Easy Low-Calorie and Healthy Lunch Ideas and Recipes
This article will cover my personal favorite low-calorie lunch recipes and ideas. I realize that eating lunch is different for everyone, since some of us eat it at home, some of us it eat at work, and some of us eat it while traveling or holding it as they drive in the car. That being said, I'll provide some tasty options for no matter your lifestyle and give you a healthy eating strategy for picking the right foods at lunch time to give you lots of energy and help you with weight loss, if that is what you desire.
Fast Food Lunches Are Negatively Affecting Our Health!
McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, etc., have created tons of yummy sounding meal options for those that are on the go. They typically have strong, craveable flavors and the kicker here is that they are so available (McDonalds is on practically ever few blocks in NYC) and so incredibly cheap. You can get a really filling, not to mention calorie-laden meal for $3-$4 in under 5 minutes.
But, when you stop to evaluate the situation you'll begin to realize the following:
- Most of the time, you can easily create a lunch for as much as or even less than the cost of a fast food lunch. Don't fall for the affordable factor!
- If you do it right, you can prepare your lunches ahead of time and won't have to worry about rushing around to find a satisfying lunch. Don't fall for the convenience!
- If you have the right recipes, you can create your own lunch that is equally and flavorful and tasty as the latest fast food creation. Don't fall for the flavor!
- Stop and think about it - every single time you eat fast food you feel groggy, sluggish and sleepy within an hour or two. This is because of all the nasty processed ingredients, unhealthy oils and preservatives that could probably preserve a corpse. Don't fall for the need to feel full now and absolutely awful later!
Lucky for you there are many quick and healthy meals that you can make at home and bring them with you wherever you go. They all taste great (trust me, I'm a picky eater!) and are really affordable to throw together, as well.
Low Calorie Lunch Ideas
Here come the ideas for a healthy, delicious and flavorful lunch!
I find that I personally feel the most full when I combine protein and healthy, whole-grain carbohydrates. Some may feel otherwise, but if you're constantly eating a lunch that consists of mostly bread, pasta and some processed cheese. You're probably not going to feel that hot a few hours down the road. I have anemia and used to have hypoglycemia so I am very focused on my diet and ensuring that I eat the right balance of foods so I don't feel weak all the time.
That being said, I don't have tons of time to make menus for lunch ideas for myself and loved ones. Instead, I make lists of all of my favorite foods for each meal. If you've already read my low calorie breakfast ideas article, you'll already have a good idea of what I'm talking about.
For lunch, I create my meals by selecting the right combination of food from the following categories. My lunches typically have:
Pick 2 Protein Servings or Double Up on One Item!
- Hard Boiled Eggs
- 3 oz of low sodium ham
- 3 oz of turkey bacon (2-3 slices)
- 3/4 cup of egg whites or egg beaters
- 1 oz of low-fat string cheese or shredded mozzarella
- 2 oz of low-fat cream cheese
Pick 2 Veggie Servings
- 1 sliced tomato
- 1/2 cup of salsa
- 1/8 of an avocado
- 1/2 cup of carrots
- 1 cucumber
- 1 cup of salad (I almost always have one salad with my lunch)
- 1/2 cup of green beans
- there are tons more veggies to choose from - eat your favorites!
Pick 1 Carbohydrate
- Whole Wheat 8" Tortilla
- 2 Slices Whole Grain Bread
- 1/2 of a Whole Grain Bagel
- 1/2 cup of Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat Arnold's Sandwich Thins (my favorite!)
- Other low calorie, whole grain, lunch bars (Kashi, etc.)
I know for a fact that you'll be able to find at least 3 items under each category that you like! If there aren't enough or you need more variety, do your research and find the serving sizes of your favorite foods to incorporate in your lunch. By rotating these options daily, you'll be able to create tons of fun and tasty low calorie lunch ideas. By selecting the appropriate number of items from each category, you'll probably have about a 300-350 calorie lunch. Make sure to add some healthy olive oil, etc. to up the calories a bit as a good rule of thumb for lunch is 400-500 calories. Eating too little can give you limited energy and also plateau your weight loss goals.
Low Fat Lunch Recipes
Now, onto the yummy, flavorful lunch recipes!
Asian Inspired Chicken Fried Rice
- 5 oz of shredded, cooked chicken (or tofu or lean beef!)
- 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
- shredded carrots
- water chesnuts
- thin onion slices
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- low sodium soy sauce ( to taste)
- chicken broth (optional)
- fresh ginger (or ginger powder, if it's all you have)
- fresh garlic (or garlic powder, if it's all you have)
- Take a small frying pan and coat with 1 tbsp of olive oil. Turn the temperature to medium heat. Carmelize your thin onion slices along with your garlic and ginger (to taste). Once the onions are cooked to your liking, add in the shredded carrots and water chestnuts. Pour in the brown rice and the shredded chicken, stirring to absorb the oil and flavor of all the other ingredients. Add low sodium soy sauce, to taste!
- If you find your rice gets a little too dry, simply add some vegetable or chicken broth to add moisture whenever you feel the mixture requires it.
- After everything is heated thoroughly, eat and enjoy! If you're cookling for your work lunch, simply cook the night before and heat up in the microwave at work.
Savory Grilled Mozzarella & Tomato Sandwich
- 1 Arnold's Sandwich Thin or two slices of whole grain bread
- 2 slices of fresh mozzarella (about 2 oz)
- 3 thin slices of fresh, ripe, roma tomatoes
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- fresh basil leaves
Assemble your sandwich by drizzling a bit of olive oil and balsamic on each piece of bread. Layer a slice of tomato, mozzarella, and so on until your sandwich is assembled. Place some basil leaves on the top layer. Place the second piece of bread on top and stick in a panini grill or in a toaster oven until brown and the contents of the sandwich are fully heated.
Strawberry Spinach Balsamic Salad
- 5 oz of cooked chicken or tofu
- 2 cups of washed, dry spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries
- 1 tbsp. of crushed walnuts
- 1 tsp. of olive oil
- 1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar
Simply toss all ingredients together and serve on a chilled plate with a side of grilled whole wheat bread for a delicious meal!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2009 girly_girl09