7 Super Healthy ‘On to Go’ Lunch Ideas
Goals are great. They get us to think of the result of a lot of hard work. And they perform an incredibly important role in motivating us. But they don’t work on their own, and one of the biggest enemies of goals is the day-to-day grind.
Eating a healthy meal that helps you achieve your fitness goal is a great example of this. A common ‘shorthand’ way of emphasising the importance of diet is to say that just 20% of results come from the time you spend in the gym. That all-important 80%? That’s said to come from your diet and nutrition choices.
But a less than ideal lunch is often a stumbling block for many of us when it comes to keeping our food and nutrient intake at a high standard.
Why is Lunch Hard?
Of all the meals, lunch is often the one that has us reaching for a convenient or highly palatable (read: fatty/salty) option. Why is that? Well, a lot of it comes down to time. Mornings can be a chaotic time for a lot of us. But at the end of the day, we wake up at home, with a fridge and a cupboard full of options and the tools (knives, cutting boards) and appliances (kettle, microwave, toaster) to make just about anything.
Dinner is the same. And as an added bonus, we can stop off at the local shops on the way home to get ingredients or add a healthy twist (e.g. more fresh vegetables) to our meals.
But lunch is harder. If we don’t plan what we’re taking in the night before, then chances are we’ll be left without an option to prepare in the morning. And if we are short of time in the morning, then it’s all too easy to think, ‘ah, I’ll just grab something from work or from the food court near work’ to save those 10 or 15 minutes of lunch prep time.
The other thing that makes lunch hard is what we have available to us. Some workplaces have sandwich presses and microwaves. Others don’t. And many of us work on job sites or eat lunch between appointments while we are on the road.
That’s Where This Guide Helps
So that’s why this guide is to help you add 10 killer ‘on the go’ lunch recipes and options to your toolbox. They’re all nutritious and meant to keep you fuller for longer. And while it’s not possible for every meal to tick every nutrient box, these meals are all rich in important nutrients that will help you get to your recommended daily intakes of heaps of vitamins, macronutrients and minerals, if eaten with a balanced diet for the rest of the day.
Let’s dive into seven lunch ideas that will take your on the go lunches to the next level and give you plenty more options to choose from. And rather than just list seven recipes, we’ve gone with a mix of specific ideas and ‘bases’ that you can customise to exactly suit what you like to eat at lunchtime.
Easy Gourmet Healthy Homemade Pizza
There’s a reason that pizza is (arguably) the most popular takeaway option in the country. It’s delicious. But homemade versions can be made to be healthy, tasty, and a reason to look forward to your midday meal. First of all, let’s be really clear. We’re not saying you need to invest in a breadmaker to make your own pizza dough to do this (though if you want to, you definitely should!)
Rather than using pre-made pizza bases that have quite a lot of preservatives in them, seek out the Lebanese breads or flatbreads at your local supermarket. These are fresh, come in a variety of sizes (including lunchbox-friendly ‘minis’), and best of all, they are really cheap.
After you’ve done that, your next step is tomato pizza sauce. There are plenty of options, many of which come with extra flavour by including herbs in the sauce. And if you get one in a squeeze bottle, it will keep really well in the fridge.
Your final step is this hack: jump onto the menu of your local gourmet pizza shop. All you need to do to make a delicious lunch is to copy or modify one of their recipes to suit you. It might be a pork sausage, rocket and caramelised onion pizza, or a peri-peri marinated chicken with sundried tomato, eggplant and spinach. Aim for options with some protein and level it up by adding 2–3 vegetables on top to balance the meal.
The best part about this on the go option (apart from the taste, obviously) is that it’s endlessly versatile, and you can customise it to exactly what you like or feel like on a given week.
Satay Lunch Bowls
Chicken satay is one of the most popular Thai restaurant starter dishes and will probably stay that way for many years. So why just confine these protein-rich tasty morsels of chicken to entrees and appetisers?
A chicken satay bowl is simple to prepare, huge on flavour and can be supplemented with all manner of green and healthy vegetables to round out the nutritional profile. For example, add a thinly sliced (or blended) mix of carrot, green cabbage and shallots to your bowl, and you’ll have a balanced lunch and a crunchy element to balance out your favourite satay sauce.
Adaptable Falafel Bowls
Making falafel is satisfying but a bit of a chore. But high-quality, ready-made falafel is available in most major and independent supermarkets. These are already high in protein, fibre and nutrients since the base ingredients are chickpeas and tahini. You can add some Turkish bread or pita bread, Greek yoghurt and olives to round out the meal. Another hack is to include a small container of beetroot dip or tzatziki – both flavours pair really well with falafels.
Zoodles + Meatballs
As anyone who has eaten pasta at lunch can tell you, a huge carb hit at midday is usually followed by the desire to take a snooze afterwards. So that’s not what you really want to do when you put together your lunch. That’s where zoodles come in. These are easy to make with a few zucchinis and a vegetable spiraliser, or you can buy them pre-made.
You can get some extra flavour into them by roasting them in the oven for 10 minutes with salt, pepper or chilli and some cheese.
Then, it’s just a matter of finding your favourite meatball recipe. That might be turkey meatballs for a great lean protein option. Or you might be looking to incorporate some more high-in-iron red meat into your day with lamb or beef meatballs. Look for recipes that let you incorporate some extra veg (like diced carrot or eggplant) into the sauce that goes with it.
Then, you’ve got a lunch with all the benefits and tastes of pasta, without the mid-afternoon carbohydrate coma!
Tasty, Fulfilling Soups
Soups have been a lunch staple since forever. But we’re not talking about the powdered cup variety. Making soup at home might seem daunting and time-consuming. But most of the time taken is simmering to let the flavours develop. And the added benefit is that soup can be frozen or stored and eaten later, and it naturally makes multiple serves.
And the options! Pumpkin, chicken and sweet corn, broccoli, pea and ham or a spicy tomato, capsicum and chorizo soup? Any one of those can bring a smile to your face at lunchtime.
Soups are also a satisfying option for anyone looking to lower their overall calorie intake in line with their training goals while still providing a serve or three of vegetables in your day.
Crunchy, Tangy Rice Paper Rolls
Sushi has been a food court lunch staple for years now, but rice paper rolls are the ‘challenger brand’ on the block and becoming more popular by the year. The good news is that these are easy to make at home and even kind of fun to put together.
Rice paper rolls are cheap and easy to find in supermarkets. A little water turns the rigid rice paper sheets into flexible, mouldable rolls, which you simply fill with your preferred filling and roll up like you would for a kebab.
These are the right size for lunches and pair brilliantly with a fresh, zingy dressing. And you can really pack in the vegetable content with bean sprouts, shredded carrot, cabbage, cucumber and avocado. All these and more are standout fillings with your protein of choice.
Mixed Grain Salads You’ll Look Forward To
The fact is, no one looks forward to a boring salad for lunch. You know the kind – it’s heavy on tasteless lettuce and lacks any excitement. But a salad with pearl couscous, polenta or brown rice is a much better base to build on.
For example, polenta and couscous soak up the flavour from marinated red meat dishes perfectly.
And brown rice has a rich, nutty flavour that matches perfectly with flavoured salmon (smoked or canned if you're short on time).
Add some steamed vegetables or diced fresh salad ingredients for crunch, and you’ve put the boring lettuce leaves in the rearview mirror and put together a proper lunch salad that you’ll actually look forward to.