Breakfast gets a lot of attention, and rightfully so — it sets the tone for your entire day. But don’t skip lunch. Your midday meal can be the difference between a productive afternoon and falling asleep at your desk.
So, while it might be tempting to score a drive-through burger between meetings or snag a bagel from the office kitchen, a balanced lunch of whole grains, protein and healthy fat keeps you full, alert and energized.
For some meal ideas, we turned to five registered dietitians to see what they eat for lunch. Take a look below, get inspired and whip up something similar for yourself.
“Pulled chicken breast, black beans, corn, pico de gallo, shredded cheese, avocado and brown rice atop a bed of crunchy romaine lettuce, topped with a dollop of sour cream and your hot sauce of choice. Its fiber-rich veggies, lean protein and whole grains make this a satisfying, nutrient-rich lunch. Plus, this dish is meal-prep friendly! Just assemble a few bowls at the beginning of the week for a quick, grab-and-go lunch.”
—Elle Penner, RDN, Nutrition Consultant, Recipe Developer and Writer
“Typically a salad. I love the pre-washed salads from Trader Joe’s or Aldi — spinach, arugula, and spring mix are my favorites. Added to the salad: 1/2–1 ounce of nuts (usually walnuts or pine nuts), a generous handful of shredded carrots, one tablespoon ground flaxseed, one boiled egg or two ounces of turkey, and then I will sprinkle on some dried cranberries. The dried cranberries pair well with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. On other days, I will do a mix of half olive oil and half lemon juice as my dressing.”
—Louise Chen, Dallas-based Registered Dietitian
“Many times, due to my schedule, lunch is a big snack for me. It often consists of cheese, nuts and fruit as their protein, healthy fat and fiber work to keep me full. If at a restaurant, my go-to would be a salad with cheese, nuts, fruit and salmon, as that is a great way to get in my omega-3 fatty acids.”
—Amy Goodson, RD and Nutrition Consultant based in Dallas
“I load up on whole grains, greens and protein. I love making a batch of quinoa or whole-grain farro on Sundays and tossing it with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, roasted veggies and canned organic beans (I love chickpeas!). Serve over dark, leafy greens for a hearty, healthy salad that is the perfect pick-me-up for the midday meal. For protein, top with wild canned tuna, hard-boiled egg or roasted chicken and sprinkle with roasted walnuts or pecans. Too many refined carbs will leave you looking to nap mid-afternoon, but this power combo is light, bright and filling — and it’s simple to make ahead and pack for work.”
—Sidney Fry, MS, RD, Writer and Recipe Developer
“Anything that can be batch-cooked on Sunday works well for my busy schedule. I usually plan a lean protein, whole grain and one cooked vegetable. For example: Oven-baked teriyaki chicken, brown rice and steamed broccoli. I make enough for three lunches. On the other two days, I pack salad from a salad kit. If I’m desperately out of time, my go-to is a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole-wheat bread. It’s so satisfying because of the fiber and healthy fats.”
—Trinh Le, MPH, RDN, and Blogger at FearlessfoodRD
READ MORE > WHAT DIETITIANS EAT … FOR BREAKFAST