If breakfast is the most important meal of the day and dinner is what brings people together, where does that leave lunch? Research has proven that our brains are only capable of focusing for 90 to 120 minutes before needing a little break to reboot, so we're going to shine the spotlight on that midday meal for a second. While brunch may cut it on a Saturday and Sunday, healthy work lunches are essential during the workweek to not only fuel us through the afternoon workload but also give us the opportunity to simply relax and enjoy some good food away from our screens.
The easiest way to ensure proper nutrition (and save some extra cash) is packing your own meal, so we decided to come up with 10 healthy work lunches that are simple to prepare and taste delicious for both vegetarians and meat lovers. We promise they'll help you start and end on a good note, Monday through Friday. Scroll through our roundup of 10 meal ideas to plan your own lunch menu for a week full of delicious eating and a worthwhile break during your day.
Monday's Menu: Grain-Based Salads
This Brazilian steak salad from Half Baked Harvest sits on a bed of roasted sweet potatoes, corn, and plenty of fluffy quinoa, and the spicy coconut dressing is a perfect balance of sweet and zesty. Not only will it satisfy you for the rest of the day, but it's also packed with healthy ingredients that meet your protein needs for optimal efficiency and energy levels.
This kale and brown rice salad with tahini dressing salad from The First Mess is also super filling without being too heavy. Chickpeas are great for a boost in digestion while the avocado will deliver omega-3s for a healthy heart.
Tuesday's Menu: Wraps
Wraps are super easy to eat if you're in a hurry or running between meetings, yet they're so much healthier than eating a bag of chips or grabbing something from a fast-food joint. Oozing with cucumber yogurt sauce, tomatoes, and onion, these easy-to-make chicken tzatziki gyros from Foodie Crush also happen to be insanely delicious.
For something a bit lighter, you could always just eat the fillings and ditch the bread. Or if you want to opt for something meat-free but with the same easy-to-eat perks, try this collard green wrap recipe from The First Mess. With refreshing basil leaves, crispy grilled tempeh, quinoa, tomatoes, and just the right amount of chili, you won't be sorry.
Wednesday's Menu: Pasta Salads
Pasta salad is one of those simple and easy meal options that pretty much anyone will love. There are endless recipe variations to try, so you won't get sick of it; you can just throw in any of the ingredients you have lying around the kitchen. It's like the "everything but the kitchen sink" recipes of savory food. This option from Half Baked Harvest calls for avocado, tomatoes, pesto, grilled broccoli rabe, mozzarella, and prosciutto.
You could always just exclude the prosciutto portion of the recipe above, but if you want a vegetarian version with a more salad-like feel to it, we recommend making this kale Caesar pasta salad recipe from the Foodie Crush. It's just like your classic Caesar, but instead of croutons, you can toss in some bowtie pasta. It'll be more filling and comforting, which is something that always helps us get over the hump day without any dips in energy.
Thursday's Menu: Sandwiches
What would a workweek lunch menu be without a sandwich? Incomplete, that's what. This recipe from Foodie Crush brings your average sandwich to new heights—and quite literally, thanks to all those delicious layers of turkey, avocado, cucumbers, arugula, and tomato. Use a whole-wheat toast or go to your favorite bakery and indulge in your favorite baguette.
Now, this is what we call a perfect lunch. Minimalist Baker's vegan take on the BLT will satisfy pretty much anyone who loves texture-rich foods with plenty of flavor variation. Stacked with smoky plantains, fresh lettuce, juicy tomatoes, and sharp onions, this lunch is quite a treat. Just spread add the seeded bread, spread on some hummus, and call it a day.
Friday's Menu: Warm Bowls
By the time Friday rolls around, you'll probably be ready for some comfort food. This recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon is the perfect thing to pack for lunch if you want something with complex, rich flavors that won't leave you weighed down for the rest of the day. Braised in a garlic and ginger sauce, the chicken is moist and delicious while the snow peas add a bit of crunch. For a filling dish, put it on a bed of brown rice or use cauliflower rice for something a bit more nutritious.
This subtly spiced vegan bowl of goodness from Minimalist Baker will ensure you end your week on a high note. The contrast between the warm chickpeas, comforting sweet potatoes, and fresh kale is absolutely perfect, and the tahini sauce adds a touch of rich decadence that you should definitely indulge in after a long week of work. Don't forget to add a squeeze of lime to round out the flavors.
Hungry for my delicious and healthy work lunch ideas? These recipes will hit the spot.
This post was originally published on May 30, 2017, and has since been updated.