Looking for a healthy lunch idea? Whether you’re looking for a great veggie option, a healthy lunchbox idea or something that’s good for your gut, we’ve got you covered with our top healthy lunch picks. Eat healthily in the evening, too, with our healthy dinner ideas.
What should I look for in a healthy lunch?
When you’re in the middle of a busy workday, you want something that can energise and fuel you through the rest of the afternoon, without weighing you down. For me, the best healthy lunch ideas are those that can be prepared ahead of time, offering something that I know will make me feel good, while also being so delicious that my mouth waters just a little bit at the thought of it.
Look for balanced options that offer clear sources of protein and fibre in particular, as these will keep you fuller for longer. Also, pay attention to how you feel after you eat. Some people prefer lighter options like soups and salads, while others need something heavier, like a stew or curry, to keep them satisfied. Both are healthy ways to go, as long as you’re choosing nourishing options.
Healthy lunch recipes
Healthy chicken lunch: harissa chicken and white bean bake
This vibrant recipe sees chicken thighs slathered with harissa and cooked in a rich tomato sauce with white beans and olives – a healthy, high-protein meal. Make it for dinner and pack up the leftovers for a delicious lunch the next day! Chicken thighs offer selenium, choline and folate (folic acid), while white beans provide a great source of plant protein, fibre, magnesium, B6 and iron.
Healthy salad lunch: spelt and apple salad with crispy nuts and seeds
Pack plenty of crunch into this balanced vegetarian salad by sprinkling with a homemade nut and seed mix. This moreish lunch option is packed with healthy fats and fibre to fill you up without weighing you down. Spelt is a type of wheat that provides a great source of iron, protein and magnesium, while apples are rich in potassium, vitamin C and quercetin – a potent anti-inflammatory plant compound.
More of a meat person? Try our quinoa chicken salad.
Healthy soup: red lentil dahl soup with broccoli tarka
Our vegan red lentil dahl soup is low in calories and rich in plant protein – the perfect midweek winter warmer! Lentils offer a wonderful source of inexpensive plant protein, while broccoli provides a healthy dose of fibre, as well as an alphabet of micronutrients, from iron, potassium and calcium, to B vitamins, folate (folic acid) and sulforaphane.
Check out our best healthy soup recipes for more inspiration.
High-protein lunch: turkey kheema matar
Put turkey on the menu with this kheema matar (mince and pea curry) dish. Not only does it provide 43.2g protein per portion, but turkey also contains tryptophan – an amino acid that’s required to create serotonin in the body. Serotonin helps regulate mood, and is also involved in the creation of the sleep hormone melatonin – making this a great choice for the days where you’re feeling a bit more tired and stressed.
Healthy pasta lunch: orzo, bean and tuna salad
Turn storecupboard staples into this vibrant, nutritious orzo pasta salad with roasted red peppers and black olives. Tuna is a convenient source of lean protein, while olives provide heart-healthy fats, such as oleic acid. Make sure to cook your pasta ‘al dente’ (with bite), as this helps maintain more of the resistant starch – a type of fibre that’s good for your gut.
Healthy sandwich: smoked haddock and spinach rye toasts
This quick and easy dish makes a great savoury breakfast, or light but satisfying lunch. Rye bread is a good option for those watching their blood sugar levels thanks to its high fibre content. As it’s naturally lower in gluten, it can also be easier on the digestive system for anyone who might be sensitive. Topped with smoked haddock, eggs and spinach, you’ll also get a healthy 29.5g protein, plus iron and magnesium for just 273 calories.
Healthy wrap: chipotle chicken lunch wrap
Wraps are the perfect quick and convenient option to take with you for a speedy workday lunch. These spicy chicken wraps are high in protein and low in calories and fat. Soured cream adds calcium, while fresh coriander provides a healthy dose of antioxidants – important for immune system, brain and skin health.
Healthy lunch box: 4 quick & easy grain bowls
If you’re in need of a speedy lunch box recipe that can be prepared in minutes, look no further than these easy grain bowls. Whether you’re looking for something vegan, vegetarian or even fishy, we have some great options. Grains offer a fibre-rich base, which is great for lunch as the wholegrains provide a healthy energy boost to sustain you until dinnertime. Each recipe provides a balanced source of healthy fats, protein and fibre to keep you satisfied.
Want even more options? Check out our healthy lunch box ideas for work.
Healthy vegetarian lunch: broccoli and roasted red pepper frittata
This broccoli and roasted red pepper frittata makes for a quick and nutritious midweek meal that’s delicious served hot or cold. It’s on the table in just 20 minutes, plus it’s low in calories and 5:2-diet-friendly. Eggs are a convenient and inexpensive source of protein and healthy fats, while the mix of fresh vegetables provides fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Healthy vegan lunch: vegan chilli non carne
Is it possible to resist this sweet and smoky chilli NON carne? This recipe is the epitome of healthy comfort food, providing plenty of satisfying plant protein and fibre from the kidney and black beans. The luscious, smoky tomato sauce is rich in skin-healthy antioxidants and potassium – important for replenishing your salt balance after a workout. This recipe freezes well, so it’s a great one to keep on hand for an easy, healthy meal on busier days.
Low-fat lunch: freekeh risotto with spring greens
Freekeh is made from cracked, roasted green wheat and offers a unique nuttiness and bite to this simple risotto. This is a great way to use up your greens for a special lunch when working from home. Asparagus is particularly high in insoluble fibre which supports healthy bowel movements, while fat-free quark adds creaminess and protein without the added calories.
Low-calorie lunch: zero (konjac) noodles with poached miso ginger chicken broth
Would you believe that this lunch is just 147 calories per portion, but still offers a healthy 25.6g protein? Konjac noodles, also referred to as ‘zero’ or ‘shirataki’ noodles, are made from glucomannan – a type of fibre that comes from the root of the konjac plant. As these noodles are very low in calories and digestible carbohydrates, they’re a great way to add bulk to a low-calorie dish. Glucomannan can also absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, making it a popular choice for weight loss.
Low-salt lunch: grilled hake with smoky chickpeas, preserved lemon and kale
Simply grilled hake, with a side of lemony paprika chickpeas. This dish is naturally gluten-free and provides just 0.5g salt per serving. It also offers 41.3g protein and almost 9g soluble and insoluble fibres from the chickpeas and kale, which will keep you full until dinnertime!
If you’re not a fish person, why not try our delicious avocado fusilli pasta for a low-salt vegan option?
Gut-friendly lunch: miso chickpeas and avocado on toast
Liven up a storecupboard staple with this super-simple dish. Chickpeas are high in fibre, especially a soluble fibre called raffinose, which is broken down by beneficial gut bacteria to support regular bowel movements. Avocado offers a bunch of healthy nutrients, such as magnesium, zinc and potassium, to support digestion.
Check out our gut-healthy collection for more digestion-friendly options.
Tracey Raye is the Health Editor for olive and BBC Good Food. Tracey, MSc, is a registered nutritionist, holding a master’s degree in Personalised Nutrition. She is passionate about harnessing the power of all things health and wellbeing – in a way that enhances, rather than limits our lives. She covers our nourishing recipes and collections, oversees our health strategy and stays adrift of the latest health and lifestyle trends – in order to bring you the tools and inspiration you need to find what health means for you.