Are you finding yourself struggling to come up with healthy lunch ideas for winter? I know it can be tough when you have to bundle up, go outside and make a lunch in the cold. Learn more about the benefits of eating lunch below.
The cold winter is the perfect time to stay at home, wrap up in warm blankets and watch your Favorite show on Netflix. It’s also a great time to make a delicious and healthy winter lunches! Here are some healthy Winter Recipes that will get you through the winter months.
Healthy Lunch Ideas for Winter
When the temperatures drop, we tend to reach for hearty comfort foods and mugs of hot cocoa—especially during the holiday season. But there are also plenty of satisfying healthy recipes out there, too! In fact, eating healthy isn’t just about salads; there are also healthy soups, chilis, and grain bowls that are all warm and nourishing. That’s why we’ve rounded up the best healthy winter recipes to give you the comfort you crave while still staying on track. Here, you’ll find healthy breakfast recipes, light lunches, and filling winter dinner ideas—all packed with good-for-you ingredients.
Whether you’re hosting a holiday party or just looking for a quick weeknight dinner, there are plenty of healthy seasonal recipes that work just as well for Christmas as they do for any chilly night of the week. Try lightened-up versions of your favorite dishes like mac and cheese made with butternut squash or Swedish meatballs made with lean ground turkey. There are also tons of healthy chicken recipes and even some healthy appetizers that you can serve for the holidays. Check out Ree Drummond’s gorgeous crudités with an herb dip or the buffalo cauliflower bites made in an air fryer. Of course, we threw some salad recipes on this list, too—but they’re not your average leafy greens. They all have hearty additions, like salmon, shrimp, or roasted vegetables.
Not only are these cozy winter recipes sure to hit the spot, but they’re also healthy enough to keep up with your New Year’s resolutions. Try all of them this season—and even some in the year beyond!
Zucchini Noodles with Avocado Pesto & Shrimp
Cut some carbs and use spiralized zucchini in place of noodles in this zesty pesto pasta dish recipe. Top with Cajun-seasoned shrimp to complete this quick and easy dinner.
Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Broccolini
In this low-carb spaghetti squash lasagna recipe, garlicky broccolini, spaghetti squash and cheese are combined for a healthy take on a favorite casserole. This bakes right in the squash shells for a fun presentation. Serve with a big Caesar salad and some warm and crusty whole-grain bread.
Sriracha-Buffalo Cauliflower Bites
This recipe for spicy Buffalo cauliflower bites is a great vegetarian alternative to Buffalo wings. Roasted cauliflower stands in for chicken and provides more fiber and fewer calories. Serve this easy appetizer with carrot sticks, celery and your favorite ranch or blue cheese dressing.
Greek Turkey Burgers with Spinach, Feta & Tzatziki
Creamy tzatziki and crisp sliced cucumber add a refreshing twist to this easy Greek-inspired burger recipe loaded with feta, spinach and Mediterranean spices. No tzatziki? No problem! Make your own at home by combining plain Greek yogurt with a squeeze of lemon, dill and finely chopped cucumber
Cauliflower Mac & Cheese
There’s no pasta here, but this gluten-free and low-carb cauliflower “mac & cheese” is as comforting and creamy as your family’s favorite cheesy dish.
Slow-Cooker Vegetable Soup
Make a big batch of low-calorie veggie-packed soup with ease in this load-and-go crock pot recipe. After simmering away in the slow cooker, portion it into individual serving containers and store in the fridge or freezer for fast, healthy lunches or an easy, satisfying snack. This weight-loss vegetable soup fills you up without a lot of calories, plus it’s an easy way to eat more vegetables.
Roasted Cauliflower & Potato Curry Soup
In this healthy cauliflower soup recipe, roasting the cauliflower first adds depth and prevents the florets from turning to mush. A little tomato sauce and coconut milk give the broth a rich, silky texture. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, if desired.
Cauliflower Chicken Fried “Rice”
Get an extra serving of vegetables and cut back on carbs by replacing rice with riced cauliflower in this healthy chicken fried rice recipe.
Butternut Squash Carbonara with Broccoli
You’ve never had carbonara quite like this! Loaded with veggies, this spiralized veggie noodle recipe is a healthy copycat of a traditional carbonara recipe. Butternut squash gets spiralized into long, tender “noodles” for a lower-carb version of this creamy, cheesy pasta dish. Look for a squash with a large, straight neck to make the longest veggie noodles.
Middle Eastern Chicken & Chickpea Stew
This quick, protein-rich chicken stew recipe gets great flavor from cumin, lemon juice and garlic. Make a double batch and freeze it for a quick healthy dinner. Serve the stew with couscous and steamed broccoli.
Slow-Cooker Honey-Orange Chicken Drumsticks
This slow-cooker chicken recipe makes a perfect alternative to standard tomato-based barbecued chicken. Both kids and adults will devour these drumsticks, doused in a honey-sweetened sauce spiked with orange, ginger and garlic.
Slow-Cooker Moroccan Lentil Soup
Like most soups, this Moroccan lentil soup recipe gets better with time as the complex seasonings have time to develop. Make it a day ahead if you can–this easy slow cooker/crock pot recipe variation makes it a cinch to get the soup cooking while you do other things.
Here we take the elements of a vegetarian lasagna filling–ricotta, spinach and Parmesan cheese–and nestle them into roasted portobello mushroom caps. The recipe works best with very large portobello caps; if you can only find smaller ones, buy one or two extra and divide the filling among all the caps. Serve with a tossed salad and a whole-wheat dinner roll or spaghetti tossed with marinara sauce.
Chickpea Curry (Chhole)
Made with convenient canned beans, this quick and healthy Indian recipe is an authentic chickpea curry that you can make in minutes. If you want an additional vegetable, stir in some roasted cauliflower florets. Serve with brown basmati rice or warm naan.
Spinach & Cheese Breakfast Skillet
Eating a big healthy breakfast’ like this 700-calorie hash-and-egg recipe’ may help lower your levels of ghrelin, a hormone that signals hunger, and reduce snack cravings later in the day. Plus, research shows eating the bulk of your daily calories earlier in the day could help you lose weight. If you’re looking for a lighter breakfast, this recipe can serve two.
Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl
This chipotle-flavored burrito bowl recipe is even better than takeout and just as fast. Loading it with vegetables and using quinoa in place of rice adds nutrition for a healthy dinner.
Balsamic & Parmesan Roasted Cauliflower
Roasting isn’t usually the first cooking method you think of for cauliflower but the results are quite delicious. The florets are cut into thick slices and tossed with extra-virgin olive oil and herbs. Wherever the flat surfaces come into contact with the hot roasting pan, a deep browning occurs that results in a sweet, nutty flavor.
Hasselback Caprese Chicken
Using the hasselback technique (cutting crosswise slits every half-inch along the chicken breast) cooks the chicken faster and ensures you get a burst of flavorful gooey filling with each bite. This quick one-pan high-protein and veggie-packed dinner is easy to make and the whole family will love it.
Slow-Cooker Vegetarian Lasagna
Sure, the slow cooker’s great for stews and soups, but it also happens to make a mean lasagna! In this ingenious slow-cooker recipe, all you have to do is chop your veggies, then layer the ingredients (raw) into the crockpot. Serve with: Garlic bread and a green salad.
Spicy White Chili
Top this spicy chili with hot sauce if you love the heat.
Wine & Tomato Braised Chicken
Here chicken thighs cook in a simple herb-infused tomato-and-wine sauce. The bone-in thighs give it plenty of hearty flavor, and since you cook them without the skin, it keeps the dish healthy. There’s plenty of sauce, so serve it over pappardelle or brown rice. Steamed broccoli or sautéed broccoli rabe tossed with olive oil and a splash of lemon juice complete the meal.
Healthy Winter Lunches
Brazilian Black Bean Soup
Brazil’s cuisine often features smoky, grilled meats, but this healthy vegetarian bean soup recipe is completely meat-free. Instead, blackened jalapeños, fire-roasted tomatoes and smoked paprika provide the Brazilian flair. A little molasses adds a sweet-toasty note, and the kale, while not traditional, bumps up your daily veggie count.
Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips
Give these oven “fried” chicken strips a try, and you may just find the perfect healthy swap for restaurant chicken fingers.
Chipotle Ranch Chicken Casserole
Simplify weeknight dinnertime by transforming leftover slow-cooked chicken (see associated recipe, below) into an easy, cheesy casserole.
Skillet Tuna Noodle Casserole
Known as Tuna-Pea Wiggle to some, this family-friendly tuna noodle casserole tends to be made with canned soup and whole milk, which means high fat and sodium. We remedy this by making our own creamy mushroom sauce with nonfat milk thickened with a bit of flour. Look for whole-wheat egg noodles–they have more fiber than regular egg noodles (but this dish will work well and taste great with either).
Chicken Stew With Turnips & Mushrooms
In this healthy chicken stew recipe, we save prep time by using pre-sliced mushrooms and pre-chopped kale (found near packaged fresh greens). If you don’t like turnips, potatoes are an easy substitution.
Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili
Make a double batch of this quick vegetarian chili, full of black beans and sweet potatoes, and eat it for lunch the next day or freeze the extras for another night. We love the smoky heat from the ground chipotle, but omit it if you prefer a mild chili. Serve with tortilla chips or cornbread and coleslaw.
In this healthy broccoli-Cheddar-chicken chowder recipe, heavy cream is replaced with milk and flour-thickened chicken broth and we keep sodium amounts reasonable with lower-sodium broth. By making your own homemade creamy broccoli, Cheddar and chicken chowder, you’ll save up to 300 calories, 20 grams of saturated fat and 500 milligrams of sodium per serving compared to many store-bought or restaurant chowders.
Here we take basic lasagna ingredients–ricotta cheese, pasta and tomatoes–and skip the layering and long baking time to make a super-quick and satisfying meal for the whole family. To cut down on prep time, look for presliced mushrooms. For meat lovers, brown some crumbled turkey sausage along with the onions and garlic. Serve with: Steamed broccoli and whole-grain baguette.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Here we toss nutty roasted sprouts with a quick sun-dried tomato pesto.
Chicken & Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo
Sun-dried tomatoes and Romano cheese pack a flavorful punch along with the tantalizing aroma of fresh marjoram in this rustic Italian-inspired dish. Serve with sautéed fresh spinach or steamed broccolini.
Southwestern Three-Bean & Barley Soup
Serve this zesty bean and barley soup garnished with chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime, if desired.
Delicata Squash & Tofu Curry
This easy tofu curry, made with pretty delicata squash and hearty greens, cooks up in one skillet. To speed up the prep, use bagged chopped kale. Delicata squash’s thin skin is tender when it’s cooked, so there’s no need to peel–another time saver. Serve with quinoa or brown rice.
Slow-Cooker Black Bean-Mushroom Chili
Black beans, earthy mushrooms and tangy tomatillos combine with a variety of spices and smoky chipotles to create a fantastic full-flavored chili. It can simmer in the slow cooker all day, which makes it perfect for a healthy supper when the end of your day is rushed.
Chicken & Spinach Soup With Fresh Pesto
This fragrant, Italian-flavored soup takes advantage of quick-cooking ingredients–boneless, skinless chicken breast, bagged baby spinach and canned beans. It features a simple homemade basil pesto swirled in at the end to add a fresh herb flavor. If you are very pressed for time, you can substitute 3 to 4 tablespoons of a store-bought basil pesto. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.
Sweet Potatoes with Warm Black Bean Salad
For a satisfying last-minute supper, it’s hard to beat a sweet potato zapped in the microwave. The fragrant filling of beans and tomatoes adds protein. Be sure to eat the skin, which is full of fiber, as well.
Sweet Potato & Sausage Strata
A stratum, especially this one that can be prepared the day before, is a brilliant idea for feeding a house full of guests. Hot Italian sausage balances the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and gives this healthy breakfast casserole a kick.
Chicken Potpie with Biscuits
In this lightened-up recipe for chicken potpie, creamy chicken stew is topped with flaky biscuits for quintessential comfort food. Our recipe for chicken potpie takes advantage of convenient frozen mixed vegetables to keep it quick.
Healthy Winter Recipes
Whole Roasted Cauliflower Turmeric Soup (243 Calories)
You don’t even have to chop anything. Need we say more?
The Best Damn Tomato Soup (90 Calories)
Leave the can opener in the drawer tonight. (And don’t forget the grilled cheese.)
Dijon-maple Chicken With Brussels Sprouts And Butternut Squash (529 Calories)
It’s ready in under an hour and requires a single pan. We’re sold.
Five-ingredient Green Curry (305 Calories)
From now on, we’ll only eat veggies when they’re smothered in a creamy curry sauce. Just kidding. Kind of.
Restorative Miso Noodle Soup (213 Calories)
It’s light and gut-friendly, yes, but it’s also cozy, easy to make and delicious to boot.
20-minute Paleo Egg Roll Bowls (380 Calories)
Wonton wrappers, we hardly knew ye.
Charred Sweet Potatoes With Pistachio-chili Pesto (302 Calories)
This vegetarian number is technically a side dish, but it’s also filling enough to moonlight as a main course.
Roasted Vegetable And Lentil Salad With Pine Nut Cream (489 Calories)
You haven’t lived until you’ve tried Aran Goyoaga’s vegan pine nut cream. But careful: One taste and you’ll want to put it on everything.
Benefits of Eating Lunch
Lunch arguably could be viewed as one of the most important meals of the day. Eating a nutritious, well balanced, all-natural lunch could be just what your body needs and craves.
1. Mental Health Benefits
Lunch not only provides your body with the fuel it needs to finish off the day, but it feeds our mental health too.
Have you ever skipped lunch and wondered why you were so cranky later in the day? Food is not only fuel, but also a mental health mood stabilizer.
According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) approximately 1 in 25, or 9.8 million adults in the U.S have and/or will experience a serious mental illness within a given year.
Research has found poor nutrition and diet can directly effect and in some cases exacerbate one’s mental health.
Feed your body and your mind – eat lunch!
2. Metabolism Booster
eating lunch keeps your metabolism active. According to the Weight Control Information Network, “people who regularly skip meals tend to weigh more than people who eat throughout the day.”
3. Blood Sugar Level Balancer
eating lunch has been found to re-energize your body and increase one’s blood sugar levels. During those long afternoon hours when focus and concentration are likely lagging eating even a small meal can give your body the needed ‘boost’ to complete the days activities.
4. Mindful Eating
In a recent study by Harvard University, it was found that people who ate while distracted actually ate more food. Whereas ‘mindful eating’ has been linked to eating less and making healthier food choices. While you may be tempted to sit at your desk, play on your phone and hibernate indoors. Do yourself a favor; take a break, step away from the office and ‘actively’ participate in your meal choices and food selection. Your overall well-being is dependent upon this simple choice.
yes, that’s right, your midday meal maybe the perfect way to connect with family, friends and colleagues. Thus, putting the ‘busyness’ of the day’s activities aside and making room for the ‘present’.