Trying to eat healthier and prep meals ahead of time that still taste great? Yeah, us too. Well, you can do just that with a few simple and filling recipes, many of which you can eat right out of the container you store them in. Plus, it’s been found that folks who cook their meals save money, eat fewer calories, consume proper portions, and avoid food allergies and sensitivities.
“[Making your own lunch] allows you to control various aspects such as quality of the ingredients, proper balance, and portions for your body and your goals,” says Tara Allen, RN, certified health coach, nutritionist, and personal trainer. And now that we’ll all be home a lot more than we’d like to be, what a better time to get onboard.
Take a look at the recipes below for some delicious lunch dishes you can whip up in flash!
Healthy Garden Minestrone Soup
If you vowed to eat more veggies in the New Year and have already failed (no judgment!), pick back up with this savory recipe from Slender Kitchen. It calls for zucchini, summer squash, carrots, corn, tomatoes, high-fiber pasta, and white beans. You can sub-in any vegetable you like, and use regular pasta if it’s easier to find, as well as different beans depending on what you have stoked up in your pantry. It’s super-easy to make: cook the ingredients in stages in a large pot on the stovetop for a total of 30-40 minutes. The soup freezes and defrosts well for a filling, 330 calorie lunch. Now you can say you eat your veggies!
What do you do when you want something warm and comforting, but have a 2:00 pm meeting you need to be alert for? Skip the heavy pasta and heat up this lightened-up classic dish instead. By nixing pasta and opting for thin strips of eggplant, and foregoing breading altogether (which is apparently what the Italians do), recipe developer Kathryne Taylor has landed on a healthy, cheesy, saucy lunch that won’t have you battling a case of the ZZZs. Simply layer roasted eggplant, tomato sauce (she makes her own, but store-bought for busy people works too), part-skim mozz, and then top with grated parm before baking. The kicker? It’s only 244 calories per serving.
Vegetable Paella with Chickpeas
This recipe from Cook Nourish Bliss swaps in protein-rich chickpeas for shrimp, mussels, and clams for a vegetarian and vegan (and non-smelly!) take on this Spanish dish. It couldn’t be easier: Sauté peas, artichoke hearts, onion, green beans, carrots, and peppers with garlic, chickpeas, Arborio rice, a can of diced tomatoes, and vegetable broth, plus a host of spices, then let simmer until the liquid has absorbed and the rice is tender. Need more protein? Go ahead and add your favorite, be it pork, chicken, or tofu. It takes under an hour from start to finish, which means you can make it for Sunday evening dinner then have for lunch the next couple days. Another bonus? It’s only 269 calories a serving.
Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad
If you’re looking for a light lunch that will satisfy without the bloat, this recipe from Evolving Table will hit the spot. It calls for quinoa, carrots, red bell pepper, red cabbage, broccoli, peanuts, cilantro, and basil. Chop all veggies and herbs, toss with the quinoa once it has cooled, then dress with a Thai peanut sauce. Then blend soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger paste, olive oil, and peanut butter until creamy. (Psst: Keep leftover sauce as a family-friendly dipper for sliced veggies!) Protein sources can include shredded chicken, pork, or tofu. Each serving is 436 calories (before adding extra protein) and will stay fresh in the fridge for up to five days.
Chicken Taco Mason Jar Salad
Love salads but hate dealing with drippy dressing containers? This all-in-one mason jar meal will forgo any potential messes. Here’s how it works — assemble your salad with the dressing on the bottom (so pour it in first), then layer in the rest of the ingredients in this order: chicken, black beans, corn, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. You can make a homemade dressing according to the recipe from The Seasoned Mom or sub in whatever store-bought flavor you like best. With the dressing on the bottom and the most fragile ingredients on the top, you won’t run the risk of soggy veggies. Once you’re ready to eat, pour the contents of the quart-sized jar into a bowl and your 306-calorie lunch is served.