It's a common misconception that when searching for healthy lunch recipes, or just easy and light meals, your options are profoundly limited. Turns out, there are plenty of healthy meals out there that aren't just salads or blandly seasoned fish with steamed vegetables (though those do work, if that's what you like!)
"The key to building a healthy lunch is having a balance of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrate, and there [are] infinite ways to do this," Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Atlanta, tells Woman's Day. "You might enjoy fish tacos with the tortilla, fish, and vegetables, you're all set in one dish. Or maybe it's a soup and salad kind of day — both great opportunities to pile in plenty of vegetables."
In addition to protein, healthy fats, and some carbohydrates, adding whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to all of your meals can give your light, easy lunch even more health benefits, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, CT, says. "The protein, healthy fat, and fiber from the whole grain and produce help keep you fuller for longer — and this combination of foods also provides important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants," she tells Woman's Day. For protein, the dietitian suggests eggs, salmon, and beans, just to name a few. Oats, quinoa, and whole-grain or sprouted-grain bread are great carbohydrate options. And as for fruits and veggies? They all have plenty of health benefits, so take your pick. There are so many healthy lunch ideas, but it all come down to balance. Protein, healthy fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are all you need to make these easy, light lunch recipes.
Bell Pepper Nachos
Packed with vitamin C and beta carotene, antioxidants crucial to good immune function, bell peppers are a great veggie to add to your meal in some way, shape, or form. And these bell pepper nachos put a healthy, delicious spin on a beloved classic.
Cream of Mushroom Soup
Mushrooms are rich in antioxidants and other compounds that have antiviral properties, which makes every spoonful of this soup immune-enhancing. Not to mention, the cannellini beans make it oh-so creamy.
Who says granola is reserved for breakfast? Add a little sweetness to your lunch with this cashew granola, loaded with zinc, iron, and vitamin E.
Sheet Pan Chickpea Chicken
dinner lunch. Combine earthy chickpeas, sweet peppers, and harissa sauce and give your flavorful lunch a little spicy kick.
Tomato & Watermelon Salad
Basil and salty feta perfectly complement this fruit salad, which can work as a side dish or a whole meal. (This is also a perfect meal for a warm, summer afternoon.)
Fresh Corn, Tomato, Herb, and Israeli Couscous Salad
Showcase your tasty and colorful veggies in this pasta salad that's bound to be your new favorite go-to lunch. It's quick (read: only takes 20 minutes), delicious, and easy.
Quick Chickpea and Kale Stew
Rich in carbohydrates, chickpeas are the perfect creamy base for this stew. The chunkiness they bring to the stew is similar to that of potatoes, but chickpeas are higher in fiber and plant-based protein than potatoes, which makes them a great substitute for the starchy root vegetable.
Katsu Pork Cutlet
Contrary to popular belief, some fried recipes can also be healthy, and this crispy, juicy pork topped with a ginger-lime cabbage salad is an excellent example of that.
Hot Pepper and Onion Pizza
Forget the mindset that pizza is always bad for you. This simple pie, topped with spicy jalapeño peppers and creamy cheese, will be your new best friend.
Chickpea, Spinach, and Quinoa Patties
You won't even remember you're having a vegetarian dish when you try these patties. They're loaded with feta, garlic, and jalapeños for the most flavorful dish you've ever had.
Thai-Style Peanut Chicken Wraps
Switch your go-to flour tortilla for Swiss chard in a healthier take on this Thai-style chicken wrap. And don't worry, the leafy green is definitely sturdy enough to hold all of the tasty fillings and multiple dips in the honey-ginger peanut sauce.
Whole-Wheat Spaghetti with Grilled Asparagus and Scallions
Boost your immunity with this pasta dish, thanks to the antioxidants in the mushrooms and the vitamin C in the asparagus. Grilling the veggies gives the dish a little bit of a smoky char that perfectly complements the nutty pasta.
Mâche, Beet, and Orange Salad
Mâche leaves may not be something you have in your kitchen at any time, but next time you go grocery shopping, you may want to grab some to make this delicious salad.
Low-Carb Quiche Biscuits with Bacon, Cheddar, and Chives
These gluten-free biscuits are everything you could want from a meal: flavorful and healthy, in part because of the secret superfood cauliflower. They do take a bit longer to prep than other dishes, but you can whip up a batch whenever you have the time, freeze it, and then pop one or two in the microwave for a quick and easy lunch.
Hot Honey-Roasted Salmon and Radishes
Jalapeño-infused honey and spicy radishes give this dish a one-two punch you won't get elsewhere. "Salmon is a wonderful protein," Gorin says.
Skillet Eggs With Mustard Greens and Hollandaise
The lemony hollandaise provides the ideal creamy contrast to the spicy sautéed mustard greens and poached eggs in this healthy dish. "Per one large egg," Gorin says, "you get eight essential nutrients including 6 grams of high-quality protein."
Creamy Chickpea Soup
Chickpeas, with their nutty, buttery flavor and creamy texture, make for a dreamy soup that you'll want on cold and hot days alike. Drizzle it with some paprika oil for a little kick and elegant touch.
Apricot-Glazed Chicken and Corn
A touch of hot sauce makes this apricot-lime glaze the perfect combination of sweet, sour, and spicy. The best part? The protein-heavy dish only takes 30 minutes.
Green Olive Shrimp Pasta
You don't need poultry or red meat to have a flavor-packed lunch. This shrimp pasta is briny, herby, and bathed in fresh lemon juice for a dish that you'll want to have every day.
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