8 Healthy Lunches That Aren’t a Sandwich (But Still Only Take 5ish Minutes to Make)
Lunch often gets the short end of the stick: breakfast is known as the most important meal of the day, brunch is a staple of Sunday Funday, and nothing says “I love you” like a romantic dinner. We all need to eat lunch, but most of us can’t be bothered to put much time or energy into ours, and we’re all pretty tired of sandwiches.
To help you make the most of your midday meals, we’ve gathered together eight lunches that take just a few minutes to put together. Using grocery items like rotisserie chicken, prepped ingredients like cooked grains, and healthy convenience foods like cooked beans, we’ve got everything you need for nutritious, satisfying lunches that will take scarcely any time at all to prepare.
We understand that at times, comfort is key. This microwave broccoli and cheese rice bowl in a mug is designed for precisely those days when you want something warm, cheesy, and filling rather than a salad for lunch. If you have cooked brown rice or other grains on hand, you can reduce the cooking time by two and a half minutes, and your meal will be all the more wholesome. Swap the cornstarch for arrowroot to avoid corn products, and add extra broccoli florets to up the fiber content.
Protein is key at lunch to keep your brain fueled through the afternoon, and you’ll get plenty of it with this Starbucks copycat protein bistro box. There are vegan options given for alternate proteins, and the suggestion of keeping salt and pepper on hand for a hard boiled egg is a no-brainer — but also something that many of us would otherwise forget about completely. Choose reusable containers instead of disposable packets for a better eco footprint.
If you avoid tuna salad because you don’t want to eat mayonnaise, this healthy stuffed tuna avocado was made just for you. The cooked tuna is instead seasoned with fresh jalapeno pepper, cilantro, and lime juice, all of which are strong flavors that will cut right through the fat of the avocado. For a special treat, try tuna in a jar instead of a can; it costs a bit more, but is less “fishy” tasting, and has a lot of bright flavor.
Can’t decide between tzatziki and hummus? Choose both when you make a five-minute Mediterranean bowl, which contains all the Mediterranean flavors we love in one scoopable lunch dish. Full of cooked beans and fresh vegetables, the quinoa base will add important amino acids to this vegetarian, gluten-free lunch dish. If you keep the cherry tomatoes whole instead of cutting them, you can prep several of these ahead of time to grab and go daily throughout the week.
Taco salads tend to be among the least healthful of salad options, as they usually sit on a base of tortilla chips. Not so with this chicken taco mason jar salad recipe, which is full of corn, beans, and tomatoes, and has a dressing that’s made from Greek yogurt. We suggest scaling back on the cheese, and cutting or grating your own to avoid eating additional starches. Not-so-fun fact: pre-packaged shredded cheese uses anti-caking agents, generally cellulose and cornstarch. These are used to prevent the cheese from sticking to itself, and they can also impact a recipe negatively, for instance, causing a sauce to separate.
Not a recipe as much as a blueprint, you can nail down the basics of trendy lunches with these five-minute bento box combo ideas. We love that “fun” is included as an ingredient category, and agree that a little treat, whether a piece of dark chocolate, a whole grain pretzel, or an in-season fruit, will have you all the more eager to dive into your lunch box. For optimal nutrition and a more environmentally-friendly approach, make your own dressing in advance instead of purchasing it in individual packets, then divide into small containers for use throughout the week.
It’s the “super simple peanut sauce” that makes this five minute grain bowl shine. For those who are peanut-free, simply swap out the nut butter for a different one, such as cashew or sunflower, and it will last in the fridge for a week just like the original version. This flexible recipe capitalizes on what you have on hand, and is all about the mix of raw and cooked ingredients.
Make use of your least favorite parts of a rotisserie chicken by tossing them with a delicious mayonnaise-free dressing for this rotisserie chicken salad, which offers a great variety of textures despite being made of just a few ingredients. Chopped apple and celery ensure you’re adding some fiber to your lunch, and Greek yogurt enhances the protein content while offering creaminess and tang. Serve with whole grain crackers for dipping, or over a heaping scoop of greens.
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