November 8, 2020

Healthy Lunch Ideas for Busy Days

Quick to prepare — or those you can make ahead

A bowl of chili with chunks of butternut squash

Whether you eat lunch at home these days while WFH or pack it to take along, having a healthy (and tasty!) lunch you feel good about can sometimes make or break your day.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

To help you out, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite lunch recipes to help you power through your day — and keep you full enough to avoid mindless snacking come 3 p.m.

They may take more planning than swinging through the drive-thru or ordering in, but they’re easier on your waistline and your wallet, too.


Recipe: Tomato Soup With Chickpeas and Lentils

This Indian-inspired vegetarian soup is easy to throw in your slow cooker in the morning if you’re an early riser. Or make it ahead — and it freezes well.

Tomato Soup With Chickpeas and Lentils

Recipe: Black Bean Soup With Charred Poblano Pepper

Looking for something quick and filling? This soup is for you. It comes together in under a half-hour and is bursting with flavor from poblano pepper, paprika and cumin.

Black Bean Soup With Poblano Peppers

Recipe: Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup

This Mexican-inspired soup features zesty lime, fresh radishes and a touch of heat from jalepeño. And it’s all ready for lunch in just 25 minutes.

Mexican Chicken and Lime Soup


Recipe: Raw Kale Salad With Pine Nuts, Currants + Kalamata Olives

If you’re stuck thinking salad means iceberg lettuce, it’s easy to break out of the rut using the superfood kale. It features lots of different flavors and a satisfying crunch!

Raw Kale Salad With Pine Nuts, Currants + Kalamata Olives

Recipe: California Kale Cobb Salad

If you enjoy a classic Cobb, give our California Kale Cobb a try. To save time around your lunch hour, chop your kale and bake the bacon in advance.

California Kale Cobb Salad

Recipe: Red Cabbage Salad With Capers and Raisins

This simple salad’s flavor develops in the fridge overnight, so prep it the night before and you’ll be rewarded with a tasty lunch — filled with brain-healthy antioxidants.

Cabbage Onion Salad



Recipe: Easy Chicken Salad

This chicken salad is great for when you’re out of ideas, but are looking for something the whole family can chow down in little time. It features chunks of chicken tossed with Greek yogurt, tart dried cranberries, crisp Granny Smith apples and rosemary.

Chicken Salad

Recipe: Chicken and Broccoli Slaw Wrap

When you make wraps, it’s best to use fresh vs. processed meats. Try this delicious lunch, featuring shredded chicken (use a rotisserie chicken to save time).

Chicken and Broccoli Slaw wrap

Recipe: Buffalo Chicken Chili

Once you’ve got your ingredients prepped and sautéed, this chili only takes another 45 minutes to simmer. So it’s doable if you’re working from home, or you can always finish it in your crockpot and have it the next day to last the week.

Chicken Chili


Recipe: Taco Salad With Beef and Avocado

When you’re craving a taco salad, don’t hit the drive-thru. Try this healthy version with grass-fed beef, cumin and chili powder, on a bed of mesclun and red cabbage.

Taco Salad

Recipe: Lettuce-Wrapped, Stuffed Bison Burgers

If you’re trying to cut carbs, try these bun-less bison burgers for a change. Once you prep them, you can throw them on the grill or broil them.

Lettuce-Wrapped, Stuffed Bison Burgers

Recipe: Spicy Beef Chili With Butternut Squash

If you use pre-packed diced butternut squash, this flavorful chili can come together in time for a filling lunch. You can also prep your onions and peppers the night before to save yourself even more time.

Beef Chili With Butternut Squash


Recipe: 5-Minute Fish Tacos

These tacos are perfect for lunch because they come together so fast. Use any thawed frozen or fresh firm, white fish. Try flounder, cod, snapper or tilapia.

Fish Tacos


Recipe: Fish Chowder

This fish chowder makes plenty of leftovers. Make it for dinner one night and then the rest stays good for lunches in the fridge for five days.

Fish Chowder

Recipe: Cold Asian Noodle Salad With Salmon

This Asian-inspired dish hits the spot when takeout temptation strikes. Chilled noodles are topped with cucumber, salmon and a delicious garlic sauce.

Cold Asian Noodle Salad With Salmon


Recipe: Eggless Tofu Salad Sandwich

Whether you’re vegetarian or not, this eggless tofu salad is a tasty lunch — with customizable toppings, depending on your mood or what you have on hand.

Eggless Tofu Salad Sandwich

Recipe: Mac and Cheese

Sure, it takes longer than the kind that comes in a box. But you won’t regret it and your kids (or you!) will still gobble it down.

Mac and Cheese

Recipe: Sandwich on a Stick

If you’re feeling lazy (or crunched for time), this recipe is essentially a deconstructed sandwich. But sometimes just presenting something differently is enough to make it new and fun.

Sandwich on a Stick

Related Articles

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

Person eating healthy bowl of noodles with fitness items floating around head
January 17, 2024
How To Shed 10 Pounds — For Good!

Actively choose healthy habits not only when it comes to food and nutrition, but also physical activity and your mental health

close-up of plate with eggs, wheat toast, avocados, hands holding knife and fork
January 9, 2024
Does Reverse Dieting Work?

This strategy doesn’t boost metabolism, but it may help maintain weight loss

Oranges in bowl and tofu meal in bowl
December 7, 2023
Should You Take Iron With Vitamin C?

This pairing has long been thought to help your body better absorb iron

Person eating a frosted pink donut.
November 9, 2023
Cheat Days: The Great Debate

These breaks may have some benefits — but they promote an unhealthy attitude toward food

Person during a consultation with their dietitian.
November 8, 2023
Could You Have a Fructan Intolerance?

A low-FODMAP elimination diet can help identify your symptoms

person with burgers and fries on plates over their lap
October 15, 2023
13 Reasons Why People Overeat

Being bored, not getting enough sleep and waiting too long to eat can all contribute

Healthy meal of salmon, brown rice and broccoli with peas on a white plate.
September 28, 2023
10 Tips for Changing Your Diet After a Stroke

It can be overwhelming, but habit changes help lower your risk of another stroke

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery