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
Easy Healthy Lunch Ideas for Weight Loss
My packable lunches are a slight deviation from the weight loss meals I ate all summer (you can see those healthy meals here!). These lunches are more in line with my plate diet, except instead of splitting the grains and fruits into their own category, I’ve been eating 1/4 of the meal carbs- so I choose between a grain or a fruit).
For weight loss, I’ve found the Macro plate ideal with 1/2 your meal from veggies. Then for weight maintenance, I use the Myplate meal plan method, and get some extra carbs!
Instead, I’ve been using some meal prep lunch containers I found at Walmart (super cheap, only $3.46 for 5 of them). These have had the best seal, and my dressing doesn’t leak to the other compartments. (here’s more portioned lunch boxes here)
If you don’t have a Walmart close by, I also got these red containers on Amazon. However, I was not as impressed with these. The dressing does leak to the other compartment. If you don’t have liquids in here, these will work ok.
I started grad school this fall and I’ve been packing my lunch too take to school and sharing it on my stories.
But, just in case you missed it, here’s a recap of the meals I’ve taken to school so far.
Healthy Lunch #1
- Ground turkey with mustard
- White rice
- Cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and bolthouse dressing
Weight Loss Lunch #2
- Ground turkey with avocado
- Bell peppers, cucumbers, and Bolthouse dressing
Healthy Lunch #3
- Chicken breast with BBQ Sauce
- Russet Potato
- Cucumbers, broccoli, pepper, and carrots
Healthy Lunch #4
- Protein: Chicken breasts
- Carbs: Apples
- Veggies: Carrots, cucumber, and Bolthouse dressing
Healthy Lunch #5
- Protein: Ground turkey with BBQ sauce and cheese
- Carbs: Rice with butter flavored cooking spray.
- Veggies: Roasted Peppers, onions, broccoli
Healthy Lunch #6
- Protein: Chicken breasts
- Carbs: Potatoes
- Veggies: Green salad, carrots, and Bolthouse dressing
Healthy lunch ideas for weight loss
Taking your own lunch to work is great for weight loss as well as the bank account. These lunches, all hand-picked by our expert nutritionist, are nutritionally balanced with lean protein, legumes, wholegrains and vegies and are between 300 to 400 calories.
1Healthy lunchbox frittata
Tick all the boxes with this vegetarian, low calorie, low fat, gluten free frittata.
2Chopped chicken and broccoli salad
Whip up this chopped chicken salad in no time – it’s perfect for lunch al desko.
3Chicken, mustard, watercress and roasted capsicum sandwich
This lunch box legend comes together in just five minutes.
4Lentil, shredded spinach and poached chicken salad
For a wholesome lunch, try this gluten-free poached chicken salad, with a zesty mustard dressing.
5Chicken, lentil and feta salad with chilli lime dressing
Ready in 10 minutes, this healthy chicken, lentil and feta salad is perfect for work lunches or the school lunchbox. It’s also gluten free and low in fat and calories.
Packed with healthy greens, this easy frittata is topped with a sweet roast capsicum salsa.
7Chargrilled lamb and vegie sandwich
Succulent lamb, spicy hummus and thin zucchini ribbons… what’s not to love about this low-cal sandwich?
8Vegan pasta nourish bowl
Loaded with vegies, wholemeal pasta and tofu, this healthy vegetarian pasta is a perfect low-calorie lunch or dinner.
9Black bean, avocado and lettuce wraps
These quick, no-cook tacos are the perfect easy lunch. Did we mention they’re vegan, too?
10Pasta salad with lentils, pesto & beans
A fantastic food to include in vegetarian diets, lentils are a great source of protein.
Rules to Follow for Healthy Lunches
Whether you want to eat lunches to lose weight or not, it’s important that your meals are nutritious and have a balance of macronutrients.
Here are some general guidelines to follow when it comes to eating healthy lunches.
Cut down on processed foods
There’s nothing wrong with eating processed foods once in a while but for optimum health, it’s best prioritise unprocessed foods if you can. This means choosing to fill half your plate with vegetables and wholegrains for the majority of your lunches.
Cover all your macronutrients
Ensure that you have a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats on your plate.
As each of these macros perform a different role in your body, having a bit of each for your lunch will mean optimal results for your health.
Protein, which is the building blocks for muscle, will help you recover from workouts and rebuild your muscle so you can improve your size and strength. For the average adult, you should allocate 10-35% of your total energy intake. This means that if your total energy intake is 2000 calories, you need a minimum of 200 of those calories to come from protein.
Carbohydrates are what gives us energy so you’ll be able to get through the rest of your day or workout. Healthy fats keep you satiated for longer, lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. 45-65 percent of your total calories should be carbohydrates while fats should be 20-35 percent.
Include fiber in your meals
Another component that you should consider when choosing what to eat for lunch is fiber content.
Fiber helps maintain your digestive system. It not only regulates bowel movements but your blood sugar levels as well, assisting in avoiding insulin spikes, which can cause energy highs and lows.
In addition, it also assists with satiety so you’ll feel full much sooner in your meal as well as long after.
Looking for advice on how to eat if you
8 Low Calorie Lunch Ideas For Weight Loss
Now we know what to look for in a healthy lunch, here are 8 ideas to get you started.
We’ve taken your favorite meals and made some changes so that you can still enjoy the same food but just with a lower calorie count—great for those with weight loss as their goal.
But don’t worry, we’ve covered the macronutrients as well and you can easily add your favorite vegetables to it, so you can make it your own.
1. Lettuce Tacos
Approximate calories: 443
Lettuce tacos are a great alternative to your typical taco meal and it’s never boring. You can mix up the ingredient list according to whatever you’re feeling like that day, as well as to match any dietary preferences that you may have, whether that’s vegetarian or vegan or gluten free.
Not to mention, you can fit lots of veggies into your meal so you know you’re getting your greens in.
For this post, we’re going to show you a lettuce taco breakdown with ground beef, but you can always make switches as you prefer.
We have options below to make it vegan and/or vegetarian.
|3 oz||Ground beef||200|
|1 oz||Bell pepper||6|
|1-2 tbsp||Tomato salsa||10|
|2 oz||Cheddar cheese||200|
Make it vegan and/or vegetarian: Remove the ground beef and replace it with vegan/vegetarian beef or use black beans instead. Do the same with the cheese.
2. Pita Pizzas
Approximate calories: 393
Pizzas are always a great idea but most people don’t think that they’re an ideal lunch if you’re trying to lose weight.
But if you swap out your classic dough with a pita bread, you’re cutting calories without compromising on taste, so you can still get your pizza fix whenever those lunchtime cravings hit.
The best thing about it is that you can add whatever toppings you like.
|1||Large pita bread||170|
|1 oz||Pizza sauce||15|
|1 oz||Fat-free mozzarella||43|
|3 oz||Cooked chicken breast||128|
Make it vegan and/or vegetarian: Use soy protein like vegan chicken instead of chicken breast and use vegan cheese or omit it altogether.
3. Summer Rolls
Approximate calories: 474
Summer rolls are a light, refreshing yet filling healthy lunch idea for weight loss. They can be catered to your dietary preferences while still ensuring that you will be satiated and satisfied.
The rice paper won’t leave you feeling too heavy so you won’t hit that afternoon slump. The rolls can be filled with lots of vegetables and the protein of your choice, topped up with a yummy peanut sweet hoisin sauce.
|2 oz||Shredded lettuce||7|
|2 tbsp||Peanut butter||188|
|1||Sweet hoisin sauce||70|
Make it vegan and/or vegetarian: Tofu goes really well in the rice paper rolls as a vegan/vegetarian version instead of the shrimp.
4. Buddha Bowl
Approximate calories: 475
The Buddha Bowl is another healthy lunch idea for weight loss. Not only is it full of nutrients but it’s versatile so you can change it up every day and never get bored of it.
The key components of this dish is a carbohydrate and protein of your choosing, lots of vegetables and salad, and a delicious sauce to tie it all together.
|1||Shredded red cabbage||9|
5. Zoodle Pasta
Approximate calories: 500
An easy way to take away calories from your lunch meals so that you can stick to your calorie deficit, is to replace some of the carbs with alternate options.
One way to do this is to swap out pasta with zucchini noodles, better known as zoodles.
However, you don’t have to completely take away all the pasta and make it a dish completely made of zoodles.
Instead, just half the portion of pasta and replace that half with zoodles. That way, you can get your pasta fix while still cutting calories without having to compromise on taste.
|3.5 oz||Cooked angel hair pasta||157|
|2 oz||Cherry tomato||9|
|1 tsp||Olive oil||40|
Make it vegan and/or vegetarian: Double-check the ingredients of your angel hair pasta and use vegan-friendly alternatives if it contains egg. Also, take out the shrimp and replace it with your favorite plant-based protein.