Lunch hates you.
Or maybe you hate lunch.
Either way, you can’t stop the twinge of anxiety in your stomach as the clock ticks towards noon.
Why? You know you’re going to be hungry, but you aren’t in the mood for another boring turkey sandwich. So you surrender to the level of fast food drive-thru? Not a chance. Your willpower is stronger than that.
You’ve got a problem then, because let’s face it: you don’t have time to cook some inspiring #instayum vegetarian masterpiece. (And really, who does?) It’s lunch, for heaven’s sake. Your standards are simple: easy, healthy, yummy. Is that so much to ask?
Not from us. We’ve scoured the web for these fast 15 healthy lunch recipes. They’ve got everything you need: veggies, protein, fruit, whole grains. AND they’re lip-smacking good.
Let’s start with our straightforward, delightful vegetarian recipes:
1.“End of Summer” Quinoa Salad
Not only lunch.
This salad from The Pioneer Woman is perfect for family get-togethers and neighborhood barbeques. The tangy vinaigrette infuses the quinoa with rich flavor, not to mention it has curry powder! Who doesn’t love the warm flavor of curry?
If you’re lucky enough to have your own garden, this dish will use everything you’ve got growing in there: cucumber, yellow squash, bell peppers, corn, tomatoes, and carrots. You can add arugula or spinach to make it more “salad-y”, but it tastes amazing without it! Quinoa is a complete protein, meaning it has all 20 amino acids, plus it’s gluten free. If you want even more protein, throw in a few cups of grilled chicken!
2. A-ma-zing Chipotle Black Bean Lettuce Wraps
What could go wrong with mango, guacamole, beans, and chipotle?
This recipe is from A Couple Cooks blog, where they describe these wraps as being an “explosion of flavor and textures.” They weren’t lying! The sweet mango and spicy chipotle make a unbelievably delicious duo. These lettuce wraps are low-carb, vegan, vegetarian, and dairy free. Check out the recipe here!
Insider Cheat: These wraps don’t take a lot of time to make, but if you’re REALLY in a time crunch, buy the mango salsa and guacamole. All you have to do is assemble and devour!
3. Colorful Mediterranean Flatbread
Sometimes, you need to relax. Get a massage, read a good book, pretend you’re sailing the Mediterranean. This flatbread from Naturally Ella is perfect for that!
If you’ve got extra time, you can make the whole-wheat pizza dough, but let’s be honest: you probably don’t. Buy pre-made dough to make this recipe quick and easy on yourself. This divine flatbread is topped with tomatoes, olives, artichokes, and feta, which is everything you need to imagine yourself far away, admiring the sparkling Mediterranean sea.
Relish the feeling for a few minutes before getting back to your crazy daily routine.
4. Ka-Pow! Avocado Lime Tacos
Street tacos are all the rage right now, so we thought we’d join in!
These yummy avocado tacos are from the Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes blog, and they are everything you could ask for: smoky, healthy, and refreshing.
The monounsaturated fat in avocados is very beneficial for your heart health. In addition to the avocado, these tacos are full of peppers, sprouts, and cherry tomatoes, all marinated in lime juice and cumin. For a low-carb option, use lettuce leaves inside of wheat tortillas.
Warning: the temptation to eat 6 or 7 is nearly impossible to resist.
5. The New-and-Improved Grilled Cheese [with Roasted Tomato and Basil]
Yeah, there’s been an upgrade. The classic bread & cheese combo just doesn’t cut it anymore. This Roasted Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese from A Couple Cooks is doable even for the cooking-impaired. The fresh herbs and tomatoes make it a great healthy lunch, especially if you use light mozzarella cheese and whole-grain bread. Get the recipe from A Couple Cooks here.
6. Herby Picnic Potato Salad
We admit it.
Our fatal flaw: potato salad.
It’s not generally considered the healthiest food. But this tantalizing recipe from Green Kitchen Stories has replaced the mayo and mustard with a nutritious serving of kale, apples, chickpeas, and celery.
Wait: it gets better! This potato salad is sooo fast to make. While the potatoes are boiling, you’ll blend up parsley, capers, onions, lemon juice, and celery greens to make a zing-y vinaigrette. It’s the best choice if you’re as obsessed with potato salad as we are!
7. Golden Fennel Kale Chop
We didn’t know much about fennel before this recipe from Sprouted Kitchen. So we hit the books to find out more! (And by books, we mean the internet.)
We learned that fennel is often used in Italian cuisine. It’s high in vitamin C and adds a crunchy, sweet element to any dish. In this Golden Fennel Kale Chop, the fennel is roasted first to bring out the sweetness and soften the texture.
About the anchovies. Yep, this recipe calls for 1 anchovy fillet. If you’re not a big anchovy person, don’t worry. Like Sara explains in her post on the Sprouted Kitchen blog, the anchovy adds a nice saltiness to the salad. If you’re still skeptical, substitute in one teaspoon of capers. Either way, you’ve got to make this fantastic salad!
8. ¡Órale! Pinto bean Quesadilla with Spiced Zucchini
You may be wondering:
How can a quesadilla get any better? Beans and spiced zucchini are your answer. This recipe from Naturally Ella is just what you ordered: it’s nutritious, fast, and delicious. In the blog post you’ll find a link to the spiced zucchini recipe, or we linked to it here. Once you have the zucchini all spiced up, the quesadilla itself is a breeze: cheese, beans, and zucchini melted together in a crisp tortilla. Who could ask for more?
9. Ingenious Chickpea Salad Sandwich
We know you’re sick of sandwiches. This one will be worth your time.Why? It’s original! It’s got chickpeas and grapes and blue cheese! This recipe is from Naturally Ella, and her goal was to make a vegetarian version of a chicken salad sandwich. She succeeded with flying colors! And because it’s a sandwich, you can make it in 10 minutes and take it with you on the go. Check it out here!
Now for the not-so-vegetarian recipes. Keep in mind that most of these can be made vegetarian with some creative thinking on your part. (We know you’ve got it in you!) We’ll also add some vegetarian hints at the end of each recipe.
10. Superb Skillet Taco Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower rice is your best friend.
You can sub it in for rice in almost any dish. It takes on whatever flavor you want, and it’s only 25 calories per cup! While cooking normal rice takes 30-40 minutes, cauliflower rice can be sauteed in less than 8 minutes. This recipe from Skinny Taste uses cauliflower rice with ground turkey to make a low-carb, spicy taco sensation. Serve with avocado, lime, and lettuce for a taco lunch cheaper and healthier than the drive-thru!
[Vegetarian Substitute: Swap the ground turkey for tempeh or tofu]
11. Sunday Afternoon Chicken Strawberry Salad Wrap
When life gives you salad, make… a wrap. That’s what The Pioneer Woman did one Sunday afternoon, and now she’s inspired us all!
This recipe is basically a grilled chicken salad with strawberries, green onions, and goat cheese that’s been put into a wrap! If you don’t have time to grill chicken, buy pre-cooked grilled chicken strips at the grocery store. Feel free to add blueberries or switch out the balsamic vinaigrette for your favorite dressing!
[Vegetarian Substitute: Take out the chicken and add cucumbers and almonds.]
12. Crazy Addictive Coconut Tuna Sandwich
Why hadn’t we heard of this before? This untraditional tuna sandwich is perfect for a fast, nutritious lunch. Mix together tuna, yogurt, walnuts, cilantro, and coconut and serve on whole grain bread. Check out the complete recipe here at The Year in Food.
[Vegetarian Substitute: Make it with tofu or mashed chickpeas!]
13. Curb the Craving Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry
You can’t beat asian take-out.
Or can you?
This stir fry recipe from Skinny Taste is the perfect lunch if you’re craving teriyaki goodness without the calories. Cook the broccoli a little longer if you like it soft, but if you’ll be eating this for leftovers, keep it a little crunchy.
The ginger and garlic sauce packs the same flavors as your favorite restaurant but contains less sugar, oil, and fat (which we all can appreciate). The perfect flavor of this stir fry will captivate you into snitching a little more out of the skillet.
[Vegetarian Substitute: Make a veggie stir fry with onions, broccoli, peppers, and baby corn!]
14. Bangin Good Shrimp
It’s the only way to describe this copycat Bang Bang shrimp recipe from Skinny Taste. The sauce consists of three ingredients: light mayo, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, and Sriracha, all of which are available at any grocery store.
Buying a bag of shrimp, cooked, peeled, and deveined, is the most efficient way to get that goodness in your mouth as quick as possible. You’ll cook the shrimp with cornstarch, coat it with this delicious sauce, and lay it on a bed of lettuce and cabbage.
We know exactly what you’ll say when you take your first bite. “Wow. That’s some bangin good shrimp.” Trust us, you’ll say it.
[Vegetarian Substitute: Replace shrimp with sweet potato!]
15. Game-changing Mini Bell Pepper Loaded Turkey Nachos
Well, that’s the number of calories in seven of these unbelievable loaded turkey nachos from Skinny Taste. Want another number? How about 18? As in 18 grams of protein!
Halved mini bell peppers make the perfect substitute for tortilla chips. Top them with ground turkey, cheese, jalapeños, and anything else you want! Bake them until the cheese is melted and gobble them down!
[Vegetarian Substitute: Replace ground turkey with cauliflower rice or tempeh.]
A Simple Way to Eat Healthy Lunch Every Day
We know you want to get cooking. These healthy lunch recipes are callin’ your name.
The take home is this: lunch doesn’t have to be stressful. You can have to-die-for lunches that fuel your body and satisfy your taste buds. With these recipes, you’ll be able to whip up lunch in under 30 minutes, plus you’ll be lively and energetic the rest of the day!