It’s all too easy to wreck your entire day by 1 pm—and we’re not talking about botching your morning meeting or inquiring about your bloated co-worker’s non-existent due date.
The relentless march of jam-packed workdays, your constantly-buzzing cellphone and incessant family demands can lead you to call in some comfort food, reflexively grab a mystery wrap from the downstairs deli or bypass the same boring salad bar for pizza. Because you deserve a break, yeah?
Sure, but you don’t deserve the ensuing belly. We got healthy-lunch tips from 11 nutritionists who are not only busy, but also pros at eating well and fueling up for long, hectic days. These suggestions are filling, energizing and don’t slack on flavor. And most are quick and easy to pre-prep at home—you’ll save money and bank serious calories.
GIVE DUNCH A CHANCE
“At Foodtrainers we suggest “Dunch,” or dinner for lunch. For me (and others) there’s a big interval between lunch and dinner, so I have my largest meal midday. By largest, I mean biggest protein. For this entrée lunch I may have poached salmon and asparagus or a bunless turkey burger (I have a pesto turkey burger in The Little Book of Thin) and leftover veggies.” — Lauren Slayton, MS, RD, Founder of Foodtrainers
PAIR PROTEIN WITH FIBER
“I make a turkey wrap using a whole-wheat, 150-calorie Whole Foods wrap and stuff it with Applegate Farms turkey, organic spinach and honey mustard. Sometimes I use a sprinkle of dried cranberries. Wrap it up and it’s ready to eat on the go. The high-fiber wrap and protein from the turkey is the perfect combo to slow digestion and keep me fuller longer until my 3 or 4pm snack. I pair it with a bag of veggies, and it’s really satisfying.” — Laura Burak MS, RD, CDN,Laura Burak Nutrition
“I make a tuna to-go wrap: 1 whole-wheat tortilla, 2 Laughing Cow cheeses or 1 tablespoon of spicy brown mustard, 1-2 tuna packets (light, in water), plus a green — usually a mix of spinach, Swiss chard, cabbage, or kale for added crunch. This wrap works perfectly for those who don’t want to heat anything up and it won’t require any refrigeration if you decide to eliminate the Laughing Cow cheese. Not only is this lunch quick, but you won’t quickly be hungry an hour later because it contains an appropriate amount of protein and a bit of fiber depending on the tortilla.” — Jim White, owner, Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios
MIND YOUR WRAPS
Sometimes I order lettuce wraps from local delis in my area. I get turkey, avocado, tomato and honey mustard on the side so I can dip my bites. You save all the calories from those enormous deli wraps, which can easily be 300-500 calories. Wraps are deceiving. I tell my clients that if you take the wrap and make it into a ball, it’s the size of a big bagel or the carb and calorie equivalent of about 4 or 5 slices of bread.” — Laura Burak MS, RD, CDN
FIND A FAVORITE
“One of my favorite go-to lunches is an arugula and quinoa salad topped with chicken or shrimp and raw almonds. Sometimes I eat it plain, sometimes I add salsa or a drizzle of hazelnut oil. I love this lunch because it’s easy to whip together from some of my staple kitchen ingredients or from my leftovers. These ingredients create a balanced, nourishing plate that will help to provide sustained energy, satiety and aid in long-term health. It’s quick to assemble and the main ingredients that need to be cooked, like the quinoa and chicken/shrimp, can be cooked in advance and eaten chilled.” — Meg Mangano, RDN, CSSD, CLT, Rejoov Wellness
“I love bringing a fresh salad to work. You can make a salad every day and it won’t get boring, as long as you change the ingredients. Salads with the right balance of nutrients will prevent you from feeling hungry and will keep you satisfied until your day is over. It’s healthier to consume more protein than fat; it’s essential that you consume some fat, though. You want to make sure that you consume a variety of proteins and healthy fats, even in your salads. I do this by adding that chicken or cheese to my salad mix and avocado or olive oil-based dressing. You can even add this to sandwiches or wraps if you choose to consume this during your lunchtime.” — Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, Leah Kaufman Nutrition
MAKE EGGS ANY TIME
“I’m fortunate to be able to work and eat lunch at home a few times a week, so I have some flexibility. My go-to lunch at home: A vegetable omelet with salad greens on the side. The vegetables change depending on what I have on hand, but I often include mushrooms, spinach and onions. The protein from the eggs and the fiber from the vegetables satisfy hunger and help me get through the rest of the day. Plus, there’s very little clean up.” — Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, owner, Marisa Moore Nutrition
MAKE PROTEIN A PRIORITY
I also make Proats: ½ cup rolled old-fashioned oatmeal, 1 scoop of protein powder and 1 tablespoon of peanut butter. For those who love breakfast or just need a satisfying lunch with a slightly sweeter taste, proats are an absolute lifesaver. This meal contains a minimum of 5 grams of dietary fiber, a great balance of unsaturated fats and slow-digesting carbohydrates to give you lasting energy before your next meal. It can be quickly assembled if you pre-portion your oatmeal, or you can purchase packaged pre-portioned rolled oatmeal from some grocery stores. Be sure to grab the rolled—not the instant—to reap all the benefits of the full, whole oat grain.” — Jim White, owner, Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios
“If I buy lunch out, I will usually enjoy a salad from a fast-casual chain that specializes in them. In that salad, I’ll always put a lean protein–usually a hardboiled egg, tofu, or chicken–and a fat such as avocado. Then I load up the veggies and use fresh lemon and pepper for my dressing. Grains are sometimes present, but I always skip the “white” stuff. Regardless of where I go, my lunch always consists of lean or vegan protein and veggies with a heart-healthy fat.” — Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, Real Nutrition NYC
“If I brown-bag it, often I’ll take whatever leftovers I have from the night before and wrap it up over a bed of greens (I buy the boxed organic spinach or arugula— it’s easy, fast and washed!). These meals usually consist of a lean protein like chicken or grass-fed meatballs, with veggies that have either been steamed or sautéed in coconut oil with some seasoning. Sometimes I’ll have some quinoa or brown rice with it if I have it left over.” — Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN
“Most days, I don’t have time to go out for lunch, so I always bring something with me from home. My go-to lunch is a salad with grilled chicken. I love adding carrots, cucumbers, red, yellow or orange peppers, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, or roasted peppers on top of baby spinach leaves mixed with romaine. I also add any cooked veggie I have from the night before, such as roasted cauliflower, broccoli, asparagus or string beans. I top it off with a homemade dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and spices. The protein from the chicken, fiber and crunch from the veggies and the healthy fats from the olive oil keep me full for hours.” — Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CN
HAVE LUNCH PRE-PLANNED
“When I am working at my office away from home, I usually pack a lunch. It’s typically leftovers from the night before or one of three go-to quick meals. They’re all easy to make and take on the go. Packed with protein and fiber, they keep me feeling satisfied throughout the rest of the day with little urge to snack. If I eat out for lunch, I usually opt for the soup and salad. In any case, I rarely leave the house without a lunch plan. That’s a recipe for disaster.” —Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD
DON’T OVERTHINK IT
“I usually pack my lunch, and one of my favorites is a vegetable crudités platter because it’s so simple and you can shift it around seasonally. For spring, it’s sliced radishes and fennel with green beans, hummus and smoked salmon rolls. The radishes contain isothiocyanates that supply the largest antioxidant pool in the body (glutathione), fennel helps improve breath while the green beans are delicious and provide amazing texture. Also, the smoked salmon provides ample omega-3 fats for better neuron functioning to overcome the 3pm crash. It’s great on the go, because it takes three minutes to pack and can easily be prepared the night before.” — Miriam Jacobson, RD, CDN, Food Coach NYC
“My favorite to-go lunch is an easy one: two tablespoons of 100% natural peanut butter with two teaspoons jam on whole-wheat bread. I eat the PB&J with a side of nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with sliced strawberries. This lunch is quick to make and easy to tote. It’s also well-balanced with four food groups including whole grains, protein, dairy and fruit.” — Toby Amidor, MS, RD, author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day
PREP ONCE, EAT ALL WEEK
“My go-to lunch option is a homemade crispy quinoa burger over a mixed greens salad or on a whole-grain roll. I love this lunch because I can make the crispy quinoa burgers in bulk and freeze them, so I always have a delicious lunch ready. When coming from the freezer, the burgers only take one minute to heat up, making them super convenient.“ — Gina Consalvo, MA, RD, LDN, CDE, NCC, Owner of Eating Well with Gina
What do you Eat for Lunch?