A Month of Healthy Lunches
Chickpea Spinach Salad
Starting with pre-cooked leftover chicken, this recipe comes together in only 10 minutes. Thanks to a variety of ingredients, this salad is a nutritional powerhouse, brimming with antioxidants from the oranges, heart-healthy fats from the walnuts and avocado, and folate and vitamin A from the spinach. We skip the croutons and add toasted walnuts for some heart-healthy crunch.
Zesty Kale and Sweet Potato Bowl
This loaded veggie bowl gets a touch of smoke from the chili-spiced sweet potatoes and roasted bell pepper and plenty of zing from fresh lime. Chili powder and lime also give toasted almonds an addictive crust; make extra and enjoy as a snack. Cotija cheese has a dry, crumbly texture—it won’t melt or disappear into the bowl. Use it to top tacos, stir into whole-grain salads, or top roasted broccoli.
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.
Creamy tahini and fragrant toasted sesame oil give this simple noodle dish a double dose of nutty flavor. The sauce is similar to Southeast Asian peanut sauce—but more allergen-friendly from being made of sesame seeds. A couple teaspoons of sambal oelek provide a hint of heat; use more or less according to your preference. Look for it in jars on the Asian foods aisle.
For quick and healthy lunches, stock up on 1-pint jars for portable and perfectly portioned salads and soups. This Italian soup packs 10g of protein in a meal that's less than 250 calories. Layer up and refrigerate as many jars as you need—just add hot water at the office. If sending this kid-friendly soup to school in a lunch box, pack in an insulated thermos and top off with hot water at home. Use a spiralizer to make fun zucchini noodles, or a vegetable peeler for ribbons. Or just finely chop for faster prep.
Chicken-and-Vegetable Hand Pies
Enjoy portable potpie with extra veggies and hearty whole grains. Both family- and freezer-friendly, these hand pies deliver a hearty meal to go.
This take on Cincinnati chili forgoes the traditional spaghetti accompaniment, though you can serve it over hot cooked noodles if you like. While many cooks think of cinnamon only as a spice for baked goods and sweets, it’s fantastic in savory dishes—particularly roasted, braised, and stewed meats like beef, pork, and chicken.
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 50% 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.
Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Flatbreads
Naan breads are the secret to instant pizza-style flatbreads (no rolling or baking of dough required). Look for whole-grain naan, such as Stonefire, and treat as you would a prepared pizza crust.
Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad
Simple and bright, this is the kind of main that puts us in the mood for spring. If you’ve never thrown fresh lemons on the grill, try it: The slight edge of char intensifies their tartness, and they look gorgeous. The marinade is more of a wet rub since the chicken goes straight to the grill, though you could refrigerate up to a day ahead. This salad is endlessly adaptable for spring and summer vegetables: Try shaved carrot and summer squash ribbons, haricots verts, or even just a shower of fresh herbs.
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.
Chicken, Mushroom, and Bok Choy Bowls
If ground turkey is a staple protein in your kitchen, try ground chicken—the blend of light breast and rich thigh meat is just as flavorful and quick-cooking. A cast-iron skillet helps with browning, but any large skillet will do. True to most stir-frying techniques, we separate the tough stems of the bok choy from the tender leaves and cook them first so that everything has just the right doneness. One large bok choy can stand in for the baby ones; be sure to trim off the wide, fibrous ends and cut the stems into thin slices. Serve with Scallion-and-Cilantro Barley to make a hearty grain bowl.
The Big Omega Sandwich
Our supercharged salmon sandwich gives delicious incentive to ditch its fast-food counterparts. Wild-caught salmon is infused with a wealth of smoky, spicy, and deliciously tangy ingredients before being pan-seared to crisp, golden perfection. We found that broiling the salmon results in the ultimate melt-in-your-mouth, buttery tenderness. In place of standard tartar sauce, we top each patty with a generous dollop of spicy, yogurt-blended aioli.
Vegetable Soup au Pistou
A traditional French pistou is a nut-free pesto, but the spinach pesto (or any refrigerated brand) is delicious here. Don't rinse the canned beans after draining; any remaining starches will help bring the soup together.
Sweet-and-Sour Chicken Bowl
If ketchup goes with every chicken dinner in your family, try these saucy, sweet, and tangy chicken thighs instead. The meat becomes incredibly tender in the slow cooker so you can easily slip out the bones and cut the chicken into bite-size pieces for kids. Bone-in chicken thighs are pan-seared before being basted with sticky-sweet sauce and slow cooked to fork-tender perfection. Sear the chicken thighs in batches to avoid over-crowding the pan and hindering browning. Though we swoon over the superiorly moist meat, the real magic lies within the sauce, which masters the balance of savory and sweet. For a burst of freshness, we add a simple cabbage slaw that rounds out the meal with a satisfying crunch. For an extra dose of veggies, pair it with sugar snap or snow peas. Our recipe requires little legwork and saves 300 calories and 250mg of sodium over the classic.
Wheat Berry "Ribollita"
Traditional ribollita is a Tuscan specialty made of leftover minestrone warmed up with chunks of bread tossed into it. In this version, wheat berries stand in for bread, bulking up the soup with nutty flavor and pleasant texture. The Parmesan cheese rind that simmers in the broth enriches the whole pot with umami depth. It’s a great technique that’ll convince you to always save your Parmesan rinds, stashing them in the freezer for uses like this. If you don’t have any, check the cheese counter at your local gourmet grocer; you’ll often find rinds for sale there.
Chickpea and Sausage Pesto Soup
In just five minutes, you can layer this quick meal for today's lunch. The combination of sun-dried tomato chicken sausage and 1/2 cup chickpeas packs a whopping 20g of protein into this soup. Prepared pesto creates a rich flavor base for this Mediterranean-inspired soup; we've found that refrigerated versions taste fresher and more vibrant. Our 5-ingredient homemade pesto adds a little extra time, but offers fresh flavor you can use for pizza, pasta, and a host of other dishes. If you have a spiralizer; you can make lovely carrot noodles in place of matchstick-cut carrots. You can also use this handy tool to create swirly vegetable noodles for dishes like our Zucchini Noodles Tossed in a Cilantro-Avocado Pesto.
Quinoa-Crusted Fish Nuggets with Tartar Sauce
Quinoa is a gluten-free source of protein, iron, and fiber, plus it's a quick and flavorful way to get in a serving of whole grains. You can find beige, red, black, or tricolor quinoa in stores; they all taste the same, so use whichever color you prefer. These freezer-friendly quinoa nuggets give store bought ones a run for their money. Any firm white fish will work, such as grouper, halibut, flounder, or cod. Use rice flour to make gluten-free nuggets.
Mini Mozzarella-and-Kale Pita Pizzas
Try this clever idea—split the pitas in half before toasting so the crusts can get extra crisp. They’ll also be slightly shallow rather than flat, a perfect vessel for the sauce and toppings.
Spring Vegetable Grain Bowl
This dish is all about clean flavors and distinct textures. Farro provides satisfying chew, while the raw shaved veggie soften slightly in the vinaigrette to become perfectly crisp-tender. To blanch the peas, cook in boiling water for 1 minute or until crisp-tender, then dunk in an ice bath for 1 minute to stop the cooking. A mandoline or vegetable peeler makes quick work of thinly slicing vegetables
Sesame-Ginger-Chickpea-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
Sesame, especially toasted sesame oil, is a key flavor in many Asian cuisines. It makes sense that tahini would fit here too, especially as a finishing touch for roasted sweet potatoes with Sriracha.
Fresh and fast, this meatless main redefines the art of convenience cooking. We toast the bread in the oven, but if you already have the grill cranked up, this salad easily transitions to an outdoor dish. If your bakery carries whole-grain ciabatta, use it for a nutrition boost.
Falafel Pita Sliders
We make falafel patties instead of balls because the wide, flat surface area gets extra crisp when seared and baked, a lighter approach to shallow frying. Use any stuffers you like for the sandwiches, or load up as the Israelis do with a chopped cucumber and tomato salad, pickled cabbage, and tahini sauce.
Tahini-Carrot Soup With Pistachios
A hint of toasted sesame oil lends depth to this velvety soup. Use real baby carrots, not the whittled-down packaged ones, which are lacking in flavor. Garnish with sautéed carrot strips.
Lentil-Tahini Burgers with Pickled Cabbage
Look for steamed, vacuum-packed lentils in the grain aisle for the best texture in the burgers, or cook, drain, and refrigerate your own the night before. Why does tahini turn to a gluey paste when liquid is added? Tahini is made of carbs, and carbs stick to water molecules like, well, glue. Keep slowly adding liquid and stirring; the sauce will start to absorb the liquid and smooth out.
We couldn't resist stuffing cup-shaped avocado halves, here gently seared until lightly caramelized. Sweet crabmeat dressed with zingy lemon and tarragon is a nice complement to the buttery avocado; chopped cooked shrimp or shredded chicken breast would also work. You could also fill the halves with a fresh summer squash salad or black bean salsa.
Miso Noodle Soup
This Japanese breakfast mainstay often served alongside eggs, pickles, rice, and fish also makes a quick and healthy lunch. You can throw it together in just 10 minutes for a dish that's low in sugar and calories. Brown rice noodles, mushrooms, and a hard-cooked egg make this vegetarian soup—and staff favorite—hearty and satisfying. That said, you could easily add meat if you like; leftover roast pork would be ideal. White miso gives a slightly sweet flavor to this Japanese soup, and we have plenty of uses for this versatile soybean paste packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals.
Smoky Carrot Dogs With Nacho Sauce
We've embellished the humble carrot to mimic the smoky taste and snappy texture of a hot dog. To lend a dairy-free cheesy flavor to plant-based nacho sauce, we use nutritional yeast; look for it in health food stores or well-stocked specialty grocers. Our recipe saves 8g saturated fat over standard cheese dogs without losing any of the flavor.
Thai Sweet Potato Noodle Bowls
Add fresh curry paste to canned coconut milk and nut butter, and you have an instant, wonderfully complex satay sauce. Use as a dip, in stir-fries, or drizzled on this gluten-free veggie bowl. If you don’t have a spiralizer, you can use a julienne peeler or the shredding blade of your food processor. The sweet potato noodles will look like too much for the skillet but will shrink considerably as they cook. If using store-bought curry paste, start with 2 teaspoons, as it is much higher in sodium than fresh.
Blackened Grouper Sandwiches With Rémoulade
Firm white fish like grouper, tilapia, and mahi mahi are perfect for crusty sandwiches because they won't fall apart after cooking.