Back-to-school time isn’t just for kids. The beginning of fall, when salad recipes don’t quite hit the spot, is the perfect time for adults to recommit to healthy habits — it’s like a second version of New Year’s resolutions.
And one of the best things you can do is revamp your lunches. Say goodbye to sad desk lunches filled with overpriced salad bar items, preservative-laden microwavable meals and limp salads. These healthy lunches for work are easy to make, travel well and will make your colleagues wonder how you’re affording a chef on the side.
18 Healthy Lunch Recipes
Boring sandwiches, be gone. This chickpea salad comes together with a quick tahini dressing. Combined with crunchy apples, walnuts, celery and onion, this healthy lunch is a winner. Load it onto gluten-free bread and finish the salad off with your favorite sandwich toppings, like tomatoes and avocados.
Tired of lunches that leave you hungry just an hour or two later? Try this hearty wrap. Made with fiber-rich black beans, superfood quinoa and a homemade avocado dip, it’s sure to keep you full through the afternoon.
Chocolate oats might not sound healthy, but this overnight version sure is. While this is technically a breakfast recipe, it’s too convenient not to enjoy among your health lunches for work. Just layer the ingredients in a jar, keep in the refrigerator overnight and have the next day. You can grab this one on your way out the door and chow down at noon. Eat it cold or warm it up — this lunch is perfect year-round.
Photo: Chocolate-Covered Katie
What makes these zoodles such a terrific idea for healthy lunches for work? It’s that you can prepare them the night before and enjoy cold or hot the next day. Because the base is zucchini, not pasta, you’ll avoid that post-meal coma feeling that real noodles can bring on.
Tip: If you want to prepare several zoodle recipes at once, you can spiralize a big batch at a time, let dry on paper towels on the kitchen counter for about an hour to remove excess moisture and then store in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Pull out as much as you need and cover with your favorite toppings.
I love the idea behind these chicken taco mason jars. Layering taco staples like black beans, tomatoes and corn along with dressing and chicken, you get a yummy lunch that’s easy to take on the go. You can make these even better for you with a few small modifications: skip the grocery store chicken and use any cooked meat you have on hand. Opt for full-fat Greek yogurt and add in some diced bell peppers for extra crunch and veggie power. Skip the shredded cheese and grate your own!
Why use mayonnaise in chicken salads when you can use tzatziki instead? This Greek dressing is made from yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, cucumbers and herbs for so much more flavor than mayonnaise at a fraction of the calories. When it’s mixed with cooked, shredded chicken, it makes for a salad you won’t be able to put down. Stuff it between a whole-grain pita or eat it on a bed of greens for an easy lunch.
Photo: Host the Toast
This version of fried rice uses cauliflower instead of grains for a low-carb, protein-packed meal. Prepare this the night before and reheat the leftovers for one of your healthy lunches for work or just chow down at room temperature — it’s equally good.
These frittata muffins are super versatile and travel well. While I love this version, which sees quinoa, green peas and fresh mint playing nicely together, you can easily substitute whatever greens, seeds or herbs you have on hand.
You can’t go wrong with a recipe that uses the words “whipped avocado cream.” The trick to this lunchtime bowl is to marinate and grill a batch of chicken over the weekend. You can then divvy up the protein throughout the week in your favorite salad combos. I love the combination of farro, spinach, feta and chicken in this one. But the real star is the avocado cream. Made with fresh lime juice, honey, garlic and herb seasoning and olive oil, it turns a chicken lunch into a gourmet meal.
Photo: Lovely Little Kitchen
Protein-rich tuna served right in an avocado along with fresh lime juice, chopped red bell pepper and flavorful cilantro leaves. It doesn’t get any tastier — or easier — than this one. You could also substitute shredded chicken or go all veggie and mix in mushrooms and onions; as long as it’s in an avocado, it’ll taste great.
Photo: The Stay at Home Chef
While most fritters are fried, these veggie ones are baked in a muffin pan: no muss, less fuss. They’re delicious proportioned and filled with greens, quinoa and avocado. What’s not to love? Sneak in some extra protein and taste by adding diced chicken sausage or jalapeño to take this on-the-go lunch over the top.
This Middle Eastern salad comes together in just minutes with a little chopping and juicing. Chickpeas, cucumbers and a variety of veggies make up the base of this salad — perfect for one of your healthy lunches for work. The finishing touch is the lemony-basil vinaigrette that gets drizzled over the veggies. If you prep this recipe ahead of time, store the dressing separately from the salad and stir to combine just before serving.
Not only do these Paleo meatballs taste great, you can make a big batch at once and freeze individual portions. The combination of protein along with crunchy zucchini noodles and juicy tomatoes means you can grab a good-for-you, preservative-free meal right from the freezer.
Photo: My Life Cookbook
Simplicity is the key when it comes to this meaty Paleo salad. Sirloin steak is grilled or seared then sliced and served with hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, greens and avocado. The creamy garlic dressing, made from avocado oil and dairy-free mayonnaise, just seals the whole deal. There’s no need to reheat the steak before serving, either.
Photo: Paleo Newbie
These veggie burgers are perfect for whipping up on weekends and eating throughout the week. Unlike many meat-free burgers, they aren’t “beefed up” with unnecessary fillers. Instead, hearty black beans, quinoa, flaxseed and mashed sweet potatoes add in the bulk and nutrition. These are delicious topped with guacamole or salsa.
Photo: Happy Healthy Mama
16. Tuna Salad
This tuna salad tastes better than anything you’d find at the salad bar and for much cheaper, too! The secret ingredient in this one is the dried cranberries, which add tartness and texture all at once. Eat this one solo, with a side salad or just dip some crackers into it. Yum!
Sandwiches often get a bad rap because they’re filled with processed meats and cheeses — but not in this case for your healthy lunches for work. This lunch is stacked with good-for-you ingredients, like alfalfa sprouts, tomatoes, avocados and onions. Skip the store-bought hummus, though, and make your own. This homemade hummus recipe takes just five minutes to whip up and is superior to anything at the store!
Photo: Ambitious Kitchen
Read Next: Healthy Lunches for Kids
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