What should I look for in a healthy lunch?
When you’re in the middle of a busy workday, you want something that can energise and fuel you through the rest of the afternoon, without weighing you down. For me, the best healthy lunch ideas are those that can be prepared ahead of time, offering something that I know will make me feel good, while also being so delicious that my mouth waters just a little bit at the thought of it.
Look for balanced options that offer clear sources of protein and fibre in particular, as these will keep you fuller for longer. Also, pay attention to how you feel after you eat. Some people prefer lighter options like soups and salads, while others need something heavier, like a stew or curry, to keep them satisfied. Both are healthy ways to go, as long as you’re choosing nourishing options.
Healthy lunch recipes
Harissa chicken and white bean bake
This vibrant recipe sees chicken thighs slathered with harissa and cooked in a rich tomato sauce with white beans and olives – a healthy, high-protein meal. Make it for dinner and pack up the leftovers for a delicious lunch the next day! Chicken thighs offer selenium, choline and folate (folic acid), while white beans provide a great source of plant protein, fibre, magnesium, B6 and iron.
Butternut squash soup
Low in calories and gluten-free, check out this silky butternut squash soup for a satisfying veggie lunch.
Spelt and apple salad with crispy nuts and seeds
Pack plenty of crunch into this balanced vegetarian salad by sprinkling with a homemade nut and seed mix. This moreish lunch option is packed with healthy fats and fibre to fill you up without weighing you down. Spelt is a type of wheat that provides a great source of iron, protein and magnesium, while apples are rich in potassium, vitamin C and quercetin – a potent anti-inflammatory plant compound.
More of a meat person? Try our quinoa chicken salad.
Courgette and chimichurri salad
Fresh green beans and courgettes are tossed in a zingy chimichurri dressing in this healthy summer salad garnished with salty feta – it’s a flavour-packed lunch.
Red lentil dahl soup with broccoli tarka
Our vegan red lentil dahl soup is low in calories and rich in plant protein – the perfect midweek winter warmer! Lentils offer a wonderful source of inexpensive plant protein, while broccoli provides a healthy dose of fibre, as well as an alphabet of micronutrients, from iron, potassium and calcium, to B vitamins, folate (folic acid) and sulforaphane.
Check out our best healthy soup recipes for more inspiration.
Turkey kheema curry
Put turkey on the menu with this kheema matar (mince and pea curry) dish. Not only does it provide 43.2g protein per portion, but turkey also contains tryptophan – an amino acid that’s required to create serotonin in the body. Serotonin helps regulate mood, and is also involved in the creation of the sleep hormone melatonin – making this a great choice for the days where you’re feeling a bit more tired and stressed.
Orzo, bean and tuna salad
Turn storecupboard staples into this vibrant, nutritious orzo pasta salad with roasted red peppers and black olives. Tuna is a convenient source of lean protein, while olives provide heart-healthy fats, such as oleic acid. Make sure to cook your pasta ‘al dente’ (with bite), as this helps maintain more of the resistant starch – a type of fibre that’s good for your gut.
Easy to whizz together and packed with veggies, this is a fail-safe lunch best served with slices of crusty bread.
Smoked haddock and spinach rye toasts
This quick and easy dish makes a great savoury breakfast, or light but satisfying lunch. Rye bread is a good option for those watching their blood sugar levels thanks to its high fibre content. As it’s naturally lower in gluten, it can also be easier on the digestive system for anyone who might be sensitive. Topped with smoked haddock, eggs and spinach, you’ll also get a healthy 29.5g protein, plus iron and magnesium for just 273 calories.
More like this
Chipotle chicken lunch wrap
Wraps are the perfect quick and convenient option to take with you for a speedy workday lunch. These spicy chicken wraps are high in protein and low in calories and fat. Soured cream adds calcium, while fresh coriander provides a healthy dose of antioxidants – important for immune system, brain and skin health.
Grilled chicken wraps
Grilled chicken wraps, featuring a deliciously nutty pesto and cherry tomatoes, make for a quick and low-calorie lunch.
Quick grain bowls
If you’re in need of a speedy lunch box recipe that can be prepared in minutes, look no further than these easy grain bowls. Whether you’re looking for something vegan, vegetarian or even fishy, we have some great options. Grains offer a fibre-rich base, which is great for lunch as the wholegrains provide a healthy energy boost to sustain you until dinnertime. Each recipe provides a balanced source of healthy fats, protein and fibre to keep you satisfied.
Want even more options? Check out our healthy lunch box ideas for work.
Broccoli and roasted red pepper frittata
This broccoli and roasted red pepper frittata makes for a quick and nutritious midweek meal that’s delicious served hot or cold. It’s on the table in just 20 minutes, plus it’s low in calories and 5:2-diet-friendly. Eggs are a convenient and inexpensive source of protein and healthy fats, while the mix of fresh vegetables provides fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Sweet potato, red peppers and red lentils combine to make this winning veg-packed frittata, a nourishing dinner that serves up to six.
Vegan chilli non carne
Is it possible to resist this sweet and smoky chilli NON carne? This recipe is the epitome of healthy comfort food, providing plenty of satisfying plant protein and fibre from the kidney and black beans. The luscious, smoky tomato sauce is rich in skin-healthy antioxidants and potassium – important for replenishing your salt balance after a workout. This recipe freezes well, so it’s a great one to keep on hand for an easy, healthy meal on busier days.
Freekeh risotto with spring greens
Freekeh is made from cracked, roasted green wheat and offers a unique nuttiness and bite to this simple risotto. This is a great way to use up your greens for a special lunch when working from home. Asparagus is particularly high in insoluble fibre which supports healthy bowel movements, while fat-free quark adds creaminess and protein without the added calories.
Zero (konjac) noodles with poached miso ginger chicken broth
Would you believe that this lunch is just 147 calories per portion, but still offers a healthy 25.6g protein? Konjac noodles, also referred to as ‘zero’ or ‘shirataki’ noodles, are made from glucomannan – a type of fibre that comes from the root of the konjac plant. As these noodles are very low in calories and digestible carbohydrates, they’re a great way to add bulk to a low-calorie dish. Glucomannan can also absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, making it a popular choice for weight loss.
Grilled hake with chickpeas
Simply grilled hake, with a side of lemony paprika chickpeas. This dish is naturally gluten-free and provides just 0.5g salt per serving. It also offers 41.3g protein and almost 9g soluble and insoluble fibres from the chickpeas and kale, which will keep you full until dinnertime!
If you’re not a fish person, why not try our delicious avocado fusilli pasta for a low-salt vegan option?
Miso chickpeas and avocado on toast
Liven up a storecupboard staple with this super-simple dish. Chickpeas are high in fibre, especially a soluble fibre called raffinose, which is broken down by beneficial gut bacteria to support regular bowel movements. Avocado offers a bunch of healthy nutrients, such as magnesium, zinc and potassium, to support digestion.
Check out our gut-healthy collection for more digestion-friendly options.
Salmon poke bowl
Match salmon, red pepper and sushi rice with a spicy dressing made from soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, sriracha and lime juice to make a lunch that’s high in protein and low in calories.
Greek chicken skewers
Try our healthy chicken skewers, flavoured with oregano and lemon. Serve them as part of your own mini Mediterranean spread with hummus, warm pittas and a fresh salad.
Roast chicken panzanella
Make a tasty dressing using the pan juices to soften the crispy pitta chunks in this low salt, high protein salad of chicken, asparagus, roasted peppers and capers.
Healthy fried rice
Looking for a gluten free lunch? Cubes of chewy, golden paneer are tossed through fragrant fried rice for a healthy, low-salt twist on a classic, flavoured with ginger, garlic, chilli and curry powder.
Healthy jacket potato
For a healthy and filling lunch, try a classic French niçoise salad stuffed into a crispy, fluffy baked potato – it’s high in protein and low in calories.
Healthy spinach omelette
We’ve lowered the fat by replacing cream with light soft cheese and milk in this healthy vegetarian lunch, topped with creamed spinach and juicy cherry tomatoes.
Miso roasted cauliflower, avocado and lentil salad
Fibre-rich cauliflower is roasted in a miso dressing – also filled with probiotics – and turned into a rustic salad with pickled onions and lentils. It’s delicious and great for your gut too.
Chicken satay with rice
Spoon our nutty peanut sauce over caramelised chicken and serve with pickled veg and wholegrain rice for a quick high-protein lunch.
Roast sweet potato, chipotle and orange soup with paprika seeds
Make this low-calorie soup for a nourishing vegan lunch, where vibrant sweet potatoes meet punchy chipotle, zingy orange and a sprinkling of paprika seeds.
Greek-style baked rice
This easy, low calorie one-pot is packed full of Mediterranean flavours, perfect for a lunch served outside when the sun is shining. If making to store in the fridge, bake up until the point you add the feta, then add the cheese and pine nuts when you plan on eating.
Vegan buddha bowl
Get some nutritional balance into your day with this bright and colourful bowl of goodness. It’s vegan and low in calories, too.
Celeriac chimichurri salad
A low-calorie lunch which doesn’t compromise on flavour, throw everything for this no-chop chimichurri into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Pre-cooked puy lentils will soak up the piquant, herby dressing.
Healthy beans on toast
Ezme is a condiment flavour bomb – juicy tomatoes, sweet peppers, chilli heat and tangy pomegranate molasses, with the freshness of herbs, too. Perfect dolloped into dips, added to salads or, in this case, stirred into pulses for a healthy, low-calorie baked beans on toast.
Healthy egg fried rice
It doesn’t get quicker than a fried rice when you need something filling, fast. We’ve ramped it up with the addition of sweet, juicy crab to make your lunch one to remember.
Miso tofu soup
Silken tofu helps make this miso-rich noodle broth smooth and creamy without the addition of dairy – a nourishing veggie lunch that’s ready in just 15 minutes. It’s low in calories and fat, too.
Healthy bean salad
Ready in just 20 minutes, this colourful salad is packed with green beans, kidney beans and cannellini beans, and comes finished with a green tahini dressing to boost the flavour.
Healthy sardines on toast
Sweet shallots, plump raisins and sharp capers go perfectly with sardines in this nourishing Sicilian-style dish – pile the lot on toasted bread for a speedy, fuss-free lunch for two.
Make this hearty roast panzanella for a wholesome autumnal lunch. Crisp up the bread with juicy veg and drizzle in a piquant dressing to get the taste buds dancing.
Healthy one-pan chicken and rice
Chicken is marinated in soy, hoisin, honey and garlic then cooked with brown rice. It’s a simple midweek lunch that’s packed with Chinese-inspired flavours.
Tracey Raye is the Health Editor for olive and BBC Good Food. Tracey, MSc, is a registered nutritionist, holding a master’s degree in Personalised Nutrition. She is passionate about harnessing the power of all things health and wellbeing – in a way that enhances, rather than limits our lives. She covers our nourishing recipes and collections, oversees our health strategy and stays adrift of the latest health and lifestyle trends – in order to bring you the tools and inspiration you need to find what health means for you.
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