Scroll down for ingredients and Sunday prep instructions
Packing your lunch can help you eat healthier and cut calories. But let’s be real: The planning can be a turnoff, and the food can be boring—who wants to eat the same sandwich or leftovers every day? We're here to help. Sign up for our 21-Day Healthy Lunch Challenge and get shopping lists, quick recipes, and easy-to-follow videos delivered directly to your inbox. It's time to have balanced, healthy lunches that actually taste good (and save you money!).
Here’s how the challenge works: We'll guide you through each step by emailing ingredient lists, simple prep instructions, and tips. Over the weekend you'll pick up ingredients and prep some basics that will stay fresh in the fridge till Wednesday. Then during the week, all you have to do is throw together a few things to make three delicious and energizing meals—a grain bowl, a salad, and a sammy—to get you through hump day. So long, #SadDeskLunch.
Ready? Don't forget to share pics on Instagram with #LunchWithHealth!
- 6 Tbsp. buttermilk
- 5 Tbsp. olive-oil mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp. honey
- 1 bunch chives
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 4 oz. thin green beans
- ½ cup fresh corn kernels
- 12 cherry tomatoes
- ¼ ripe avocado
- 1¾ cups baby arugula
- 3 ribs celery
- 3 Tbsp. finely chopped fennel
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup quinoa (cooked)
- 1 Tbsp. roasted, unsalted sunflower seeds
- 2 slices sprouted grain bread
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
1. Make buttermilk-herb dressing
Whisk together 6 Tbsp. buttermilk, ¼ cup olive-oil mayonnaise, 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, 1½ Tbsp. snipped fresh chives, 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, ½ tsp. honey, ¼ tsp. kosher salt, and ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes ¾ cup.
2. Steam 4 oz. thin green beans
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer basket over medium-high heat. Add 4 oz. trimmed thin green beans; cover and steam until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer beans to an ice bath, and let stand until fully chilled, about 5 minutes. Drain well, and spread in a single layer on paper towels to dry. Cut into 2-inch pieces.
3. Hard-cook 4 eggs
Watch the video above to learn how to make the perfect hard-cooked egg.
4. Cook ½ cup quinoa
Check out the video above for tips on cooking quinoa that's light and fluffy.
Monday’s lunch: Superfood Grain Bowl
You can assemble this superfood grain bowl in no time. The hardest part will be waiting until noon to dig in! But once you do, the meal will keep you energized all afternoon, thanks to nourishing ingredients like quinoa, avocado, hard-cooked eggs, cherry tomatoes, and green beans. All in all, the recipe delivers 9 grams of fiber and 14 grams of protein. Watch the how-to video above.
Don’t forget to share a pic of your bowl on Instagram with #LunchWithHealth!
Tuesday’s lunch: Modern Cobb Salad
This twist on the classic Cobb salad incorporates streamed green beans, fresh corn, thinly sliced celery, baby arugula, and roasted sunflower seeds. Toss it with the buttermilk-herb dressing you whipped up over the weekend, add a hard-cooked egg (of course), and you’ve got yourself a restaurant-quality salad—only healthier. Watch how it all comes together in the video above.
Wednesday’s lunch: Grown-Up Egg Salad Sandwich
This recipe is a tasty spin on the childhood favorite. And since the eggs are already cooked, it’s a snap to make. Once you’ve mashed them up with salt, pepper, mayo, and the buttermilk-herb dressing in your fridge, fold in chopped celery, fennel, and chives; then spread on sprouted-grain bread. And voila: A sammy packed with 20 grams of protein. Watch how it's done in the video above.
Tip: No time for a homemade lunch? Try one of these healthy orders at a fast-food chain
There are, of course, days when you just don’t have the time (or energy) to pack a lunch. Luckily it is possible to get a nutritious meal on the go: These days fast-food menus are stacked with tasty options that are lower in calories, sodium, and saturated fat. We asked docs and dieticians to share their favorite orders at national chains like Baja Fresh, Subway, Wendy’s, Starbucks, and more. Check out their picks in the video above.
Tip: These 8 containers make bringing lunch way easier
When you’ve gone through the trouble of packing your lunch, opening the bag to find a soggy mess is the worst. But the right to-go container can make all the difference. To help you keep your leftovers as tasty as they were the night before, we’ve rounded up eight clever storage solutions in the video above—including a mason jar with a dressing container attached to the top (genius), and a freezable bag that’ll keep your food cold and safe for up to 10 hours. Want to order your favorite? Click here for links.
- ⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tsp. olive oil mayonnaise
- 1 Tbsp. avocado oil
- 2 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
- 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- ½ tsp. sriracha chili sauce
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger
- 1 large cucumber
- 8 oz. asparagus
- 8 oz. trimmed, chopped oyster mushrooms
- 3 carrots
- 2 cups baby spinach
- 6 oz. flaked canned wild salmon
- ½ cup brown rice (cooked)
- 1 sheet roasted seaweed (such as SeaSnax), optional
- ½ tsp. toasted sesame seeds, optional
- 1 (2-oz.) coconut-flour wrap (such as Julian Bakery)
- Kosher salt
1. Make quick pickles
Combine ⅓ cup water, ⅓ cup unseasoned rice vinegar, 2 Tbsp. honey, and 1 tsp. kosher salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; stir until honey and salt have dissolved. Pour honey mixture over 1 cup thinly sliced cucumbers in a medium bowl, and let stand until cucumbers have softened, about 10 minutes. Cover and chill in pickling liquid until ready to use. Yield: 1 cup
2. Mix a rice vinaigrette
In a small bowl, whisk together ¼ cup pickling liquid from Quick Pickles, 1 Tbsp. avocado oil, 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil and ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Cover and keep at room temperature until ready to use. Yield: About ⅓ cup
3. Sauté asaparagus
Heat 2 tsp. grapeseed oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 8 oz. trimmed fresh asparagus, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 7 minutes. Transfer asparagus to a cutting board, and cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss with ½ tsp. toasted sesame oil. Yield: ⅔ cup
For tips on cooking perfect asparagus, watch the video below.
4. Sauté mushrooms
Heat 1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add ½ tsp. grated fresh garlic and ½ tsp. minced fresh ginger; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 8 oz. trimmed, chopped oyster mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Toss with 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil. Yield: ¾ cup
5. Cook ½ cup brown rice
Follow package label instructions.
Monday's lunch: Sushi Grain Bowl
This grain bowl—starring brown rice and wild salmon—packs a serious nutritional punch. The phytonutrients in brown rice have been linked to a lower risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. And salmon is not only rich in protein and vitamin D, it’s also a top source of omega-3 fatty acids, which do your brain and ticker a world of good. Watch how the recipe comes together. And don’t forget to post your bowl on Instagram with #LunchWithHealth!
Tuesday's lunch: Spinach-Salmon Salad
This bright, colorful salad features asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, wild salmon, and toasted sesame seeds on a bed of baby spinach. Drizzle on the rice vinaigrette you made, and you’ve got a fiber-rich meal with 20 grams of protein for less than 350 calories. Watch the how-to video, then show off your finished product on Instagram with #LunchWithHealth.
Wednesday's lunch: Asian wrap
Wednesday’s recipe couldn’t be simpler: Stir together a little mayo and sriracha, and spread the mixture on a gluten-free coconut-flour wrap. Then layer on baby spinach, canned wild salmon, and the quick pickles and sautéed veggies you prepped over the weekend. With 11 grams of fiber and 21 grams of protein, this flavorful wrap will keep you feeling full for hours. Watch how it's made above.
Tip: Stop making these 5 common salad mistakes
When you build a salad, do you add too much protein? Or not enough healthy fat? It turns out there are a handful of common blunders that can throw salads off balance. (In other words, your go-to mix may not be as slimming as you think.) But by following a simple set of RD-approved guidelines, you’ll always end up with a healthy bowl. Watch the video to learn more.
Tip: Steal these 7 secrets from people who always bring a lunch
You know that colleague who whips out a canister of homemade soup, or a pretty Mason-jar salad, every single day? People like her—who stick with this healthy (and money-saving!) habit week after week—have a few tricks up their sleeves. They know time-saving shortcuts, and how to keep lunchtime interesting. Check out their secrets in the video above.
- 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
- 1 lemon
- 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ Tbsp. olive oil mayonnaise
- ½ cup grapeseed oil
- 10 oz. flank steak
- 10 oz. Japanese eggplant
- 8 oz. zucchini
- 1 small red onion
- 3 cups chopped romaine lettuce (about 2 heads)
- 1 English cucumber
- ½ cup farro (cooked)
- ½ cup thinly sliced jarred roasted red bell peppers
- ¾ oz. crumbled feta cheese
- 2 (1-oz.) sourdough bread slices
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
1. Mix a red wine vinaigrette
Whisk 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. each fresh lemon juice and Dijon mustard, and ¼ tsp. each kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk in ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a steady stream. Cover; keep at room temperature. Yield: About 7 Tbsp.
2. Grill 10 oz. flank steak
Preheat a grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F) or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Rub a trimmed 10-oz. flank steak with 1 tsp. grapeseed oil, ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, and ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Oil grate, place steak on it and grill until cooked to desired doneness, about 4 to 5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let rest 10 minutes before thinly slicing across the grain.
3. Grill Japanese eggplant
Preheat a grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F) or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut a 10-oz. Japanese eggplant into 10 ½-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle with ⅛ tsp. kosher salt and place in a single layer on paper towels. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with 2 tsp. grapeseed oil and grill until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side.
4. Grill zucchini
Preheat a grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F) or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut an 8-oz. zucchini into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Rub with 1½ tsp. grapeseed oil, and place on grill. Grill until charred and tender, about 2 minutes per side. Chop zucchini; sprinkle with ½ tsp. kosher salt.
5. Grill onion
Preheat a grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F) or heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut 2 ½-inch-thick slices from a small red onion (save the rest for another use). Rub onion slices with 1 tsp. grapeseed oil, and place on grill. Grill until charred and tender, about 4 minutes per side. Place onion in a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap; let steam until softened, about 10 minutes. Chop onion.
4. Cook and toast ½ cup farro
Cook farro according to package label directions (you will need ½ cup). Let cool. Heat 2 tsp. grapeseed oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add ½ cup cold cooked farro and spread in an even layer. Cook, stirring once, until toasted and browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Yield: ½ cup
For tips on cooking this nutty grain, check out the video below.
Monday's lunch: Steak and toasted farro bowl
This bowl is filled with fiber-rich farro, and tasty vegetables like chopped romaine, grilled zucchini, and roasted red peppers. It’s topped off with a 3-ounce portion of flank steak and a bit of crumbled feta, to form a balanced, satisfying meal. Whole grains? Check. Veggies? Check. Protein? Double check. Watch the video to see how it's made. And don’t forget to post your finished product on Instagram with #LunchWithHealth!
Tuesday's lunch: Grilled steak and vegetable salad
Whoever think salads aren’t filling never tried this one. Picture sliced roasted red peppers tossed with chopped romaine and cucumbers, topped with grilled zucchini, eggplant, and flank steak and sprinkled with toasted farro. Drooling yet? This lunch delivers 7 grams of satiating fiber and 26 grams of protein. Watch the how-to video above.
Wednesdays lunch: Sourdough steak sandwich
Get ready for a treat on hump day! Wednesday’s lunch is a sourdough steak sandwich, with crunchy romaine and grilled onion and eggplant. The best part: It's as healthy as it is tasty. Watch the video above to see how the recipe comes together. And once you’ve made your sammy, show it off on Instagram with #LunchWithHealth!
Tip: These high-protein snacks are easy to eat on the go
Protein is such a hunger-busting powerhouse because it slows digestion and keeps your blood sugar steady. But it's not like you can tote a chicken breast around in your purse. So in the video above, we've rounded up very portable snacks that are loaded with the satiating nutrient. With these options on hand, you’ll never raid the vending machine again.
Tip: You can make a week's worth of lunches with just a $25 shopping trip
Congrats, you made it! Our Healthy Lunch Challenge is coming to an end. But don’t worry, we wouldn’t leave you high and dry. Our food editor put together a week-long lunch plan that you can make with one $25 shopping trip to Trader Joe’s. It’s affordable and involves minimal prep. And of course, the recipes are packed with protein, fiber, and good-for-you fats. Watch the video to check it out. Then look up the recipes here, and keep your healthy lunch streak going!