What to Eat When You're Too Busy for Lunch

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 next to orange wedges on a white plate
Bryan Gardner / Martha Stewart

Baked Sweet Potato With a Side of Edamame

Calories: 295

Protein: 19g

Potassium: 542mg

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.

Trail mix, orange, and slices of hard boiled eggs

Protein Plate

Calories: 355

Protein: 21g

Sugar: 1g

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).

Tuna salad lettuce wrap

Healthy Tuna Salad Lettuce Wrap

Calories: 300 (for two servings of tuna)

Protein: 40g

Fat: 4g

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.

Toast covered in almond butter and banana slices

Almond Butter and Banana Toast

Calories: 385

Protein: 9g

Fiber: 10g

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).

Celery sticks, greek yogurt, almond butter, and raisins

Updated Ants on a Log With a Side of Greek Yogurt

Calories: 360

Protein: 24g

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).

Chickpea salad in a tin lunchbox
Martha Stewart

Chickpea Salad

Calories: 145 (for one-half cup of chickpeas)

Protein: 6g

Fiber: 6g

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.

Carrot sticks, apple, and hummus

Hummus, Veggies, and an Apple

Calories: 355

Protein: 8g

Fiber: 11g

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 burger patty

Veggie Burger With a Side of Cottage Cheese

Calories: 345

Protein: 36g

Potassium: 465g

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.

Slices of avocado toast
1-2 Simple Cooking

Avocado Toast (How You Like It) With a Side of Berries

Calories: 275

Protein: 4g

Fat: 5g

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.

Quinoa and black bean salad

Leftover Quinoa Concoction

Calories: 315 (for one-half cup of quinoa)

Protein: 12g

Fiber: 6g

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.

Almond slices, blueberries, string cheese, and a bowl of corn flakes

Loaded Cereal and String Cheese

Calories: 370

Protein: 27g

Fiber: 17g

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.

Turkey sandwich
MentalArt / Getty Images

Turkey Sandwich and Soup

Calories: 400

Protein: 12g

Fat: 2g

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.

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