According to a recent survey, more than 56 percent of people say they find it challenging to prepare a healthy lunch during a typical workday. The study analyzed the lunch eating habits of 907 American employees over the age of 18. Over 77 percent said that they were likely to make healthy meal choices over the day if they had a healthy lunch. Also, employees under 40 were interested in improving the quality of their lunches.
If you find yourself grabbing the fastest takeout in the middle of a busy day, you are not alone. During your workday, you likely stressed and have too much on your mind to think about what to eat.
For most of us, lunch is a time to indulge in all the ‘forbidden’ food and get that temporary comfort. It is too easy to grab the first donut, muffin, or pizza that catches your eye at the convenience store or to settle with whatever the office cafeteria has on its menu.
But it’s only one meal, right? What’s the big deal if you indulge in an unhealthy lunch but have a healthy breakfast and dinner? According to the experts, every meal counts. Think about it: you spend at least five days a week at work, which means a total of five unhealthy meals.
It may sound like a little, but it is a lot. And over time, your one unhealthy meal can catch up with you and even increase your risk of hypertension or diabetes. If you are trying to lose weight, one unhealthy meal a day is more than enough to jeopardize all your dreams of shedding those pounds.
Choosing between a healthy sandwich and a burger during lunch can have a significant impact on your overall health, especially if you’re trying to lose weight. So making a healthy lunch is not an option; it is a necessity.
How to Make a Healthy Lunch
The first step is to get a clear idea of what it takes for a meal to be considered healthy. Many people assume that a healthy meal means all greens on your plate with nothing tasty, and this is far from the truth. A healthy lunch doesn’t have to be boring or tasteless, but it does have to meet two essential criteria:
- It should be able to curb your cravings and keep you satisfied throughout the afternoon
- It should include all the necessary food groups – protein, fiber, and healthy carbs
Here are the critical components to include in your lunch:
- Lean Protein: Your lunch should contain a healthy lean protein as its foundation. Protein can help you lose weight by keeping you satisfied for longer, while providing you with enough energy to get through the afternoon. Another benefit of using lean protein is it helps maintain metabolism by building muscle mass. With the right amounts of protein for every meal, your body will turn into a calorie-burning machine, and you’ll shed those layers in no time.
- Fiber-Rich Foods: Like protein, fiber can help keep you feeling full for longer because it takes longer for your body to digest. Other benefits of incorporating fiber are that it helps maintain your bowel health, lowers your sugar levels, and balances your cholesterol levels.
- Healthy Carbs: We have already debunked the carb myth and understood that the type of carbs you choose is what matters. If you are using wraps or bread, use whole grains that offer you more nutrients and rich flavor. Entire grains are safe as a source of carbs because they don’t spike your blood sugar levels and also are rich in minerals like zinc, copper, and manganese.
So now that you have all the tools you need to create that deliciously healthy lunch, here are 14 ideas that will help you reach your weight loss goals.
14 Lunch Ideas to Help Burn Fat
We won’t be giving you the detailed recipes here, but we will tell you why we think each of these lunches are healthy based on research.
1. Spicy Lettuce-Wrap Tacos
Contrary to common belief, tacos are not bad for you. If carbs are an issue, all you need to do is swap the corn-based taco shells for lettuce and voila, a healthy taco lunch.
For the filling, you can either use leftover chili or make one from scratch. For the most robust filling, mix lightly browned ground beef, chicken, tofu with minced garlic, and diced onions. You can also add healthy beans, like kidney beans, and spices, like cumin, salt, and pepper. Once you have a tasty yet healthy filling, wrap your tacos, top them with a fine cheese of your choice, and you’re good to go! Who said your work lunch had to be boring?
2. Stuffed Portobello Pizzas
Portobello pizzas use Portobello, a type of mushroom, instead of traditional pizza crust. Not only is this type of mushroom a great alternative to pizza crust, but it is also rich in vitamin B, potassium, and anti-inflammatory compounds. On top of that, these mushrooms also have antioxidant ergothioneine, which can protect cells from abnormal growth (aka cancer). One serving of Portobello mushrooms also has potassium, niacin, riboflavin, phosphorus, copper, and selenium.
So how do you turn a mushroom into a pizza crust? First, wash, dry, and stem the mushrooms, and then brush them with garlic oil. Place them in a baking sheet with the bottom up, and start adding your pizza toppings. Broil for about eight minutes and enjoy.
3. Tomato and Avocado Cheese Sandwich
The perfect solution for those days when you don’t have time to prepare a fancy lunch but still want to eat healthily. Adding avocado to your sandwich can do wonders for your health. In one study published in 2017, researchers examined the effect avocado can have in reducing metabolic syndrome. The study found that eating avocados daily can reduce blood pressure levels, lower the risk of diabetes, and even help with weight loss.
Avocados also have antioxidants like carotenoids, vitamins, fatty acids, and much more. We don’t even have to explain the fantastic health benefits of tomatoes, but in case you didn’t know, tomatoes can help fight water retention. So use your favorite whole grain bread, stack it with some healthy greens and spices, and you have a fat-fighting winner for lunch.
4. Chicken and Apple Kale Wraps
So we know all about chicken and protein, but why would you put apple and kale in a wrap? The famous saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is more accurate than you think. Apples contain nondigestible fiber and polyphenols (plant compounds), which help keep your gut bacteria happy.
Previous research examined the connection between daily intake of three apples versus three pears and the effects of weight loss on overweight women. After 12 weeks, those of the fruit group lost 2.7 pounds compared to the 1.9 pound weight loss of the non-fruit group. Also, blood glucose levels had dropped, and total cholesterol levels decreased.
Kale is also one of the most nutrient-packed foods on earth and can be called king of the greens. One cup of raw kale has copper, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, and much more. Kale is also high in antioxidants, which can help fight cancer, while the amount of vitamin C in kale is more than a whole orange. All these nutrients plus the low calorie and high water content of kale make it a weight loss friendly food.
5. Mini Spinach Tomato Quiche
This unsweetened pie has a bad rep among weight loss seekers because of its high carb content, but replacing the wheat flour with almond flour fixes that problem. This simple switch can lower carb content drastically, turning your quiche into something healthy.
Almonds are rich in different nutrients, and a single ounce of almonds has fiber, protein, healthy fat, vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. In terms of weight loss, almonds can lower cholesterol levels. According to one study involving 65 people with prediabetes, a diet with 20 percent of calories as almonds over sixteen weeks improved insulin sensitivity. Since almonds are also high in carbs, protein, and fiber, they can reduce hunger and lower calorie intake.
To make an almond-flour based crust, you can either grind blanched almonds in a blender or purchase unbalanced almond flour. Continue to make your quiche, as usual, adding healthy toppings like eggs, spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.
6. Healthy Zucchini Rolls
Zucchini, or summer squash, is rich in numerous minerals and vitamins. One cup of this vegetable has 40 percent of the RDI for vitamin A, carbs, fat, fiber, manganese, copper, folate, vitamin K, thiamine, and protein. Zucchini is rich in water, which means it can do wonders for your digestive health. The soluble fibers contained in zucchini also help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of gut disorders.
In terms of weight loss, zucchini is rich in fiber, which means you will stay full for longer. Studies also suggest that non-starchy vegetables like zucchini are specifically beneficial to weight loss.
To create a healthy zucchini roll dish, slice a raw zucchini into think wide strips. Then add toppings of your choice like turkey, olives, or tofu. Add some seasonings and roll.
7. Eggplant Fritters
This is one of the most delicious dishes you can make with eggplants. Even your kids will love it. Let’s talk a little about why you want eggplants to be part of your work lunch. First, eggplants are rich in a wide range of minerals and vitamins and have very few calories.
Eggplants are also high in antioxidants, nasunin in particular, which can protect cells from free radicals. With high fiber content, eggplants also lower the rate of digestion and sugar absorption in the body, which prevents spikes and crashes common in people with diabetes. The low caloric content of eggplants also makes them perfect for weight loss. One cup of raw eggplant has 3 grams of fiber and only 20 calories.
To make eggplant fritters, slice a medium eggplant width-wise into 1/2 of an inch thick rounds. For the dipping mixture, use 1.2 cups of chickpea flour, 1/4 of a cup of flaxseeds, one teaspoon of onion powder, and a little bit of water. Then, dip each slice into the mixture and fry for about five minutes per side. For extra taste, top your pancakes with smoked ham or green onions.
8. Seaweed Pasta
Seaweed pasta is an excellent alternative to regular pasta. Seaweed is rich in iodine and loaded with vitamins and minerals. According to the recommended dietary intake, you should take .15 milligrams of iodine per day. Dried seaweeds can contain a considerable amount of iodine. For example, wakame seaweed has up to .14 milligrams per gram, while kombu has 2.3 milligrams per gram.
Seaweed also provides fiber and polysaccharides to support gut health, and since seaweed doesn’t contain any calories, it can help fight obesity. Additional health benefits of seaweed include lowered risk of diabetes, reduced risk of heart disease, and high amounts of antioxidants.
Since seaweed pasta is dry, you will need to rehydrate it in cold water or cook it for about five minutes. To add some taste, use tomato sauce, a healthy protein source, olives, and some cheddar cheese.
9. Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocados
We have already touched on all the fantastic health benefits that come with avocados, so how about tuna? Well, tuna is no doubt great for lunch, as it is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and B vitamins.
According to the FDA, adults can eat three to five ounces of fish at least two to three times a day to get enough omega-3 fatty acids. However, if you are using canned tuna, experts warn about the chances of mercury exposure, so infants, children, and pregnant women should limit their tuna intake.
10. Cauliflower Fried Rice
Cauliflower may not be your favorite vegetable, but once you hear about how it can help you in your weight loss journey, you just might change your mind. Cauliflower is rich in fiber, folate, and vitamins. A single cup of cauliflower has folate, potassium, manganese, vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and fiber.
The low-calorie content of cauliflower makes it a good substitute for high-calorie foods, like rice and flour. The top source of fiber in cauliflower also helps with satiety and slows digestion, which may have an impact on the number of calories you consume throughout the day.
To create the perfect cauliflower fried rice, break a head of cauliflower into florets, and hand grate them into pieces as small as rice. If you choose, you can also use a rice processor. Then, add some coconut oil, and sauté with other vegetables, like peppers, raw ginger, green onions. Toss the mixture until it is brown, and then season with pepper, salt, and soy. Top with a fried egg.
11. Sweet and Sour Stir Fry
Sweet and sour stir-fries are a yummy choice perfect for lunches at work. All you need for this is some chicken, green onions, peas, bok choy, baby corn, and red bell pepper. Once you mix all the ingredients, simply add a sweet and sour sauce of your choice.
To create a sweet and sour sauce, add a clove of garlic, diced chili pepper, and 1/4 of a cup of sugar-free ketchup with 1/2 of a cup of rice vinegar and a tablespoon of salt. Then, bring all the ingredients to a boil while stirring frequently, and allow the mixture to cool before adding to your stir fry.
12. Asian-Style Coleslaw
An Asian-style coleslaw uses cabbage, carrots, coriander, and green onions. For the dressing, mix one tablespoon of diced fresh ginger, almond butter, vinegar, one teaspoon, and a dash of maple syrup. Add some lime zest for that tangy taste. For more protein, add a beef or veggie patty.
Cabbage is one of the best vegetables you can use for a salad. Low in carbs, rich in fiber, and packed with vitamins, cabbage also has calcium, potassium, magnesium, protein, fiber, and folate. The high fiber content in fiber makes it ideal for weight loss, and research also shows that cabbage can increase the levels of good bacteria in the gut.
13. Spring Rolls with Lime and Peanut Sauce
Spring rolls are straightforward to make, making them perfect for those days when you don’t have time. You can experiment with different healthy ingredients to create a healthy spring roll. Add chicken, salmon, or tempeh to create a protein-packed roll.
Cooking spring rolls begins by wetting a rice sheet under warm running water. After a few minutes, the sheet starts to soften, and you can transfer it to a hard surface. For the filling, add shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, bell peppers, and some mint. Roll, the rice paper, and you have the perfect lunch.
14. Kale Caesar Salad
When you are after weight loss, you can never go wrong with salads. Kale is one of the most nutritious leafy greens for salads. A cup of kale can provide 100 percent of the Daily Value for vitamins C, A, and K. Give your typical chicken salad a boost by adding some kale.
De-stem your kale, and chop it into bite-size pieces. To tenderize the vegetable, massage the leaves for up to two minutes. For a dressing, bled the zest of one lemon, and add some parmesan and some dijon mustard. You can also top with chickpeas, salmon, or grilled chicken.
You can reach all your weight loss dreams if you are consistent with eating healthy. This means taking time to make healthy lunches to take to work or school. Whether you need a low-carb lunch or simply want something healthy and tasty, these 14 ideas are easy and affordable. So the next time you want to take the easy way out, think twice. Remember, every meal counts.