With eggs, yogurt, and breakfast bars it can be easy to get your fill of protein in the morning, and most dinner dishes are usually built around a hearty animal protein. The lunchtime meal is often eaten at your desk or in a rush and more often than not, this is the meal where you skip a healthy, filling protein. The daily 3 p.m. crash is proof that a protein-packed lunch is important if you want to make it to dinner without a trip to the vending machine or one too many stops by your office candy bowl.
Packing a lunch that is high in protein isn’t difficult; it just takes a bit more preparation. The impact of these healthy, protein packed lunch recipes on your post-work gym session and waistline make the extra time worth it.
1. Mediterranean Tuna Wrap
If you love Mediterranean flavors of olives, lemon, and olive oil, then you’ll love this tuna salad recipe. This salad is devoid of fatty mayonnaise and since tuna packs around 40 grams of protein per can, it will keep you full longer. Make lunch for the week with this Food Network recipe that serves 4.
- 2 (6-ounce) cans of chunk light tuna in water, drained well
- ¼ cup finely diced red onion
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup chopped Kalamata olives
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 cups mixed greens
- 4 whole-grain tortilla wraps
- 2 large tomatoes, sliced
Directions: In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, onion, parsley,and olives. In a second small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour about ⅔ the dressing over the tuna mixture and toss to combine. In a separate bowl, pour the rest of the dressing over the greens and toss to combine. Place some tuna salad onto each piece of wrap bread. Top with 1½ cups of greens and a few tomato slices. Roll the wraps and serve.
2. Chicken “Fried” Rice
This health-focused recipe uses minimal oil and provides enough protein from the chicken and veggies to keep you running until dinner. Use leftover brown rice form the night before or buy a package of Uncle Ben’s whole grain brown rice for fast results. If you have time, make a fresh batch of brown rice first thing in the morning with this how-to recipe from Eating Well.
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 3 cups of cooked rice
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cups frozen peas and carrots mix
- 6 green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 eggs
- ¼ cup less sodium soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons oyster sauce
Directions: In a wok or a large skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 teaspoon of the sesame oil. Once heated, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Stir constantly for 1 minute. Turn the heat up to high and add the chicken. Cook for 4 to 6 minutes, turning and moving the chicken constantly while cooking. Remove the chicken and garlic; set aside. Add the remaining 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
Once heated, add the onion, peas, and carrots, and ½ of the green onions and “stir-fry”, constantly moving the mixture until cooked, about 3 to 5 minutes. Push the vegetables to the outer edges of the wok or skillet to open up the center. Crack the eggs into the skillet and scramble. When the eggs are cooked through, combine with the vegetables. Turn the heat down to medium. Add the reserved chicken, brown rice, soy sauce, and oyster sauce to the vegetable mixture and stir to combine. To serve, garnish with the remaining green onions.
3. Healthy Fully-Loaded Baked Potato
Everyone loves potatoes and this recipe from Muscle & Fitness transforms the baked potato into a carrier for all sorts of protein packed toppings you’ll need to stay full throughout the day. This recipe is easy to make and you may already have most ingredients at home.
- 1 tablespoon precooked turkey bacon, nitrate-free
- 2 tablespoons chopped scallions
- 2 tablespoons light sour cream
- 6 ounces lean ground turkey
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¾ ounces of shredded cheddar cheese
- Salt to taste
Directions: Poke the potato with a fork four times. Place in a medium-size, shallow, microwave-safe bowl and cover with a paper towel. Microwave for six minutes, rotating once, or until tender. Meanwhile, mix turkey, paprika, and salt in a small bowl. Mist a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat. Cook the turkey until no longer pink. Cut an opening in the top that’s almost the length of the potato, and stuff it with cheddar and then turkey. Top with sour cream, bacon, and onion. Serve immediately.
4. Chicken and Vegetable Stir Fry
Stir-fries are one of the easiest and most delicious ways to pack in your vegetables and protein. You can follow this recipe from Men’s Fitness, or you can add whatever veggies and protein you already have in the fridge. This 10-minute recipe is easy, filling, and provides great leftovers. Make this dish for dinner and have leftover the next day for lunch as it makes 4 servings.
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 2 minced cloves of garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cups sliced carrots
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
- 2 cups sugar snap peas
- 1 (15-ounce) can baby corn
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- ¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
Directions: Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger; cook 1 minute. Add chicken; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until starting to brown, stirring constantly. Add onions, carrots, and peppers; cook 1 minute. Add snap peas, corn, and broccoli; cook 2 minutes. Add soy sauce; cook 2 minutes or until vegetables are just tender. In a small bowl, stir cornstarch in chicken broth until dissolved and add to wok. Simmer for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve over brown rice.
5. Egg Salad Sandwich
This lunchtime classic is an easy favorite, but this recipe from Eating Well uses less mayonnaise and still maintains that creamy texture with nonfat plain yogurt. This recipe makes four servings and egg salad is easily kept in the fridge for future meals.
- 3 tablespoons nonfat plain yogurt
- 3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 8 hard-boiled eggs
- 1 ripe avocado, cubed
- 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
- ¼ cup crumbled blue cheese
Directions: Combine yogurt, mayonnaise, garlic powder, pepper, and salt in a medium bowl. Halve eggs and reserve yolks from four of them for another use. Add whites and the remaining four yolks to the bowl and mash to desired consistency. Gently stir in avocado, bacon, and blue cheese. Serve.