Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day and the one you put more effort into when cooking, but not everyone has the time to cook a good lunch every day. Between work and other responsibilities, sometimes you just want to grab some takeout and get on with your day. But the thing is: you don’t need to spend hours in the kitchen to eat a good lunch, it’s perfectly possible to create a well-balanced meal in no time!
In order to keep a healthy diet and help you stay on track, your meals should include the three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Ideally, you should aim to have a balanced diet that is high in protein, medium to low carbs, and moderate in healthy fats. This way you’ll make sure that your body is getting the nutrients that it needs, especially if you’re an active person and work out often because your muscles need a nutrient-dense diet to perform well and recover fast! So keep this in mind next time you’re cooking your lunch. And if time is a common issue for you, try meal prepping! Planning and preparing your meals ahead of time will help you make sure you’re eating enough of each macro and getting the nutrients that you need without having to worry every day about what you’re going to cook.
To make things easier for you, we’ve made a list of the best sources of each macronutrient so that you can keep your fridge and pantry full and ready for your next great lunch. We also have some quick and easy lunch ideas to help with your meal prep and keep up your healthy eating on those hectic days!
Proteins are the building blocks of cells and muscle structure, and they also keep your immune system strong, so you’ll want to make sure you’re eating enough! They’re going to help your muscles grow and recover after your workouts, so here are some of the best protein sources and lunch ideas that your can prepare to stay on track in your fitness journey:
Chicken breast is delicious, and it’s one of the healthiest sources of lean protein there is, as well as vitamins B and D, iron, and zinc. It’s very low in sodium and it contains healthier fats than other kinds of meats (such as red meat), so make sure to include it in your next lunch! Grilled chicken salads with veggies are a simple solution for a high-protein lunch, but you can also make more complex recipes such as stuffed chicken breast or cordon bleu if you ever want to change things up a little.
Lunch idea: For a quick lunch meal, make a lettuce wrap with some diced chicken breast and your favorite veggies. You can add some Greek yogurt, pesto, or extra-virgin olive oil to make it extra tasty!
Salmon is an excellent source of protein, potassium, and it also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for your heart and gives you an extra dose of healthy fats for your well-balanced meal! It can be a delicious addition to your lunches, whether it’s smoked with a side of veggies, in a tortilla wrap, baked, pan-fried, or in your favorite salads, you name it.
Lunch idea: Slice up your salmon and add it to a bowl along with your favorite veggies, you can even add some lemon juice, hummus, or your favorite salad dressing to bring out the flavor!
This protein is both healthy and incredibly delicious! Turkey, and more specifically turkey breast, is a great source of vitamin B6, iron, zinc, and potassium. Most of the fat content in turkey comes from the skin, so make sure you buy skinless turkey breast to keep it low-fat! You can roast it, bake it, or slow cook it, and just add it as the main protein to your lunches.
Lunch idea: Take the top off some red bell peppers and stuff them with some chopped turkey! Add some red onions, tomatoes, or spinach, and drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil on top before baking it for an extra flavor boost.
Greek yogurt is a delicious protein that you can add to your lunches for a healthy punch! This fermented food is highly beneficial to your gut microbiome, it’s packed with calcium and vitamin D, and it doesn’t contain as much sugar as regular yogurt. You can eat it as a spread, in your salads, in soups, or as a dip!
Lunch idea: Mix the Greek yogurt with some lemon juice, salt, pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil to create a delicious dressing to go with your favorite salads! You can also add the Greek yogurt by itself for a sweet treat. Top it with your favorite fruit, granola, chia seeds, honey, or any of your favorite healthy toppings.
Acting as the main source of energy for our bodies, carbs are incredibly important for a healthy diet! When they enter your body, they are broken down into simple sugars and then turned into glucose, which is used as fuel for your everyday activities. There are simple carbs, which are mostly refined and processed, and then there are complex carbs, the nutrient-dense ones that you’ll want to include in your diet!
Here are some of the best sources of complex carbs along with some quick lunch ideas for each one:
Broccoli is a great source of carbs, but it also contains protein, so it’s a 2-in-1 for your meals! This delicious vegetable is rich in vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, as well as fiber and antioxidants, making it a great addition to your diet. You can boil or bake them to make them tender and then add them to any dish you want, like a salad, on top of brown rice, mixed with other vegetables, or in your favorite soup recipe.
Lunch idea: You can make a delicious vegetable stir-fry with broccoli and other veggies such as asparagus, zucchini, and carrots. Drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil in there and add some salt and pepper and you’ll have a delicious and quick lunch!
Beans are delicious, and there are so many to choose from when preparing your lunch! These legumes are very rich in fiber and antioxidants, and they’re a great source of carbs, so make sure to add them to your next meal to make it even healthier. You can choose from pinto beans, black beans, green beans, kidney beans, chickpeas… And eat them by themselves, as a soup, with some veggies, or next to your favorite protein!
Lunch idea: Put your favorite beans with some asparagus and garlic in a pan for a delicious sautéed side dish! You can also sprinkle some fresh herbs on top for extra flavor.
This complex carb is incredibly healthy and it’s a great substitute for regular potatoes! It’s packed with vitamin A, which helps your body synthesize protein, and fiber, helping you feel full for longer. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of sustainable energy because they have a low glycemic index, so they’re definitely something you’ll want to have in your kitchen! You can bake them, roast them, mash them… Whatever you choose!
Lunch idea: If you want something different for your lunch, you can slice up your sweet potato, drizzle it with some extra-virgin olive oil, and put it in the oven to make some delicious sweet potato fries!
This carb powerhouse contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein too! It’s a great addition to your meals because you tackle two macronutrients at once, and it’s also very rich in fiber, making it great for digestion and satiety. You can eat this whole grain just like you would eat rice, as a side dish, mixed with vegetables, or in a burrito.
Lunch idea: Add some quinoa to a bowl with your favorite veggies and a side of avocado for a quick and easy meal! You can also sprinkle some seeds on top to make it extra nutritious.
Just like proteins and carbs, fats are equally essential to your body! They may get a bad reputation, but the truth is that your body needs healthy fats to function properly. They support cell growth and they also provide energy to your body, so make sure to include them next time you’re prepping your lunch. Here are some of the best sources of healthy fats and some easy lunch ideas for your next meal prep:
Extra-virgin olive oil
Being one of the healthiest fats out there, extra-virgin olive oil should be a staple item in your kitchen! It’s filled with antioxidants and micronutrients, and it also makes everything taste better. You can use extra-virgin olive oil to drizzle your meals before they go on the stove or in the oven to really bring out that rich flavor, or make salad dressings with it.
Lunch idea: If you’re not in the mood for cooking or preparing a whole meal, drizzling some extra-virgin olive oil on top of some veggies will make for a delicious lunch salad with Mediterranean flavor!
Avocados are an amazing addition to any meal, and you’ve probably eaten it for breakfast along with some eggs already, but it also makes for a delicious side dish for your lunch! These healthy sources of fat are packed with vitamins, and they’re also a great source of fiber, which is great for digestion and can help you feel full after your meal. They go very well with proteins like chicken and salmon, and you can also add them to a delicious salad with some other fruits and veggies.
Lunch idea: Slice up an avocado and sprinkle some salt, pepper, and even red pepper flakes if you’re craving something spicy. You can eat it as a side or put it on top of your protein!
Just like plain avocados, avocado oil is an amazing source of healthy fats and another healthy oil alternative that you can use when cooking your lunches! It contains vitamins A, D, and E, as well as high amounts of oleic acid, making it a heart-healthy oil since it helps lower blood pressure. You can use it for cooking as well as a dressing for your salad recipes!
Lunch idea: Mix some avocado oil with lemon juice, garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper for a delicious and quick salad dressing!
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds, as well as nut butter like peanut butter, are all great sources of healthy fats. Aside from being gluten-free, they’re also packed with fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals. The great part about them is that you can choose which ones you want to eat or add to your meals each day, or you can just mix them all! There are almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, flax seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds… And they’re all great for salads and bowls, making them even more tasty and healthy.
Lunch idea: Grab your favorite salad and sprinkle some nuts and seeds in there for a good dose of healthy fats! But don’t go too overboard with this, especially if you’re also mixing it in with some healthy oil.
Having these foods at home and these lunch recipes at hand will help you stay on track with a healthy and balanced diet! The best thing is that these are quick and easy recipes, so you’ll be more motivated to get into the kitchen and prepare a healthy meal for lunch that supports your fitness goals, whether that’s weight loss, muscle building, or just staying in shape. To get the most out of your kitchen experience, make sure to use the Fit With Iulia Macro Calculator to find out exactly how much of each macronutrient you should eat daily by just answering a few questions!
And if you want to create a meal plan and start keeping track of the foods that you eat and your macros, try the Fit With Iulia app! Our app has a Kitchen feature that works as a food journal, letting you add the foods that you eat and plan your meals daily or weekly according to your macros. Just download the Fit With Iulia app and start tracking for a more successful fitness journey!