggies. You just have to get creative. Take a look at these 10 office-friendly recipes that'll help you make the most of what's in your kitchen, including one of my favorites.
5. Cook Quickie Sides
“One of the things I do a lot is use microwaveable side dishes, usually whole-grain combinations,” says Maria Kinirons, RDN. “I’ll combine a package with about two to three cups of chopped frozen or pre-cut fresh vegetables and some pre-cooked grilled chicken I picked up from the deli or refrigerator section of my supermarket for really quick, tasty, and filling meals. This is good for two servings or more.”
6. Freeze Your Herbs
"We buy several pieces of fresh turmeric and ginger, peel and grate them, and freeze them in storage containers,” say Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT, co-authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure. “This way, they don’t go bad—and whenever we need some, we let it defrost for a couple minutes and grab a pinch.”
7. Get Lunch Started in the Morning
“If you’re tight on time and need a healthy meal, a slow cooker can be your best friend,” says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, co-author of Fertility Foods. “Throw in a few chicken breasts with a large can of diced tomatoes and taco seasoning, and set the cooker to low. Run along with your day and by the time you’re ready for lunch, you’ve got slow-cooked chicken tacos ready for the entire family.”
8. Keep a Supply of Zest on Hand
“Lemon zest is such a flavorful add-in to so many dishes,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. “I always keep lemon slices in a container in the fridge to add to hot water or use in recipes. The trick is zesting it before slicing it and putting aside this powerful flavor enhancer to use later. Lemon zest adds zing to yogurt, cottage cheese, salad dressings, pasta dishes, and so much more.”
9. Prep Muffin-Tin Snacks
“Muffin tins are excellent for portion control, such as individual zucchini breads,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet. “Same goes for ramekins—I like making one-egg breakfasts with cut-up veggies and sriracha. I’ll microwave them for 45 to 60 seconds.”
10. Make a Sandwich
Easy Things to Make for Lunch
When you're in a time crunch for lunch, try these super easy lunch ideas:
This blog post was updated in September 2020. A version of this content originally appeared on WeightWatchers.com.
- Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It
- Hope Paul, RD, certified diabetes educator coach for WW
- If Your Desk Lunch Ticks These 5 Dietitian-Approved Boxes—Congrats!—You Can Consider It Healthy,
- Maria Kinirons, RDN
- Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT and Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT, co-authors of The Nutrition Twins’ Veggie Cure
- Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, co-author of Fertility Foods
- Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club
- Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet
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I'd love to hear from you! What do you think of these fast, healthy lunch ideas? What are your favorite lunch recipes, and how do you utilize store bought ingredients?
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