What Healthy People Really Eat for Lunch
Do you ever fall into a lunch rut? Every week when planning my grocery list, I always pause when it comes to making a plan for the week’s lunches. Turkey wraps again? It can be hard to find tasty and easy-to-prepare options that are also healthy.
Pinterest is full of colorful ideas, but they always seem so involved. I had the chance to speak with health professionals and nutritionists about their favorite easy and healthy lunch ideas. Let’s take the mystery out of healthy lunches.
Yes, you guessed it. Healthy people eat salad for lunch, but here’s their secret. They don’t munch on boring iceberg lettuce day in and day out. They add plenty of proteins and fresh veggies to keep it interesting.
“I eat a salad for lunch almost every day, year round, and I’m never bored because there’s so much room for improvisation,” Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and blogger Carrie Dennett told me. “The nutrient-rich base is always some sort of greens like kale, spinach, romaine, arugula, or a mix, but then it gets really interesting. A portion of protein is important for staying satisfied and strong, so I might have leftover fish or chicken, some canned tuna or salmon for the omega-3 fatty acids, or maybe a hard boiled egg and some chickpeas.” Keep it fresh and rotate all of these ideas.
Salads never have to be boring, so start making a grocery list of fun toppings. “For a Mediterranean flair, I’ll add a little cheese, some Kalamata olives, or a few marinated artichoke hearts,” said Dennett. “A sprinkling of nuts or seeds adds crunch and healthy fats. If I’m craving something creamy, hummus gives me that plus protein and fiber, while avocado provides more healthy fat.”
Greek Yogurt with Fruit
Greek yogurt is packed with protein, so it will help keep you full all afternoon long. Throw in plenty of toppings to make a meal out of it.
“Adding herbs and citrus with a dash of salt to Greek yogurt changes up mundane packaged yogurt,” Nutrition Coach and Personal Trainer Zeek Lloyd told me. “It’s a healthy portion of protein to accompany any lunch. Protein will promote lean muscle mass and helps [satisfy] hunger.”
Try topping your Greek yogurt with fresh berries and whole grain granola for a delicious lunch. “This works for me, because it’s a good balance of protein, healthy fat, and complex carbs, and there’s plenty of fiber to keep me satisfied,” Registered Dietitian and Health Coach Jessica Cording told me. “The fruits are also packed with important vitamins and minerals to keep my brain and body powered up to get through the day.”
Grilled Chicken and Broccoli
If you’ve been focused on weight loss lately, chicken and broccoli could become your next favorite lunch. It’s easy to prepare ahead of time and keeps you full all day. “It’s one of the healthiest meals, because it’s very high in protein and low in carbohydrates,” Founder of fitness app and website Daily Spot Scott Levy told me. “You can completely fill yourself up on chicken and broccoli in under 400 calories!” Add a little olive oil, vinegar, and herbs for a restaurant-quality meal.
Chicken or Steak Bowl
If you are used to buying your lunch out everyday, don’t worry. You can still make it healthy. If you find yourself at a Mexican restaurant, skip the giant white flour tortilla, and choose a healthy bowl instead. You can also make these at home for the week.
“There are a handful of substitutes here that make a usually high-calorie meal incredibly healthy. Instead of rice, try cauliflower rice,” recommended Levy. “Cauliflower rice is very low in carbs and tastes similar to traditional rice.” Load up on fajita veggies and skip the sour cream. Or prepare your bowls over the weekend for easy grab-and-go lunches all week.
Another protein-packed salad is Salade Nicoise. It’s full of flavor and keeps you energized. Plus it only takes 15 minutes to prepare. “It is a timeless dish that has a lot to offer beyond its taste,” Katharina Kaiser, nutrition specialist at Freeletics, told me. “Why not make this restaurant classic on your own?”
To make your own, combine canned tuna, hard boiled eggs, sliced onions, green olives, tomato, and romaine lettuce. For the dressing, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and Italian herbs. Try making a batch of dressing on Sunday and keep it in a mason jar in the refrigerator all week long.
Hummus is a great addition to your lunch because it’s creamy and satisfying while keeping you full. However, one cannot live on hummus alone, so try marinating your protein in it.
“My days get pretty busy, so I like to make lunch my biggest meal of the day, since that’s when I need the energy the most. My go-to is a big salad with leftover cooked veggies and some kind of protein tossed in. Lately I am all about this hummus-marinated chicken,” Cording told me. “I make a simple dressing of olive oil and vinegar or thin out some hummus with water. If I have some nice cheese or ripe avocado handy, that goes in too.”
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Jackie Newgent is also a hummus fan and developed a recipe for an almond lover’s hummus. “Traditional hummus and this version are both good for you,” she told me. “However, this almond lover’s hummus will have more protein, calcium, and vitamin E thanks to almonds!” When making traditional hummus, add almond milk and roasted almonds for a nutty, nutritious blend. Nutritionist Tehzeeb Lalani opts to mix her hummus with fresh vegetables. “Hummus with cut up carrots, cucumbers, celery, and beetroot sticks and some whole-wheat toast make a complete lunch.”