Looking for low-effort lunches that are easy to transport? Here are all our favorite healthy lunch ideas, from quickest to most prep.
How do you lunch? For us, it’s simple. Seriously simple. It’s actually part of Alex and my strategy for eating healthy in the long-term. You see: we stay simple on breakfast and lunch to save all our meal prep energy for dinner recipes! Besides, who has time to worry about lunch anyway? When you’re on the go or eating a desk lunch at the office, you need something quick and healthy to power through the day.
Our beef with most lunch ideas? They’re too involved! No one has time to cook an entire soup or stir fry, unless it’s leftovers. With that in mind, here’s our list of no-frills healthy lunch ideas! The best part? Each recipe is listed in order from quickest to most prep time involved: so you know the ideas at the top of the list are the quickest! Ready to get started?
Here's an easy, healthy lunch idea that you can make in 5 minutes! It's plant based and starts with a can of chickpeas. Throw these chickpeas together with cucumber and red pepper, stir with olive oil and red wine vinegar, and you've got an incredible Mediterranean-style salad that tastes like it took all day. Serve with pita triangles or crackers.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Make ahead: Make in advance and refrigerate until serving (keeps 2 to 3 days). Or make on the spot!
Here's a healthy lunch idea you can use as a "side" to any of our salads or sandwiches! This peanut butter dip is just 4 ingredients and somehow tastes like frosting. Greek yogurt, peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla combine into the best dip for sliced green apples. Or dip any fruit you like--or pretzels, if you like the sweet and salty thing. Don't want peanut butter? Try our Cinnamon Fruit Dip instead.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Make ahead: Store in a sealed container and refrigerate until serving. If you slice the apples in advance, stir them with a little lemon juice to prevent browning.
Here's an easy lunch idea that's all about combining interesting ingredients (NOT cooking!). The unique combination of sweet and savory totally hits the spot. Spread bread with cream cheese (or use homemade labneh), then top with crunchy walnuts and juicy pear slices. Add some sprouts or microgreens for a little texture: and maybe even a drizzle of honey? Lunch in a flash!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Make ahead: You can easily assemble this at an office! No advanced prep necessary.
Another favorite idea to accessorize with a healthy lunch? This healthy Greek yogurt ranch dip tastes just like the dip you can make with a packet of artificial seasonings, but it's made with all whole food ingredients. That's right: just plain Greek yogurt, shallot, garlic powder and dill. It comes together into the perfect dip for carrots and bell pepper strips!
Prep time: 5 minutes
Make ahead: Store in a sealed container and refrigerate until serving.
Avocado toast is standard healthy lunch fare, but for good reason: it's a genius way to eat an easy, filing meal! The only prep time involved is making toast and smashing on an avocado. Top with sea salt and then whatever fancy fixin's your heart desires. Here we showed it with a turmeric poached egg, but that's a little messy for the office. Try a hard boiled egg instead if you're eating a desk lunch! For a fun element, top with sliced green onions and Everything Bagel Seasoning.
Prep time: 5 minutes (without egg)
Make ahead: Make the boiled eggs in advance: they take 30 minutes, but you've got a nice "side" for lunches throughout the week. Otherwise you can make it at the office or on the go!
Stuffed dates are the perfect "side" for a healthy lunch, and they need no cooking at all! They're incredibly easy to make, and the flavor of this simple pairing is outrageous. Pair the sweet caramel chewiness of Medjool dates with tangy, fluffy goat cheese, and the sweet-savory combo is out of this world. For plant based, use any nut butter (like our homemade nut butter!).
Prep time: 3 minutes for making a few dates (save the chopped nuts for making more throughout the week)
Make ahead: You can also make lots of dates in advance and refrigerate them -- save the pistachio topping until serving so it stays crunchy.
This fresh and healthy avocado tuna salad swaps the classic mayo for nutrient-rich avocado! It will become your new go-to after first bite. It's tasty and creamy and has perfectly balanced flavor. A few other options: try this best Classic Tuna Salad Sandwich, or add hard boiled egg for our Tuna Salad with Egg. You can also serve it in a wrap, lettuce leaves, crackers, or on a salad.
This tasty Mexican pinwheel recipe is all about making a healthy lunch as fast as possible! Here you'll spread a spinach tortilla with hummus, then top with seasoned bell peppers, black beans and spinach. Throw in a little shredded cheese (or not, for plant based), then roll them up! They look beautiful and are tasty bites of goodness. Another variation: Hummus and Veggie Roll Ups.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Make ahead: Make the entire pinwheels and place in a sealed container; refrigerate until serving. Or make on the spot!
This chickpea salad sandwich is one of our top healthy lunch ideas: a vegetarian version of a chicken salad sandwich made using chickpeas! The garbanzo beans are smashed and mixed with a touch of mayo, lemon juice, celery and green onions to make the most savory, delicious spread. Serve it as a sandwich as you see here, or eat it with crackers or pita.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Make ahead: Make the chickpea salad in advance and store in a sealed container refrigerated until serving. We like to keep bread separate until serving, but it would work made in advance too.
This Greek yogurt egg salad is a healthy spin on the standard salad using plain yogurt, Dijon mustard, and fresh chives. Eat it with crackers or pita, or throw it on a sandwich or toast. If you've made the hard boiled eggs in advance, it takes no time to whip up!
Prep time: 5 to 10 minutes (with eggs made in advance)
Here's a healthy lunch idea you might not have considered: a tofu scramble! This easy tofu scramble has the same texture as scrambled eggs, but it’s 100% plant based. It actually saves very well as leftovers, and even tastes good cold. It's amazing how savory it tastes: and it's full of plant based protein. If you'd like, add the veggie saute: or just serve with sliced raw bell peppers!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Make ahead: Make the scramble in advance and refrigerate until serving. Serve with the veggie saute as well, or go with raw pepper strips and carrots sticks.
Here's a great healthy lunch idea: a vegan banh mi sandwich! A banh mi is a delightful Vietnamese sandwich served on a baguette, with a meat filling and pickled vegetables on top. This is a vegan take featuring homemade ginger lime hummus and quick pickled red onion, cabbage and cucumber! It's bursting with flavor and tastes way more exciting than lunch should.
Prep time: 20 minutes (make ahead)
Make ahead: Make the hummus and pickled veggies in advance and store in separate containers, refrigerated. Assemble directly prior to serving.
These seasoned lentils come out perfectly spiced and very moist, cooked with veggie broth, onion powder, paprika, garlic powder, and oregano. They're so tasty, and filling with all the plant based protein! Make a big pot and eat off of them all week! Serve them with pita wedges, sliced tomatoes, and a dollop of Greek yogurt, and they're divine. You can also make them in the Instant Pot! Go to Instant Pot Lentils.
Prep time: 25 minutes (make ahead)
Make ahead: Make ahead and refrigerate until serving.
Here's a classic lunch idea: tuna salad! This one is surprisingly satisfying: it hits all the right savory notes to make the very best sandwich! To make it ultra creamy, it uses both mayo and Greek yogurt; Greek yogurt ups the creamy factor while keeping calories low. Also try: Tuna Salad with Egg
Here's a tasty lunch idea that you'll have to make ahead: but it's worth it! This flavorful and easy quinoa salad is inspired by Mexican flavors, featuring black beans, colorful vegetables, and fajita seasoning. It holds up well in the refrigerator, and tastes even better days later.
Prep time: 30 minutes (make ahead)
Make ahead: Make in advance; store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
Here's an easy make-ahead lunch idea: mini frittatas! Basically a muffin made of egg, they’re easy to meal prep and grab as you’re headed out the door. Refrigerate or freeze ’em, and you can eat off them all week. You don't even need to reheat them before serving. The best part: they’re so tasty! They’re filled with colorful veggies and crunchy pecans for added protein and nutrients.
More lunch recipes!
We’ve got lots of lunch ideas around here! Here are a few more of our favorites:
Healthy Banana Bread Muffins These muffins are lightly sweet and made mostly of oats and bananas (no flour)! Top with peanut butter or almond butter for a filling meal.
Greek Orzo Salad This herby orzo salad is a favorite and full of Greek flavors, bursting with fresh dill and mint, feta cheese, and tangy lemon. Make it ahead and it keeps for a 2 to 3 days in the fridge.
Healthy Chocolate Snack Need a chocolate fix? This chocolate snack tastes rich and chocolaty, but it’s just Greek yogurt, cocoa powder and maple syrup. And it’s made in 2 minutes!
Lentil Salad with Feta This zesty Mediterranean-style lentil salad is packed with big flavor and plant based protein! It’s a great lunch idea and gets better as it sits in the fridge.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.