What to make for lunch vegetarian ideas are practical, easy and delicious lunches. These vegan recipes can be prepared in little time and they should be loved by the whole family too.
If you love the Paleo lifestyle but can’t afford to give up grains, this article is for you! We’ve put together a collection of delicious vegetarian lunch recipes — all of which are gluten-free, grain-free and totally Paleo. So read on for some great suggestions for what to make for lunch!
I’ve tried all sorts of ways to plan out my meals for the week. Many have fallen short of my expectations. As a vegetarian, breakfast, lunch and snacks especially can be tricky. I always seem to forget what ingredients I have on hand and stressing about finding something new to make with them seems like a pain I don’t want to keep repeating. So I started to plan out my meals for the week by using a weekly planner… which failed miserably because I never looked at it. I got sick of this cycle being repeated, so earlier this year I devised a new strategy: my Vegetarian Meal Planner!
What To Make For Lunch Vegetarian
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No-Cook Black Bean Salad
A classic black bean salad is a must for picnics and potlucks. This vegan version gets its creaminess from blended avocado. Any mix of salad greens will work well, but try arugula if you want to give this hearty salad a peppery kick.
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Veggie & Hummus Sandwich
This mile-high vegetable and hummus sandwich makes the perfect heart-healthy vegetarian lunch to go. Mix it up with different flavors of hummus and different types of vegetables depending on your mood.
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White Bean & Veggie Salad
This meatless main-dish salad combines creamy, satisfying white beans and avocado. Try mixing it up with different seasonal vegetables.
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Whole-Wheat Veggie Wrap
Use whichever veggies you have on hand to fill up this veggie wrap. The avocado and hummus help hold the wrap together–and provide heart-healthy fat and fiber.
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Tomato Salad with Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette
Seek out several varieties of heirloom tomatoes for this simple salad. Sweeter and juicier than conventional tomatoes, they add the perfect pop of color.
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White Bean & Avocado Toast
Mashed avocado and white beans make for a fiber-rich and creamy topping, the perfect partner for a crispy slice of toast. Try it for a quick breakfast or snack.
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Spinach & Strawberry Salad With Poppy Seed Dressing
Homemade poppy seed dressing pairs beautifully with tender spinach, crunchy almonds and juicy berries for a fantastically refreshing and easy spring salad. To make ahead, whisk dressing, combine salad ingredients and store separately. Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving. To make it a complete meal, top with grilled chicken or shrimp.
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Fruit & Cheese Bistro Lunch Box
This fruit, cheese and cracker box inspired by Starbucks’ bistro boxes is a fun and healthy alternative to your standard sandwich. It’s the perfect personal-size cheese plate to pack for a work lunch or a picnic in the park.
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Guacamole Chopped Salad
All of the delicious guacamole flavors you love in a healthy veggie-packed salad. Want to pump up the protein? Add leftover roast chicken or sautéed shrimp. Serve with tortilla chips on the side (or crumbled over the top) to take it up a notch.
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Tomato, Cucumber & White-Bean Salad With Basil Vinaigrette
This no-cook bean salad is a delicious way to use summer’s best cherry or grape tomatoes and juicy cucumbers for a light dinner or lunch. Fresh basil elevates an easy vinaigrette recipe that dresses up this simple salad into something extraordinary.
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Creamy Avocado & White Bean Wrap
White beans mashed with ripe avocado and blended with sharp Cheddar and onion makes an incredibly rich, flavorful filling for this wrap. The tangy, spicy slaw adds crunch. A pinch (or more) of ground chipotle pepper and an extra dash of cider vinegar can be used in place of the canned chipotles in adobo sauce. Wrap these up to take as a healthy and portable lunch for work.
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Green Salad with Pita Bread & Hummus
Elevate hummus and pita by piling your plate high with cucumbers, carrots and mixed greens! Just a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil is all it takes to dress it up.
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Pineapple & Avocado Salad
This refreshing, simple Cuban salad recipe captures the flavors of the tropics. Serve alongside spiced chicken or pork, with rice and beans.
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Heirloom Tomato Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
For this fast salad recipe, we top summer’s ripest tomatoes with a bold tomato-based dressing for good measure. Serve as a light lunch with whole-grain toast or pair with grilled steak and chicken for dinner.
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White Bean & Avocado Sandwich
White beans mash seamlessly into a creamy protein-packed spread for a satisfying healthy sandwich that makes for an easy lunch or dinner. Mix it up by trying it with canned chickpeas or black beans. This vegetarian sandwich recipe is also a fiber superstar: avocado, beans, greens and whole-wheat bread team up to give it 15 grams of fiber, more than half of what most women should aim for in a day.
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Stacked Veggie Sandwiches with Pimiento Cheese
These packable make-ahead bagel thin sandwiches are layered with tomato, zucchini, and a creamy cheese and pimiento pepper spread. Heading out for a picnic? Double or triple the recipe to make enough for four or six guests.
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Traditional Greek Salad
Called horiatiki, this lettuce-free salad made up of tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, olives and feta is one of the most popular Greek dishes. It is traditionally served with bread, not pita.
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Not all gazpachos are red. In this healthy white gazpacho recipe, we use cucumbers, yellow bell pepper and unsweetened almond milk for more savory results.
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Edamame Hummus Wrap
Made with protein-rich edamame instead of chickpeas, this easy hummus recipe is the perfect vegetarian filling for a grab-and-go wrap. Or double the recipe and use the hummus for a healthy snack with cut-up vegetables.
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PB&J Bistro Lunch Box
Inspired by Starbucks’ bistro boxes, this peanut butter and jelly lunch will be loved by kids and adults alike. Accompanied by sandwich sides including a yogurt parfait, fruit, veggies and popcorn, this healthy packable lunch will keep you full until dinner.
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Pesto & White Bean Stuffed Tomato
This simple 3-ingredient recipe is perfect for a light lunch or snack. Showcasing the midsummer flavors of fresh tomatoes and pesto, this recipe is delicious, nutritious and ready in just five minutes.
The Vegetarian Diet: A Beginner’s Guide And Meal Plan
The vegetarian diet has gained widespread popularity in recent years.
Some studies estimate that vegetarians account for up to 18% of the global population (1).
Apart from the ethical and environmental benefits of cutting meat from your diet, a well-planned vegetarian diet may also reduce your risk of chronic disease, support weight loss and improve the quality of your diet.
This article provides a beginner’s guide to the vegetarian diet, including a sample meal plan for one week.
What Is a Vegetarian Diet?
The vegetarian diet involves abstaining from eating meat, fish and poultry.
People often adopt a vegetarian diet for religious or personal reasons, as well as ethical issues, such as animal rights.
Others decide to become vegetarian for environmental reasons, as livestock production increases greenhouse gas emissions, contributes to climate change and requires large amounts of water, energy and natural resources.
There are several forms of vegetarianism, each of which differs in their restrictions.
The most common types include:
- Lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish and poultry but allows eggs and dairy products.
- Lacto-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and eggs but allows dairy products.
- Ovo-vegetarian diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry and dairy products but allows eggs.
- Pescetarian diet: Eliminates meat and poultry but allows fish and sometimes eggs and dairy products.
- Vegan diet: Eliminates meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products, as well as other animal-derived products, such as honey.
- Flexitarian diet: A mostly vegetarian diet that incorporates occasional meat, fish or poultry.
SummaryMost people who follow a vegetarian diet don’t eat meat, fish or poultry. Other variations involve the inclusion or exclusion of eggs, dairy and other animal products.
Vegetarian diets are associated with a number of health benefits.
In fact, studies show that vegetarians tend to have better diet quality than meat-eaters and a higher intake of important nutrients like fiber, vitamin C, vitamin E and magnesium.
A vegetarian diet may provide several other health boosts as well.
May Enhance Weight Loss
Switching to a vegetarian diet can be an effective strategy if you’re looking to lose weight.
In fact, one review of 12 studies noted that vegetarians, on average, experienced 4.5 more pounds (2 kg) of weight loss over 18 weeks than non-vegetarians.
Similarly, a six-month study in 74 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that vegetarian diets were nearly twice as effective at reducing body weight than low-calorie diets.
Plus, a study in nearly 61,000 adults showed that vegetarians tend to have a lower body mass index (BMI) than omnivores — BMI being a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.
May Reduce Cancer Risk
Some research suggests that a vegetarian diet may be linked to a lower risk of cancer — including those of the breast, colon, rectum and stomach.
However, current research is limited to observational studies, which cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Keep in mind that some studies have turned up inconsistent findings .
Therefore, more research is needed to understand how vegetarianism may impact cancer risk.
May Stabilize Blood Sugar
Several studies indicate that vegetarian diets may help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
For instance, one review of six studies linked vegetarianism to improved blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
Vegetarian diets may also prevent diabetes by stabilizing blood sugar levels in the long term.
According to one study in 2,918 people, switching from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian diet was associated with a 53% reduced risk of diabetes over an average of five years.
Promotes Heart Health
Vegetarian diets reduce several heart disease risk factors to help keep your heart healthy and strong.
One study in 76 people tied vegetarian diets to lower levels of triglycerides, total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol — all of which are risk factors for heart disease when elevated.
Similarly, another recent study in 118 people found that a low-calorie vegetarian diet was more effective at reducing “bad” LDL cholesterol than a Mediterranean diet.
Other research indicates that vegetarianism may be associated with lower blood pressure levels. High blood pressure is another key risk factor for heart disease .
SummaryNot only do vegetarians tend to have a higher intake of several key nutrients, but vegetarianism has been associated with weight loss, reduced cancer risk, improved blood sugar and better heart health.
A well-rounded vegetarian diet can be healthy and nutritious.
However, it may also increase your risk of certain nutritional deficiencies.
Meat, poultry and fish supply a good amount of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as micronutrients like zinc, selenium, iron and vitamin B12 .
Other animal products like dairy and eggs also contain plenty of calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins .
When cutting meat or other animal products from your diet, it’s important to ensure you’re getting these essential nutrients from other sources.
Studies show that vegetarians are at a higher risk of protein, calcium, iron, iodine and vitamin B12 deficiencies.
A nutritional deficiency in these key micronutrients can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weakness, anemia, bone loss and thyroid issues
Including a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein sources and fortified foods is an easy way to ensure you’re getting appropriate nutrition.
Multivitamins and supplements are another option to quickly bump up your intake and compensate for potential deficiencies.
SummaryCutting out meat and animal-based products can increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies. A well-balanced diet — possibly alongside supplements — can help prevent deficiencies.
Foods To Eat
A vegetarian diet should include a diverse mix of fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and proteins.
To replace the protein provided by meat in your diet, include a variety of protein-rich plant foods like nuts, seeds, legumes, tempeh, tofu and seitan.
If you follow a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, eggs and dairy can also boost your protein intake.
Eating nutrient-dense whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains will supply a range of important vitamins and minerals to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet.
A few healthy foods to eat on a vegetarian diet are:
- Fruits: Apples, bananas, berries, oranges, melons, pears, peaches
- Vegetables: Leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, tomatoes, carrots
- Grains: Quinoa, barley, buckwheat, rice, oats
- Legumes: Lentils, beans, peas, chickpeas.
- Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, chestnuts
- Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia and hemp seeds
- Healthy fats: Olive oil, avocados
- Proteins: Tempeh, tofu, seitan, natto, nutritional yeast, spirulina, eggs, dairy products
SummaryA healthy vegetarian diet includes a variety of nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, healthy fats and plant-based proteins.
Foods To Avoid
There are many variations of vegetarianism, each with different restrictions.
Lacto-ovo vegetarianism, the most common type of vegetarian diet, involves eliminating all meat, poultry and fish.
Other types of vegetarians may also avoid foods like eggs and dairy.
A vegan diet is the most restrictive form of vegetarianism because it bars meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and any other animal products.
Depending on your needs and preferences, you may have to avoid the following foods on a vegetarian diet:
- Meat: Beef, veal and pork
- Poultry: Chicken and turkey
- Fish and shellfish: This restriction does not apply to pescetarians.
- Meat-based ingredients: Gelatin, lard, carmine, isinglass, oleic acid and suet
- Eggs: This restriction applies to vegans and lacto-vegetarians.
- Dairy products: This restriction on milk, yogurt and cheese applies to vegans and ovo-vegetarians.
- Other animal products: Vegans may choose to avoid honey, beeswax and pollen.
SummaryMost vegetarians avoid meat, poultry and fish. Certain variations of vegetarianism may also restrict eggs, dairy and other animal products.
Sample Meal Plan
To help get you started, here’s a one-week sample meal plan for a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet.
- Breakfast: Oatmeal with fruit and flaxseeds
- Lunch: Grilled veggie and hummus wrap with sweet potato fries
- Dinner: Tofu banh mi sandwich with pickled slaw
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with tomatoes, garlic and mushrooms
- Lunch: Zucchini boats stuffed with veggies and feta with tomato soup
- Dinner: Chickpea curry with basmati rice
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with chia seeds and berries
- Lunch: Farro salad with tomatoes, cucumber and feta with spiced lentil soup
- Dinner: Eggplant parmesan with a side salad
- Breakfast: Tofu scramble with sauteed peppers, onions and spinach
- Lunch: Burrito bowl with brown rice, beans, avocado, salsa and veggies
- Dinner: Vegetable paella with a side salad
- Breakfast: Whole-wheat toast with avocado and nutritional yeast
- Lunch: Marinated tofu pita pocket with Greek salad
- Dinner: Quinoa-black-bean meatballs with zucchini noodles
- Breakfast: Smoothie of kale, berries, bananas, nut butter and almond milk
- Lunch: Red lentil veggie burger with avocado salad
- Dinner: Flatbread with grilled garden vegetables and pesto
- Breakfast: Kale and sweet potato hash
- Lunch: Bell peppers stuffed with tempeh with zucchini fritters
- Dinner: Black bean tacos with cauliflower rice
SummaryAbove is a sample menu of what one week on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet may look like. This plan can be adjusted for other styles of vegetarianism as well.
The Bottom Line
Most vegetarians avoid meat, poultry and fish, though some also restrict eggs, dairy and other animal products.
A balanced vegetarian diet with nutritious foods like produce, grains, healthy fats and plant-based protein may offer several benefits, but it may increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies if poorly planned.