Whether you’re packing lunches for the kids to send with them to school, brown-bagging your work lunch, squeezing lunches in while working from home, or caring for little ones who haven’t yet reached preschool age, lunch is an incredibly important meal during the day.
You’ve already broken your fast (hopefully) in the morning, and now it’s time to refuel.
Skip the processed, packaged snacks and the drive thru, and take a few minutes to prepare something fresh, tasty, and rich in the nutrients that you need to recharge during the middle of the day.
With a delicious lineup of salads, soups, sandwiches, and more, our collection of quick and healthy lunches will help you find exactly what you’re looking for to satiate your midday hunger and tantalize your taste buds.
Among these recipes, you’ll soon discover a flavorful medley of whole grains, protein-rich meats and beans, fresh produce, bold seasonings, and mouthwatering aromatics.
Whatever you decide to make, you’ll stay full and happy throughout the long afternoon hours until dinnertime later in the evening.
We know you have a busy day ahead of you – so enjoy the quick prep and cook times each recipe offers, and swiftly savor the tasty end results before you get back to the grind!
23 Quick and Healthy Lunch Ideas
We’ll never get tired of a chicken salad recipe for a fast lunch idea!
If you also love this make-ahead dish, and want to include it as part of your weekly meal prep lunch plan, we have some variations on the classic recipe for you to try next.
Typically, the base is often a simple mix of mayonnaise, chopped onion, and chopped celery – and you can never go wrong with this straightforward combo!
But when you’re ready for a creative change, take a look at the following recipes for some inspiration.
1. Cherry Almond Chicken Salad
This cherry chicken salad with almonds is a fresh and fruity update from the old-school version.
Load your salad up with a creative medley of ingredients like toasted almonds, dried tart cherries, sesame seeds, shredded cabbage, freshly squeezed orange juice, and Dijon mustard.
Instead of mayonnaise, we use a cup of plain yogurt instead for a lighter and tangier base.
2. Chicken Lunchtime Salad with Fresh Cherry Vinaigrette
Still intrigued by pairing cherries with chicken? You’ll love this next recipe!
We amplify a simple bed of mixed greens with a texturally entertaining assortment of toppings: chopped roasted chicken, slivered almonds, dried fruit, and crumbled goat cheese.
We take a speedy shortcut by using leftover roasted chicken – if you don’t have anything left over from a recent dinner, you can also use a prepared rotisserie chicken from the store.
3. Chicken Waldorf Salad Wraps
If you’re not in the mood for a big bowl of greens, but want something less hefty than a sandwich, you’ll like this playful take on a chicken Waldorf salad.
We transform this classic sweet-and-creamy preparation into a wrap that you can assemble up to one day in advance.
We roll up poultry, celery, grapes, apples, walnuts, and raisins in a flour tortilla for a fast and convenient lunch option – no fork required for eating!
Lemon zest and juice bring bold brightness to the creamy mix.
4. Curried Chicken Salad
You won’t be able to get enough of our curried chicken salad!
While we don’t make too many changes to the main ingredients – you’ll recognize a mix of chopped chicken, grapes, onion, and celery – the sauce is what sets this recipe apart from all the other classic chicken salad recipes out there.
Pasta salads have gained plenty of fame in the cookout party territory – and it’s not hard to guess why!
They are an easy make-ahead dish idea, especially when you know the perfect pasta salad prep strategies.
Naturally, we also love preparing them first thing in the morning for a quick lunch later on in the day.
Ideally assembled a few hours in advance so they have a chance to soak up all of the delicious flavors of their dressings, this category of make-ahead food is perfect for anyone on a busy schedule who loves a balance of hearty carbs and proteins, crisp veggies, and bold flavors.
We won’t shy away from eating them directly in our Tupperware container while we’re still sitting at our work desk, or taking a fast break in between folding laundry and unclogging the shower drain!
5. Lemon Basil Orzo Pasta Salad
The perfect light and bright summer lunch, our simple lemon basil orzo pasta salad is a Mediterranean mix of fresh basil, lemon, tomatoes, and olive oil.
And you actually get to make your own vegan parmesan! Don’t worry, it’s easy to do in the food processor.
Simply pulse together walnuts, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and sea salt to create this flavor-packed ingredient.
6. Sicilian Pasta Salad
Savor the flavors of southern Italy at your work desk with this Sicilian pasta salad.
It comes together so easily, since all of the vegetables and aromatics are cooked together in the same skillet before mixing with penne pasta.
Every bite reveals something new and dynamic – from the tender bell peppers, zucchini, green beans, and artichoke hearts to the tangy sun-dried tomatoes and olives to the herbaceous rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil.
7. Spinach and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad
Take full advantage of that jar of sun-dried tomatoes you bought by making this healthy recipe next!
A simple dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh herbs coats al dente penne pasta. We use a mix of basil, oregano, and chopped parsley to add green, herbaceous pops of color and flavor.
Fresh spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onions, feta cheese, and kalamata olives are also invited to play in this tangy mix.
Packed with veggies, herbs, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, beans, and a whole lot more, there’s nothing you’ll be missing when you make one of our vegetarian salads.
To keep dishes featuring more tender and delicate greens like arugula and spinach in the best condition possible, don’t mix in the dressing until you are ready to eat.
If you’re bringing this type of salad to school or work, store the dressing in its own small container that’s separate from the main meal.
Trust us… your fully dressed creation might look crisp and pretty in the morning when you first make it, but it will be a soggy, soppy mess a few hours later when you’re ready to eat!
8. Arugula Dijon Salad with Figs, Pistachios, and Pea Shoots
Peppery, sweet, and crunchy, celebrate fresh and seasonal summer produce with this easy salad.
The arugula is the bold and biting backbone of the dish, while tender pea shoots offer a bit of fresh, grassy delicacy.
And the sweet fresh figs and crunchy, salty pistachios provide fun surprises with each mouthful!
9. Chickpea and Black Bean Salad with Bell Peppers and Sweet Corn
This colorful concoction is loaded with legumes and veggies – which is exactly what you need to quickly refuel after a busy morning!
We combine diced red onions, bell peppers, corn kernels, celery, and diced carrots with canned black beans and chickpeas.
A little pico de gallo brings some acidity and juiciness, though you can use diced tomatoes in a pinch.
You’ll love how the tart and garlicky lime vinaigrette amplifies all the other ingredients – but you might be even happier once you realize the dressing comes together in mere seconds!
10. Classic Greek Salad
Simple ingredients, fabulous flavors – that’s the name of the game when it comes to making a quick salad.
Our classic Greek salad unquestionably follows those rules for the ultimate lunch win.
Briny kalamata olives and salty feta cheese are the perfect powerful counterparts to tomato, cucumber, red onion, and bell pepper.
And a basic red wine vinaigrette binds everything together to create a blissfully bright and tangy lunch dish.
11. Lemon Green Salad with Fruit and Savory Granola
Would you ever top a salad with granola? What if we told you we designed a savory granola that would be perfect paired with your lunchtime greens?
We’ll soon convince you!
This lemony salad is a beautiful blend of delicate lettuces, tart pomegranate seeds, citrusy mandarin oranges, and tangy goat cheese.
We top it all off with a crunchy and nutty granola that’s flavored with dried sumac, crushed red pepper flakes, and dried herbes de Provence.
Trust us… this is a cool combination that really works!
Sandwiches and Wraps
Look, we know the appeal of pulling up to the drive thru to order double-decker burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and meaty wraps dripping with fatty sauces.
And no one here is forcing you to give up any of these fast-food favorites when you’re in a bind and need something to eat while on the road!
But when you’re ready to incorporate healthier handhelds into your diet, ones that are quick and easy to make at home for a midday meal, we’ll have some wholesome alternatives waiting for you right here.
12. Hummus, Avocado, and Sun-Dried Tomato Sandwiches
We’re transforming your everyday hummus from a humble snack dip into a spreadable star in this sandwich!
Our vegetarian sandwich is stacked with crunchy mixed greens, creamy sliced avocado, and meaty sun-dried tomatoes.
13. Spicy Vegan Collard Wraps
If you’re (vegetable) hunting for a satisfying lunch packed with veggies, protein, and big flavors, you need to try our spicy vegan collard wraps!
Layered with spiced quinoa, avocado, and a tomato-fennel combo mixed in a balsamic vinaigrette, everything is wrapped inside a cute blanched collard green package.
Happily nibble away on this light and satisfying meat-free lunch.
14. Sprouts, Avocado, and Cheddar Sandwiches
There’s nothing like pulling apart a freshly toasted sandwich to discover a long, melty, gooey string of cheddar cheese!
But that’s certainly not the only thing going for these vegetarian sandwiches.
A creamy bed of mashed avocado smeared onto toast creates the perfect base, which is then topped with crunchy sprouts, juicy tomatoes, and peppery arugula.
Read more here to add this gorgeously stacked sandwich to your collection of handheld favorites.
15. Super Easy Greek Chicken Pitas
Do you want to enjoy the flavors of Greece in a handheld pocket, without leaving the comfort of your own home?
Make our super easy chicken pitas the next time that craving strikes!
We marinate the poultry in yogurt, lemon juice, and herbs to create a delicious sandwich filling that gets comfy and cozy inside a pita.
Top the chicken with all of your favorite garnishes like tzatziki sauce, chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, or shredded lettuce.
Lunch is served! Here’s the recipe for you.
If you made a big batch of whole grains for dinner, it’s easy to turn those leftovers into a tasty lunch.
But you can also start fresh with a bold new recipe!
Here are some delectably hearty suggestions to get your fill of healthy whole grains – with these quick and easy recipes, you’ll stay fuller longer as you conquer all of your midday tasks before the dinner bell rings.
16. Lemon Parsley Rice Salad
Tired of plain grains? This rice dish will wake you up with its bright flavors!
The recipe calls for a full cup of packed, chopped fresh parsley, as well as lemon juice, lemon zest, and bell pepper.
It’s an ideal light lunch on its own when you aren’t looking for a big meal – though we can also imagine these colorful grains served in a bowl topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg or a salmon fillet prepared in the electric pressure cooker.
17. Wild Rice Salad with Thai-Style Dressing
A versatile recipe you can enjoy warm, cold, freshly made, or as a leftover prepared ahead of time, our wild rice salad will become a zesty staple in your household.
We make a quick and easy Thai-style dressing by whisking together lime, rice vinegar, tamari, agave nectar, and sesame oil.
Whether paired with a sandwich or salad or slurped up all on its own, you’ll be glad to have a soup recipe – or three, in this case – as an integral part of your lunch lineup.
Warm and comforting, homemade soups bring a charming ease to your lunch break.
Just make sure you choose lighter soups that won’t weigh you down – or else you might want to take a long nap instead of getting back to work!
With that said, the following recipes are all vegetarian, and will energize and invigorate you after a brief pause in your day.
18. Easy Vegetable Pasta Soup
Our quick vegetable pasta soup is an all-in-one-pot meal that is ideal for simple lunches.
It’s a nutritious, filling, and satisfying bowl of comfort food.
Best of all, it’s so straightforward to prepare! With less mess and a quick meal prep, it’s a no-brainer to add to your weekly menu plan.
The soup is also easily adaptable to the seasons – in the fall and winter, use frozen corn kernels, green beans, and carrots. In the summer, you can use fresh-from-the-garden produce.
19. Quick Black Bean Soup
Perfect for when you’re really crunched for time, our black bean soup is ready in just 15 minutes!
Quick to prepare and easy on the home budget, you just need a handful of healthy pantry staples, aside from any optional garnishes you want.
20. Turmeric Red Lentil Soup with Kale
Bold flavors and bold colors – this turmeric red lentil soup with kale is like a sassy fashionista with incredible taste!
It’s a quick dish to prepare and make, and the lentils only need about 20 minutes of cooking time.
Kale is added at the very end, to keep the green color of the leaves as vibrant as possible.
It can be the perfect treat to enjoy a serving of seafood as a midday indulgence every now and then!
And by strategizing what kind of seafood you choose to prepare, such as quick-cooking shrimp or canned crab meat, you’ll be able to savor a special lunch that’s still healthy and wholesome in no time at all.
21. Berry Quinoa Salad with Shrimp
This berry quinoa salad topped with simply seasoned shrimp is a perfect lunch companion to bring along with you throughout the week to work, school, or any kind of activity you’ll be attending.
Our recipe can be easily portioned into four airtight containers, keeps in the fridge for up to five days, can be enjoyed cold, and is made with healthy ingredients.
And by using pre-cooked shrimp, your prep time only involves cooking the quinoa and mixing ingredients together.
22. Crab and Mango Stuffed Avocado
Edible bowls are both fun and practical – and when you can use avocados, you’ll also get plenty of health benefits!
We use buttery avocado halves to house a citrusy crab and mango mix with shallots, bell peppers, and jalapenos.
These seafood boats will bring a bit of elegance to a casual lunch at home.
23. Creamy Greek Pasta with Shrimp
With an exciting and unique combination of ingredients, this creamy pasta with shrimp is an easy and nutritious recipe.
Made with whole wheat penne, fresh assorted vegetables, and Greek yogurt, you’ll get to enjoy shrimp in a whole new way.
You can serve it warm immediately after you assemble everything together, or you can chill it in the fridge to enjoy it cold.
The choice is yours – we think you’ll appreciate its versatility!
What’s for Lunch? Quick and Healthy, Together at Last!
We all need to get food in our bellies between breakfast and dinner!
If you have been struggling with gathering ideas for quick, easy, and healthy recipes, we hope you’ll find some ideas with the colorful, flavorful, and nutrient-rich options we reviewed here.
With these 23 recipes, you can build a collection of tried-and-true options you can make without the stress of complicated techniques, huge ingredient lists, or long prep times.
Take in all the energy and savor all the satisfying flavors during that small, yet well-deserved, lunch break!
What are some of your favorite fast and nutrient-dense weekday lunches to prepare for your family? Leave a message in the comment section below.
Let’s feast on more roundups! We have an impressive selection of recipes to share with you among our collection of articles intended to help you out in the kitchen. Start with these three next:
- 25 of the Best Pumpkin Recipes for Autumn Flavor
- 73 Healthy Snack Ideas
- 23 of the Best Summertime Sweet Corn Recipes
Photos by Meghan Yager, Kelli McGrane, Raquel Smith, Felicia Lim, Fanny Slater, Lorna Kring, and Leslie Morrison, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on September 8, 2016. Last updated on September 4, 2023. With additional writing and editing by Nikki Cervone.
About Allison Sidhu
Allison M. Sidhu is a culinary enthusiast from southeastern Pennsylvania who has returned to Philly after a seven-year sojourn to sunny LA. She loves exploring the local restaurant and bar scene with her best buds. She holds a BA in English literature from Swarthmore College and an MA in gastronomy from Boston University. When she’s not in the kitchen whipping up something tasty (or listening to the latest food podcasts while she does the dishes!) you’ll probably find Allison tapping away at her keyboard, chilling in the garden, curled up with a good book (or ready to dominate with controller in hand in front of the latest video game) on the couch, or devouring a dollar dog and crab fries at the Phillies game.