Are you looking to create easy and healthy lunch ideas to grab and go?
I know how hard it is when you’re trying to get everyone else’s lunches organized for the week and you leave yourself until last and usually grab something while you’re out or miss it completely. I’m sharing 5 easy and healthy lunch ideas to grab and go that can be mixed and matched to create a wide variety.
Table of Contents
- What makes a lunch healthy?
- How to Create an easy & Healthy grab & go lunch
- 5 Different Examples of Easy & Healthy Lunch Ideas
What makes a lunch healthy?
Adopting an intuitive eating style means that no foods are restricted or out of bounds. If you’d like to nourish your body with foods that will provide the nutrients your body needs for optimal health, for example to have more energy, for clear skin, bone health, strength, concentration and to sleep well, it’s best to eat whole foods that have not been processed.
Foods from the following groups are ideal to give you good overall health:
- Protein: Lean meats like turkey, chicken, fish, tinned fish, eggs, tofu, Greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, pulses (chickpeas, lentils etc)
- Fat: Avocado, olive oil, nuts, nut butters, coconut, coconut milk/cream, olives
- Carbohydrates: Fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruit and vegetables, rice, pasta, grains (like quinoa or oats), wholegrain breads/wraps
In my Grab & Go Lunch Options book I list the recommended quantities of protein, fats and carbohydrates.
Even if you’re out and about and need to eat lunch, finding a good takeout option is key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Some options might include:
- Vegetarian pizza/calzone (select the whole wheat or even cauliflower crust options, if available)
- Falafel gyro
- Grilled chicken burger with salad
- Salad bowl
- Smoothie or smoothie bowl
- Noodle bowl with lean meat and vegetables
- Asian stir fry or soups (eg Vietnamese Pho)
- Steamed dumplings in broth
- Lean meat and vegetable sandwiches
- Vegetarian tempeh or tofu burgers
- Soup and a whole wheat bread roll
- Mexican burrito or enchilada with plenty of salad
Also, be sure to take time out to eat. Take yourself away from your workstation. Sit at the table (without any electronics) and savor every mouthful. Take a walk in the park and sit to eat. Chew slowly and put your fork down between bites. This will help you recognize your hunger cues and so you don’t eat more than you need to to feel satisfied.
How to Create an easy & Healthy grab & go lunch
In order to keep costs down and know exactly what you’re eating (and to monitor portion sizes), it’s always going to be better to make your own lunch at home.
Whether you’re eating in (my recommended option) or if you need to go out to run an errand or attend an appointment, making your own lunch can be as easy as you’d like to make it. All you need is a bit of planning, buying the ingredients you need to make these meals and ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs for optimal health and wellness.
Stocking your pantry, fridge and freezer with ingredients to prepare these lunches will help you from the start. When you have the base for a lunch option, it will be so much easier next time to create a similar lunch but with different ingredients so you don’t get bored eating the same meals.
For example, the above grilled chicken and salad with a French vinaigrette dressing could quite easily become a grilled fish with a Mediterranean salad and simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the next lunch.
Remember the formula above. Protein, fats and carbohydrates. You’ll really be spoilt for choice and you’ll be able to stock your favorite seasonal ingredients.
Remember to keep plenty of canned options in the pantry like like chickpeas, tinned fish, tinned fruit and vegetables.
Frozen fruit and vegetables retain all their freshness from the moment they are picked. Keep an eye out for fruits and vegetables in season if you’re buying fresh. They will be less expensive and at their peak of freshness and taste.
If you’re wanting to plan ahead for the week, cook up 2 cups of rice and freeze in 1/2 cup portions for your lunch. Or grill a whole chicken breast which has been sliced into 75 to 100gm portions (3 to 4 ounces) and freeze until required.
Some shortcuts are great like flavored vegetarian options, bottled salad dressings, microwavable rice or quinoa and can be a great time saver. Be sure to check the labels of these products so you’re not overdoing the sugar, fat or sodium levels for the day.
5 Different Examples of Easy & Healthy Lunch Ideas
Sandwiches are pretty easy to throw together. I like to keep all my bread products in the freezer. They usually don’t take a lot of time to defrost but if you’re in a hurry, a quick burst in the microwave for 20 seconds will defrost it.
You can use sliced bread, bread rolls like ciabatta or burger buns, pita bread, tortillas, wraps or any kind of bread product you like. Remember whole wheat products are better for you in that they are low on the Glycemic Index which means your body will have to work harder to process the carbohydrates, giving you more energy over a longer period of time. Unlike processed, white bread products that give you a quick spike of energy and no real nutritional value.
Fill the sandwich with soft or hard cheese, eggs, lean protein like chicken or fish, salad vegetables, roasted vegetables, chutney, pickles, hummus, pesto, mayonnaise, tahini or your other favorite spreads.
You’ll never run out of ideas. Prepare the night before or even freeze ahead of time with suitable fillings.
2. Salads in a Jar
Still a food trend that’s been a favorite for a while now and understandably so. These are easy to prepare and they stay fresh in the glass Mason jars for a week (or at least 5 days worth of lunches).
Of course you don’t have to make them all the same. You could change the dressing at the bottom, the protein and of course the vegetables. When you’re ready to eat, give it a shake and eat from the jar or turn out into a bowl.
Ideally, this is how you layer the salad, from top to bottom:
- 2 to 4 tablespoons salad dressing
- non absorbent vegetables that won’t soak up the dressing, eg carrot, tomatoes, etc
- soft vegetables & grains, eg cucumber, avocado, rice, quinoa etc
- lettuce and other greens like spinach, kale etc
- finish with protein, ie chicken, fish, nuts, cheese etc.
If you need more inspiration, here are a month’s worth of salad in a jar recipes.
3. Poke Bowl or Buddha Bowl
A relatively new trend in food and quite fashionable to have at your local bistro or café but easy enough to prepare at home. Similar to the Salad in a Jar but these salads are served in bowls and built up with a base of grains and the other salad ingredients placed around the bowl and dressed with a salad dressing.
They are so visually appealing and delicious with so many different ways to make them.
Something to keep in mind when you’re thinking about your grab and go lunch for the next day (or week ahead) is to cook extra in your evening meal. Cook two cups of rice instead of one, bake double the amount of vegetables or grill twice the amount of meat for your Poke Bowl the next day.
Add those pantry staples like nuts and seeds over the top of the salad for more healthy fats, protein and fiber.
For convenience, if you know you’re going to be eating out, make your bowl in a container and build your salad the same way. Otherwise, if you know you’re going to be eating at home, having the cold grains in portion sizes, vegetables prepped as much as you can and meats in serving sizes will make it easy to just throw together come lunch time.
To build a poke or buddha bowl:
- Choose your base, ie rice, salad greens, tortilla, pasta, other cooked grains etc
- Choose your vegetables and salad ingredients (the more colorful the better), eg red cabbage, corn, grated carrot, edamame beans, tomatoes, red/green/yellow peppers, cucumber, beets, avocado, fresh herbs etc
- Choose your protein, eg grilled chicken, grilled or tinned fish, boiled eggs, tofu, ground turkey, other seafood etc.
- Choose your dressing
- Choose your topping, eg fresh herbs, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, nuts, other seeds.
Salad in a bowl or on a plate is really the same thing at the end of the day but putting all of the ingredients in a bowl and building up the ingredients is so appealing and delicious plus, most of all, easy to prep and grab and go.
Don’t forget to add seasonal fruits for more color and freshness. Think mangoes, strawberries, cherries, grilled or cool pineapple. A great way to make something so delicious out of every day ingredients you have.
Soup is one of those things you could feed an army with very few ingredients. You could make up a big pot of soup and have serving sizes in the freezer for months to just grab and go. Serve with a wholegrain or whole wheat bread roll and you have quite a substantial meal.
Soup is also great for the vegetables that might be looking a bit sad in the bottom of the vegetable crisper and need freshening up with herbs and spices, grains, pulses, lean protein and a good flavored stock.
You can make your own vegetable stock from vegetable peels or chicken stock from chicken bones that have had a few basics like an onion, carrot and celery, herbs and spices added to it. Strain the bones and you have a really good nutritious chicken stock. Be wary of stock powders at the supermarket as they might contain quite a lot of sodium.
Leave the soup chunky or blend with a stick blender for a smooth soup. Pulses and grains like lentils, chickpeas, barley, and split peas always make soup taste so hearty and nutritious. Here is a round up of 21 high protein soups.
Don’t forget lighter, cold soups in the warmer months with soups like gazpacho. Here are 31 cold soups for the warmer months.
Soup is extremely portable. Take it in a thermos flask to sip. Don’t forget to stop for lunch.
5. Smoothie or Smoothie Bowl
When you absolutely, positively don’t have time to cut vegetables, throw a salad together or grab a portion of soup from the freezer, you can’t go past a smoothie or smoothie bowl for lunch.
This is such an easy grab and go lunch, especially for those errands you have to run or appointments you need to go to right on lunch time. Keep a good selection of fruit in the freezer, add a few vegetables like carrots or salad greens, a scoop of protein powder, coconut water or your favorite milk, whizz it up and go. Adding a scoop of protein powder will help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
You’ll be surprised at just how full a smoothie will make you feel. Admittedly, it is preferred to eat whole foods. That way your body is using more energy to process the food rather than in it’s blended form but the occasional smoothie won’t be a problem. Grab a piece of fruit, a few vegetable sticks or serve of nuts to go with it.
If you’d like to take your time to enjoy your smoothie, add less liquid like the consistency of soft serve ice cream, put it in a bowl and top with seeds, coconut, granola and fresh fruit.
If you’re looking for the perfect round up of smoothies that are interchangeable and keep you feeling full while also being nutritious, check out my Easy Smoothies Recipe Book.
So that’s your round up of 5 easy grab and go lunch ideas. You should never skip a meal and hopefully some of these ideas might encourage you to be a little prepared but also have options that don’t need much prep or thought. Stop what you’re doing to eat, stop eating when you feel full and if you are still hungry keep a piece of fruit, handful of nuts and drink of water nearby. Don’t forget to download my free Grab and Go Lunch Options book here.
PIN FOR LATER