Have you ever experienced such a scenario: it's the middle of your workday, and your stomach is growling because you forgot to have your lunch on time? So you rush to a fast-food truck behind your office and buy a quick hot dog or a pizza slice to beat your hunger. And if that happens with you often, you're not alone — according to a survey, in most cases (43%), people purchase fast food for lunch.
However, having a filling and healthy lunch is essential for your energy and productivity. But what if you simply don't have enough time to prepare or get a nutritious meal? Read on and get quick and wholesome lunch ideas to keep you full and energized for the whole day!
Why should you reach for a healthy lunch even when you're busy?
To begin with, many career professionals don't even get their mid-day meals — 2 in 3 career professionals skip lunch, prioritizing work tasks instead. In turn, study shows skipping lunch can result in lower metabolism and energy levels, overeating, weight gain, and daytime sleepiness and tiredness. So if you think skipping lunch saves you more time and makes you more productive, everything works the other way around.
Making the right decision to eat healthy even when it seems impossible is a small sacrifice that pays off in the long run. You may feel like you're too busy for lunch, but it's not about eating fast food or anything like that. It's about making a conscious decision to eat healthy, which will provide more benefits than you think. Eating healthy will stop cravings and sugar crashes and make you feel energized for the rest of your day.
Let's go over what a healthy lunch is. Contrary to popular belief, it does not have to be salads and boiled vegetables. A healthy lunch can include all kinds of food as long as it is nutrient-dense and fits your daily needs. It can include sweets and even the occasional “unhealthy” ingredient if the other ingredients are balanced and nutritious.
Okay, and what if your lunch is just not so healthy? For example, you're used to grabbing a pastry with a latte cup during your lunch break. But such an approach will leave you hungry in 2-3 hours, causing blood sugar spikes and sleepiness due to the high amount of simple carbs in processed food. However, suppose your lunch contains decent portions of carbs, proteins, and fats without added sugars and trans fats. In that case, you'll be able to get long-lasting energy and feel better.
Still, you may think you don't have time to prepare all these healthy and wholesome meals. So let us convince you — there's always a way to make a quick lunch that contains all the necessary nutrients! And our fast and healthy lunch ideas will show you that busy career professionals can also do it right.
The best healthy lunch ideas for busy professionals
We've prepared a list of awfully delicious and balanced midday meals that you can pre-make in no time. Some of them you can even freeze and save for a few weeks ahead for convenience. So dive in and be careful — just reading them can make you hungry as a hunter!
1. Chicken salad with greek yogurt
When you need to prepare something quick and healthy, chicken is among the best ingredients for every dish. It's extremely rich in protein — one boiled chicken breast serving (86 g) contains 27g of protein, which is half of an average protein daily value. Meanwhile, Greek yogurt is also high in protein and calcium and helpful to your gut health.
You can boil the chicken in advance and then mix it with chopped tomatoes, salad leaves, and a few slices of whole-grain toasted bread in your lunch box. Next, put it in your bag along with a Greek yogurt cup, and season the salad with yogurt right before lunch. Then enjoy your Greek-cuisine-inspired meal!
2. Turkey wraps
What can be easier than preparing wraps? You can make them literally in a few minutes, and they taste great with any filling! And since you want to make a healthy lunch, we're going to pick only wholesome ingredients. Choose a whole-grain tortilla (for example, the one made with corn) since it contains more fiber and a low-fat smoked turkey as a protein source (23g per 85g or 3 ounces). Plus, turkey is rich in vitamins like vitamin B, zinc, and choline, so you'll also get plenty of micronutrients.
Put the turkey into the tortilla, add a few green salad leaves along with tomato slices, and make thick wraps. If you want, you can smear some avocado mayo on tortillas to make your wraps juicer and get more healthy fats. Plus, you can pre-made these wraps and store them for a few days as a quick to-go lunch.
3. Chicken and rice bowl
Bowls are a perfect option when you want to prepare a balanced meal in less than 15 minutes. You can use plenty of different porridges as a garnish and mix them with veggies and meat. But chicken and rice bowl is a classic option, so try to make it your regular quick lunch option.
As for rice, choose the brown one because it's rich in minerals and vitamins and doesn't cause blood sugar spikes. Boil some rice the evening before so that you can pack it for your lunch the day after. The chicken breast will supply you with protein. Plus, you can add green beans, which contain many vitamins C, A, and K. Then, you can add some olive oil and seasonings to enhance the taste and enjoy your healthy meal.
4. Brie cheese pasta with mushrooms and spinach
This lunch idea is so delicious and filling that you should definitely try it! Pasta with mushrooms is a well-known tasty combo, but you make it way more delicate and healthy by adding brie cheese and spinach. Whole-grain pasta will give you enough complex carbs, while mushrooms and spinach will supply you with nutrients like vitamin C and iron. Meanwhile, brie is a good source of fats and proteins, so your meal will be perfectly balanced.
Just fry chopped mushrooms with spinach in a pan using olive oil, add some brie cheese, and mix them with hot pasta. You can also cook a more considerable portion and store this pasta for a few days in your fridge.
5. Sweet potato stuffed with bacon
Cooking meals in the oven takes too much of your time? Then you'll definitely like this sweet potato and bacon lunch that you can cook in a microwave in 10 minutes. Sweet potato is extremely rich in fiber and contains high magnesium, vitamin A, C, and E doses. Bacon, in turn, will give you a lot of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids, allowing you to have a higher energy level for a long time.
So prick your potatoes with a fork and heat them in a microwave. Five minutes will be enough for one potato, and for every additional potato add 2 more minutes of heating. Meanwhile, chop some bacon and veggies like tomatoes and cucumbers. When your potato is ready, cut it on halves (not completely) and put the bacon in the gaps. Then put your stuffed sweet potatoes in the microwave for one more minute. Finally, pack your meal together with fresh veggies in a lunchbox and pamper your taste buds during a lunch break.
6. Avocado egg salad toasts
We couldn't ignore eggs in our list because they're not just morning food. One medium-sized egg has 8g of protein (almost 20% of the daily recommended dose) and many nutrients like group B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and zinc. They're literally bursting with nutrients! Moreover, avocado will supply you with healthy fats and acids. At the same time, whole-grain toasts give your body complex carbs for better energy production.
To prepare these delicious avocado egg salad toasts, you need to boil a few eggs and smash one avocado with the fork. When your eggs are ready, chop them into small pieces and mix with avocado, mayo, and scallions. Put it in a separate container — it's better to put this salad on toast right before eating. Then you can enjoy your protein-rich meal with a smooth and creamy taste.
7. Chickpea with turkey sausages and red bell pepper
It may sound like a slow-cooking meal, but you can prepare it in less than 15 minutes if you've boiled chickpeas before. These legumes are rich in fiber: 2 cups are enough to meet your daily recommended norm). Plus, they supply your body with copper and zinc, strengthening your immunity. Besides, choose lean turkey sausages to get plenty of protein and less saturated fats with it. At the same time, red bell pepper delivers antioxidants and vitamins to your body.
Fry chopped sausages together with bell pepper, and after a few minutes, add cooked chickpeas. You can also add some tomato paste or broth to a pan. Cover the dish with a lid and simmer for a few minutes. Aside from being filling and delicious, this lunch meal will help you stay energized until the end of your workday without any snacks and treats.
8. Tuna and baby potato salad
What about some fish for your lunch? This quick tuna and potato salad will help you beat your hunger as a pro. Tuna will help you get your daily Omega 3 dose and supply you with vitamin C and zinc. And by adding boiled baby potato, you infuse this meal with healthy carbs, fiber, folate, and vitamin B.
Chop boiled potatoes on halves, then mix them with canned tuna, sliced red onion, olive oil, and parsley. You can prepare this fantastic vitamin-rich salad not only as lunch but as a dinner too, or save it as a leftover for your quick breakfast.
9. Veggie cream soup
Cream soups are an outstanding lunch idea when you want something heartwarming and filling. And the veggie cream soup is also extremely healthy since it offers you so many vitamins! You can pick any veggies you have at hand, but we'll go with the basic set.
So you need to take a few potatoes, celery, carrot, garlic and put them in a big pot. Boil them in a ready-made chicken broth for 15 minutes. When they're ready, arm yourself with a blender and turn them into a homogeneous mass. You can also add some sour cream or milk to make your soup a bit softer. Then pour the soup into a thermos or particular container, and get this fantastic superfood-like meal during your lunch break.
10. Couscous with chicken breast and broccoli
An undeniable advantage of couscous is that you can cook it super quickly. Plus, it's full of fiber, protein, and selenium, so by consuming it, you'll get plenty of energy and boost your immunity. Chicken breast is another protein-rich ingredient, and broccoli is a veggie superfood that maintains your heart and eye health. And together, all these ingredients create an unforgettable taste!
To save more time, cook your broccoli together with couscous — just put them in boiling water and cover with a lid. Meanwhile, lightly fry the chicken breast on both sides. Then mix everything and make the most of your lunchtime with this delicious meal.
There's nothing complicated about having a healthy lunch, even if you're extremely busy! The critical thing is to plan what you'll be cooking and make some preparations in advance. For example, you can order necessary groceries or pre-made slowly cooking ingredients. If you manage with that, your morning lunch preparation won't take more than 15 minutes of your time. So choose one of those quick and healthy lunch ideas we mentioned and start improving your diet right now!
- Nearly 37 percent of Americans regularly eat fast food, study shows (2018)
- The Modern American Lunchbreak: 2 In 3 Millennials Claim To Skip Lunch In Order To "Get Ahead" At Work According To New Survey From California Walnuts (2019)
- Perils Of Skipping Meals (2005)
- Does Eating Carbs Make You Sleepy? (2019)
- Does A Junk Food Diet Make You Lazy? UCLA Psychology Study Offers Answer (2014)
- How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day? (2015)
- Greek Yogurt Vs. Regular Yogurt: Which Is More Healthful? (2021)
- Is Turkey Good For You? (2018)
- Brown Rice: Health Benefits, Nutrition Facts, And How To Prepare It (2021)
- 15 Health Benefits Of Sweet Potatoes, According To Science (2017)
- The Health Benefits Of Eggs (2019)
- Top 10 Health Benefits Of Chickpeas And Garbanzo Beans (2020)
- 8 Incredible Benefits Of Tuna: Heart Health, Weight Loss And More (2018)
- 9 Impressive Benefits Of Couscous (2020)
- The Health Benefits Of Broccoli (2020)