Healthy Lunch Ideas Under 500 Calories

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Do you think you know healthy lunch ideas  under 500 calories? Will it help if I tell you that a meal of nachos and quesadillas has over 1000? Everyone always says to “eat your vegetables”. I’m here to tell you they aren’t just being nice with the advice — they are right! Vegetables come in all shapes and sizes and can cook up in nearly any form. The options are a vegetable lovers dream come true!

healthy lunch ideas under 500 calories

If you’re looking to shed a few pounds, your meal options may suddenly feel limited. Chances are you think you’re confined to bland eats and boring midday meals. Not so. We’re here to prove that there’s no need to eat a salad for lunch every day if you’re trying to lose weight. Yes, really.

Below, eight good-for-you lunch recipes that serve up all the veggies — without confining you to a tired mixed-green salad. Read on for the simple, nutritious meals that look nothing like a #SadDeskLunch, and get ready to hit your health goals.

1. Spiced Hummus Flatbread “Pizza”

  • Calories: 332
  • Fat: 15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 35 grams
  • Protein: 14 grams

We love a weight-loss plan that includes pizza. This recipe gets a nutrient boost from good-for-you ingredients like pulses, a group of plants that includes beans, lentils and peas. The pulses on this pizza? Garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas.

“Hummus contains chickpeas, which are an awesome source of plant-based protein and fiber to fill you up and keep your hunger at bay for hours,” says Whitney English, RDN, a Los Angeles-based dietitian and founder of the practice Whitney E. RD.

This flatbread pizza offers up an impressive 14 grams of plant-based protein per serving, about the same amount as two eggs. Opt for a flatbread that’s made from whole wheat or whole grains to add extra fiber to this meal, suggests English.

If you aren’t feeling a flatbread for lunch, no fear. “I love to use hummus in wraps, sandwiches and even as a salad dressing,” English says.

2. Tuna Salad-Stuffed Avocado

This lunch is loaded with healthy fats and fiber.
  • Calories: 282
  • Fat: 22 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Protein: 14 grams

Looking to load up on good-for-you fats? Consider this awesome avocado upgrade. “This dish is full of healthy fats from avocado, fish and even mayonnaise,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, dietitian and author of The Superfood Swap.

“Avocado is loaded with filling fiber and contains heart-smart monounsaturated fat, while fatty fish like tuna is rich in omega-3 fat, which benefits heart, brain and joint health,” Blatner says.

Want more healthy recipes? Download the MyPlate app and get simple, tasty meals and snacks tailored to your nutrition goals.

A December 2017 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science also noted that omega-3 supplementation may help bolster immune function. The long-chain fatty acid is also thought to positively affect the composition of your gut microbiome.

As for the mayo? Blatner says it’s A-OK in moderation. Pro tip: “Mayo isn’t usually considered a health food, but when you choose an avocado- or olive oil-based mayonnaise, you’ll get a dose of unsaturated, ‘good’ fat,” she says.

3. Mediterranean Zoodles with Creamy Feta Dressing

Add chicken and quinoa to this dish for a protein boost.
  • Calories: 212
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 17 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams

“This veggie-heavy lunch is high in protein without any meat, poultry or fish thanks to the Greek yogurt,” says Blatner. “Plus, it’s low-carb and gluten-free for those who may be avoiding it.”

At just over 200 calories, this zoodle bowl is more snack than full-blown lunch. To bulk it up, Blatner recommends turning it into a Greek Chicken Bowl. “Just add a half cup cooked quinoa and one-quarter cup chopped grilled chicken or chickpeas [if you’re looking to keep this vegetarian]. Doing so will add about 200 calories, so the meal is still under 500 calories total.”

Another option? This Pesto Zucchini Noodle Pasta With Avocado and Soft-Boiled Eggs. It’s higher in calories and healthy fats, but is lower in carbs and still clocks in at less than 500 calories.

4. Italian Roast Beef Roll Ups

Swap in grilled chicken for the roast beef to up the health factor on this meal.
  • Calories: 360
  • Fat: 15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 17 grams
  • Protein: 39 grams

Processed meats, which include meat and poultry products that have been prepared by techniques such as smoking, curing, salting and/or with the addition of chemical agents, should be consumed in moderation, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Since roast beef falls into the processed meat category, it’s best to enjoy this lunch on an every-so-often basis. “If you want to eat this meal more regularly, consider turning it into a ‘graze board’ using strips of grilled chicken breast instead of roast beef,” suggests Blatner. “Then you can munch on ingredients separately instead of wrapping them up.”

Whether or not you wrap it up, this high-protein lunch is a great option for those on a variety of meal plans, from low-carb or keto to gluten- or grain-free, says Blatner. Plus, it’s easy to modify. “To round this dish out, add about eight brown rice and seed crackers to your plate. Want to cut back on cheese? Swap in olives instead.” It all works.

5. Vegan Black Bean Sandwich with Slaw

Black beans are the star player in this yummy sandwich.
  • Calories: 416
  • Fat: 9 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 66 grams
  • Protein: 17 grams

Move over, classic coleslaw. This veggie-forward sandwich gets its satisfying crunch from a nutrient-rich cabbage slaw that’s vegan-friendly. The good-for-you condiment delivers a tangy flavor thanks to ingredients like red wine vinegar and whole-grain mustard.

“The black beans in this sandwich are a great source of plant protein and fiber, both nutrients shown to support good health,” adds English. “And cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that contains phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.”

Looking for other meatless sandwich ideas? “There are so many delicious plant-based sandwich stuffer options,” says English. “I love to make an eggless salad with crumbled tofu, ‘tuna salad’ made from garbanzo beans and ‘TLTs’ using tempeh bacon.”

6. Rainbow Collard Wrap

Who needs salad when you can have a low-calorie lunch this colorful?
  • Calories: 337
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 21 grams
  • Protein: 32 grams

The more (natural) colors on your plate, the better. Fortunately, this nutrient-dense lunch is full of healthy hues. “This recipe is mostly made of colorful vegetables, so it’s anti-inflammatory and packed with disease-fighting antioxidants,” says Blatner. “It’s basically like eating the rainbow.”

Collard greens are a great swap for traditional wraps thanks to their high vitamin C content and low-calorie profile. A cup and a half of collard greens delivers 50 percent of the daily value of vitamin C and just 25 calories, per the USDA.

If you’re looking to add a little more to this lunch, Blatner recommends throwing a half cup of whole grains, like brown rice, into the wrap for a hit of complex carbs and extra fiber.

7. Vegan 3-Layer Mexican Dip in a Jar

This low-calorie lunch is like a fiesta in a jar.
  • Calories: 333
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 47 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams

Is it just us, or does eating out of a jar make meals feel more fun? We love that this vegan three-layer Mexican dip can be packed in a jar and eaten on the go. “This easy, tasty option packs healthy fat from the avocado and plant protein from the beans, making it a great balanced snack option,” says English.

At less than 350 calories, this dip isn’t quite a complete lunch. “If you’re looking to make this more of a meal, I’d suggest making it into tacos with whole-wheat or corn tortillas as opposed to tortilla chips, which can be higher in salt,” says English.

Looking for something on the warmer side? We also love this Keto Tortilla Soup.

8. Cauliflower “Grilled Cheese” Sandwich

This low-calorie lunch is a healthier twist on grilled cheese.
  • Calories: 306
  • Fat: 24 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Protein: 15 grams

If you’re on board with the keto craze, you need this cauliflower “grilled cheese” in your life. The innovative sandwich taps cauliflower “bread” (made from cauli, seeds and eggs) instead of traditional bread to keep things low-carb and keto-friendly. The whole sandwich serves up just 8 grams of carbohydrates, about the same amount as one-third of a medium-sized apple.

If making faux bread from cauliflower feels like a lot of work, we don’t blame you. Instead, simply try adding the versatile veggie to other meals. A few ideas: “Use cauliflower instead of rice to make a healthy fried rice with chicken or shrimp, or replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower as a side with grilled salmon,” suggests Blatner.

Craving pizza? Create a low-carb crust using cauliflower instead of white flour. Says Blatner, “Pair it with an Italian side salad and you’ve got yourself your next pizza party!” We’ll just be here… waiting on our invite.

Work Lunches Under 500 Calories That Take Less Than 15 Minutes To Make

healthy lunch recipes, sandwich

If there’s one part of the work day we always look forward to (apart from going home and snuggling up on the couch, of course) it’s lunch time. You get to stretch your legs, rest your eyes, get some fresh air and most importantly, eat! But unless you were organised enough to do Sunday food prep that week, lunch time is right around the time decision fatigue kicks in. You realise you have NFI what you actually feel like eating, so you panic and order a less-than-appetising salad… or a burger bigger than your head that immediately puts you into a carb coma!
As it turns out, there is a middle ground with work lunches that taste great but don’t contain your entire daily calorie allowance. And you won’t even have to do any meal prep — well not really, anyway. As they’re ready in less than 15 minutes, you can quickly make them at night before you go to work or in the morning. They’re also super cheap, so they’ll increase the size of your wallet, not your waistband.
Scroll through the gallery for our favourite lunch recipes under 500 calories per serve, that take less than 15 minutes to make.

Southwestern Veggie Hummus Wraps

work lunches

This veggie-packed wrap is the perfect grab-and-go option, taking only 10 minutes to make!
See the recipe here.

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili

work lunches

The slow-cooker does all the heavy lifting in this low-cal comfort food from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Hawaiian BBQ Chicken Wrap

work lunches

This delicious tropical-inspired wrap is the perfect way to use your leftover chicken from last night’s dinner.

Chickpea Spinach Salad

work lunches

This vegetarian-friendly salad is as quick and easy as they come, taking just 7 minutes to make!
Check out the recipe.

Black Bean Corn Quesadillas

work lunches

Cheesy and easy is the name of the game with this quick Mexican dish.
Learn to make it here.

Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Chicken

work lunches

Make your workmates jealous with this gourmet-looking (but actually super quick and easy) lunch.
See the recipe.

15 Minute Lo Mein

work lunches

This stir-fry recipe from Pinch of Yum puts a healthier spin on a Chinese takeaway classic.
Check out the recipe.

Spaghetti Carbonara

This quick, yummy and relatively low-calorie (approx 375 per serving) pasta dish couldn’t be further from your sad desk salad.
Learn to make it here.

Vegan Red Lentil Dal

work lunches

Low calorie, cheap and speedy — this dal recipe ticks all the right boxes, whether you’re vegan or not!

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