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Weight Loss & Diet

Five Healthy Lunches for Weight Loss That Are Easy to Make at Home

Nicoise Salad
Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Eating out at lunch time can be a habit. But how is it affecting your weight and health? Compared to meals prepared at home, meals prepared away from home, such as at a restaurant, are more likely to be:

  • Higher in calories
  • Higher in fat and sugar
  • Lower in vegetables, calcium, and fiber.

A good lunch that you can make at home is:

  • Great-tasting and interesting.
  • Easy to prepare ahead of time.
  • Portable if you are eating in the office or somewhere else away from home.
  • Filling and nutritious, but good for weight loss.

We have some ideas that can help! Any of these five lunches can be made quickly and with common ingredients. And they come with ideas to fit your own dietary preferences, such as gluten-free, plant-based (vegan), and low-carb. These are the lunch ideas.

These meals have about 400 to 500 calories each. And they can help you get more green badges in Lark when you keep your other meals nutritious, balanced, and calorie-controlled, too! Remember to log your meals to get feedback and to get more green badges! And be sure to check with your doctor before trying any new meal plan or diet!

Nicoise Salad 


Nicoise Salad

Nicoise salad is a super simple salad that you can use as a nutritious main course or entire meal. Traditional foods in a nicoise salad may include tuna, hard-boiled eggs, cooked potato, and green beans. But it has many variations.

You can use canned or fresh cooked tuna or salmon, or any other protein. You can make the eggs ahead of time to save time when throwing this salad together, or cook several eggs to have for snacks at other times.

This salad is great with fruit or some cooked quinoa or wild rice. To use it in a sack lunch, pack the salad in one leakproof container and the dressing in a small leakproof container. Then shake the dressing and pour it over the salad at lunch time.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup of fresh or cooked cut green beans
  • ½ cup of cooked sweet potato in cubes
  • 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced
  • ¼ cup of canned salmon or ½ of a 5-ounce can of tuna, drained
  • 1 red pepper, sliced into rings
  • 2 tablespoons of diced shallot
  • 4 to 6 artichoke heart quarters
  • Base of chopped romaine lettuce, broccoli slaw or shredded cabbage, or spring mix
  • Dressing: 
    • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
    • 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
    • Black pepper to taste

Directions

  • Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl.
  • Distribute the green beans, sweet potato, egg, bell pepper, shallot, and quartered artichoke hearts on the base.
  • Drizzle the salad dressing on the salad.

Variations:

  • Gluten-free and dairy-free: this recipe is already gluten-free and dairy-free. 
  • Low-carb: use ½ cup of cooked cauliflower florets (optional: cook the cauliflower in broth and mix it with 1 tablespoon of almond meal)
  • Vegan (plant-based): skip the tuna and hard-boiled egg. Instead, use ½ cup of mashed garbanzo beans mixed with onion powder and black pepper.
  • Fun Swaps: canned salmon, tofu, or cooked chicken instead of tuna are all fine. You can use any combination of raw and cooked vegetables that you like. And if plain oil and vinegar or a light vinaigrette are easier for you, go right ahead instead of making a separate dressing!

Minestrone Pasta Salad


Minestrone Pasta Salad

Why not turn delicious and nutritious soup into a portable salad that is easy to take for lunch? This salad can use up leftover pasta or you can make a little extra pasta if you happen to make it for dinner one night. 

You can make this minestrone pasta salad the night before you want to eat it for lunch. Leaving it in the fridge overnight lets the flavors blend together. You can also make a big batch by multiplying the quantities of ingredients by 4. That way, you can have enough for a few lunches or to share.

The dressing in this recipe has olive oil, vinegar, pepper, and herbs. If you want to take a shortcut, just use 2 tablespoons of light Italian dressing instead. And feel free to add or swap any vegetables for the zucchini, such as raw or cooked chopped cabbage, cut green beans, or diced carrots. You can serve the salad on a bed of spinach leaves or lettuce if you want a bigger meal without more calories. 

Serve the salad on its own, with 1 tablespoon of chopped cashew nuts, or with a piece of fruit. 

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup of whole-wheat spaghetti, rotini, or other pasta
  • ½ cup of kidney or garbanzo beans
  • ½ cup of canned Italian style tomatoes (or with basil and oregano)
  • ½ small zucchini, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of light Italian dressing (or Italian seasoning, 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of vinegar, dash of pepper, 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley or basil)
  • Optional: 1 ounce of grated low-fat Parmesan cheese or 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast (to keep it vegan or dairy-free)

Directions:

  • Toss all ingredients together to coat them evenly with dressing. Refrigerate the salad or plate it immediately. Top with cheese and/or nuts if desired. Serve!

Variations

  • Gluten-free: Use brown rice, quinoa, or brown rice pasta instead of whole-wheat pasta.
  • Low-carb: 
  • Vegan (plant-based) or dairy-free: use nutritional yeast or vegan cheese instead of parmesan cheese for an optional topping.
  • Fun Swaps: You can add cooked or raw chopped cabbage, cut green beans, fresh spinach leaves or shredded kale, and/or diced carrots instead of or in addition to zucchini. Any type of beans instead of garbanzo or kidney beans are great. You can try brown rice, barley or quinoa instead of pasta.

Creamy Avocado Chicken Salad 


Creamy Avocado Chicken Salad 

This recipe can use leftover shredded or cubed rotisserie chicken or cooked skinless chicken. It is best when made a couple of hours or a day ahead of time so the flavors can mingle. That makes it perfect for a make-ahead lunch.

To make it more filling, serve it over a bed of lettuce or spinach, or with a side of steamed broccoli or any other other cooked vegetable. You can also add a slice of whole-grain bread or ⅓ cup of cooked brown rice or whole-wheat pasta to this meal.

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup of mashed ripe avocado
  • 3 ounces of cooked skinless chicken, shredded or cubed
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt (or 1 tablespoon of soy or almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of minced red onion
  • Dash each of garlic powder, and paprika
  • 1 stalk of celery, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup of blueberries, sliced strawberries, or halved blackberries or raspberries

Directions

  • Mix all of the ingredients except the berries together until the avocado is evenly distributed.
  • Stir in the berries.
  • Chill until ready to serve. Serve on its own or on a bed of greens.

Variations

  • Gluten-Free: serve with brown rice, brown rice pasta, or a cooked starchy vegetable such as ½ cup of sweet potato, peas, or corn, or ¾ cup of cooked acorn squash.
  • Low-Carb: add ½ ounce (2 tablespoons) of chopped walnuts to your chicken salad, and serve it without bread or a grain.
  • Dairy-Free: use almond milk or soy milk instead of yogurt.
  • Vegan (Plant-based): add crushed garbanzo beans instead of chicken and use almond or soy milk instead of yogurt.
  • Fun Swaps: Try hard-boiled egg whites or canned tuna instead of chicken. You can add halved cherry tomatoes, chopped bell pepper, and/or cooked eggplant cubes. A ½-cup of chopped apple or pear works well instead of berries. You can add crunch with 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed or sunflower seeds, or 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts, walnuts, or cashews.

Salmon Salad Wrap


Salmon Salad Wrap

Packed with protein and heart-healthy fats, this salmon salad wrap also has fiber to keep you full for longer. Serve it with a piece of fruit to complete the meal!

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup of canned salmon
  • 2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon of diced red onion
  • 2 tablespoons of diced celery
  • Slices of tomato
  • Optional garlic powder, cumin, paprika, chopped parsley, chopped dill weed, and/or onion powder
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Leaves of romaine lettuce or spinach
  • 1 small high-fiber, whole-grain tortilla or wrap (about 100 calories)

Directions

  1. Mix together the salmon, olive oil, lemon juice, diced red onion, diced red pepper, diced celery, and any desired spices.
  2. Spread the salmon salad on a tortilla. 
  3. Add the tomato slices and leaves of lettuce or spinach. Roll the wraps up like a burrito.

Variations

  • Gluten-free: use a gluten-free whole-grain bread or serve your salmon salad on ⅓ cup of cooked quinoa or brown rice.
  • Low-carb: Serve your salmon salad with ¼ avocado instead of in a wrap.
  • Vegan (plant-based): Use ½ cup of mashed garbanzo beans (it’s okay to leave them chunky or to puree them completely smooth) instead of salmon, 
  • Fun Swaps: You can use canned tuna, or 3 ounces of cooked fresh salmon or diced skinless chicken instead of canned salmon. Any whole-grain bread, such as sliced bread or an English muffin, works fine instead of a tortilla. 

Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich


Peanut Butter and Apple Sandwich

A peanut butter sandwich can be a comfort food that can bring back childhood memories. It is easy to make, which is always good when making lunch at home. And it is completely portable, so you can take it in a sack lunch.

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread (50 to 70 calories per slice)
  • 1 tablespoon of peanut butter
  • ½ apple
  • ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon, optional
  • 1 cup of cucumber or celery sticks
  • ½ cup of fat-free cottage cheese
  • Optional: chopped dill, lemon juice, garlic powder, onion powder

Directions

  1. Dice the apple.
  2. Spread the peanut butter on one slice of bread. Sprinkle the cinnamon on the peanut butter if desired.
  3. Distribute the diced apple pieces on the bread. 
  4. Close the sandwich by placing the second slice of bread over the first.
  5. Mix any desired ingredients into the cottage cheese. Use the cottage cheese as a dip for the cucumber or celery.

Variations

  • Gluten-Free: Choose gluten-free bread or swap a different grain, such as making oatmeal with peanut butter and diced apple.
  • Low-Carb: Use a low-carb wrap instead of bread, or just dip your apple slices into two tablespoons of peanut butter instead of making a sandwich.
  • Vegan (Plant-based): Dip your vegetables into 2 tablespoons of hummus instead of cottage cheese.
  • Fun Swaps: a mini whole-grain bagel, a whole-grain English muffin, or a whole-grain pita pocket (2 halves of a small one or 1 half of a large or thick pita) can swap for the bread. Any kind of berries or cut fruit can substitute for the diced apple, and you can use almond butter, cashew butter, or any kind of nut or seed butter instead of peanut butter. Cottage cheese works great, too! Effortless, ready-to-eat raw vegetable options include sugar snap peas, baby carrots, grape tomatoes, and broccoli florets. Or, try any cooked vegetables, such as leftover steamed or roasted asparagus spears or green beans.