We’ve all had days when we’ve just grabbed a granola bar or noshed on sweets from a coworker’s candy jar instead of taking the time for lunch. And we also know that skipping lunch, regardless of the reason, is not a good idea. Besides that fact that you turn into a ravenous, hangry shell of your formerly upbeat self by 5 p.m., you’re also doing your metabolism a big disservice. Since the chance of your calendar magically freeing up enough time to prepare and eat a gourmet lunch is nil, we decided to put together a list of healthy lunch ideas that take minutes (or less) to prepare.
Scroll through for the meal-spiration your lunch hour so desperately needs!
Baked sweet potatoes are an underrated food. They’re packed with nutrients and low in calories. But the best part is you can buy microwavable versions that are ready to eat in just a few minutes. Feeling fancy? Toss some chopped nuts onto the potato. You can also buy fully cooked edamame. Put the two together for a lunch of protein and potassium-rich side dishes.
When you’re in a rush, build yourself a protein plate with 1/2 cup of trail mix (or just almonds if you prefer), a boiled egg, and an orange (or another grab-and-go fruit like an apple or a banana). You don’t even have to cook the egg yourself. You can buy hard-boiled eggs at the grocery store (or the Starbucks down the street).
Calories: 300 (for two servings of tuna)
A serving of tuna salad packs a whopping 20 grams of protein, but just make sure the variety you use is made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise. Skip the bread and wrap it in lettuce for a low-fat, low-cal lunch.
Anything toast-related should be at the top of your go-to lunch list. One of our personal favorites is the almond butter and banana combination, topped with chia and flax seeds. You can sprinkle seeds on any pretty much anything to add protein and fiber to your meal (that’s why we stash an assortment in our desks).
Trans Fat: 0g
Give the lunchbox staple of your childhood an upgrade. Pair it with Greek yogurt, and you’ve got a high protein meal fit for the workplace (or the school cafeteria). Just swap peanut butter for all-natural almond butter and trade raisins for Craisins (they’re higher in antioxidants and lower in sugar).
Calories: 145 (for one-half cup of chickpeas)
Chickpeas make an excellent base for a quick and healthy lunch because you can buy them canned. All you have to do is rinse them, then toss in whatever else you have in your fridge. Plus, they’re loaded with protein and fiber, all for under 150 calories per half-cup.
Hummus just may be the ultimate no-time-to-cook food. Buy a package of raw veggies and your favorite fruit, and you’ve got lunch with literally zero prep time required.
Veggie burgers are another food you should always have on hand. Stash a pack in the freezer, and when things get hectic, you can pop one in the toaster oven at work and be back to the grind in minutes. Have a little more time on your hands? Slice up some tomato and avocado to go with it. Or just grab some cottage cheese to fill you up.
With plenty of healthy fats, avocado is another worthy toast topper. If you happen to have planned ahead, throw on some tomato and onion, sliced almonds and goat cheese, or whatever you prefer. Pair it with some rinse-and-eat berries for an added dose of fiber and antioxidants.
Calories: 315 (for one-half cup of quinoa)
Whatever quinoa-focused dinner you made earlier in the week transitions seamlessly into a zero-prep lunch. Throw in some corn and black beans (both available canned) for a southwest flare, or just toss in whatever veggies you have lying around, and you’ll keep your lunch under 400 calories.
Breakfast for lunch is never a bad idea. Just load your cereal with sliced almonds and blueberries and have a piece of string cheese, and you’ll get a little bit of everything you need. Or make it even more nutritious by swapping out cereal milk for Greek yogurt.
In the quick and easy lunch category, the good old-fashion turkey sandwich never fails. A serving of deli turkey (about 3 slices) has anywhere between 60 and 120 calories. Put it on a piece of whole-grain bread and build the sandwich however you please. As long as you skip the spreads, you can add a cup of low-sodium soup to your meal and still keep it lean.