Quick Lunch Ideas

Lunch can be tricky, especially if you are at work or school during the day. But the traditional PB & J is not your only option when packing lunch.

Stock Your Kitchen

If you want to make packing lunch a quick and easy task, stock your kitchen with healthy options like those listed below. Pick a few foods that you like and keep them on hand.

Also - keep some storage containers, plastic sandwich bags, a thermos and an insulated lunch bag or cooler to transport and store your lunch.

Vegetables

  • Fresh vegetables – baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, snap peas and precut vegetables are quick to pack
  • You can also buy whole vegetables like broccoli, bell peppers and celery; chop them up when you get home to use throughout the week on sandwiches, wraps or salads
  • Fresh mixed greens or spinach – pile onto sandwiches, wraps or use in salads
  • Frozen vegetables – try those you can steam in the package; a great idea if you've got a microwave available to you during the day

Fruit

  • Whole fruit like apples, bananas, oranges, clementines, pears, nectarines, grapes or peaches – these are easy to grab and go
  • Canned fruit (canned in juice, not syrup) - try individual serving cups or cans of mandarin oranges, peaches or fruit cocktail

Whole Grains

  • 100% whole wheat bread, pitas, and/or wraps – if you're trying to cut back on carbohydrate, consider a low-carb version
  • Quinoa or quick-cooking barley

Protein Foods

  • Canned tuna
  • Reduced-sodium canned beans
  • Reduced-sodium lean deli meat – try roasted turkey, chicken or roast beef
  • Rotisserie chicken – buy a whole chicken and use it throughout the week
  • Eggs – hard boil these ahead of time
  • Unsalted nuts/nut mix

Dairy

  • Skim or 1% milk – soymilk or almond milk are also god options, especially for those with a lactose intolerance
  • Light yogurt or non-fat Greek yogurt - plain is best, flavored varieties will have more carbohydrate
  • Cottage cheese – try 1% or 2% low-fat cottage cheese to cut back on the calories

Some Extras for Flavor

  • Hot sauce
  • Hummus
  • Light salad dressing
  • Mustard
  • Salsa
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Lime and/or lemon juice

It takes a little planning, but bringing a homemade lunch to work or school is an easy step toward a healthier lifestyle. See our article for more New and Healthy Brown Bag Lunch Ideas on Recipes for Healthy Living.

Quick & Healthy Lunch Ideas

Here are some ways you can put together the foods above to make a healthy, well-balanced lunch:

  1. Put a healthy spin on the traditional sandwich: use 2 pieces of thin sandwich bread, 2 ounces reduced-sodium lean turkey, hummus, spinach, bell pepper and mustard. Add some carrot sticks and light ranch dressing on the side.
  2. Mix together some cooked quinoa, white beans, chopped bell pepper, carrots and broccoli to make a grain salad. Toss with some olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add a nectarine or some grapes on the side and a small handful of dry roasted almonds, if desired.
  3. Make a tuna salad with canned tuna, light mayo, diced celery, lemon juice and freshly ground pepper. Serve it over greens with an apple and peanut butter on the side.
  4. Try a quick yogurt parfait with non-fat plain Greek yogurt, diced pineapple, peaches and a handful of pecans on the side.
  5. Pack a cup of leftover chili or vegetable soup. Top it with some fresh tomatoes and non-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream.
  6. Fill a whole wheat tortilla wrap with rotisserie chicken, hummus, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese and greens. Add a side of fruit if it fits with your plan.
  7. Try a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit, string cheese and 5 whole wheat crackers. You could also add some carrots, celery sticks and peanut butter.
  8. Throw together a salad with romaine lettuce or spinach and any other non-starchy vegetables that you like. Top with some cottage cheese, chopped nuts and a tablespoon of light dressing.

Quick Lunch Recipes

Mediterranean Turkey Wrap
Don't spend your money on fast food at lunch. Make this quick wrap instead and find that healthy eating does not have to be bland or boring!

Tomato Mozzarella and Chickpea Salad
This salad takes just 5 minutes to prepare and is packed with nutrients. Pack the spinach separately and add it when it's time to eat!

Veggie Chili
You can make this recipe on the weekend when you have some time and it will stay good all week. Pack a cup for lunch each day! If you won't eat it all in that time frame, freeze half of it for a meal at a later date.

For more free recipes like these each month, sign up for our Recipes for Healthy Living e-newsletter.

Dining out for Lunch?

If you don't have time to make a healthy lunch at home, follow these tips when eating out:

  • Try out a vegetarian option, like a grilled vegetable Panini or wrap with fresh vegetables and hummus.
  • Order a salad with the dressing on the side. (Watch out for salads with a lot of cheese or fried meats. Ask for less cheese and hold the fried onions and meats.)
  • Opt for grilled meat, fish, and poultry rather than fried.
  • Order the smallest sandwich. So, skip the double decker cheeseburger and choose a regular hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and mustard. Or go for the 6-inch sub rather than the foot-long option.
  • Ask if whole wheat is an option for sandwich bread, wraps, or pitas.
  • Opt for fresh vegetables, fresh fruit or low-fat yogurt as side dishes.
  • Order broth-based vegetable or bean soup rather than creamy soups.

Learn more about how to make better choices when Eating Out.

  • Last Reviewed: August 9, 2013
  • Last Edited: June 25, 2014

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Diabetes Forecast