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Muscle for life

20 Easy Lunch Recipes That Are Way Better Than Fast Food

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20 Easy Lunch Recipes That Are Way Better Than Fast Food

Quit relying on the vending machine for lunch. There’s no reason you can’t cook up one of these super simple recipes for lunch tomorrow!

It’s fairly easy to whip up something healthy for breakfast or dinner, but lunches are often an afterthought.

They just…happen…and sometimes the temptation of junk food is too great.

Or, maybe you dodge the break room pizza and skip lunch altogether, only to find yourself at the vending machine a few hours later, salivating over sugary treats.

That’s why you need easy lunch recipes like these in your life.

They’re simple, delicious, and nutritious, and in some cases, don’t even require a microwave. They’re just as tasty cold as they are hot.

They don’t require anything major in the way of meal prep, either. Just an hour on Sunday and 30 minutes during the week guarantees that your lunches are both delicious and diet-friendly.

Enjoy!

Strawberry, Chicken & Bacon Wrap

quick healthy strawberry spinach wraps Picture courtesy of Le Crème de la Crumb

Tired of basic wraps filled with rice and beans, or meat and veggies? Here’s a fresh alternative to add to your meal plan so you’ll never get sick of this fast healthy food.

To make a quick lunch wrap that’s savory and sweet, this one uses a combo of fresh strawberries and bacon. It’s finished with a poppyseed dressing, or you could swap that out for a light balsamic vinaigrette.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Wraps:

4 large tortillas (about 10” each)

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 6 oz. each), pounded to 1/2” thick

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. oil

3 cups baby spinach, packed

1/2 cup sliced strawberries

4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup (about 1.5 oz.) crumbled feta

Poppyseed Dressing:

2/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup fat-free half and half

6 Tbsp. sugar

8 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. oil

4 tsp. poppy seeds

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 647

Protein: 33 grams

Carbs: 59 grams

Fat: 31 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Korean Beef Bowl

quick and easy korean beef bowl recipe Picture courtesy of Damn Delicious

This lunch takes 15 minutes to cook – less time than you’d spend to grab takeout or order delivery.

And since this meal is mostly ground beef, it’s easy to make ahead of time and reheat when you’re hungry. Serve it with brown rice or quinoa. For a quick low-carb lunch, use this as a filling for ground beef lettuce wraps, and top with chili paste or Sriracha.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp. sesame oil

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

2 green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 tsp. sesame seeds

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 318

Protein: 19 grams

Carbs: 16 grams

Fat: 19 grams 

  GET THE RECIPE

Chopped Chicken Chickpea Salad

quick healthy chopped chicken salad meal Picture courtesy of Ambitious Kitchen

With canned chickpeas and leftover chicken breast, you can make a quick salad that works for a low-calorie lunch. This one has enough flavor in the ingredients go without dressing, so it’s easy to transport.

If you want to add a low-fat barbecue dressing, combine three parts red wine vinegar with two parts barbecue sauce. Then mix in hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 large Romaine hearts, washed and chopped

1 cup shredded cooked chicken breast

1 can (15.5 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

3/4 cup sweet corn

1/4 cup (about 2 oz.) crumbled goat cheese

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1 small avocado, diced

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 343

Protein: 23 grams

Carbs: 26 grams

Fat: 18 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

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Caramelized Onion, Mango & Chicken Quesadilla

quick healthy caramelized onion mango quesadillas Picture courtesy of Cooking on the Inside

When you have leftover cooked chicken, there are countless ways to turn it into an entirely new meal, and it’s the perfect base for a quick lunch like a quesadilla.

This one has more meat than cheese, so it also has more protein than fat. If you’re making it in a rush, simply skip the caramelized onions, which will also cut out the butter.

Serves 4

Ingredients

2 Tbsp. butter

2 large white onions, sliced

1 cup diced cooked chicken breast

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 tsp. chili powder

1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded reduced-fat pepper jack cheese

3/4 cup diced fresh mango

1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

4 large flour tortillas (about 10” each)

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 498

Protein: 33 grams

Carbs: 44 grams

Fat: 21 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Butternut Squash Kale Stuffing Muffins

butternut squash muffin quick lunch recipe Picture courtesy of Get Off Your Tush and Cook

Taking leftover chicken breast or roast beef to work is a no-brainer. But not all side dishes, like sautéed spinach, are as great for lunch the next day.

This make-ahead work lunch can be a complete meal if you eat two or three, but it’s also a portable side dish. If you prefer vegetarian stuffing, use two cups of chopped mushrooms in place of the Italian sausage.

Serves 12

Ingredients

1/2 butternut squash (about 2 cups), peeled and cut into 1/2” cubes

3 cups (about 4 oz.) cubed cornbread

3 cups (about 4 oz.) cubed multigrain bread

1/2 small onion, chopped

2 cups chopped kale

1 1/2 cups chicken broth (more if needed)

2 large eggs

1/2 cup dried cranberries

4 leaves fresh sage

3 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 Tbsp. dried thyme)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

3 links lean turkey Italian sausage

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 128

Protein: 8 grams

Carbs: 14 grams

Fat: 4 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Quick Easy Loaded Chili

quick easy chili recipe Picture courtesy of Simply Scratch

Ready in about a half hour, this chili can be cooked on a lunch break if you happen to have access to a full kitchen. But few people want to stand at the stove during downtime.

Make this quickly at home when you do have the motivation to cook, and you can split up the leftovers in the freezer. Then you’ll have a quick protein-packed lunch ready to be reheated on your busiest days.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil (or bacon fat)

2 lbs. 90% lean ground beef

1 large onion, diced

2 cans (15 oz. each) pinto beans

1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans

1 large can (29 oz.) tomato sauce

1 Tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. sugar

Cayenne pepper to taste

Pinch of celery salt

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 556

Protein: 52 grams

Carbs: 39 grams

Fat: 21 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Yogurt & Dill Chicken Salad

yogurt dill chicken salad quick lunch recipe Picture courtesy of The Kitchn

A healthy chicken salad doesn’t have to be mayo-free. This low-fat recipe benefits from the creaminess of Greek yogurt, plus the rich flavor of mayonnaise. Then just add seasoning and fresh herbs like dill or rosemary.

Poaching the chicken is easy, but to make it even easier, you could put everything in a slow cooker instead. Once prepared, a batch of chicken salad will last for a few days in the fridge, which makes it a no-fuss lunch to grab in a rush.

Serves 6

Ingredients

Chicken:

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup white wine (optional)

18 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts

Salad:

2/3 cup plain whole yogurt

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 large shallots, minced

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill

1 tsp. salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 217

Protein: 22 grams

Carbs: 9 grams

Fat: 8 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Meatball Sub Homemade Hot Pockets

quick hot pocket meatball sub Picture courtesy of Delish

Forget about frozen pizza pockets. Make these meatball sub pocket pies yourself, and you’ll be able to have a quick homemade lunch without the preservatives or questionable pork product.

These can be adapted for any kind of ground meat. Use lean chicken or turkey, and you’ll shave off a few grams of fat per serving.

Serves 8

Ingredients

1 lb. 90% lean ground beef

1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 lb. refrigerated pie crust

1/2 cup marinara

1 1/2 cups (about 6 oz.) mozzarella

1 large egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. water

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 447

Protein: 25 grams

Carbs: 34 grams

Fat: 24 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Curried Quinoa with Spinach & Almonds

curried quinoa quick lunch recipe Picture courtesy of Vegan Yumminess

When you have a kitchen stocked with ingredients, you can throw together a quinoa salad in minutes.

This quick vegan lunch is even easier if you start with frozen quinoa, which is easy to make at home. Cook a huge batch, spread the quinoa out on a baking sheet, and freeze before divvying it up into portions for future meals.

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 cup dry quinoa (3 cups cooked)

3/4 cups chopped onion

1 clove garlic

1 1/2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. raisins

3 Tbsp. water

1 tsp. sugar (or sweetener of choice)

1 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 tsp. turmeric

1/4 tsp. paprika

1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (or cardamom)

1/2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)

Pinch of cayenne

3 Tbsp. sliced almonds

Handful of baby spinach

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 471

Protein: 15 grams

Carbs: 75 grams

Fat: 14 grams 

  GET THE RECIPE

Spicy Tuna Cakes with Paleo Mayo

spicy tuna quick easy meal recipe Picture courtesy of Nom Nom Paleo

This quick lunchbox recipe is from Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans, which also has easy meals like Madras Chicken Salad and Crabby Devil Eggs.

These tuna cakes are delicious warm or cold, and to mix up your lunch menu, you can make them with canned salmon instead of tuna. Pack with sliced veggies, a salad, and/or fresh lemon wedges.

cookbook

Serves 12

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. ghee, melted and divided

2 cans (5 oz. each) albacore tuna packed in water, drained

3 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)

2 Tbsp. finely minced fresh cilantro

1 1/3 cups mashed sweet potato

Zest of 1/2 lemon

1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno pepper

2 large eggs

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 91

Protein: 6 grams

Carbs: 7 grams

Fat: 4 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Turkey Sandwich Skewers

turkey sandwich skewers quick healthy meal Picture courtesy of The Almond Eater

Too busy at your desk to stop and eat lunch? Prepare these turkey sandwich skewers, and you won’t even need two hands to get in your afternoon bite.

Cut the bread into squares, tear the thinly sliced deli meat into strips, and use cubed cheese. If you don’t want a BLT, skewered sandwiches can also be made with ham and Swiss, roast beef and cheddar, or salami and fresh mozzarella pearls.

Serves 2

Ingredients

3 slices bread

6 oz. sliced deli turkey

12 cubes Colby Jack cheese

6 small tomatoes, cut into thirds

Fresh lettuce, torn

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 268

Protein: 21 grams

Carbs: 24 grams

Fat: 11 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Easy Baked Chicken Nuggets

healthy baked chicken nuggets quick meal Picture courtesy of  Skinny Taste

Once you have homemade chicken nuggets, you can keep them for an awesome fast food alternative, and switch it up with different dipping sauces and sides.

To round out this quick low-carb lunch, pack these nuggets with baked cauliflower tots, kale chips, or barbecue-flavored almonds.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour (or almond flour)

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 153

Protein: 27 grams

Carbs: 7 grams

Fat: 2 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Chicken Tikka Kebabs

chicken tikka kebabs quick lunch recipe Picture courtesy of Bangers and Mash

Take a few minutes to marinate chicken skewers overnight, and you’ll have a quick lunch the next day. And if you’re taking it to-go, cook the chicken the day before to make a pita sandwich or protein-packed salad.

This recipe comes from Madhur Jaffrey, an Indian cook and actress who’s beloved in the UK. She has a lot of cookbooks, including 100 Weeknight Curries which has enough fast, flavorful meals to keep you full for a year.

cookbook 2

Serves 4

Ingredients

24 oz. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces

1 1/4 tsp. salt

3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

6 Tbsp. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. garam masala

3 Tbsp. corn oil (or peanut oil)

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 363

Protein: 40 grams

Carbs: 3 grams

Fat: 21 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Sweet Potato Glow Spirals

quick healthy sweet potato wrap Picture courtesy of Healthy Happy Life

This quick school lunch idea for kids is not only easy, but it’s a great way to use up leftovers from dinner the night before.

Make mashed sweet potatoes and doctor them to your tastes – the more flavor the better. Spread extras on a flatbread like lavash, and you can build a wrap with carrots and roasted bell peppers. This would also be great with shredded chicken and crumbled cheese.

Serves 2

Ingredients

Wraps:

2 lavash wraps

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup shredded carrots

1/3 cup roasted red bell peppers, thinly sliced

Mash:

1 medium sweet potato, roasted and peeled

2 Tbsp. diced sweet onion

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 cup garlic hummus

1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

2 tsp. harissa (or red pepper flakes)

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 485

Protein: 12 grams

Carbs: 65 grams

Fat: 21 grams 

  GET THE RECIPE

Bacon Egg Tortellini

quick healthy school lunch meal Picture courtesy of Bon Appetit

Pasta salad is a lunchbox standard because it can be kept cold. But here’s a version you’ve probably never tried simply because the combo would normally be served cold.

This has a hard-boiled egg so you can eat it at room temp. But if you have access to a stove, you could fry an egg sunny side up, topping the bacon tortellini with a creamy egg yolk instead.

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 slices bacon

2 large eggs, hard-boiled

6 oz. cheese tortellini

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh chives

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 370

Protein: 19 grams

Carbs: 45 grams

Fat: 12 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Southwest Chicken Mason Jar Salad

quick and easy-southwest chicken salad Picture courtesy of Organize Yourself Skinny

You don’t need to invest in a specific salad storage container to take a healthy fresh lunch to-go. Those can be convenient and easy to use, but a mason jar is even more versatile.

You’ll be good to go as long as you get the order right: layer dressing at the bottom, mix-ins in the middle, and leafy greens on top. Empty it all onto a plate, and your quick lunch is served.

Serves 5

Ingredients

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 packet taco seasoning mix

10 Tbsp. Southwest ranch yogurt dressing

1 quart grape tomatoes

3 bell peppers

1/2 red onion, chopped

1/2 cup black beans, drained and rinsed

1 avocado, chopped

Freshly squeezed lime juice

3 sticks jalapeno cheese, chopped

5 oz. chopped romaine lettuce

Handful of tortilla chips

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 477

Protein: 33 grams

Carbs: 33 grams

Fat: 24 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Sardines & Peppers on Toast

quick healthy sardines recipe Picture courtesy of Olive Magazine

You don’t have to put in a lot of effort to make a well-balanced lunch for one. Crack open a can of sardines, toast some whole-wheat bread, and you’re on your way to a complete meal.

This open-faced sandwich is finished with roasted pepper, parsley, and paprika. But you can adapt this idea for other ingredients too like smoked salmon, hummus, and cilantro.

Serves 1

Ingredients

1 roasted red pepper, torn into pieces

Juice of 1 lemon

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, halved

Handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Pinch of sweet smoked paprika

2 slices whole-grain sourdough bread

1 can (about 4 oz.) sardines packed in water, drained

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 448

Protein: 28 grams

Carbs: 38 grams

Fat: 20 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Turkey Cobb Sandwiches

turkey cobb quick healthy sandwiches Picture courtesy of Country Living

Make a salad portable by tucking it into a pita pocket. Instead of adding a dressing that will make it soggy, you can use crumbled cheese and a sandwich spread like mayo for flavor.

The result is basically a turkey BLT mixed with a Cobb salad. That means it’s loaded with protein, and for even more, add a chopped hard-boiled egg.

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 cups (about 15 oz.) cubed leftover turkey breast

2 cups chopped butter lettuce

1 large avocado

1 large Roma tomato

1 small red onion

4 strips bacon, cooked

1/2 cup (2 oz.) blue cheese

4 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

6 whole-wheat pita

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 418

Protein: 29 grams

Carbs: 44 grams

Fat: 16 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Eggplant Pizzas

eggplant pizza easy quick meal Picture courtesy of Kaylyn’s Kitchen

This quick light lunch idea comes from Julia Child herself, so as simple as it is, you know it’s good. Roast the eggplant slices ahead of time, and you can assemble the low-carb pizzas in a hurry.

All you need is cheese and pasta sauce, either homemade or store-bought. Marinara is the obvious standard for any pizza, but pesto would work here too.

Serves 4

Ingredients

Eggplant Pizza:

1 globe eggplant

1 Tbsp. salt

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

10 leaves fresh basil, sliced into strips (optional)

1/3 cup (1.3 oz.) grated Parmesan

1/3 cup (1.3 oz.) shredded part-skim mozzarella

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Sauce:

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 can (14.5 oz.) petite diced tomatoes, with liquid

1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 199

Protein: 8 grams

Carbs: 14 grams

Fat: 14 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

Barley-Stuffed Poblanos

barley stuffed poblanos quick lunch recipe Picture courtesy of Health.com

Stuffed peppers are an easy meal to make any time of day. They often have a rice filling, although you can adapt the idea for other healthy ingredients.

Barley is a great grain-free option with more fiber than rice. Enjoy these stuffed peppers for dinner, and you can reheat the leftovers the next day for a quick lunch.

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 large onion, diced

1 1/2 cups barley, soaked overnight and drained

1 bunch kale, destemmed, leaves chopped

1 1/8 tsp. chilli powder, divided

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can (28 oz.) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed

1/4 tsp. salt

6 large poblano peppers

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) shredded reduced-fat white cheddar

3 slices (about 3 oz.) reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 cup (about 2 oz.) crumbled queso fresco

Nutrition Facts (Per Serving)

Calories: 382

Protein: 15 grams

Carbs: 58 grams

Fat: 12 grams

  GET THE RECIPE

What did you think of these quick and healthy lunch recipes? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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