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Lunch Ideas That Will Give You Energy

6 min read

By Jeff Hayward

Medically Reviewed by Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

Lunch is one of the staple meals of the day. In fact, without lunch you might lose focus for the afternoon grind, says Livestrong. Skipping it won’t do you any favors if you’re counting calories either, as the source points out this strategy often has a reverse effect.

So we’ve established that it’s important to eat a meal mid-day. But now, just as importantly, what should you eat? If you’re a busy professional, you might be tempted to grab something quick that you can throw into the microwave. However, that’s not always the most nutritious option. Here are several easy-to-make lunch options that will rev you up more effectively for the afternoon…

Simple Veggie Fried Brown Rice points out, “the best kind of healthy lunch recipes are the ones with the number of ingredients in the name.” This recipe, from Aggie’s Kitchen, is indeed a 5-ingredient meal! You will need 1-cup of (frozen) mixed vegetables, 1-teaspoon of coconut oil, 2-eggs (slightly whisked), 2-cups of cooked brown rice, and up to 1/3-cup of low-sodium soy sauce.

You’ll also need a large wok to toss it all together and then season with salt and pepper for that extra burst of flavor. The recipe notes you can use frozen mixed vegetables to make the preparation of this lunch even quicker.

Curried Salmon Dish

This one comes to us from Olive Magazine. It contains “oily fish,” more specifically Omega-3 oils that are known to have a variety of health benefits. The source says you can serve this dish with or without brown rice (to help fill you up in a healthy way).

The recipe says this salmon dish will take 45-minutes to prepare, which might not be ideal for all professionals on the go. You’ll also need a long host of ingredients, including salmon fillets, ground turmeric, cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, cherry tomatoes, and garlic. However, the recipe promises a whopping 41.3-grams of protein with just 0.4-grams of salt.

Turkey and Clementine Lunch Bowl

This dish is a great protein-packed option to fill your mid-day empty stomach. It weighs in at 48-grams of protein per bowl and is also an ideal post-workout meal if you’re using some of your lunch break to hit the treadmill.

The recipe says it will only take 15-minutes of prep and 15-minutes to cook, which is ideal when you’re scrambling for time. You’ll need red onion, lemon, diced turkey breast, rapeseed oil, garlic, green lentils, balsamic vinegar, red pepper, mint, and walnuts. And of course, don’t forget the two clementines to chop and zest, or else this meal just won’t live up to its name.

Green Goddess Sandwiches

Admittedly, we were drawn to the name of this power-packed lunch from Bojon Gourmet. While these sandwiches can be stacked rather high, it’s okay if they’re stuffed with goodness that will give you a boost.

The recipe boasts delicious and nutritious ingredients including mayo, garlic, anchovies, lemon, basil, chives, and bread (preferably a sourdough). It also contains refreshing cucumbers, lettuce, and protein-packed mozzarella. Not only do these sandwiches look nice, but also your future self that needs to get through a pile of paperwork will thank you.

Spelt and Apple Salad

Here is another luscious lunch idea from Olive Magazine. We left the “crispy nuts and seeds” out of the headline, but they are also key parts of this concoction. The source says it’s ideal as a “light lunch” or starter. This easy recipe should only take 25-minutes to put together.

You’ll have to cook the pearled spelt, as well as fry up the nuts and seeds in a layer of non-stick oil along with some spices such as smoked paprika. Also be prepared to whisk together some mustard, olive oil, and vinegar. You’ll be adding in a Braeburn apple, as well as watercress to help complete the meal that boasts 17.2-grams of protein.

Broccoli Pasta Salad With Eggs

Here’s another great idea, with sunflower seeds as a key element of the recipe. The complex carbohydrates in the whole-wheat pasta are a high-fiber energy boost that will help you feel full and energized until dinner.

This lunch comes together in just 20-minutes. You’ll also need to gather 75-grams of whole-wheat penne, along with broccoli florets, fine beans, white miso paste, grated ginger, rapeseed oil, and 2-tablespoons of the sunflower seeds. Along with hard-boiling the eggs for 8-minutes, you’ll be boiling the pasta for 5-minutes and cooking it all for 5-minutes to ensure tenderness.

Turkey, Apple, and Cheddar Sandwich

The name of this lunch has our mouth watering already. It’s also relatively simple to slap together for a substantial lunch and is undoubtedly delicious. “Adding apple slices for crunchy sweetness and a touch of Dijon mustard for zing brings a classic deli sandwich to the next level,” notes

The recipe says the sandwich is usually served cold, but you have the option of finishing it in a Panini-maker or broiling it in the oven so the cheese melts. On that note, you’ll need 1-ounce of thinly-sliced cheddar. Other ingredients include whole-wheat bread, Dijon mustard, sliced deli turkey, a Fuji apple (or another of your preference), and 1-teaspoon of olive oil. Overall, this lunch has 28-grams of protein to help you avoid a protein deficiency.

Waffle Iron Turkey Melt

This one has us almost abandoning writing this article for you so we can try it out. This mouth-watering lunch offers 33-grams of protein according to Cooking Light, while also being uncomplicated to make.

Not surprisingly, this panini recipe calls for a working waffle iron. But you’ll also need bacon slices, canola mayo, Dijon mustard, whole-grain bread, unsalted deli turkey, a sliced tart apple, and reduced-fat Colby-Jack cheese. The recipe prep is only three steps, and one of them is preheating the waffle iron — a great option for those pinched on time!

Spiced Squash, Spinach, and Lentil Soup

This recipe, from Olive Magazine, is chock full of protein (18-grams per serving), while also having options to make it vegan-friendly. However, before you get started on this yummy-looking lunch, keep in mind it requires about an hour and 10-minutes from the start of prep to slurping it down.

That’s partly because you’ll need to heat the squash in a roasting tin with olive oil and cumin for up to 30-minutes, and simmer the lentils for up to 40-minutes. But the end product, which also includes butternut squash, vegetable stock, Bulgar wheat, baby spinach, and yogurt, will surely be worth it. To make this dish vegan, you can skip the yogurt garnish or swap it with coconut yogurt.

One-Pot Pasta

This was shared by the home decor, style, and recipe site, A Beautiful Mess. The big seller with this one might be that “you cook ingredients for a rustic sauce along with the dry pasta, so everything cooks together and is done at the same time.” While you’re probably used to dirtying multiple pots when preparing a pasta dish, you’ll be happy to learn this is a one-pot meal.

You’ll need a single large pot to combine the list of ingredients that include linguine, cherry/grape tomatoes, onion, garlic, pepper flakes, basil, olive oil, ground pepper, and Parmesan cheese. The site suggests cooking this pasta meal for 9-minutes until the pasta is “al dente,” meaning it still retains a bit of firmness.

Tomato, Pepper, and Bean One-Pot Meal

Since we’re on the one-pot bandwagon, we might as well share another. The source claims this hot lunch is especially satisfying on cold days. The recipe for this one promises 11-grams of protein, with a prep time of only 15-minutes (and 45-minutes to cook).

You’ll need a large pan to start. Be prepared to fry onions, celery, and carrots, as well as peppers. You can make it sweet and spicy by adding in dried apricots and harissa (a chili pepper paste). There are other variations listed, such as Italian-inspired that includes toasted croutons, chopped rosemary, and Parmesan cheese. This meal is ideal to store as leftovers, as the flavors “develop with time,” notes the source.

15-Minute Chicken Shawarma Bowl

We couldn’t help adding this last one, as it also looks so very healthy and delicious. But more on topic, it packs a whopping 36-grams of energy-producing protein thanks to its chicken, Greek yogurt, chickpeas, and more. Also, as the name suggests, it won’t be too difficult to prepare this recipe. In fact, “This Middle Eastern-inspired bowl is all about big flavor with minimal effort,” notes the site.

You’ll need skinless, boneless rotisserie (cooked) chicken, as well as cumin, paprika, tahini, minced garlic, cucumber, tomatoes, parsley, and of course unsalted chickpeas. This three-step dish does seem pretty straightforward, and no additional cooking is required. Win!


Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

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