Nutrition

5 Dietitian-Recommended Lunch Ideas You Can Prep Ahead of Time

3 min read

Not sure what to make for lunch? Consider yourself covered with these 5 healthy lunch ideas, approved by dietitians.
Not sure what to make for lunch? Consider yourself covered with these 5 healthy lunch ideas, approved by dietitians.

Essential Takeaways

  • Finding healthy meal inspiration during busy weekdays can be a challenge—which is why we asked two dietitians to reveal their favorite nutritious lunches.
  • Best of all, these recipes all have convenience in mind.

Sure, breakfast gets all the glory for being the “most important” meal. But when it comes to getting us through a busy day, lunch deserves some credit, too. “Having consistent meals throughout the day helps provide us with the necessary energy to go about our daily activities,” says registered dietitian Brittany Modell, MS, RD, CDN. A balanced lunch, she adds, ideally includes a mix of quality protein, carbs, and healthy fats. *

That said, one of the main reasons a nutritious lunch might get overlooked is sheer convenience—as we’re powering through the work week, there might be little room to prepare a meal mid-day. That’s why we tapped two RDs to share their go-to healthy lunches for those days when they’re strapped for time. Browse their healthy picks below, which include make-ahead options—just whip up your favorites on a Sunday for a week’s worth of meals. (Future you will thank you.)

Lentil soup

Craving something warm and cozy? Lentil soup makes an ideal vegan lunch that will keep you satiated until dinner and requires minimal prep time. “Beans and lentils are an excellent source of protein and fiber, which will help you stay fuller for longer,” Modell says. Case in point: One cup of beans provides roughly 15 grams of protein and around 15 grams of fiber. *

Add more color, nutrients, and flavor to your lentil soup with spices and veggies such as kale, spinach, carrots, and onions. If you’re pressed for time, grabbing a canned or boxed soup is also an option. Modell recommends opting for reduced-sodium or low sodium if you do.

If you’re feeling ambitious, whip up a side salad: Toss some greens such as arugula into a bowl along with your favorite veggies (i.e., bell peppers, radishes, or butternut squash), and dress it with a balsamic vinaigrette you can make yourself with a little olive oil.

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Greek salmon pita sandwich

Sandwiches are a fail-safe option for good reason: They’re customizable and easy to put together. Modell recommends forgetting the standard egg salad sandwich and taking it up a notch instead with a Greek salmon pita iteration. “Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids,” she says. “This sandwich is also filled with fiber and protein.”*

To copy her recipe, combine drained canned sockeye salmon with two tablespoons of Greek yogurt, chopped cucumber, finely chopped red onion, cherries, feta cheese, and fresh dill. Then place the salad mix inside a whole-wheat pita bread (you can also opt for a gluten-free option) along with two lettuce leaves and voila. Lunch is served.

Eggs with avocado toast

Eggs and avocado toast aren’t just reserved for breakfast—together, they also make a nutritious and filling lunch. “Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vitamins,” Modell says. They’re also versatile, so take your pick between poached, hard-boiled, and sunnyside-up. To ensure you also get your healthy fats and fiber in, Modell suggests topping sprouted whole-wheat toast with avocado and sprinkling some sea salt or red pepper flakes over it for an extra punch.*

Veggie and protein bowl

A nourishing bowl of chicken and veggies will certainly help provide the fuel you need to get through a busy day. (Vegan? Just nix the chicken and sub in tofu or tempeh instead.) Integrative and functional registered dietician nutritionist Stephanie Paver, MS, RD, CSO, CNSC, recommends cooking chicken breasts in the oven for 30 minutes at 375ºF. About halfway through, throw in chopped cauliflower florets to roast. While those are cooking, massage some kale with lemon juice and avocado oil. Once everything is ready, plate it all together along with avocado slices. You can also add some sweet potatoes on the side for some healthy carbs.*

This fiber-filled, warm bowl also provides a good source of folate, an essential nutrient that supports brain health and red blood cell formation.*

Stir-fry with brown rice

“Stir-frying is a quick and simple way to cook meat (or meat alternatives) and vegetables that only requires a hot pan, a small amount of oil, and a little stirring,” Paver says. (Read: You can whip it up quickly between Zoom calls.) By using brown rice instead of white rice, she adds, you also get more nutrients such as selenium, manganese, magnesium, and fiber.

To make this easy lunch, mix tamari, garlic, ginger, and maple syrup in a jar. Put on a lid and shake well. Then add coconut oil, beef or tofu, and yellow onion to a large frying pan and saute for three to five minutes over medium heat. Next, toss in celery, snap peas, and mushrooms and saute for another five minutes before drizzling in your sauce. Give it all a good mix and then plate this flavorful lunch dish with sesame seeds and a scoop of brown rice. Pro tip: Make the brown in an Instant Pot to save yourself more time.

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