In this guide, I will be sharing with you some healthy lunch ideas that are not salad. Salad is a quick and easy meal to grab on the go. However, it is often packed with empty calories and very few nutritional benefits. We all know how to pack a healthy salad. The question at hand is whether or not we should? Let’s take a look at two contrasting perspectives. If you’ve been to a nutritionist, or just follow the latest health news, you’re probably aware that it’s likely not a salad you should be eating for lunch. Salads are great, but they tend to he heavy on lettuce with only small amounts of protein and fat. While this is part of an overall nutritious diet, if your goal is building muscle — which it should be — you need to have a balanced meal consisting of protein and fat at each meal. Here are some great lunch ideas besides a salad.
Healthy Lunch Ideas Not Salad
Although, we are definitely fans of big, hearty, filling salads we know some of you aren’t! Yet, many times people think that the only way to eat healthily is by eating a salad. Well, think again! There are so many easy and healthy lunches for people who hate salads! Don’t forget, Meal Prep ideas come in all shapes and sizes, so when you see Cheeseburger Pizza Chicken (below) don’t just a take a glance… give it a try and let us know how you like it.
Just divide each recipe into your meal prep container and you will be prepared for a week of delicious (non-salad) meals
1. Southeast Asian Pho
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger
- 1/2 red chile pepper, or to taste
- 3 scallions
- 1/2 yellow pepper
- 2 handfuls spinach
- 2 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
- 1/2 chicken or vegetable stock cube (or generous pinch of salt)
- 1 lime
- 1 handful fresh cilantro and basil
- Begin by preparing your bowl at home up to 48 hours in advance. Peel the ginger and mince it. Add it to a large heatproof jar or container with a sealable lid. Finely chop the chile pepper (remove seeds if you prefer less spice) and add it to the minced ginger. Chop the white part of the scallions and slice the yellow pepper lengthwise into thin strips. Add the spinach leaves and rice noodles along with the stock cube. Slice the lime in half and add both halves to the container, then finely chop the herbs and add them on top.
- At lunchtime: Boil a pot of fresh water either using your office microwave or kettle. Remove the lime from your jar and pour the boiling water over the soup mix until it just covers everything. Using a fork, stir the soup until the stock has dissolved. Close the lid and give it a good shake. Let the soup rest for a minute then squeeze the lime over top.
2. Green Goddess Sandwiches
They say bad things happen in threes and this summer I seem to have reached my quota. First there was my pain in the neck, then a bout of poison oak. I figured that whatever karma had caught up with me, I was now in the clear. But then while photographing these green goddess sandwiches the other day, I toppled off a step stool and landed in the ER with three stitches in my knee.
I’ve never before had neck pain last more than a day, and before this month, I hadn’t experienced the itchy wonders of poison oak. Falling off of stepladders is not a summer activity in which I usually partake, either. Clearly this is all a sign that I need to stay indoors on the couch watching Britcoms, drinking aperol spritz floats, and eating green goddess sandwiches until Labor Day.
After the fall, during which I screamed bloody murder for about 5 minutes (I am not a graceful patient), Jay cleaned me up, plopped me on the couch with several ice packs, turned the laptop to face me, and finished shooting these green goddess sandwiches. What a nice guy, right?
When the pain didn’t stop, we packed up the sandwiches and headed to the ER. The nurse asked if I had hit my head during the fall to which Jay responded, “She screamed. A lot. She was definitely not unconscious,” which caused the entire staff to laugh uproariously.
Due to the bodily harm they caused, I should hate green goddess sandwiches if only they weren’t so tasty. As it is, we’ve been making them daily for our lunch. The idea came from a couple of different dining experiences.
The first occurred at a restaurant that is usually quite excellent. I ordered a green goddess salad, excited for the little gems, radishes, avocado, red onion, and herbed vinaigrette promised by the menu. What I actually got were some chewed up outer leaves from a romaine head, rock-hard avocado chunks, and what tasted like a watered-down buttermilk dressing. I asked the server if I had perhaps been given the wrong salad, and she said, “No, that’s it.” The experience left me craving a proper green goddess coated in a nap of potent dressing.
The second source of inspiration was a simple vegetarian sandwich that Jay ordered from a cafe in our neighborhood that’s been around for ages. Sourdough bread, avocado, sprouts, cheese, tomatoes, and a slather of tasty aïoli, it was essentially a salad between two pieces of bread – tangy and cool.
3. Green Goddess Sandwiches
These green goddess sandwiches start by blending good mayonnaise with garlic, anchovies, lemon, and a mess of herbs: basil, tarragon, and chives being my favored combination. This green goddess mayo gets slathered on some bread (preferably a hearty sourdough) and topped with all the green things: thin slices of cucumber, green zebra tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, and lettuce. For protein and ooey-gooiness we add fresh mozzarella, and for extra pungence, some quickly-pickled spring onions.
4. Gluten-Free, Vegetarian & Vegan Green Goddess Sandwiches For Everyone
These green goddess sandwiches could easily swing vegetarian by swapping out the anchovy in the mayo for capers. To make them vegan, use vegan mayo and a good vegan mozzarella, ricotta, or cream cheese such as Miyoko’s or Kite Hill. Use gluten-free bread if needed.
Thus the green goddess sandwiches of our dreams: messy, bright, and ultra-flavorful. Hopefully they will cause no more debacles; I’m very carefully crossing my fingers…
5. Grilled Chicken Veggie Bowls
Optional (would replace any of the vegetables above)
To prepare your bowls, we used 3-cup To Go snack containers. Place 1/4 cup brown rice and 1/4 cup quinoa into each container. Top with a total of 1 1/2 cups of your cooked vegetables. Mix up the type of vegetables for each bowl so you have a variety each day. Add 4 ounces or 1/2 cup of your cubed chicken. We added salsa or hot sauce to season to our liking after we reheated the bowl in the microwave. A low fat dressing would work as well. Store these in the refrigerator and when you are ready microwave until heated through.
Note: To roast vegetables, place them onto a large baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and season with kosher salt and pepper. Cook in oven at 375 degrees until fork tender. Time will vary depending on vegetable.
6. Buffalo Chicken Burrito Bowls
These chicken burrito bowls are ready in 15 minutes, making them perfect for busy weeknights or a quick lunch! Plus, they’re easily customizable.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1.25 pounds thin-sliced boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, or to taste
- 1/3 cup Hidden Valley Ranch Buffalo Salad Dressing® (the Sriracha or Cilantro Lime dressings may be substituted)
- two 8.8-ounce packets Spanish rice (or about 4 cups cooked rice; white or brown rice may be substituted), divided
- 2 Roma tomatoes, diced small and divided (pico de gallo or red bell pepper may be substituted)
- 2 cups cooked black beans, divided (from about one 15-ounce can, drained and rinsed)
- 2 cups corn, divided (I used frozen)
- 1 ripe Hass avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced thin; divided
- 1 cup shredded cheese, divided (I used queso fresco)
- juice of 1 lime, divided
- 4 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves, divided
- To a large skillet, add the olive oil, chicken, evenly season with salt and pepper, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 to 6 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and lightly golden browned. Stir and flip intermittently to ensure all sides cook evenly. I used thin-sliced chicken breasts which cook quickly. Cooking time will vary based on thickness of chicken.
- Evenly drizzle the salad dressing over the chicken, stir to coat evenly, and cook for about 3 minutes or until dressing has thickened slightly.
- Remove chicken from skillet and equally divide it between 4 bowls.
- To each bowl, add rice, tomatoes, black beans, corn, top with avocado slices, cheese, lime juice, cilantro, and serve immediately.
- Bowls are best fresh but extra chicken will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 917Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 29gCholesterol: 156mgSodium: 1211mgCarbohydrates: 67gFiber: 13gSugar: 7gProtein: 64g
6. Jalapeno Sliders With Sweet Potato Bun Meal Prep
Preheat oven to 425 F. Prepare the sweet potato by washing the outside well then slice horizontally into thick slices.
Place the sweet potato on a medium baking sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Place in the oven and bake at 425 F for 20 minutes.
While the sweet potato is baking, heat a grill or grill pan to medium heat.
Place the ground beef in a large bowl with jalapeno, cumin and garlic powder. Using your hands, break up the meat and mix the ingredients together.
Form the mixture into 4 patties.
Place on the grill and cook 4 minutes then flip and cook another 4 minutes for a medium-well slider.
Remove the sweet potatoes from the oven and sliders from the grill.
Transfer to 2 meal prep containers and place 2 burgers in each one along with roasted sweet potato “buns” and your desired sides!