25 Light Lunch Ideas
Turkey Sandwiches With Kimchi Slaw and Miso Sauce
Give your day-after-Thanksgiving sandwich a modern update with global ingredients. The robust flavors of nutty sesame oil, tangy-garlicky-pungent kimchi, and salty-sweet white miso give your palate a welcome change of pace. The sandwich also feeds your gut healthy probiotics (kimchi, yogurt, and miso) plus pre-biotics (whole grain bread) to keep the good bacteria well fed.
Tuna, Avocado, and Pickled Onion Sandwich
This sandwich is all about healthy fats, with omega-3 fatty acids in the tuna and monounsaturated fat in the avocado. The first boosts brain function; the second is great for heart health. Tuna and avocado also happen to taste delicious together, along with pickled onion, roasted almonds, and briny, pea-green Castelvetrano olives. You’ll want a sturdy loaf of sourdough to support the filling; be sure to buy from the bakery section of the supermarket.
Grilled Lamb and Feta Pita Sandwiches
Your favorite Mediterranean takeout just got a wholesome makeover. We mixed in lean ground sirloin with the lamb for a lighter patty; lemon and cumin keep the flavor bright and bold. Be sure to let the cucumber dry before stirring it into the yogurt to keep the sauce nice and creamy. Double up on this easy recipe, set out a bowl of your favorite hummus with veggies, and your next backyard party is ready to go.
Cauliflower Po’boy Sandwich
Who needs fried shrimp? These oven-fried cauliflower bites pack a nice veggie-based crunch into the classic New Orleans sandwich without the heaviness of traditional deep-fried fillings.
Piled high with plenty of this fast-fix slaw, the cauliflower is a smart meatless swap, and also doubles as a tasty party appetizer. Pro tip: Toasting the panko first is the key to achieving that enviable golden-brown crust.
Multigrain Waffle-Sandwich With Veggie Cream Cheese
This pack-and-go lunch has fun written all over it. Using waffles instead of bread is a great way to jazz up a ho-hum homemade sandwich; the colorful cream cheese spread delivers an extra helping of veggies in a kid-friendly way. Trade out the vegetable chips for whole grain tortillas chips or chickpea puffs for a crunchy twist.
The Ultimate Veggie Sandwich
Not only is this all vegetable sandwich stunning and colorful, it’s also brimming with nutrition. One sandwich delivers 20 grams of protein, a healthy dose of calcium and potassium, plus nearly 3/4 of your daily fiber needs. One caveat, though: you might need a fork and knife for this one. And definitely a handful of napkins.
Sushi Sandwich Lunch Box
Love sushi rolls, but feel intimidated by the rolling technique? Then sushi sandwiches—actually a traditional Japanese dish called onigirazu—will be right up your alley. We pair ours with cooked Broccolini and steamed edamame for a veggie boost.
Farro Salad Lunch Box
Pouched precooked farro (which you’ll find on the rice and grains aisle of some larger supermarkets) is a great product to keep on hand. It’ll keep for months in the pantry, reheats in just 90 seconds, and is versatile enough to go into salads, soups, pilafs, and more. You can also cook your own farro if you have time; you’ll need 2 cups for this recipe. This salad holds up beautifully for several days, so feel free to double the recipe and have lunch in the bag for nearly the whole week.
Ploughman's Lunch Box
A typical English ploughman's lunch contains cold cheese, pickles, and bread. We lighten ours by pairing Gruyère cheese and a whole-wheat baguette with almonds, grapes, radishes, and homemade Spiced Apple Chutney. This tangy and sweet condiment has a little spicy kick. It's delicious as part of a cheese board, on a burger or sandwich, with pork chops or pork tenderloin, or tucket into the ultimate snack lunch.
Chicken Salad Lunch Box
We’ve bypassed mayo for a fresher, zestier approach to chicken salad. Creamy Greek yogurt teams up with a little olive oil for richness and gets spiked with fragrant lemon rind and woodsy fresh thyme. We poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts with bay leaves to infuse flavor and keep the chicken moist. Pack your lunch with cantaloupe cubes, celery stalks, and goat cheese-stuffed Peppadew peppers to round out your meal.
Lemon-Dill Salmon Salad
Canned boneless, skinless salmon is just as tasty and versatile as canned tuna, and it boasts more omega-3 fats—but you could certainly use tuna if you prefer it.
Coriander Chicken and Rice
This dish is inspired by the savory street cart chicken and rice whose fragrance will lure you over from a block away. Though you can enjoy this lunch at room temperature, it tastes best reheated. Rest assured, the food holds up beautifully. Because everything is so nicely seasoned, it’s all just as flavorful after 3 days. When making the recipe, be sure to get the rice going first; as it cooks, the rest of the meal will come together.
Smoky Chicken With Potato Salad and Slaw
Smoked paprika delivers grill-like flavor to spiced chicken, and creamy potato salad and tangy slaw complete the meal. We toss the undressed coleslaw mix with sugar and salt, let it stand, and rinse it; this process helps to remove some of the water from the cabbage so that the coleslaw will hold up longer without watering out.
Glazed Meatballs with Soba Noodles
The tender texture and mildly earthy flavor of soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles) make this lunch a keeper; it’s great at room temperature or warmed. You’ll find soba on the Asian foods aisle of most grocery stores (or at Amazon), but you can substitute whole-wheat spaghetti in a pinch. A little chile heat punches up the flavor in the glaze, but the standout is toasted sesame oil (also found on the Asian foods aisle), with its heady, fragrant nuttiness.
Greek Chickpea Salad
Crunchy, sturdy romaine lettuce holds up well as the base for this salad. The flavors are bright, fresh, briny, and herby—even after 3 or 4 days. Be sure the lettuce is well-dried before assembling the salads; wet leaves tend to sog out quickly. For a heartier salad, you can add 4 ounces of cooked chicken breast or shrimp; the chicken will add 187 calories and 35g protein, and the shrimp will contribute 135 calories and 26g protein.
Crispy Tuna Cakes
Our tasty riff on crab cakes adds oomph to omega-3-rich pouched tuna. For extra flavor, drizzle with any remaining All-Purpose Tahini Dressing you have on hand. We use old-fashioned rolled oats in place of breadcrumbs to sneak in some whole grains.
Spinach, Hummus, and Bell Pepper Wraps
Make this super-simple wrap the night before, wrap in parchment paper or plastic wrap, and store in the fridge—just grab it in the morning on your way out the door. Use Flatout Light whole-grain flatbreads to keep calories in check; you can find them at most supermarkets, usually in the bakery section.
Make Ahead Chicken Fajita Bowls
A little bit of advance prep will give you nearly a workweek’s worth of fantastic lunches. Meaty chicken thighs, spiced sweet potatoes, and tender onions and peppers make for a filling, well balanced meal. The chicken and vegetables hold up well, reheat beautifully, and stay flavorful for the duration. To keep prep super simple, everything is cooked together on a sheet pan. Before reheating, remove the pico de gallo from the container so that it stays cold. Of course, you can certainly enjoy this meal right away, as an easy dinner instead of a meal-prepped lunch.
Middle Eastern Salad Bowls with Farro and Chicken
Use a Middle Eastern bean salad from the specialty grocery store and microwaveable farro to add protein, fiber, and texture to these high- protein lunch bowls. To cut down on prep time, use grilled chicken breasts from the grocery refrigerated section and bottled balsamic vinaigrette.
Chicken and Cabbage Salad Bowls with Sesame Dressing
Four ingredients are all you need to prepare these portable, low-carb lunches. A bag of prechopped red and green cabbage serves as the crunchy low-carb base in these chicken salad bowls, which only require 10 minutes to assemble.
Kale-and-Chickpea Grain Bowl With Avocado Dressing
This veggie-heavy bowl is loaded with crunch and color, thanks to crispy carrots and chickpeas, fresh kale, and a vibrant avocado dressing. It also delivers more than 50ﬁ of your daily dose of fiber, key for weight loss, energy, and healthy digestion. Bulgur, also called cracked wheat, is a quick cooking whole grain. These bowls would also be excellent make-ahead lunches. Pack the avocado mixture separately, adding a little water to thin it as needed.
Spinach and Artichoke Salad with Parmesan Vinaigrette
Inspired by the classic warm party dip, this simple salad can be served up right away or divided into lidded containers for a week of lunches. To keep the hard-boiled eggs tasting fresh, we suggest peeling them and adding to your salad just before serving or in the morning before packing your lunch to go.
Turkey Cobb Salad
Cubed deli turkey takes the place of chicken, while cheddar replaces blue cheese in this easy Cobb-inspired salad. The protein-rich turkey and cheese, plus eggs and bacon, give the salad staying power, so you won’t get hungry an hour after you eat. Serve the salad right away or pack it up in individual containers, and you’ll be set for lunch for days.
Meatless Taco Salad
Black beans and pinto beans take the place of meat in this hearty taco salad. The beans and tomatoes cook down to make a filling taco base that’s topped with avocado and crispy tortilla strips.
Spinach Salad with Smoked Salmon
The crunch from the sunflower seeds, apple, and onion is magical with the creaminess of the avocado and the saltiness of the feta cheese and the smoked salmon.