77 Best Healthy Lunch Ideas for Weight Loss – When you’re looking to eat healthier and lose weight, you might assume that salads are always the best go-to option for a healthy lunch. After all, salads are packed with nutritious veggies, they’re filling, and they’re easy to eat in between meetings, which certainly makes for a convenient, healthy lunch idea. But eating salads nearly every day of the week can get boring fast, especially if you default to the same combination of ingredients day after day. And whether you’re actively trying to lose weight or you’re just trying to eat healthier in general, boring is your worst enemy: If you don’t look forward to your meals, the more likely you are to stray from or abandon your plan altogether.
But don’t worry, because when it comes to healthy lunch ideas, salads are just the tip of the low-calorie iceberg. To help you innovate and upgrade your sad brown bag lunch with more exciting healthy lunch ideas that still support your weight loss goals, we’ve rounded up over 77 deliciously inspiring recipes from the Eat This, Not That! recipes archive, and trust when we tell you these are anything but boring.
Each recipe for these healthy lunch ideas is packed with nutrients that can provide you with much-needed energy to get you through the rest of the day, helping you effectively change things up to your usual midday eating ritual while aiding in your weight loss efforts.
What are some healthy lunch ideas?
You’re probably searching for new healthy lunch ideas for one (or many) of the following reasons:
- It’s lunchtime and you have no idea what to feed yourself.
- You’re sick of eating salads or deli sandwiches every day.
- You’d like to start meal prepping your lunches.
- You simply want inspiration for how to switch up your routine.
Lucky for you, we have all your lunchtime needs covered—whether you’re feeding yourself at home, at the office, or on the go. And if scrolling through all these recipes just feels like a lot, start with this basic cheat sheet featuring an overview of healthy lunch ideas worth trying:
Your lunch doesn’t have to be a complicated pre-planned meal: You don’t need to prepare a cooked dish like a steak sandwich or a mushroom pesto ravioli. When trying to come up with the best healthy lunch ideas to meet your needs, consider putting together your own bento boxes, a la Starbucks’ Protein Box, that feature a little bit of everything you may want to snack on throughout the day.
Consider themes like:
- Mediterranean lunch box: hummus and pita with a cucumber, tomato, onion, feta salad, and a side of kalamata olives
- Breakfast-style lunch box: everything bagel pretzels, hard-boiled eggs, apple slices, cheddar cheese
- Veggie lunch box: roasted chickpeas, fresh peppers, cucumbers, carrots, green goddess dressing, almonds
If you’re in the market for some new healthy lunch, particularly those that can help with weight loss, here are dozens of our favorite recipes to make for our midday meal:
Burger-lovers looking for a leaner alternative that’s just as filling and delish, this healthy lunch idea is just for you. Made with protein- and omega-3-packed fresh tuna steak and spicy wasabi mayo, this finger-licking recipe is only 330 calories! And for the full burger lunch experience sans high calories, you can serve this sammy with a side of air fryer veggie chips.
Keep it simple with this chicken panini recipe: A light, healthy spread like pesto, a low-calorie cheese like fresh mozz, and a layer of lean white meat chicken deliver all the same flavor and a tasty crunch for a fraction of the calories. Using whole-grain bread will help keep you satisfied all afternoon.
Chicken noodle soup is the ultimate comfort food, especially during the cold weather months. However, we’ve made a special, lower-calorie version of this already healthy lunch idea by swapping in zucchini noodles for regular noodles. This ingredient swap also makes this recipe gluten-free, paleo, and Whole30-approved.
Are you craving your favorite Chinese takeout dish while dreaming of chicken dunked in that deliciously sweet orange sauce? Thanks to this healthier spin on a classic Chinese takeout favorite, you don’t have to pay for delivery or lose sight of your weight loss goals to enjoy orange chicken right at home!
Because these mini meatloaves are baked in a muffin tin, you’ll have enough room to roast some sides to go with this healthy lunch idea, as well. Try roasting carrots or roasting broccoli with some parmesan for the perfect complement.
The tuna salad recipe used by most establishments tells all: They usually use two parts mayo to one part tuna. Our version replaces the bulk of the mayo with a considerably healthier supporting cast that adds to the flavor without adding extra fat: pesto, lemon juice, olives, and onions.
This recipe requires absolutely no effort, save for about two minutes of slicing and two minutes of toasting. Plus, it morphs easily into other dishes. Not in the mood for a sandwich? Ditch the bread and eat this as a salad for one of the easiest healthy lunches you can throw together.
We use a modest amount of olive oil-based mayo, then punch up the flavor with plump golden raisins and the complex savory notes of curry powder in this chicken salad sandwich recipe. Make a big batch of the salad as part of your weekly meal planning and work it into other sandwiches, stuffed in pitas, or crowning a bowl of mixed greens.
Our version of the carne asada burrito, modestly scaled-down compared to restaurant burritos, concentrates on the most important parts of the burrito: guac, black beans, and, above all, juicy chunks of marinated skirt steak.
These chicken meatballs are inspired by street-corner grills in Vietnam and Thailand, where ginger, garlic, and chiles reign supreme. With those bold flavors, plus the char of a hot charcoal grill, you won’t need a fat-heavy mix of meat, or even a pile of spaghetti, to make an outstanding lunch with this chicken meatballs recipe. Serve them with steamed rice, cucumbers, maybe a bit of sauce, and big lettuce leaves for wrapping.
Why eat a restaurant salad if it’s going to cost you the calorie intake of more than a full-sized meal? Enter our healthy fig and prosciutto salad recipe. We pair strips of salty, intense prosciutto with juicy, ripe figs. Add the tang of fresh goat cheese and the subtle, earthy crunch of toasted pine nuts and this makes for one inspired salad.
Tossed with a good dose of bright, mildly spicy salsa verde, rotisserie chicken is the perfect filling for tacos, burritos, and even enchiladas. Indeed, there might not be a better way to use a supermarket rotisserie chicken. (We’re partial to Costco’s.)
When you make this pesto gnocchi, figure 2 tablespoons per plate—and throw in some healthy extras like tomatoes and green beans to bring substance and balance to the bowl.
Not sure how to incorporate quinoa into your day-to-day meals? This recipe is a great place to start. With salsa, black beans, corn, onion, and avocado, along with fresh herbs, this Mexican quinoa is a super-flavorful take on the superfood.
When it comes to delicious sandwiches, a turkey BLT is hard to resist. But by converting the sandwich bread into a light sprinkling of a few crunchy croutons and compensating for that reduction in refined carbs with a pile of fresh lettuce and other veggies, you can maximize the healthiest parts of the turkey BLT equation. The handful of cubed deli turkey boosts the protein of this salad, and suddenly you have a healthy lunch of mouthwatering substance and style.
Most quiches suffer the burden of excessive amounts of heavy cream and cheese—and often a trans-fat-laden crust. This quiche dispenses with the heavy dose of dairy fat and instead gets its flavor and substance from antioxidant-dense sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and lean chicken sausage. It’s one of our easiest healthy lunch ideas you can easily meal prep for the week.
Chicken potstickers aren’t just meant to be eaten as an appetizer. Pair these potstickers with fresh vegetables and a salad, and you can easily add them to your list of healthy lunch ideas.
Unlike so many vegetarian dishes out there masquerading as healthier than the meaty creations they replace (yes, we’re looking at you, 1,490-calorie mushroom burger from The Cheesecake Factory!), you could eat this cheesesteak seven days a week and end up slimmer than when you started. And trust us, you don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy it!
This healthy lunch idea using a delicious ravioli recipe gives you the depth and nuance of creamy ricotta, smoky mozzarella, and salty, sharp Parmesan, plus a sauce that would make anything taste great.
Yes, burgers are one of the easiest foods to make, but coming up with recipes that would classify as a healthy lunch idea could prove challenging, especially when surrounded by convenient yet greasy, ultra-processed fast food burgers. However, when you make burgers yourself, you have more oversight and control over their nutritional content. It just depends on the ingredients used to make your burger and what you serve it with! We’ve gone ahead and helped you out by reinventing the chicken burger, using a lean grind of meat and a hugely flavorful—but surprisingly low-calorie—spiked mayo to deliver on the promise of a truly healthy burger you can happily indulge in.
Save the calories on those deep-fried chicken fingers and make your own version in the oven instead! Our sweet and spicy sauce kicks the taste up a notch, too, so you’ll get a satisfying crunch from the panko bread crumbs, plus a mouthful of flavor.
Skip the boring salad you usually make for lunch and try this flavorful alternative. You won’t ever have to worry about not feeling full after eating this superfood-packed salad, which unites arugula with cranberries, avocado, goat cheese, and walnuts.
Our grilled cheese is a play on that gooey hot sammie staple, pimento cheese, which diffuses the calories of the cheese with healthy additions like roasted peppers and Greek yogurt. The soup? Pure tomato intensity, thanks to the oven roasting, which concentrates the natural sugars of the tomatoes. It has all the comfort with half the calories—making it one of our favorite healthy lunch recipes.
With mandarins and toasted almonds, this salad is a great healthy lunch idea that can fuel weight loss via a filling blend of nutrient-dense sweet and savory flavors.
I bet you never expected to see a chowder rank among our list of healthy lunch ideas. But our take on this classic soup is lower in calories than your standard clam chowder. So, say goodbye to all that cream with our healthier spin on this soup. (But, don’t worry—there’s still bacon!)
Skip the line (and the calories) at Wendy’s and make your own version of their chili instead! Thanks to a clear list of ingredients on Wendy’s website, we modified this recipe to be one of the easiest healthy lunch ideas to throw together for a healthy and satisfying meal.
You may not believe us, but we did figure out a healthy lunch idea that involves eating vegetables that taste like mac and cheese. How, you ask? By making these mac and cheese cups with veggie elbow macaroni! Sneak in some extra vegetable nutrients by swapping out regular elbow macaroni with veggie elbow macaroni!
If you’re looking for a pasta-centric healthy lunch idea that’s in line with your weight loss goals, this fettuccine Alfredo recipe starts with a béchamel sauce, then blends it with roasted red peppers for a lighter, brighter, better Alfredo—for a quarter of the calories.
Our version of the cheesesteak sandwich—which relies on a lean flank steak, a whole-wheat roll, and a yogurt-based blue cheese sauce—is a bit fancier than the original sandwich from the City of Brotherly Love. But to our tastes, it’s also better. How often does better and lower fat happen in the same sentence?
Here, we take the classic Italian pasta pairing of peas and prosciutto, replace the noodles with dumplings, and throw in plenty of asparagus to round out the creation. You can make this gnocchi recipe richer with a drizzle of cream or half-and-half or a bit of butter, but this one is great as is.
This healthy lunch idea is a warm bowl of goodness that’s a breeze to throw together. Plus, if you’re a fan of meal prepping, make a large portion that will last for more than one day’s lunch.
These lean turkey baked meatballs pack a punch of spice, and are the perfect comfort food for a Whole30 diet—not to mention, a super yummy healthy lunch idea that’s great for weight loss. These meatballs are flavorful, thanks to the dried herbs and fresh chopped parsley, while almond meal keeps them moist, standing in for the breadcrumbs. In addition to being Whole30-approved, this meal is also gluten-free.
To take this meal on the go (or use up slightly mushy avocados), turn it into a dip by mashing the avocado and mixing in the bagel seasoning and lemon juice in a small to-go container. Top with freshly chopped dill and radish slices and dip!
This healthy minestrone soup recipe is a hodgepodge of veggies that will go a long way in making sure your diet is not lacking in its necessary greenery. Vary the specific vegetables depending on what’s in your fridge and what looks good in the market, but be sure to finish with a spoonful of jarred pesto, which helps tie the whole bowl together.
Here’s how restaurants make Alfredo: cream, butter, and cheese. We ditched the cream and made a basic béchamel sauce with flour, milk, butter, and Parmesan in our version of an Alfredo pasta recipe. We solved the other major shortcoming of pasta Alfredo (that is, a lack of any real nutrition) by adding chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, and, for good measure, sun-dried tomatoes.
It’s the low-calorie dish you can have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
Now wraps at places like P.F. Chang’s and The Cheesecake Factory are overwrought affairs packing as many calories into an appetizer as you should have in an entire meal. Consider this version a blissful, healthy, flavor-packed return to the wrap’s humble roots, and you’ll save hundreds of calories in the process.
Our sandwich is a spicy-sweet combination of teriyaki-glazed chicken, juicy grilled pineapple, and fiery jalapeños—a chicken sandwich to end all fatty chicken sandwiches. Trust us: You won’t miss the fried versions at all once you sink your teeth into this sweet and savory combination.
Forget splurging for a fried restaurant version when you can make this one right at home. It’s one of those healthy lunch recipes you’re going to want to meal prep over-and-over again.
A few years back, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s reached out to us and asked for help designing a new line of turkey burgers that would improve on an otherwise high-calorie menu. A lot of time and testing went into the burgers, during which we learned just how well turkey takes to intense, vibrant flavors that might not jibe as well with beef. In the end, this spicy-cool burger didn’t make it on the menu, but it remains one of the best turkey burgers we’ve had. Now, with this turkey burger recipe, you can judge for yourself…
You can load this one full of vegetables, doubling the amount used below, and end up with a chunky, sausage-strewn minestrone. And if you want to cut out the pasta altogether, replace the farfalle with your favorite brown rice or quinoa. Either way, this Italian sausage soup is hearty enough to work for dinner if it’s too heavy for lunch.
This recipe transforms the high-calorie dressing into a lighter vinaigrette and adds substance, flavor, and nutrition in the form of sun-dried tomatoes and olives. Think of this as the Caesar salad, reimagined.
Skip Chinese takeout for lunch and throw together a few containers of this chili-mango chicken instead. Serve on rice, or keep it low-carb by serving it with some cauliflower rice.
In this healthier buffalo chicken sandwich recipe, we stay true to the flavors people love by basting the chicken in hot sauce and butter after grilling, topping with a yogurt-based blue cheese sauce—but manage to do what no one else out there has done yet: make Buffalo chicken into a healthy meal.
Our version of margarita chicken—a meal that you can have on the table in 20 minutes—contains all the same bells and whistles (Cheese! Salsa! Sizzle!), minus all the added calories and dollars spent on eating at a restaurant. You’re going to want to add this to your list of healthy lunch ideas, trust us.
Mac and cheese on a list of healthy lunch recipes? No, we’re not kidding! To keep this mac and cheese on the lighter side, you can’t go wrong with Greek yogurt mixed in to bring all the creaminess without adding too much fat.
The classic tomato salad from Capri, Italy, is a study in simplicity: sweet, acidic tomatoes contrasted with creamy mozzarella slabs and the bright herbal bite of fresh basil, yet with a complex taste you’ll crave.
With the addition of caramelized apples, toasted pecans, and creamy goat cheese, this retro spinach salad finally achieves perfect harmony with nearly half of the caloric intake as a similar salad in a restaurant.
Pasta is forever a go-to comfort food, and this recipe makes for the perfect, good-for-you dish you can indulge in. It’s certainly not a boring desk salad, making it the perfect addition to your rotation of healthy lunch recipes.
Between the pulled chicken, the soothing tomato broth, and the pile of fixings, what’s not to love?
This grilled chicken sandwich delivers heroic flavor by employing chimichurri, an Argentine herb-based sauce that would make shoe leather taste like fine dining, along with a solid supporting cast of sweet peppers, sharp raw onions, and peppery greens. Good luck finding a side salad, let alone a real sandwich, at a restaurant for 310 calories.
Now, you might be thinking that a goulash—which is a meat and veggie stew—would require a lot of time, but our recipe is made for your slow cooker. All you have to do is combine all of the ingredients into it, and let the time-saving appliance work its magic while you do whatever it is you need to do. It’s that easy!
Low in calories, but high in flavor? Yes, this flavorful black bean soup really hits the spot. Plus, it’s perfect for cooking ahead and enjoying all week.
With yummy veggies and brown rice to keep you full all day, why bother turning to the takeout menu when you can make this delicious restaurant-quality dish yourself at home?
This soup is infused with pork, beans, peppers, russet potatoes, onions, and roasted corn, which gives it a hearty texture that’s actually filling—no limp noodles and broth here! It’s low in calories and will give you 25 grams of protein, plus six grams of fiber, meaning it’s a great healthy lunch recipe for weight loss.
This may seem like a breakfast recipe, but trust us, it’s just as delicious as lunch. An open-face sandwich is an easy way to cut back on calories because there is only one slice of bread, so you can still satisfy your sandwich craving and reach your weight loss goals.
This burrito is American in spirit, which is to say it’s hearty and generously filled, but without the caloric excesses found at Chipotle Mexican Grill and the rest of the country’s fast-food burrito barons. We’ve not only made this recipe so that it will save you in calories, but it’s also quick and easy to make, so it’ll save you time, too.
This tuna melt recipe is one of a kind, simply by the way it is made. Similar to an open-face tuna melt, these have a bread base with a cheesy, tuna salad filling on top. Assembling them is much easier than you think—perfect for your weekly meal prep.
Once you’ve seen how easy it can be to make this smoothie bowl, you might just bid your morning (or midday!) smoothie goodbye. Either way, it’s one nutritious acai bowl recipe you’ll want to keep in your back pocket for those days you’re craving a sweeter meal. Plus, it’s so pretty, you’ll definitely want to ‘gram it.
This easy, nutrient-rich meal takes just five minutes to make, and it’s even easier if you chop the vegetables ahead of time. All you need is a mug, some cooking spray, and a microwave, and you’ll have a filling meal ready to go in no time. And with just 314 calories and 519 milligrams of sodium per serving, this mug recipe is way healthier than many of the grab-and-go breakfast options out there.
Mason jar salads are an easy way to make your healthy lunch recipes ahead of time for the week, so you won’t be tempted to buy lunch after you get to the office. This recipe will take a bit of work, including cooking the salmon fillets. However, it will stay fresh in the fridge for up to three days, so one day’s worth of prep will give you four salads to tuck away.
If you want to lose weight and drop at least 15 pounds this year, replace every restaurant salad you eat with a homemade version. Start with this one: The warm goat cheese crouton and sweet, crisp pear will make a salad believer out of anyone. It’s basically the goat cheese salad recipe to end all other salads.
If you’re looking for easy, healthy lunch recipes for weight loss, but you’re tired of lettuce-based salads, this butternut squash pasta salad recipe will be a game-changer. Like other Mason jar salads, this recipe can be made in advance, and it’s packed full of nutritious veggies.
Think Mason jars are just for drinks or packing lettuce-based salads? Think again. This sweet potato salad puts a new spin on the term, layering cinnamon-roasted sweet potato pieces with shredded chicken, carrots, and plenty of seasoning. Combined with a serving of wild rice, this is a full meal in a jar.
Craving Chinese food, but don’t feel like spending the money? Before splurging on some pork fried rice and egg rolls again, why not try making some delicious fried rice at home? This fried rice cups recipe will make perfect portions of fried rice while keeping that calorie count nice and low!
With 21 grams of protein and four grams of fiber, this salad is as satisfying as it is pretty. And thanks to the layered Mason jar technique, you can make this salad up to three days ahead of time. Just don’t pour the dressing on until you’re ready to eat it—you don’t want to end up with a soggy salad.
Instead of buying the soup, salad, and breadsticks lunch deal over at Olive Garden, you can have an easy (and healthy) version of it right at home. This recipe is delectable with some freshly baked bread (like a sourdough baguette) and a fresh, crispy garden salad with some Italian dressing. It’s one of the easiest healthy lunch recipes to meal prep.
Personal pies are the bane of the pizza experience. Many pizza joints load individual pizzas with more than a day’s worth of fat and sodium. English muffins, though, come with built-in portion control, so no matter how lavishly you adorn them, you won’t break the 400-calorie barrier. To meal prep, simply make these healthy lunch recipes and store them in the fridge. Pop them in the microwave at work to enjoy later!
This slow cooker recipe will create a delectable homemade sauce as the Italian meatballs start to cook. Plus, the slow cooker does all the heavy lifting while you go about your business, then enjoy the fruits of your labor all week.
With ham, turkey, bacon, and mayo, you won’t believe this hearty sandwich is under 350 calories.
This recipe can be served on a skewer, but can also be put into a pita bread as a sandwich or served on a bed of rice with tahini sauce.
This paleo recipe not only packs in the protein and fiber, but it also adds even more nutritional value than the usual ramen noodle package at the store. With real chicken, vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs, this homemade ramen will nourish your body with nutrients, plus filling protein to keep you satiated. Bonus: it’s also lower in sodium than the store-bought counterpart!
Looking for something on the spicier side? By using a jalapeño in the recipe, this tomato chicken curry comes with a slight kick, but between the sweetness of the coconut milk and the acidity of the crushed tomatoes, it’s the perfect lunch or dinner dish no matter the season.
Adding a slice of cheese will certainly help with satiety on a traditional burger, but for those who are paleo, guacamole is a great alternative. Not only is avocado a natural appetite suppressant, but it is also the perfect food for weight loss. So spoon on some delicious guacamole and fresh salsa on your burger—your stomach will thank you!
Finding keto-friendly healthy lunch recipes can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of foods that still let you get all the flavor you love, all while following the low-carb meal plan. This arugula and grapefruit salad recipe is meant to be a side dish, but you can easily make it a full meal by adding protein and fat.
If you’re in the mood for a light, refreshing, and low-carb soup, you’ll rejoice at this simple soup recipe that packs a ton of flavor but is completely keto-friendly. This creamy chilled keto soup uses all the flavor components we crave in Mexican food—heat from the serrano chiles and ancho chili powder, aroma of the cumin and cilantro, and the zing of lime juice. And best of all, the crave-able taste of avocado.
Turn your favorite comfort food dish into a low-carb healthy lunch idea using your Instant Pot!
Get our recipe for Instant Pot Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese.
A previous version of this story was originally published in 2016. It has since been updated to include additional entries, proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links. All recipes are original.