Quick Ways to Make Your Lunch Healthier 

School lunches. Brown bag lunches. Grab-and-go lunches. Working lunches. We’ve got lots of labels when it comes to the midday meal, but not many of them sound very appetizing. If you’re on a quest to get into a better lunch groove, it’s pretty easy to make the transition to better-tasting foods. And if you’re looking for quick ways to make what is on your plate – or in your bowl – a healthier option, we’ve got some great ideas for you. 

First, how popular is lunch? Polls have shown that about 60% of adults in the United States eat lunch at least five days a week. And for those who dutifully pack their own meals, about half are bringing the noontime staple: A sandwich they made at home.  

Benefits of eating lunch 

If you’re not a regular lunch eater, you really should become one. Some people think it’s fine to grab coffee and a pastry in the morning, then skip lunch. But missing this mid-day meal can have some physical and mental consequences, according to a study of more than 400 people.  

  • Taking a lunch break helps us organize our daily eating schedule. 
  • Eating lunch keeps us from getting really hungry by mid-afternoon, which can lead to snacking on unhealthy foods. 
  • Skipping meals in general can cause overeating later. 
  • Skipping lunch can make us irritable. 
  • Missing a midday meal can make it hard to concentrate on tasks in the afternoon. 

How to make lunches healthier 

Making a regular time for lunch is the first step – even if it’s just a short break in a busy schedule. Once you set aside that time, take the next step and make sure your lunch is healthy. Instead of there being one correct formula for a healthy lunch, think of it as having a buffet of options that you can mix and match as you build a meal that you’ll look forward to – even if you’re just eating it at your desk. What you’re aiming for is a mix of good, lean proteins, carbs packed with fiber and plenty of vegetables and fruits. Aim to include some healthy fats too, like nuts, seeds and avocados.  

Whether you work remotely or onsite, doing meal prep every few days makes lunches easy to pull together. This could mean baking several pieces of chicken and cutting it into strips or chunks, making a pot of soup, or slicing up fresh vegetables to have on hand. Some of these can be turned into healthy lunches like this: 

Chicken or turkey: These lean proteins are great choices to build your lunch around. Grill or bake in the oven in advance. Toss bite-sized pieces on top of fresh (even pre-packaged) greens for a hearty salad. Roll strips of chicken with veggies and a little vinaigrette into a fiber-rich wrap. Mix shredded chicken with veggies, rice and a spoonful of fresh salsa into a Tex-Mex bowl. Our favorite? Chicken dipped into a spicy Thai peanut sauce for a protein-packed duo. 

Soups: These are an excellent choice for veggie-lovers, no matter what the season. Vegetable soups are like a big salad in a bowl. Protein is easy to add into each serving, whether it’s beef, pork or chicken. Want to keep the vegetarian theme? Add in a can of your favorite beans. These can be black beans, kidney, garbanzo or whatever is in your pantry. Have some leftover brown rice? Stir that in, too. If you are among the meat and cheese sandwich-loving crowd, a bowl of vegetable-rich soup served up along with it helps to make a more complete lunch. 

Vegetables and fruits: Adding vegetables and fruits to round out your lunch is among the easiest ways to make your midday meal a healthy one. You can go the whole food route, eating an apple, pear, orange or banana. Fresh fruit makes an excellent side dish or dessert for your meal. Feeling fancy? Slice a few different types for a fruit salad. Or layer this with some high-protein yogurt and some nuts for a parfait meal. Veggies can be eaten raw, roasted as part of meal prep as a side dish, or stuffed into pitas or on top of sandwiches for a healthy layer of goodness.  


Photo credit: Getty Images

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