Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Quick and Easy Lunch Ideas (PART ONE!)

Several weeks ago my cousin Cheryl asked me for some ideas on easy, portable, high protein/low carb/high fiber lunches that she could pack for her lunches. I'm someone who packs a lunch every single day so I knew I could help!

The first thing I suggest is to picture the new logo from ChooseMyPlate.gov. It doesn't have to be laid out exactly like the actual plate in the logo, but you should try to include each of these components in your lunch.

Source: ChooseMyPlate.gov

Ok, so now you have that picture in mind, now it's time to pack a lunch!

Think portable fruits and vegetables (the more you eat, the better, especially non-starchy relish tray-type vegetables)

  • Apples, oranges, pears, clementines, bananas, berries
  • Cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, cucumbers

Source: iStockPhoto

Think about
dips for your fruits and veggies (you can eat them raw, but dips may help entice you to actually eat them!)

  • Homemade ranch dressing (use a ranch dressing dry powder packet and mix it into some high protein plain Greek yogurt)
  • Nut butters (have protein and fat to keep you full)

Think portable dairy or dairy alternatives (for some protein and calcium). They will last in your lunch box for about 4 hours, as long as it's insulated.

  • Greek yogurt or regular yogurt (buy plain if you are watching your weight, then add fruit or unsweetened cocoa powder for flavor)
  • Soy yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Low fat sliced cheese for a sandwich

Think portable grain

  • Granola (make your own or buy it, look for 5-10 grams protein)
  • Whole wheat bread sandwiches (choose a higher protein bread, if you can, with more than 5 grams protein)
  • Whole wheat tortilla roll-ups (use low-sodium deli meat, nut butters, hummus or other bean dips, refried beans, anything!)

Think portable protein (always get some good protein in your lunch, about 20-30 grams. Keep in mind that some of your 20-30 grams protein can be found in the dairy and grain products listed above).

  • Nutritional yeast (sprinkle it on vegetables, salads, tortilla wraps, soups, whatever!)
  • Beef jerky (I know, loaded with sodium, but every once in a while it's ok to have some high protein jerky!)
  • Hard-boiled eggs (one of my favorite lunch components. I'll admit, I like to eat them with mustard! You can also add these to salads, or mix them with Greek yogurt and some spices to make egg salad)
  • Tuna (eat it out of a pouch, add it to a salad or wrap, or make it into tuna salad)
  • Tempeh (the name might sound unfamiliar, but this cultured soybean is easy to use and quite tasty, especially when turned into sloppy joes)
  • Edamame (such an easy source of healthy protein. I suggest the frozen kind. Just steam and eat! I put them in little containers and just eat them with a spoon, or my hand...)
  • Walnuts and almonds (add them to tuna salad, or snack mixes with cereal and dried fruit, or just eat them by the handful).
  • Protein bars are another option. You could could most bars as a grain and a protein, since many of them are more like meal replacements. Look for at least 10 grams of protein, and 12 grams or less sugar.

Want more ideas? Check out Susan's blog (another RD) to see what she packs in her lunch! And, stay tuned for part two of this post, which will discuss some more tips on packing healthy, portable lunches.

Question: What's your favorite thing to pack in your lunch? More ideas would be helpful!


  1. What a great post! I love all the ideas and am definitely going to check out that book with quinoa salads.

  2. Great post - my lunch is normally a combo of leftovers from the night before. My favorite is a grain salad (quinoa or brown rice) with a bunch of veggies thrown over lettuce or arugula.

  3. fabulous post as always! i'm also obsessed with eggs & mustard! well pretty much just mustard on everything. you need to get your paws on some bumblebee honey dijon or deli dijon BOTH staples in my office

  4. Great post! I use pretty much the same items you listed above to pack hubby's and the toddler's lunches. I usually eat leftovers for lunch and love it. The toddler gets bored of food very easily, so I always make sure to rotate fruits, veggies, and crackers so that there is always something new and different.

  5. Oh I am the queen of snacks! Anything I can tote around easily, fits in the purse, wedges in the lunchbox...the better! I love packing trailmixes, fruits, hard boiled eggs, nut butters, veggies...YUM!

  6. I love the homemade ranch dressing idea! I've never been a huge ranch fan, but lately it's been my absolute favorite. And I have tons of plain Greek yogurt at home. Score!

  7. I love toasted WW bread with LC too! :)
    salad in summer is my fav.
    now I eat lunch at work which I love because there is a big varieties, including healthy options. so I just need to pack some snacks which is much easier.

  8. i love the idea of making homemade ranch dressing with greek yogurt!! i bet this comes out so creamy. such a great healthy alternative! thanks for sharing.

  9. I get to eat lunch at home but my college kids do sometimes pack a lunch since they have a long commute.

    This time of year I make huge batches of soup with tons of veggies,that can be reheated and packed in a thermos to stay hot for hours.

    They also like any kind of leftover pasta dish reheated and in a thermos.

    Chicken fried rice made healthy at home and packed in a thermos.

    Cheese and Akmak crackers with fruit. We put the cheese in a small, short wide mouth thermos.

    Cottage cheese with pineapple also packed in a thermos.

    Rolls ups made on flat bread.

    Boiled eggs and a baby greens salad.

    PBJ on whole wheat bread is a great last minute item that assembles quickly.

  10. great post on out of the box ideas for myplate!!! nice work RD

  11. I always struggle so much with what to bring for lunch! This helps a lot, thanks!

  12. great ideas! i've been packing soup almost every day lately...lots of veggies, and it's super quick and easy. :)

  13. I think portable is key! I always have a Kellogg's FiberPlus(R) bar or a baggie of the cereal packed away in my lunch because they are easy to toss in and help ensure that I get at least 35% of my daily fiber per serving. And they just taste great!

  14. My general rule of thumb is that anything I cook has to taste good on top of greens or spaghetti squash. Lunch solved!

    Sometimes I prefer a more platter-style lunch though. A few dips, lots of sliced veggies, and sliced meat. Super yummy.

    Hardboiled eggs with mustard is amazing. I do the ranch dressing out of Greek yogurt trick too!

  15. This is a great post- I really think packing a lunch is an important part of being healthy :) My favorite lunch ideas include homemade pizza with veggies and black beans, plus pasta loaded with veggies, veggie soup and many more, I almost always put an apple with whatever I bring for "dessert" (sometimes there is also a real dessert, some chocolate).