5 Hearty Winter Lunch Recipes That Have 400 Calories or Less

People tend to stress out about weight gain during the winter months, but it’s not inevitable. All you need to do is balance out the heavier fare you eat at parties and comfort food dinners with healthy meals the rest of the time. Here are some light lunch recipes that still yield a delicious midday meal that’s loaded with nutrition. These lunches will keep both your spirits and energy levels up.

1. Vegan Brown Rice Burrito Salad Bowl

cooked brown rice in a blue bowl

Cooked brown rice | iStock.com

First up is a whole-grain bowl from Kim’s Cravings. It’s loaded with brown rice, beans, fajita vegetables, and any additional toppings you like. As hearty as the meal sounds, each serving is only 311 calories. If you’re serving your bowls for dinner, you can make them the night of. But if you’re prepping them for work lunches, prepare your ingredients on a Sunday, then simply assemble your bowls each morning before work.


  • Chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 to 4 single servings of rice, prepared according to directions
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, feel free to use more as desired
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 can black or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 (16-ounce) bag frozen fajita vegetables
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt to taste

Optional toppings

  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Dairy-free cheese
  • Dairy-free sour cream
  • Fresh cilantro

Direction: As rice is cooking, distribute chopped lettuce among four bowls.

Sauté vegetables in olive oil and season with oregano. Cook until soft. Meanwhile, gather your toppings.

Transfer cooked rice into a medium bowl and stir in beans, lime juice, and cilantro. Divide rice mixture among bowls, then add desired toppings. Serve.

2. Chickpea and Sausage Pesto Soup

Cans of pre-made healthy lunches

Cans of pre-made healthy lunches | iStock.com

This next recipe from Cooking Light is perfect to pack for your office lunch because it instructs you to combine your soup ingredients in pint jars before adding hot water. It has layers of veggies, chickpeas, and meat, and it clocks in at 20 grams of protein per 390-calorie serving. This Mediterranean-flavored soup has big flavor and great texture, making it the perfect healthy lunch.


  • ½ cup rinsed and drained canned unsalted chickpeas
  • ¼ cup matchstick-cut carrot or carrot noodles
  • 2 tablespoons refrigerated prepared pesto
  • 2 ounces cooked sun-dried tomato chicken sausage, diced
  • ⅓ cup thinly sliced trimmed Swiss chard
  • 3 grape tomatoes, quartered

Directions: Layer all ingredients in the order listed in a 1-pint wide-mouth jar; seal. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Add very hot water to jar to within 1 inch of rim. Cover and let stand 2 minutes before eating.

3. Spiced Pumpkin, Lentil, and Goat Cheese Salad

Pumpkin salad

Pumpkin salad | iStock.com

Salads are more fun to eat when they star seasonal produce like this one from Epicurious. This meal surprisingly satiating given the absence of meat, and it’s thanks to the lentils, which are full of fiber and protein. The legume is super delicious paired with pumpkin and goat cheese, making this salad one you’ll actually look forward to eating.


  • ¾ cup French green lentils
  • 6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded sugar pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions: Place lentils in small bowl. Cover with cold water and soak 10 minutes; drain. Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils. Rinse under cold water, then drain.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place pumpkin in large bowl; toss with 2 tablespoons oil, cumin, paprika, and sea salt. Arrange pumpkin in single layer on baking sheet; roast 20 minutes. Turn pumpkin over. Roast until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool.

Combine lentils, pumpkin, and oil from baking sheet with arugula, half of goat cheese, mint, vinegar, and 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among plates; sprinkle remaining goat cheese over.

4. Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Carrot soup

Carrot soup | iStock.com

Soup is the perfect light lunch to enjoy during the colder months. This sweet potato and carrot soup from Cooking Light takes less than an hour to make and it yields 8 servings. Sweet potatoes are full of filling fiber, so you don’t need to worry about overindulging. Even better, it yields only 173 calories per serving, so you can feel good about what you’re slurping.


  • 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 4¾ cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes
  • 3 ½ cups water
  • 3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 cups chopped carrot
  • ¼ cup half-and-half
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup reduced-fat sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Directions: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion to pan; cook 4 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Move onion mixture to side of pan; add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to open space in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 1 minute or until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, 3½ cups water, broth, and carrot; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

5. Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Stew

Beef and barley stew

Beef and barley stew | iStock.com

Last is this beef and barley stew from Cooking Light, which comes together in a crockpot and is just 308 calories per serving. This beef and barley stew needs to be part of your Sunday meal prep so you can enjoy a healthy lunch Monday through Friday. Trust us, even the leftovers taste fantastic.


  • 4 cups unsalted beef stock
  • 1½ cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup uncooked hulled barley
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 large thyme sprigs, plus leaves for garnish
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup unsalted tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds beef stew meat, divided
  • 2 ½ cups 1-inch pieces carrot

Directions: Stir together first eight ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Add thyme sprigs and bay leaves; dollop tomato paste on top.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add half of beef; cook until well browned, about 6 minutes, turning once. Add beef to slow cooker. Repeat with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and beef. Scatter carrots over beef. Cover and cook on low until meat and grains are tender, about 8 hours. Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Ladle stew into eight bowls; sprinkle with thyme leaves. Serve.