Healthy Lunch Ideas for Weight Loss
Eating balanced lunches that include vegetables, a lean protein source, and other health-promoting foods can aid weight loss.
We understand that having a healthy lunch is not always easy, especially if you’re busy at work or on the go during the day.
That’s why it’s important to have a list of go-to lunch ideas on hand. This way, you can stay prepared and avoid skipping meals or relying on fast food and other less healthy options.
Here are 17 healthy lunch ideas for weight loss, including choices for plant-based, low carb, diabetes-friendly, and paleo diets.
Plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, are full of fiber and beneficial nutrients. They tend to be filling, and many of them are lower in calories than certain animal products and highly processed foods.
Thus, plant-based diets like vegan or vegetarian diets have been associated with weight loss in some people (1Trusted Source).
1. Lentil soup
Soups are an ideal plant-based lunch option, as you can make them ahead of time and reheat them for a quick meal.
This lentil soup recipe is a complete meal in one bowl. It’s loaded with ingredients that are good to eat when you’re trying to lose weight.
Lentils provide filling protein and carbs while the veggies contribute additional fiber. Plus, lentils are a good source of iron, an important nutrient for blood health that some plant-based eaters may lack in their diets (2Trusted Source).
2. Garden veggie chickpea salad sandwiches
Chickpeas are a versatile vegetarian protein. Some research suggests that chickpeas aid weight management, likely due to the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and variety of beneficial compounds they contain (3Trusted Source).
The texture of chickpeas makes them very easy to smash with a fork to create a chickpea “salad” filling for sandwiches — the perfect lunch food.
This recipe for garden veggie chickpea salad sandwiches is a delicious lunch option if you’re trying to lose weight and eat a plant-based diet. If you follow a vegan diet, swap out the mayo for a vegan substitute.
3. Spicy peanut tofu Buddha bowls
Tofu is a soy-based complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that humans need to get from foods. It’s also a source of isoflavones, which are compounds that may protect against heart disease (4Trusted Source).
Some people shy away from tofu if they don’t know how to cook it or don’t like the texture, but preparing tofu that’s crispy and delicious is easy to do at home.
Try these tofu Buddha bowls for lunch. They’re made with crispy tofu, brown rice, veggies, and a spicy peanut dressing.
4. Veggie wraps
A healthy wrap is a great lunch choice, especially if you need something that you can make ahead of time to eat at your desk or in between meetings.
Fortunately, it’s really easy to make plant-based wraps. To ensure that they’re filling, delicious, and help you lose weight, choose whole wheat wraps (or use lettuce) and add a protein source, healthy sauce or spread, and plenty of vegetables.
This veggie wraps recipe uses whole wheat tortillas, hummus, carrots, cucumbers, and other veggies. The edamame and hummus provide protein, while the avocado contributes healthy fats that help you feel full.
5. Quinoa and black bean stuffed sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes make a great base for plant-based lunches. They provide energizing carbs, plenty of fiber, and the pigment beta carotene, which can help you meet your needs for vitamin A to help support your immune system (5Trusted Source).
Plus, stuffed sweet potatoes can be packed up to enjoy at the office or put together quickly if you work from home. Bake the sweet potatoes and prep the filling in advance, then store them in containers in the fridge. Assemble the potatoes and reheat them when you’re ready to eat.
This recipe for stuffed sweet potatoes uses Southwest seasonings and offers tips for vegan topping alternatives if needed.
Many people find that a low carb or keto diet helps them lose weight. This style of eating involves limiting high carb foods and increasing your intake of fats and proteins.
Some research backs the potential role of low carb eating to help you lose weight, suggesting that limiting your carb intake may improve your blood sugar regulation in a way that promotes weight loss (6Trusted Source).
That said, these diets may also lead to weight regain when discontinued. Also, high carb, fiber-containing whole grains may help keep you feeling fuller for longer, so a lack of carbs at lunch may cause you to feel unsatisfied soon after meals.
6. Cauliflower rice bowls
Replacing regular rice with cauliflower rice is one way to cut back on your carb intake at lunchtime, especially if you eat burrito bowls or other dishes that typically contain rice.
Using cauliflower not only lowers the carb content of the meal but also provides a ton of vitamin C. This water-soluble nutrient is important for skin health, wound healing, and many other body functions (7).
Follow this recipe for cauliflower rice bowls for a low carb version of a burrito bowl.
7. Tuna egg salad stuffed peppers
Tuna and eggs are two affordable, high protein foods that will keep you full long after lunch.
In fact, eating eggs instead of a higher carb meal may help reduce hunger and the number of calories you consume later in the day, which can help promote weight loss (8Trusted Source).
While egg and tuna salads are usually served on bread, you can stuff them into bell peppers for a low carb meal instead. Check out this easy recipe for tuna egg salad stuffed bell peppers.
8. Zucchini noodle stir-fry with chicken
This zucchini noodle stir-fry is a delicious choice to make for lunch if you’re watching your carb intake and trying to lose weight.
Zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,” resemble regular noodles but are lower in carbs. The zucchini packs fiber and micronutrients, while the chicken contributes protein to this dish.
Chicken is an excellent lean protein to eat when you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, eating chicken with a vegetable-rich diet is linked to a reduced risk of developing overweight and obesity (9Trusted Source).
9. Low carb eggplant pizza
Eating more non-starchy vegetables like eggplant, often helps people lose weight. Eggplant is low in calories but high in fiber.
Using it in place of pizza crust is a great way to enjoy the flavors of pizza without consuming too many refined carbs at lunch.
Good plant-based, low carb options can be hard to find, as low carb eating often includes animal products — another great reason to keep this recipe on hand.
If you work from home or have a little time for lunch meal prep, give this easy recipe for low carb eggplant pizza a try. The recipe provides options to add more protein if you’d like.
10. Mediterranean Cobb salad
Cobb salads typically include lettuce, bacon, eggs, avocados, and a creamy dressing. They’re very filling and low in carbs, making them a good lunch option for weight loss.
This Mediterranean-inspired Cobb salad is heavy on the veggies and uses a homemade yogurt dressing instead of mayo-based dressing or store-bought ranch.
Plus, many of the ingredients offer health benefits. Eggs are rich in protein and antioxidant compounds that promote eye health, while avocados and tomatoes contribute a boost of heart-healthy nutrients like unsaturated fats and lycopene
When you want to lose weight, lunch may be the culprit that’s holding you back. So often you’re rushed and pressed for time-or eating at your desk. And while it may not be ideal, a rushed lunch doesn’t have to send you into an afternoon slump. In fact, there are some speedy foods that are simple to throw together and can help you reach your weight-loss goal. And, guess what: you know (and probably love) all of them. These are the modern-day weight-loss superfoods.
Stay Satisfied at Lunch: High-Fiber, High-Protein Lunches for Work
Whatever you choose for lunch-a salad, sandwich, grain bowl-top it with some avocado (or guac!). The creamy green ‘cado offers some serious health perks. In a review published in 2017 in Phytotherapy Research, researchers looked at the effect avocado-eating can have on reducing metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raises your risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. They concluded that eating avocado daily can play a role in reducing blood pressure, lessening diabetes risk, keeping arteries clear and, yes, helping with weight loss. Avocados contain antioxidants like carotenoids, vitamins and fatty acids, as well as other plant compounds that may affect the hunger hormone leptin to help keep you satiated and help curb your appetite to sidestep over-snacking.
If you want to make a simple switch that can make all the difference in weight-loss success, trade out refined grains (white bread) for whole grains (100% whole-wheat bread) on your sandwich. Choosing whole over refined grains can help turn up your resting metabolism and prompt your body to absorb fewer calories, helping you burn nearly 100 extra calories per day, suggests a new study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It may be the fiber in whole grains that affects digestion and metabolism, researchers point out. Other great sources of whole grain include oatmeal, brown rice, barley, farro and even popcorn. Try grain bowls for an easy, packable work lunch.
Kale gets all the love (and it’s a fantastic option, too), but if you prefer milder romaine lettuce as your salad base and it helps you eat more of it, go for it. When fruits and veggies were examined for their weight-loss potential, one that came out on top was leafy greens, per 2015 research in PLOS Medicine. Over a four-year period, eating a serving per day (that’s two cups) was linked to about a half pound of additional weight lost. The veggies that helped with weight loss, like lettuce, tended to offer fiber and have a low glycemic load, which aids fullness, controls blood sugar and discourages your body to store fat, the study points out. Spinach, kale or head lettuce are other good options.
When you need a little something sweet after lunch, grab an apple. These crisp fruits contain nondigestible fiber and plant compounds called polyphenols that help buoy good bacteria in the gut, possibly protecting against obesity, animal research in Food Chemistry discovered. If you’re choosing between apple varieties, you may want to grab a Granny Smith, which was found to have more of these obesity-fighting qualities. Besides, eating a daily apple or pear was linked to a 1.25-pound weight loss over a four-year period, according to the PLOS Medicine study previously mentioned. Adding to the evidence: previous research indicated that eating an apple three times a day over a 12-week period prompted a 2.7-pound weight loss. Thinly sliced apples also make great salad toppings and add a naturally sweet crunch to wraps and sandwiches.
Milk may be the perfect drink to pair with your meal if you’re looking to get leaner, according to a study out of Ireland in 2017. Eating a greater amount of dairy was found to be associated with a lower BMI, less body fat and a smaller waistline-particularly when it came to milk and yogurt. Beyond weight loss, researchers uncovered some surprising health benefits. Milk drinking was associated with improved blood pressure, lower biomarkers of inflammation, better insulin sensitivity and higher levels of a protein called adiponectin, which helps regulate blood sugar and break down fats. What’s more, if you’re running low on calcium, consuming more of the bone-strengthening mineral may also help you burn belly fat. Skip the chocolate milk and flavored lattes to cut back on added sugars.
We get it, between your part-time job satelliting as your kid’s teaching assistant, your spouse’s loud conference call, and all the laundry sitting front and center, taking a break during the workday to make yourself lunch is the last thing on your mind. (Hello, processed snacks and all the coffee).
But taking a midday break to regroup and refuel with a nutritious meal can make the world of a difference for your mental health and your waistline. Luckily if you’re looking to drop those 10 pounds that have crept up over the last few months, Joy Bauer’s “Drop 10 TODAY” plan has loads of delicious and satisfying recipe options for every meal. You can mix and match all month long, repeating meals as often as you like. The meals contain the right balance of lean proteins, high-quality carbs and healthy fats to give you fast and effective results, with options that help you feel full.
For lunch, each option contains no more than 400 calories.
Midday meals follow my 3 “P” Plan — that stands for protein, produce and powering down.
These options are packed with ample protein and 2 cups of produce (specifically non-starchy veggies from the unlimited list), and you’ll need to power down.
Protein and produce pack a one-two punch against hunger, helping to satisfy your appetite and showering your body with good-for-you nutrients. And by powering down electronics, you’ll be present and more mindful during the meal.
And finally, sit down and slow down. Take a seat and take the time to own your meal. Slow the pace of your eating — this will enhance digestion and allow you to be more aware of hunger and fullness cues.
1. Drop 10 salad
Mixed greens topped with 5 ounces of protein (chicken, turkey, salmon, shrimp or tofu), ½ cup beans and unlimited non-starchy veggies. Dress with 1 teaspoon olive oil + unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice (alternatively, you can use 2 tablespoons low-calorie vinaigrette).
2. Open-faced turkey & Swiss sandwich
One slice whole-grain bread layered with 4 ounces turkey, 1 slice of Swiss cheese, 1 tablespoon mustard or hummus and preferred vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, onions, etc.) and 2 cups of baby carrots on the side. *If preferred, nix the cheese and enjoy your sandwich on 2 slices of bread.
3. Soup and salad
Two cups of lentil, black bean or hearty-vegetable soup and salad layered with non-starchy veggies and dressed with 1 teaspoon olive oil and unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice (alternatively, you can use 2 tablespoons of low-calorie vinaigrette).
4. Cantaloupe and cottage cheese
Half of a cantaloupe with 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese topped with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, pecans, almonds or pistachios and 2 cups non-starchy vegetables on the side (for example, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers or bell pepper sticks).
5. Curried chicken salad with green peas
On a bed of baby spinach leaves + ½ whole grain pita.
6. Quinoa chickpea tabbouleh
With 1 cup non-starchy vegetables on the side.
7. Restaurant fare: chicken or fish with veggies
5 ounces cooked fish or skinless chicken (grilled, baked or broiled) + lots of steamed, grilled or roasted veggies on the side.
8. Chicken Caesar salad wrap
Enjoy with 1 cup sugar snap peas or sliced cucumbers.
9. Open-faced tuna melt
Enjoy with side salad dressed with 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil and unlimited vinegar or fresh lemon juice.
10. Veggie omelet
Enjoy with one slice of whole grain bread and 1 cup fresh fruit salad.