Lunch Doesn’t Have to Be Boring: Healthy Lunch Ideas

In one year’s time, you will consume approximately 365 breakfasts, 365 lunches and 365 dinners.  WOW, that is a lot of meal planning.   Just think; that is over 1000 meals a year.  When we look at it like that it is honestly exhausting to think about.  No wonder we run out of fresh ideas on what to make.

It is safe to say that most of our breakfasts and dinners are consumed at home.  Sure we occasionally go on a bagel run for breakfast and have dinner with friends after work or grab a pizza on the way home.  However, the majority of breakfasts and dinners are consumed at home.

Living Social “Dining Out” survey of 4000 participants found  participants ate a meal in a restaurant on average of 4 times per week.  They also found that 3 of those meals are lunch.  That means that 75% of the meals we eat in restaurants are lunch.  There are three main benefits we could gain if we changed that habit:

  1. We could certainly save money if we stopped eating lunch in restaurants 3x per week.
  2. We would eat healthier
  3. We would be more relaxed

Many people do not really see how they will save money by preparing their own lunch especially with every restaurant offering a dollar menu or a lunch special of some sort.  However, in the long run you will definitely save. Try it for 90 days and keep track of how much you spend on groceries at home and how much you would have spent at lunch.  You will be surprised.

healthy luch ideas

I think it is safe to say that by preparing your own lunch you will make healthier choices.  You can also save time by cooking extra at dinner the night before and bringing the leftovers for lunch.  Some easy to find dinners recipes that make excellent and healthy leftovers are:

  • Veggie and Turkey Sausage Casserole – almost any casserole taste better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld and complement each other.  A one dish lunch that is super easy to reheat.
  • Whole Wheat Pasta or any vegetarian pasta dish is easy to make for dinner and is always something that has plenty of leftovers.
  • Slow Cooker meals – any slow cooker meal is a win-win situation.  You have a very easy dinner waiting when you arrive home and you have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.  Look for great recipes like coconut and pork tenderloin or vegetarian dishes like chili, stew and even lasagna!
  • Turkey Meatballs – makes tons for your dinner and have enough for lunch as well as to freeze for meals in the upcoming weeks.
  • Meatloaf – to get away from boring meatloaf sandwiches why not crumble the meatloaf and serve it in a pita with fresh veggies and a splash of salad dressing?
  • Enchiladas are so easy to make and are a great healthy vegetarian option. Super easy to take for lunch the next day.
  • Left over anything salad topper – Keep lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and cheese on hand.  Whatever meat you had for dinner will make an excellent salad topping: chicken, beef, pork or fish.
  • Wraps are another great lunch option.  Tuna, chicken or even hummus are perfect ingredients for a wrap.  Throw in some sliced veggies and fresh fruit on the side and you have a delicious and healthy lunch alternative.
  • Speaking of hummus – you can now get the lunch size individual hummus packs at almost any grocery store.  These are perfect for dipping celery, carrots or even pretzels.  Hummus comes in many flavors as well so you will never get bored.

For those days when you just have to go out to lunch, here are some tips on how to stay healthy while still enjoying your restaurant meal:

Watch for the key words on the menu that instantly send up red flags.  Words like fried, cream sauce, crispy, smothered and breaded are all code for STAY AWAY and choose something else.  Look for the steamed, broiled or grilled options.

Don’t be afraid to customize your meal.  There is nothing wrong with asking your server for your dressing on the side so you can control how much goes on your salad or to leave off the mayo on your sandwich.

Watch what you drink.  Beverages have so many hidden calories that we never think about until it is too late.  Choose water if at all possible and stay away from sweet teas, soda, milkshakes and alcohol.

Get your to-go box first.  If you get the box when your meal arrives you can easily divide your portion in half and save the other half for tomorrow’s lunch.  More often than not, if we wait to get the box at the end of our meal we have already consumed half and nibbled away at the other half while we were waiting.

Stay away from entrees.  Order an appetizer as your meal or select the soup and salad as your main course.

Avoid dessert.  That is always easier said than done.  If you really have a sweet tooth, try to choose a smart dessert option like sherbet or fruit.  Another great habit is to share a dessert with a friend; fewer calories but still indulging.  Want to have something after your meal so you don’t left out?  Why not order a coffee with a flavored creamer; tastes good and is much better for you.

Order first.  I know it sounds silly but how many times have you decided on your healthy meal choice but you were the last to order.  By the time the server gets to you and you have listened to everyone else order you ending up changing your mind.  Who wants to be the only one eating salad when everyone else is having a burger and fries?  Ordering first allows you to stick to your healthy choice and may even encourage others to do the same.

Here is one final tip on how to be healthier at lunch.  Try the buddy system.  Tell a friend or colleague that you plan to start eating healthier and will be going to restaurants less.  There is a very good chance that they have been thinking the same thing and would love to join you.