Low-Calorie Lunches

Find healthy ideas for the middle of the day that are all less than 400 calories.

Healthy Midday Meals

Healthy Midday Meals

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.

Taco Rice Salad

Photo: Oxmoor House

Taco Rice Salad

360 Calories

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  

Shrimp Caesar Salad

Photo: Randy Mayor

Shrimp Caesar Salad

370 Calories

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   

BLT Bread Salad

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

BLT Bread Salad

362 Calories 

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   

Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad

Photo: Randy Mayor

Peppery Monterey Jack Pasta Salad

371 Calories

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

Chicken, Carrot, and Cucumber Salad

Photo: Randy Mayor

Chicken, Carrot, and Cucumber Salad

382 Calories

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

Superfast Chef Salad

Photo: Randy Mayor

Superfast Chef Salad

367 Calories

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  

Mango and Black Bean Salad

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Mango and Black Bean Salad

334 Calories 

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

Mediterranean Barley Salad

Photo: Oxmoor House

Mediterranean Barley Salad

313 calories

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  

 

Moroccan-Spiced Bulgur and Chickpea Salad

Becky Luigart-Stayner

Moroccan-Spiced Bulgur and Chickpea Salad

394 Calories

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  

Tabbouleh with Chicken and Red Pepper Recipes

Photo: Randy Mayor

Tabbouleh with Chicken and Red Pepper

367 Calories

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

Wheat Berry Salad with Goat Cheese

Photo: Randy Mayor

Wheat Berry Salad with Goat Cheese

373 Calories 

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

Tortellini Pepperoncini Salad

Photo: Oxmoor House

Tortellini Pepperoncini Salad

378 Calories 

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

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Sandwiches with Lime Butter

Photo: Oxmoor House

Cornmeal-Crusted Tilapia Sandwiches with Lime Butter

345 Calories

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

Tuna Pan Bagnat Recipes

Photo: Randy Mayor

Tuna Pan Bagnat

398 Calories

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

Healthy Lobster Wraps with Lemon Mayonnaise Recipes

Photo: Lee Harrelson

Lobster Wraps with Lemon Mayonnaise

371 Calories

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

Pan-Seared Shrimp Po' Boys

Becky Luigart-Stayner

Pan-Seared Shrimp Po' Boys

397 Calories 

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

Mr. Stripey Tomato, Arugula, and Pancetta Sandwiches

Photo: Randy Mayor

Mr. Stripey Tomato, Arugula, and Pancetta Sandwiches

343 Calories 

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

Prosciutto, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Prosciutto, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches

344 Calories

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  

Cuban Sandwiches Recipes

Becky Luigart-Stayner

Cuban Sandwiches

Calories 297

A citrus-laced marinade and a tangy relish add big flavor to this Latin classic.

View Recipe: Cuban Sandwiches

 

Muffulettas

Photo: Oxmoor House

Muffulettas

352 Calories

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  

Healthy Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches Recipe

Photo: Randy Mayor

Rosemary Chicken Salad Sandwiches

360 Calories

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

Chicken Sate Wraps

Becky Luigart-Stayner

Chicken Saté Wraps

393 Calories

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 Recipes

Photo: John Autry

Caprese Wraps with Chicken

328 Calories

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

Grilled Chicken and Tapenade Sandwiches

Photo: Randy Mayor

Grilled Chicken and Tapenade Sandwiches

369 Calories

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

Grilled Turkey and Ham Sandwiches

Photo: Randy Mayor

Grilled Turkey and Ham Sandwiches

397 Calories

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

Turkey Panini with Watercress and Citrus Aioli Makeover

Photo: John Autry

Turkey Panini with Watercress and Citrus Aioli

354 Calories 

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

Healthy Kids Meal Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Recipes

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Grown-Up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

382 Calories

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

Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo Vegetarian Recipe

Photo: Randy Mayor

Grilled Vegetable Pitas with Goat Cheese and Pesto Mayo

370 Calories

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

Top-Rated Budget Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Butternut Squash Soup

338 Calories

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

Gazpacho with Shrimp and Avocado Relish

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Gazpacho with Shrimp and  Avocado Relish

364 Calories

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  

Beef and Barley Soup Recipes

Beef and Barley Soup

398 Calories

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

Broccoli and Chicken Noodle Soup Recipes

Photo: Randy Mayor

Broccoli and Chicken Noodle Soup

396 Calories

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

Healthy Chili con Carne Recipe

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

Chili con Carne

360 Calories

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

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