Making lunch everyday can feel like a chore, but grabbing cafeteria meals or something from the drive-thru isn’t always the answer.
Homemade meals are cheaper, healthier and better for the waistline. Keep in mind, they don’t have to be hard to put together either.
Registered dietitians from across the country shared their recipes for their go-to lunchtime meals, especially for busy people who need to prep and eat meals on the go.
Bean salads are registered dietitian Susan Macfarlane’s go-to lunch recommendation for busy adults who don’t have time to prepare elaborate healthy meals.
“I am particularly fond of this recipe as it is easy to prepare, lasts several days in the fridge and is a nutrition powerhouse. It’s also delicious and can be easily adapted to different tastes by altering the spices used,” Macfarlane said.
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This lunch is also packed with protein and fibre and provides folate, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, potassium and iron.
- 5 cups of corn
- 2 cups low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 large tomato, diced
- ½ cup red onion, diced
- 2 cups red cabbage, shredded
- Juice of two limes
- 1 teaspoon of cumin
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- ¼ cup of cilantro, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup of walnuts, chopped
Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl and mix dressing ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour over salad and top with chopped walnuts.
This lunch can be pulled together in less than 10 minutes, according to Nicole Osinga, a Courtice, Ont.-based registered dietitian.
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“I have more clients wanting plant-based meals due to health and ethical reasons but also recognize that plant-based eating is convenient and budget-friendly. The edamame adds protein, healthy fats and fibre, keeping you full for long,” she said.
Add sliced chicken breast if you want animal-protein in your salad, too.
- 3 cups of frozen edamame (thawed)
- ½ cup of feta cheese, crumbled
- Dried, unsweetened cranberries
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Combine all of the ingredients into a bowl and enjoy.
While there are only a few ingredients in this recipe, Christy Brissette, a Toronto-based registered dietitian and founder of 80 Twenty Nutrition, says it’s packed with flavour.
“It’s loaded with fibre and antioxidants from the vegetables and is ready in two minutes,” she told Global News.
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“The lemon Dijon dressing is super simple: you can make up a bigger batch of it in a mason jar and leave it at work for your salads during the week,” she said.
- 2 cups of green beans, blanched for 1 minute
- 1 can of light tuna
- ¼ cup red onion, sliced thinly
- 4 artichoke hearts marinated, sliced thinly
- 2 tablespoons of fresh dill, minced
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice
- 1 pinch of salt and pepper
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Combine your salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a mason jar, combine your dressing ingredients and shake. Pour over your salad and toss to coat.
Toronto-based registered dietitian, Andrea D’Ambrosio knows lunch for the office has to be whipped up quickly.
“This is a favourite for both kids and parents alike. You have complete flexibility to use whatever veggies you have on hand and do different themed pizzas,” D’Ambrosio said.
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It could be a Greek-style pizza with feta, black olives, peppers and chicken, or a simple Caprese pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes and basil.
- 2 pieces of whole grain naan bread
- 4 tablespoons of pizza sauce
- 5 mushrooms, sliced
- ½ cup of mozzarella and cheddar cheese, grated
- Sprinkle oregano, dried (optional: fresh parsley or basil)
- ½ pepper, sliced
- ½ tomato sliced
Preheat your oven to 350F. Spread pizza sauce on top of the naan bread, top with cheese, vegetables and seasonings. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is golden.
Wraps are an easy answer for lunchtime and they’re portable and tasty, too, according to Toronto-based registered dietitian Andrea Miller.
“I love this recipe because it takes about 15 minutes to make, it can be adapted to include a variety of ingredients like cooked chicken or ground beef, and it is made with typical pantry ingredients. Even when you think you have nothing in the house for lunch, you can likely pull this together,” Miller said.
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- 1 cup cooked rice (preferably brown rice)
- 1 cup kidney beans, black beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup of corn
- ¾ cup of salsa
- 6-8 large whole wheat tortilla wraps
- 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
- Optional ingredients: Sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese, sliced peppers
Divide the ingredients evenly among the tortillas, sprinkle with cheese and add optional toppings and roll up.
You can make chili for dinner, pack it for lunch the next day and freeze any leftovers for the next time you’re in a stitch, according to Krista Leck, a Halifax-based registered dietitian.
“I love this as it’s budget-friendly, full of filling fibre and plant-based protein and totally customizable. It’s also a great base to have frozen – you can eat as is, you can top a baked sweet potato with the chili, or top a salad and serve with nacho chips for a taco salad,” Leck said.
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You can also create your own chili depending on what kinds of veggies, beans and meat you like.
- 1 bag of frozen vegetables or 4 cups of diced vegetables (peppers, onions, zucchini, mushrooms)
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 2 tablespoons of chili powder
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 1 teaspoon of oregano, and salt and pepper to taste
- 1 can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
- 1 can of tomato paste
- 1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup of black beans, drained and rinsed
Heat oil and garlic in a large saucepan and add vegetables and cook until tender. Stir in spices of your choice, along with tomatoes, tomato paste, and beans. Bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.
Miller turns to baked pasta dishes because they’re easy to make and you can work with a variety of ingredients from leftovers to whatever you’re making for dinner that night. It also reheats well in the oven or microwave and can even be eaten cold.
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– 1 ¼ cups of dry pasta, uncooked
– 1 can of black beans, chickpeas or kidney beans, drained and rinsed
– ½ cup of frozen corn kernels
– 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup of baby spinach leaves, washed
- 3 tablespoons of your favourite BBQ sauce
- ¼ teaspoon of ground cumin
- ½ cup of grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Cook, drain and rinse the pasta. In a large bowl, combine beans, corn, tomatoes, spinach, BBQ sauce and cumin.
Add cooked pasta to the bowl and stir to continue. Transfer to a casserole dish and bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Transfer to single portion containers for lunches and refrigerate or freeze until ready to eat.
Tuna is a quick and easy source of protein at lunchtime, Osinga notes.
“It’s often thrown off balance with too many carbs on a sandwich. This recipe incorporates a balance between carbs, veggies and protein – and it’s just as easy to prepare,” Osinga said.
- 2 cups of brown rice fusilli, cooked
- ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning
- Sea salt and black pepper to taste
- ½ cup of green olives, sliced
- ½ cup of sundried tomatoes, sliced
- 1 can of tuna, drained and flaked
- 8 cups of arugula
While cooking the pasta, combine olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Strain and rinse the pasta and add the tomatoes, olives, tuna and arugula. Mix with the wet ingredients and toss to coat.