July 21, 2024


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17 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Weight Loss

9 min read

Eating balanced lunches that include vegetables, a lean protein source, and other health-promoting foods can aid weight loss.

We understand that having a healthy lunch is not always easy, especially if you’re busy at work or on the go during the day.

That’s why it’s important to have a list of go-to lunch ideas on hand. This way, you can stay prepared and avoid skipping meals or relying on fast food and other less healthy options.

Here are 17 healthy lunch ideas for weight loss, including choices for plant-based, low carb, diabetes-friendly, and paleo diets.

Plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, are full of fiber and beneficial nutrients. They tend to be filling, and many of them are lower in calories than certain animal products and highly processed foods.

Thus, plant-based diets like vegan or vegetarian diets have been associated with weight loss in some people (1).

1. Lentil soup

Soups are an ideal plant-based lunch option, as you can make them ahead of time and reheat them for a quick meal.

This lentil soup recipe is a complete meal in one bowl. It’s loaded with ingredients that are good to eat when you’re trying to lose weight.

Lentils provide filling protein and carbs while the veggies contribute additional fiber. Plus, lentils are a good source of iron, an important nutrient for blood health that some plant-based eaters may lack in their diets (2).

2. Garden veggie chickpea salad sandwiches

Chickpeas are a versatile vegetarian protein. Some research suggests that chickpeas aid weight management, likely due to the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and variety of beneficial compounds they contain (3).

The texture of chickpeas makes them very easy to smash with a fork to create a chickpea “salad” filling for sandwiches — the perfect lunch food.

This recipe for garden veggie chickpea salad sandwiches is a delicious lunch option if you’re trying to lose weight and eat a plant-based diet. If you follow a vegan diet, swap out the mayo for a vegan substitute.

3. Spicy peanut tofu Buddha bowls

Tofu is a soy-based complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that humans need to get from foods. It’s also a source of isoflavones, which are compounds that may protect against heart disease (4).

Some people shy away from tofu if they don’t know how to cook it or don’t like the texture, but preparing tofu that’s crispy and delicious is easy to do at home.

Try these tofu Buddha bowls for lunch. They’re made with crispy tofu, brown rice, veggies, and a spicy peanut dressing.

4. Veggie wraps

A healthy wrap is a great lunch choice, especially if you need something that you can make ahead of time to eat at your desk or in between meetings.

Fortunately, it’s really easy to make plant-based wraps. To ensure that they’re filling, delicious, and help you lose weight, choose whole wheat wraps (or use lettuce) and add a protein source, healthy sauce or spread, and plenty of vegetables.

This veggie wraps recipe uses whole wheat tortillas, hummus, carrots, cucumbers, and other veggies. The edamame and hummus provide protein, while the avocado contributes healthy fats that help you feel full.

5. Quinoa and black bean stuffed sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes make a great base for plant-based lunches. They provide energizing carbs, plenty of fiber, and the pigment beta carotene, which can help you meet your needs for vitamin A to help support your immune system (5).

Plus, stuffed sweet potatoes can be packed up to enjoy at the office or put together quickly if you work from home. Bake the sweet potatoes and prep the filling in advance, then store them in containers in the fridge. Assemble the potatoes and reheat them when you’re ready to eat.

This recipe for stuffed sweet potatoes uses Southwest seasonings and offers tips for vegan topping alternatives if needed.

Many people find that a low carb or keto diet helps them lose weight. This style of eating involves limiting high carb foods and increasing your intake of fats and proteins.

Some research backs the potential role of low carb eating to help you lose weight, suggesting that limiting your carb intake may improve your blood sugar regulation in a way that promotes weight loss (6).

That said, these diets may also lead to weight regain when discontinued. Also, high carb, fiber-containing whole grains may help keep you feeling fuller for longer, so a lack of carbs at lunch may cause you to feel unsatisfied soon after meals.

6. Cauliflower rice bowls

Replacing regular rice with cauliflower rice is one way to cut back on your carb intake at lunchtime, especially if you eat burrito bowls or other dishes that typically contain rice.

Using cauliflower not only lowers the carb content of the meal but also provides a ton of vitamin C. This water-soluble nutrient is important for skin health, wound healing, and many other body functions (7).

Follow this recipe for cauliflower rice bowls for a low carb version of a burrito bowl.

7. Tuna egg salad stuffed peppers

Tuna and eggs are two affordable, high protein foods that will keep you full long after lunch.

In fact, eating eggs instead of a higher carb meal may help reduce hunger and the number of calories you consume later in the day, which can help promote weight loss (8).

While egg and tuna salads are usually served on bread, you can stuff them into bell peppers for a low carb meal instead. Check out this easy recipe for tuna egg salad stuffed bell peppers.

8. Zucchini noodle stir-fry with chicken

This zucchini noodle stir-fry is a delicious choice to make for lunch if you’re watching your carb intake and trying to lose weight.

Zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,” resemble regular noodles but are lower in carbs. The zucchini packs fiber and micronutrients, while the chicken contributes protein to this dish.

Chicken is an excellent lean protein to eat when you’re trying to lose weight. In fact, eating chicken with a vegetable-rich diet is linked to a reduced risk of developing overweight and obesity (9).

9. Low carb eggplant pizza

Eating more non-starchy vegetables like eggplant, often helps people lose weight. Eggplant is low in calories but high in fiber.

Using it in place of pizza crust is a great way to enjoy the flavors of pizza without consuming too many refined carbs at lunch.

Good plant-based, low carb options can be hard to find, as low carb eating often includes animal products — another great reason to keep this recipe on hand.

If you work from home or have a little time for lunch meal prep, give this easy recipe for low carb eggplant pizza a try. The recipe provides options to add more protein if you’d like.

10. Mediterranean Cobb salad

Cobb salads typically include lettuce, bacon, eggs, avocados, and a creamy dressing. They’re very filling and low in carbs, making them a good lunch option for weight loss.

This Mediterranean-inspired Cobb salad is heavy on the veggies and uses a homemade yogurt dressing instead of mayo-based dressing or store-bought ranch.

Plus, many of the ingredients offer health benefits. Eggs are rich in protein and antioxidant compounds that promote eye health, while avocados and tomatoes contribute a boost of heart-healthy nutrients like unsaturated fats and lycopene (10, 11, 12).

If you have overweight or obesity and diabetes, a healthcare professional may have advised you to lose weight to improve or help manage your condition.

Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are both important for good blood sugar regulation (13).

Many people with diabetes pay attention to their carb intake at meals, as carbs can increase blood sugar levels. They may limit overall carbs or try to keep the number of carbs consistent at each meal.

11. Avocado toast with cottage cheese and tomatoes

A diabetes-friendly lunch resembles a balanced plate, containing fiber from non-starchy vegetables and complex carbs, protein, and healthy fat.

Pairing carbs with these other macronutrients is key to preventing your blood sugar from spiking, helping maintain good blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day (14).

Avocado toast on whole grain bread can be a great base for this type of lunch. This diabetes-friendly version features protein-packed cottage cheese and fresh tomatoes to complete the meal.

12. Lemon chicken quinoa salad

Salads made with a base of whole grains make healthy lunches that are easy to pack up for work.

Though quinoa is technically a pseudocereal, it’s often grouped with whole grains since it’s nutritionally similar and has a high fiber content.

It’s also a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it a good food to add to meals for weight loss and blood sugar management (15).

This quinoa salad gets additional protein from chicken, includes tons of non-starchy veggies, and has plenty of flavor from lemon juice and parsley.

13. Black bean soup

Black beans are a high fiber, high protein food. Eating them can help people with diabetes who are trying to lose weight.

They’re also a good source of folate, a B vitamin that’s necessary for healthy blood cells and fetal development (16, 17).

Making a soup with black beans is an easy and affordable lunch option. This black bean soup recipe uses veggies, canned black beans, and lots of seasonings.

A Paleolithic (paleo) diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, animal proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats while eliminating sugar, grains, beans and legumes, most dairy, vegetable oils, and alcohol. It’s intended to resemble the diet of hunter-gatherers.

Since the paleo diet includes lots of nutritious foods and limits foods that may contribute to weight gain, some people find it useful for weight loss.

It may also have other beneficial effects on health, such as improving blood sugar and reducing blood pressure (18).

14. Egg roll in a bowl

If you love the taste of takeout egg rolls, you can easily mimic the flavors by making a deconstructed version for lunch.

Plus, eggs roll bowls can be made with filling, lean protein like ground turkey or chicken. They’re also usually loaded with cabbage, a rich source of vitamin K.

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that’s essential for proper blood clotting (19, 20).

This egg roll in a bowl recipe is a healthier twist on a takeout favorite and is suitable for those following a paleo diet and wanting to lose weight.

15. Paleo Greek meatballs with tzatziki sauce

Meatballs are a meal-prep-friendly food you can enjoy for lunch.

Pair them with fresh vegetables and a tasty sauce for a balanced meal. The meatballs will provide filling protein and vitamin B12, an important nutrient for the nervous system, while veggies contribute fiber (21).

Check out this paleo-friendly recipe for Greek meatballs with tzatziki sauce to make for lunch.

16. Paleo chicken curry

Chicken curry is made with a variety of seasonings that may provide health benefits. For example, turmeric has anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect against disease development (22).

A paleo version of chicken curry made with cauliflower rice instead of white rice is a healthy lunch option for weight loss.

This chicken curry recipe is suitable for a paleo diet and features flavorful spices and filling ingredients like coconut milk and veggies.

17. Hearty hamburger soup

Satisfy your craving for a lunchtime hamburger with a paleo soup that has the same flavors and is better for weight loss.

This easy recipe for hearty hamburger soup combines pantry staples, ground beef, and seasonings into one delicious meal.

Plus, the recipe calls for tomatoes and tomato paste. They’re a source of potassium, a mineral that’s involved in healthy blood pressure regulation, so eating tomatoes may help boost heart health (23).

If you’re looking to lose weight, there are lots of filling, delicious lunch ideas to try.

Whether you focus on plant-based, low carb, diabetes-friendly, or paleo recipes, make sure to choose dishes that contain mostly whole foods and place an emphasis on lots of fruits and non-starchy vegetables.

Many of the dishes above are perfect for making ahead of time. You can batch cook several servings on the weekend to enjoy for lunch throughout the week.