What To Eat For Lunch On A Diet

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What To Eat For Lunch On A Diet

These lunch foods will help power you through the afternoon while slimming you down.

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

Avocado

tomato avocado cheese sandwich

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.

Whole Grains

Vegan Grain Bowl

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.

Romaine Lettuce

Green Goddess Salad with Chicken
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.

Apple

chicken apple kale wraps

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

Peanut Butter & Jelly Smoothie

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.

1. Greek Quinoa Salad

greek quinoa salad

Calories (per serving): 341

This Greek salad features chickpeas, cucumber, olives, and fresh herbs for a super flavorful and fiber-filled lunch.

It’s got protein courtesy of chickpeas, and the quinoa can be whipped up in an Instant Pot. It’s also vegan.

2. Instant Pot Pakistani Chana Dal

instant pot pakistani chana dal

Calories: 238

This gluten-free Pakistani Chana Dal (split chickpea) is vegetarian and only takes 15 minutes to make, and it’s a flavor explosion thanks to spices like cumin, ginger, and turmeric. Throw the ingredients in an Instant Pot and enjoy.

kale and brussels sprout salad

Calories: 201

This kale and Brussels sprout salad is anything but boring. It’s filled with shredded kale and sprouts, cranberries, marinated onions, almonds, and pecorino cheese. It takes just 20 minutes to make, and it can keep in the fridge for two to three days after making.

4. Creamy Carrot-Tomato Soup

creamy carrot tomato soup

Calories: 219

This vegan tomato and carrot soup is dairy-free and paleo. It has a base of creamy coconut milk and almond butter, plus tons of fresh herbs, lime, and red pepper flakes.

5. Egg Roll In A Bowl

egg roll in a bowl

Calories: 281

This recipe takes all the good fillings of a classic egg roll and puts them in a fresh and healthy bowl, featuring juicy meat or tofu, fresh ginger and garlic, soy sauce, and tons of thin strips of fresh veggies. And it tastes phenomenal reheated too.

6. Chicken Tortilla Soup

chicken tortilla soup
Calories: 142

This authentic chicken tortilla soup is seasoned with tomato and pasilla pepper, plus loads of sautéed veggies that can be topped with baked tortilla strips, avocado, panela cheese, chopped cilantro, and a dash of fresh lime juice.

7. Vegan Spinach And Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

vegan spinach and sun dried tomato pasta

Calories: 471

This creamy vegan pasta is budget- and time-friendly—it takes just 20 minutes to make. It features garlic, spinach, and basil, with the flavor punch of sun-dried tomatoes. You can store it up to five days in the fridge, so it’s a great option for a full week of lunches.

whole30 chicken salad

Calories: 252

This protein-packed chicken salad is Whole30- and keto-friendly. It’s made with mayo, Dijon mustard, celery, and grapes for great crunch and flavor. It keeps for three to five days, and you can whip it up in just 10 minutes.

9. Slow Cooker Yellow Chicken Curry

slow cooker yellow chicken curry

Calories: 357

This hearty chicken curry is made with a base of coconut milk, peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. It has a kick thanks to cayenne pepper and is also full of veggies. You can freeze this for up to two months, so this big batch is perfect for storage.

10. Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

lettuce wraps

Calories: 180

These lettuce wraps spare you the calories but pack the crunch. They’re made with veggies like chopped carrots, celery, and water chestnuts. The protein in these is chicken, but you can sub in pork, shrimp, or a combo.

11. Venezuelan Arepas

venezuelan arepas

Calories (no filling): 110

Arepas are drool-worthy cornmeal pockets that you can fill with favorite vegan dishes, writes Michelle, the creator of this recipe and who is behind the Healthier Steps recipe site.

12. Garlic Chili Chickpea Patties

chickpea patty

If a chickpea patty sounds meh to you, you haven’t tried this one. It’s made with a bunch of flavor enhancers, like garlic chili sauce, peanut butter, and cumin. Make several of these and freeze them for a quick and easy weekday lunch.

13. Low-Carb Vegan Tuna Salad

tuna salad

Calories: 347

Is there anything chickpeas can’t do? In this recipe, you’ll be mashing them up until their consistency looks similar to that of tuna’s. Once you dress the vegan tuna up, you’ll lay it on some lettuce to keep this recipe low-carb.

14. Chinese Garlic Tofu Stir Fry

stir fry

Calories: 315

You’re going to drool over the sticky soy garlic sauce coating the tofu in this dish, except it doesn’t really contain soy—it’s made with coconut aminos. Pair the tofu with veggies or rice to complete your meal.

What Diet Experts Eat for Lunch

Pair Protein with Fiber

“I make a turkey wrap using a whole-wheat, 150-calorie Whole Foods wrap and stuff it with Applegate Farms turkey, organic spinach and honey mustard. Sometimes I use a sprinkle of dried cranberries. Wrap it up and it’s ready to eat on the go. The high-fiber wrap and protein from the turkey is the perfect combo to slow digestion and keep me fuller longer until my 3 or 4pm snack. I pair it with a bag of veggies, and it’s really satisfying.” — Laura Burak MS, RD, CDN, Laura Burak Nutrition

“I make a tuna to-go wrap: 1 whole-wheat tortilla, 2 Laughing Cow cheeses or 1 tablespoon of spicy brown mustard, 1-2 tuna packets (light, in water), plus a green — usually a mix of spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, or kale for added crunch. This wrap works perfectly for those who don’t want to heat anything up and it won’t require any refrigeration if you decide to eliminate the Laughing Cow cheese. Not only is this lunch quick, but you won’t quickly be hungry an hour later because it contains an appropriate amount of protein and a bit of fiber depending on the tortilla.” — Jim White, owner, Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios

Mind Your Wraps

Sometimes I order lettuce wraps from local delis in my area. I get turkey, avocado, tomato and honey mustard on the side so I can dip my bites. You save all the calories from those enormous deli wraps, which can easily be 300-500 calories. Wraps are deceiving. I tell my clients that if you take the wrap and make it into a ball, it’s the size of a big bagel or the carb and calorie equivalent of about 4 or 5 slices of bread.” — Laura Burak MS, RD, CDN

Find a Favorite

“One of my favorite go-to lunches is an arugula and quinoa salad topped with chicken or shrimp and raw almonds. Sometimes I eat it plain, sometimes I add salsa or a drizzle of hazelnut oil. I love this lunch because it’s easy to whip together from some of my staple kitchen ingredients or from my leftovers. These ingredients create a balanced, nourishing plate that will help to provide sustained energy, satiety and aid in long-term health. It’s quick to assemble and the main ingredients that need to be cooked, like the quinoa and chicken/shrimp, can be cooked in advance and eaten chilled.” — Meg Mangano, RDN, CSSD, CLT, Rejoov Wellness

“I love bringing a fresh salad to work. You can make a salad every day and it won’t get boring, as long as you change the ingredients. Salads with the right balance of nutrients will prevent you from feeling hungry and will keep you satisfied until your day is over. It’s healthier to consume more protein than fat; it’s essential that you consume some fat, though. You want to make sure that you consume a variety of proteins and healthy fats, even in your salads. I do this by adding that chicken or cheese to my salad mix and avocado or olive oil-based dressing. You can even add this to sandwiches or wraps if you choose to consume this during your lunchtime.” — Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, Leah Kaufman Nutrition

Make Eggs Any Time

“I’m fortunate to be able to work and eat lunch at home a few times a week, so I have some flexibility. My go-to lunch at home: A vegetable omelet with salad greens on the side. The vegetables change depending on what I have on hand, but I often include mushrooms, spinach and onions. The protein from the eggs and the fiber from the vegetables satisfy hunger and help me get through the rest of the day. Plus, there’s very little clean up.” — Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, owner, Marisa Moore Nutrition

Make Protein a Priority

I also make Proats: ½ cup rolled old-fashioned oatmeal, 1 scoop of protein powder and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. For those who love breakfast or just need a satisfying lunch with a slightly sweeter taste, proats are an absolute lifesaver. This meal contains a minimum of 5 grams of dietary fiber, a great balance of unsaturated fats and slow-digesting carbohydrates to give you lasting energy before your next meal. It can be quickly assembled if you pre-portion your oatmeal, or you can purchase packaged pre-portioned rolled oatmeal from some grocery stores. Be sure to grab the rolled—not the instant—to reap all the benefits of the full, whole oat grain.” — Jim White, owner, Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios

“If I buy lunch out, I will usually enjoy a salad from a fast-casual chain that specializes in them. In that salad, I’ll always put a lean protein–usually a hardboiled egg, tofu, or chicken–and a fat such as avocado. Then I load up the veggies and use fresh lemon and pepper for my dressing. Grains are sometimes present, but I always skip the “white” stuff. Regardless of where I go, my lunch always consists of lean or vegan protein and veggies with a heart-healthy fat.” — Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, Real Nutrition NYC

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