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16 healthy lunch ideas for weight loss

Including choices for plant-based, low carb, diabetes-friendly, and paleo diets.

Having a few healthy go-to recipes can help you stay on track with weight loss. Try these options for plant-based, low carb, diabetes-friendly, and paleo diets.

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Last updated on October 1, 2022, and last reviewed by an expert on August 2, 2022.
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Eating balanced lunches that include vegetables, a lean protein source, and other health-promoting foods can aid weight loss.

We understand that having a healthy lunch is not always easy, especially if you’re busy at work or on the go.

That’s why it’s crucial to have a list of go-to lunch ideas on hand. This way, you can stay prepared and avoid skipping meals or relying on fast food and other less healthy options.

Here are 16 healthy lunch ideas for weight loss, including choices for plant-based, low carb, diabetes-friendly, and paleo diets.

1–5. Plant-based lunches for weight loss

Plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, are full of fiber and beneficial nutrients. They tend to be filling, and many are lower in calories than certain animal products and highly processed foods.

Thus, plant-based diets like vegan or vegetarian diets have been associated with weight loss in some people.

1. Lentil soup

Soups are an ideal plant-based lunch option, as you can make them ahead of time and reheat them for a quick meal.

Lentils provide filling protein and carbs, while the veggies contribute additional fiber. Plus, lentils are a good source of iron, an essential nutrient for blood health that some plant-based eaters may lack in their diets.

2. Garden veggie chickpea salad sandwiches

Chickpeas are a versatile vegetarian protein. Some research suggests that chickpeas aid weight management due to the vitamins, minerals, fiber, and various beneficial compounds they contain.

Chickpeas’ texture makes them easy to smash with a fork to create a chickpea “salad” filling for sandwiches — the perfect lunch food.

3. Spicy peanut tofu Buddha bowls

Tofu is a soy-based complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids that humans need to get from foods. It’s also a source of isoflavones, compounds that may protect against heart disease.

Some people shy away from tofu if they don’t know how to cook it or don’t like the texture, but preparing tofu that’s crispy and delicious is easy to do at home.

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4. Veggie wraps

A healthy wrap is a great lunch choice, especially if you need something that you can make ahead of time to eat at your desk or in between meetings.

Fortunately, it’s really easy to make plant-based wraps. To ensure that they’re filling, delicious, and help you lose weight, choose whole wheat wraps (or use lettuce) and add a protein source, healthy sauce or spread, and plenty of vegetables.

5. Quinoa and black bean stuffed sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes make a great base for plant-based lunches. They provide energizing carbs, plenty of fiber, and the pigment beta carotene, which can help you meet your needs for vitamin A to help support your immune system.

Plus, stuffed sweet potatoes can be packed up to enjoy at the office or put together quickly if you work from home. Bake the sweet potatoes and prep the filling in advance, then store them in containers in the fridge. Assemble the potatoes and reheat them when you’re ready to eat.

6–10. Low carb lunches for weight loss

Many people find that a low carb or keto diet helps them lose weight. This eating style involves limiting high-carb foods and increasing your intake of fats and proteins.

Some research backs the potential role of low-carb eating in helping you lose weight, suggesting that limiting your carb intake may improve your blood sugar regulation in a way that promotes weight loss.

That said, these diets may also lead to weight regain when discontinued. Also, high-carb, fiber-containing whole grains may help keep you fuller for longer, so a lack of carbs at lunch may cause you to feel unsatisfied soon after meals.

Suggested read: Healthy vegan foods

6. Cauliflower rice bowls

Replacing regular rice with cauliflower rice is one way to reduce your carb intake at lunchtime, especially if you eat burrito bowls or other dishes that typically contain rice.

Using cauliflower lowers not only the carb content of the meal but also provides a ton of vitamin C. This water-soluble nutrient is essential for skin health, wound healing, and many other body functions.

7. Tuna egg salad stuffed peppers

Tuna and eggs are two affordable, high-protein foods that will keep you full long after lunch.

Eating eggs instead of a higher carb meal may help reduce hunger and the number of calories you consume later in the day, which can help promote weight loss.

While egg and tuna salads are usually served on bread, you can stuff them into bell peppers for a low-carb meal.

8. Zucchini noodle stir-fry with chicken

This zucchini noodle stir-fry is a delicious choice for lunch if you’re watching your carb intake and trying to lose weight.

Zucchini noodles, or “zoodles,” resemble regular noodles but are lower in carbs. The zucchini packs fiber and micronutrients, while the chicken contributes protein to this dish.

Chicken is an excellent lean protein to eat when trying to lose weight. Eating chicken with a vegetable-rich diet is linked to a reduced risk of developing overweight and obesity.

9. Low-carb eggplant pizza

Eating more non-starchy vegetables like eggplant often helps people lose weight. Eggplant is low in calories but high in fiber.

Using it in place of pizza crust is a great way to enjoy pizza flavors without consuming too many refined carbs at lunch.

Good plant-based, low-carb options can be hard to find, as low-carb eating often includes animal products — another great reason to keep this recipe on hand.

10. Mediterranean Cobb salad

Cobb salads typically include lettuce, bacon, eggs, avocados, and a creamy dressing. They’re very filling and low in carbs, making them a good lunch option for weight loss.

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Plus, many of the ingredients offer health benefits. Eggs are rich in protein and antioxidant compounds that promote eye health, while avocados and tomatoes boost heart-healthy nutrients like unsaturated fats and lycopene.

11–13. Diabetes-friendly lunches for weight loss

If you are overweight or obese and have diabetes, a healthcare professional may have advised you to lose weight to improve or help manage your condition.

Eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are both necessary for good blood sugar regulation.

Many people with diabetes pay attention to their carb intake at meals, as carbs can increase blood sugar levels. They may limit overall carbs or try to keep the number of carbs consistent at each meal.

11. Avocado toast with cottage cheese and tomatoes

A diabetes-friendly lunch resembles a balanced plate containing fiber from non-starchy vegetables, complex carbs, protein, and healthy fat.

Pairing carbs with these other macronutrients is key to preventing your blood sugar from spiking, helping maintain good blood sugar and energy levels throughout the day.

Avocado toast on whole grain bread can be a great base for this type of lunch.

12. Lemon chicken quinoa salad

Salads made with a whole grain base make healthy lunches easy to pack up for work.

Though quinoa is technically a pseudocereal, it’s often grouped with whole grains since it’s nutritionally similar and has a high fiber content.

It’s also a source of protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it an excellent food to add to meals for weight loss and blood sugar management.

13. Black bean soup

Black beans are a high fiber, high protein food. Eating them can help people with diabetes who are trying to lose weight.

They’re also a good source of folate, a B vitamin necessary for healthy blood cells and fetal development.

Making a soup with black beans is an easy and affordable lunch option.

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14–17. Paleo lunches for weight loss

A Paleolithic (paleo) diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, animal proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats while eliminating sugar, grains, beans and legumes, most dairy, vegetable oils, and alcohol. It’s intended to resemble the diet of hunter-gatherers.

Since the paleo diet includes many nutritious foods and limits foods that may contribute to weight gain, some people find it useful for weight loss.

It may also have other beneficial effects on health, such as improving blood sugar and reducing blood pressure.

14. Egg roll in a bowl

If you love the taste of takeout egg rolls, you can easily mimic the flavors by making a deconstructed version for lunch.

Egg roll bowls can be made with filling and lean protein like ground turkey or chicken. They’re also usually loaded with cabbage, a rich source of vitamin K.

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient that’s essential for proper blood clotting.

15. Paleo Greek meatballs with tzatziki sauce

Meatballs are a meal-prep-friendly food you can enjoy for lunch.

Pair them with fresh vegetables and a tasty sauce for a balanced meal. The meatballs provide filling protein and vitamin B12, an essential nutrient for the nervous system, while veggies contribute fiber.

16. Paleo chicken curry

Chicken curry is made with various seasonings that may provide health benefits. For example, turmeric has anti-inflammatory compounds that help protect against disease development.

A paleo version of chicken curry made with cauliflower rice instead of white rice is a healthy lunch option for weight loss.

Summary

If you’re looking to lose weight, there are many filling, delicious lunch ideas to try.

Whether you focus on plant-based, low-carb, diabetes-friendly, or paleo recipes, choose dishes that contain primarily whole foods and emphasize lots of fruits and non-starchy vegetables.

Suggested read: 9 healthy yet delicious smoothie recipes

Many of the dishes above are perfect for making ahead of time. You can batch cook several servings on the weekend to enjoy lunch throughout the week.

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