Find healthy ideas for the middle of the day that are all less than 400 calories.
For many of us, lunch is a stress-filled hour (or less) spent dealing with traffic, fast-food drive-thru lines, or all-you-can-eat lunch buffets that may leave your buttons bursting. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Try making your own lunch—sans the PB&Js and frozen entrées—and bring healthy back to your midday routine.
Convenience products, such as preseasoned yellow rice and picante sauce, flavor this easy one-dish meal that appeals to kids and adults alike.
View Recipe: Taco Rice Salad
Precooked shrimp speed up preparation. If you purchase raw shrimp, cook them in boiling water for 2 minutes or until done. Sriracha adds spicy heat to the dressing; omit it if you’d prefer a milder dish. Serve with a 1-ounce baguette slice (75 calories) to complete the meal.
View Recipe: Shrimp Caesar Salad
Think of this hearty tossed salad as a deconstructed BLT sandwich, where the bread appears in the form of croutons. Round out the plate with a couple slices of fresh cantaloupe, which provide 47 calories.
View Recipe: BLT Bread Salad
This protein-packed salad is filled with vibrant flavors such as yellow banana peppers. The protein and carbs make this an ideal lunch for those days when you're dragging.
View Recipe: Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad
This is no run-of-the-mill chicken salad. Cucumber gives this salad a cool crunch, while sliced radishes and cilantro add a distinctly different flavor. Try it for a light dinner, and save the leftovers for tomorrow's lunch.
View Recipe: Chicken, Carrot, and Cucumber Salad
Start with a bag of prechopped romaine lettuce and a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store for an easy, healthy lunch.
View Recipe: Superfast Chef Salad
The sweet mango brightens the earthiness of the beans and wild rice. Garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve with spicy pork tenderloin.
View Recipe: Mango and Black Bean Salad
This is a nice side dish with roast chicken or pork. Save leftovers for lunch; with pearl barley and beans, it’s hearty and filling, perfect for a take-along meal.
View Recipe: Mediterranean Barley Salad
Fresh mint gives this dish a pleasant aroma. Dried cranberries offer a hint of sweetness. Use any other dried fruit you like in their place: Try golden raisins, currants, dried cherries, or chopped dried apricots. Pair the salad with a kiwifruit (56 calories) for an easily portable side.
View Recipe: Moroccan-Spiced Bulgur and Chickpea Salad
Nutty, nutritious bulgur, perhaps best known as the star of Lebanese tabbouleh, can be used like brown rice in salads and pilafs, or simply cooked or steamed and drizzled with oil and sprinkled with chopped herbs. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern markets carry bulgur, or look for it in the grains section of large grocery stores. Pack with hummus and pita chips for the complete effect.
View Recipe: Tabbouleh with Chicken and Red Pepper
Taking a cue from traditional tabbouleh, this dish uses lots of peak-season vegetables, tart lemon juice, and pungent fresh herbs. Serve with toasted pita wedges.
View Recipe: Wheat Berry Salad with Goat Cheese
With spicy peppers, sweet cherry tomatoes, earthy beans, and lots of fresh herbs, this well-balanced recipe is a meal in itself. Pair it with a fresh medium orange (62 calories) for a sweet finish to this salad.
View Recipe: Tortellini Pepperoncini Salad
Ditch those high-cal fried fish sandwiches at fast food restaurants and try your hand at making your own healthier version. Broiling the fish creates a delicious crunchy, browned exterior.
View Recipe: Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Sandwiches with Lime Butter
A favorite in southern France, pan bagnat (pan ban-YAH) means “bathed bread.” The bread in this sandwich is meant to absorb some liquid from the filling, so it’s fine to completely assemble it ahead of time. Serve with 1 ounce (about 13 chips) of baked barbecue chips (150 calories) to complete the meal.
View Recipe: Tuna Pan Bagnat
Flatbread replaces buttered rolls in this take on the New England classic. You can purchase cooked lobster tails at your grocery’s seafood counter.
View Recipe: Lobster Wraps with Lemon Mayonnaise
This New Orleans classic, featuring a homemade five-ingredient tartar sauce made with pantry staples, takes only 20 minutes to prepare. Using salt-free Cajun seasoning reduces the sodium in this dish without sacrificing any of the flavor.
View Recipe: Pan-Seared Shrimp Po' Boys
Update your lunch routine with this new spin on the classic BLT. Mr. Stripey tomatoes are a variety of heirlooms with pale, yellow skins with a pinkish-orange blush, occasionally with green stripes. Substitute a beefsteak or other large, firm tomato. Pancetta is Italian cured bacon that gets cooked in the oven (no splattering on the cook-top). Substitute regular cured bacon, if desired. Prepare the mayonnaise mixture and cook the pancetta up to one day ahead.
View Recipe: Mr. Stripey Tomato, Arugula, and Pancetta Sandwiches
The grocery deli will slice prosciutto in very thin pieces, making three ounces more than enough for four sandwiches. For a zesty and pretty garnish, attach 1 small sweet gherkin pickle (11 calories each) to the top of each sandwich with a toothpick.
View Recipe: Prosciutto, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches
A citrus-laced marinade and a tangy relish add big flavor to this Latin classic.
View Recipe: Cuban Sandwiches
These sandwiches can be prepared the day before and brown-bagged for lunch. The olive salad—which some consider the best part—will moisten the bread overnight.
View Recipe: Muffulettas
We love the role rosemary plays in this recipe. Complete with green onions, smoked almonds, and a yogurt dressing, chicken salad has never tasted so good.
View Recipe: Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Bring the exotic to lunch with these easy make-ahead wraps. Chicken and vegetables are cooked in coconut milk, peanut butter, and curry for the traditional flavors of saté with peanut dipping sauce. Packaged slaw mix adds nutrition and crunch. Pair a wrap with exotic chips like sweet potato, taro, or purple potato.
View Recipe: Chicken Saté Wraps
Caprese Wraps with Chicken have all the components of a Caprese salad with the added protein of shredded chicken breast. All wrapped up in a multigrain flatbread, this hearty wrap is just as good on the go as it is when served in your dining room.
View Recipe: Caprese Wraps with Chicken
If you love Greek salad, but are looking for something more hearty, try this sandwich filled with feta, kalamata olives, and herby chicken.
View Recipe: Grilled Chicken and Tapenade Sandwiches
Simplicity is the key to these easy sandwiches: Bread, mayo and mustard, deli meats, cheese, and tomato are all you need for a quick meal anytime. But toasting them in a skillet turns them into a gooey, melty, comforting classic. And of course, they need to be paired with tomato soup for full effect.
View Recipe: Grilled Turkey and Ham Sandwiches
Gooey provolone, white bread with a crunch, and refreshing citrus aioli—all in a turkey and watercress panini—make a mouth-watering combination. This hearty sandwich will not leave you with hunger pains, but it might just leave you wishing for one more bite.
View Recipe: Turkey Panini with Watercress and Citrus Aioli
A new take on a familiar favorite pairs grilled cheese with a BLT for a luscious veggie-packed sandwich that is a far cry from any kids’ menu selection. Pair with apple slices or grapes for a satisfying meal the grown-ups and kids will enjoy.
View Recipe: Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
For these filling pitas, you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand—eggplant, summer squash, bok choy, or sweet onion. Here we use portobellos, red bell peppers, and Vidalia onions. Pair this with baked potato chips. A 1-ounce serving will add 150 calories to the meal.
View Recipe: Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo
Serve this with a simple side salad made of 1 cup of spinach,1 thin slice of onion, and 1 tablespoon of your favorite light vinaigrette (41 calories) to round out this lunch.
View Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup
Enjoy a cool summer soup with freshly cooked shrimp and a creamy avocado relish for a quick meal. The shrimp add protein, making this the perfect one-dish lunch. Pair with a warm slice of grilled garlic bread, perfect for dipping, for 114 calories.
View Recipe: Gazpacho with Shrimp and Avocado Relish
Make this soup the night before to allow time for its flavors to develop. Pour hot servings into a thermos to take for lunch, or reheat individual portions in the microwave as needed. Serve with a 1.5-ounce slice of crusty bread (123 calories) to soak up the soup.
View Recipe: Beef and Barley Soup
Count on having this lunch on the table in about 40 minutes, and serve this soup the moment it’s done for the best results. In fact, if you wait, you’ll find it gets thicker with time. If you’d like to make it ahead to take for a weekday lunch, you will want to thin the soup with a little chicken broth or milk to the desired consistency.
View Recipe: Broccoli and Chicken Noodle Soup
A traditional Texas-style chili, this stew packs a smoky punch from mildly spicy poblanos and a hot chipotle chile. Rinsing the chipotle mellows the heat; skip that step for more fire.
View Recipe: Chili con Carne