I don’t know about you, but when it comes to lunch I want fast, easy to prepare AND healthy all in one. I don’t have time in the middle of the day to mess about with elaborate and time consuming recipes, especially when I’m working. I want to be able to knock something up before I run out of the door, or maybe even prep the night before if I’m feeling ultra organised.
Either way (as with the rest of my healthy plant based lifestyle) I want it to be simple enough to fit in with my busy lifestyle, yet still have plenty of variety to keep my taste buds tantalised, and these easy plant based lunch ideas are just perfect for that job.
Why eat a healthy lunch?
Sometimes lunch can be skipped over a bit, especially when it comes to nutrition. It’s easy to just grab something unhealthy from a fast food joint or eat lots of beige foods from a bakery, but your lunch is actually an important meal. It needs to power you through the rest of your day, and if you do any kind of physical job, or even if you like to head to the gym straight after work, then you’ll need to be even more vigilant about what you eat if you wan’t to stay focused and energised right through until dinner.
Tips for keeping lunch simple:-
- PRE-PREPARE FOR THE WEEK AHEAD – This cannot be stressed enough! If you know you’re going to be busy and tired, then get your prep done at the weekends. This can be in the form of making batches of healthy muffins, simple homemade breads, refined sugar free banana breads or similar, oaty bars, energy balls, protein bars, or anything else that is easy to transport. Also, I find all of these things last up to a week if stored in an air-tight container in your refrigerator, so it often works out perfectly.
- WRITE A LUNCH MENU FOR THE WEEK AHEAD – If you work all week, write a meal plan and do all your shopping (not just lunch shopping) at the weekend so you don’t have to think about what you are going to eat for any of your meals.
- PREP FOR LUNCH THE NIGHT BEFORE – If you want to be sure of always having a healthy lunch, instead of a grab-and-go snack then, there are many plant based lunches that can easily be prepared the night before. These include salads (put your dressing in a separate pot until required), sandwiches, paninis, cold pasta salads, layered salads in a mason jar, which can include not only salad items, but mixed beans, pulses, quinoa, cracked wheat, rice, sweetcorn, olives, tofu, grated root vegetables, or pretty much anything that you have in your larder (see recipes below).
- ALWAYS SAVE LEFTOVERS FROM EVENING MEALS – Lunch doesn’t get much easier than eating leftovers from the night before’s meal, or even a meal from a day or two earlier. Sometimes I store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days as I don’t particularly always wish to eat the same lunch the next day as I had for dinner the evening before. But, most plant based leftovers do actually last 3 days when chilled, and that seems to be the amount of time I assign to everything these days now that I don’t have t worry about meat and dairy going rancid quickly. I’m not saying you should use leftovers in the sense of scraping food of your plate(eew), it’s more a case of deliberately making extra, or even batch cooking so you can either freeze portions up or refrigerate. Dishes that batch cook easily are: pasta, rice, chilis, stews, soups, homemade falafel, burgers, hummus and salads (leave dressing off until needed though).
Top 15 Plant Based Lunch Ideas
This list comprises mostly of transportable lunches, but does also offer some fast and easy alternatives that you will need a kitchen to prepare in. So, take your pick!
1. Black Bean Wrap
Here’s a great lunch that’s simple to prepare and easy to transport, as you can just wrap it up tightly in some cling film/tin foil and it will keep its shape great.
This wrap is comprised of highly nutritious black beans, corn, and avocado and olives for healthy fats, thus making for a low GI and filling lunch. Eating low GI foods (which is a rating system for how fast a foods sugars hit the bloodstream) means a slow burn of energy, which in turn will help stop you from craving carbs come mid-afternoon. Winner, winner nut roast dinner!
2. Super Healthy Mediterranean Bowl
This super healthy buddha bowl takes but 5 minutes to prepare, and can easily be transported in a lunchbox or any other suitable container (a mason jar would be good for this).
It’s full of protein rich chickpeas, quinoa – which is high in protein, essential fatty acids AND has a complete amino acid profile (something that is vital for plant based and vegan eaters). It also has lots of other antioxidant rich foods, such as skin friendly parsley, lycopene rich tomatoes, and detoxifying cucumber.
3. Pasta with Roasted Peppers, Artichoke and Olive
Here’s a great lunch that is just perfect when you know you are going to be burning off extra calories, such as in a physical job or a gym session. But you shouldn’t feel you can’t eat this dish if you’re sedentary, of course not – we all need carbs for energy, I just mean it’s high in calories so you should most definitely be eating this sort of food if you’re active.
However, to make it healthier still, and also higher protein, you could swap out the refined white pasta for wholegrain, buckwheat, lentil or chickpea pasta, that way you will also lower the meal’s GI for more a more sustained energy release.
This would also be an easy dinner to serve up in the evening – just be sure to make double portions so you have a couple of ready made lunches for the week too!
4. Healthy Green Falafel
Falafel is always a healthy lunch option as it is, but this version is even better as it contains collard greens (or you may call this Swiss chard depending on where you live).
Swiss chard is one of the healthiest greens due to it’s high levels of potassium, magnesium and calcium. Eating lots of calcium rich foods is crucial on a plant based diet as it helps keep bones, teeth, heart and nerves healthy.
The chickpeas in this dish give it a high protein content – another thing you need to be mindful of whilst eating plant based. You can easily make this dish whole foods plant based by simply omitting the oil and then dry fying in a non-stick pan.
5. Coconut, Lime and Quinoa Salad
Eat a rainbow they say!Well, with this dish you will most certainly be doing that. Just look at all those amazing, brightly coloured fruits and veggies. You’ve got it all in here; along with healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and also plenty of protein and omega 3’s from superfood status quinoa.
If I were making this, I’d make a big batch and store it in the fridge for the day’s ahead too. Just probably don’t add the dressing until you need it and it should stay pretty fresh.
This is also an easily transportable dish for work or school.
6. Spicy Black Bean Soup
What can I say? If it’s winter then you will want to have a pot of this amazing soup bubbling away on the stove to warm those cockles. And this soup is another level as it’s crammed full of antioxidant rich veggies, with just a hint of chilli for warmth (of course you can omit this if you’re not a fan).
Black beans also happen to be one of the most nutritious beans, and contain fiber, folate, magnesium, iron and plant based calcium.
7. Vegetable Fried Rice
If you’re home for your lunch, then this is the perfect nutritious meal that will keep you going until dinner and also power you through a work-out if need be.
The great thing about this dish is it can be knocked up in 15 minutes, and you can pretty much use any vegetables you like. I would probably keep the edamame beans for extra protein, but failing that you could use frozen peas instead.
8. Tenderstem Broccoli and Soba Noodles
As soon as I saw this I knew it was right up my alley. Ever since I lived in Detford, London, I have had a passion for anything with noodles and veggies, mostly due to eating out often at the many Vietnamese restaurants in the area. Honestly, it’s the one food I have never gotten bored of, and I’m usually easily bored when it comes to food.
If you you use buckwheat soba noodles, then you are looking at a very high protein dish. Buckwheat is one of the few plant foods that contains a complete amino acid profile, so you should add it to you diet often along with these other complete protein foods.
Tenderstem broccoli is the King of broccoli, and contains more phosphorus, manganese and calcium than your average stuff. You can also eat the whole stem for added nutrition, hence the name ‘tenderstem’.
9. Vegan Mince and Vegetable Pasties
Ok, I know this recipe takes a bit of work, and usually I only post quick and simple recipes, but I just had to make an exception when I saw this one. One thing I miss (maybe it’s because I’m a Brit) is a pasty, and the classic mince beef and veggie variety was always my number one favorite… but, now a vegan version has arrived.
If you’re going to go to the effort of making these, then be sure to make a BIG batch and freeze what you don’t use for another time. These can also just as easily be eaten as a dinner with veggies as they can be taken to work cold for lunch.
10. Tortilla or Spanish Omelette
It doesn’t get much more tasty OR simple as this plant based Spanish omelette. OMG and it’s so tasty, especially with a green salad on the side.
This dish is basically potatoes and gram flour (or chickpea flour, which is the same thing) and it’s the simplicity of the ingredients that makes it so delicious. You can make a big one tortilla in advance, and eat it either warm or cold throughout the week. It’s also easy to wrap up and take to work or school.
11. Farmer’s Market Sandwich
Never has a sandwich been more simple, yet still so delicious and healthy!
All you need for this bad boy is a mix of any salad and veggies you have in your fridge, and that’s pretty much it! This recipe calls for vegan pesto for spreading on the bread (which it needs), but you could just as easily and tastily use hummus or vegan cheese and pickle if you want more of a Ploughman’s type lunch.
12. Smashed Avocado and Chickpea Sandwich
This delicious high protein avocado and cheickpea sandwich is another ideal lunchbox go to, and probably something the kids will love too.
I always like to use a wholegrain type bread for all my sandwiches, as it’s more filling and the complex carbohydrates will make it lower GI, thus making you less likely to snack again before dinner. You can get all types of great breads these days, including sourdoughs, which are often oil-free with no added preservatives or other nasty ingredients.
13. Sweet Potato and Grilled Cheese Toasted Sandwich
When I first had sweet potato in a sandwich, I was initially freaked out. I mean, how can potato work in a sandwich? Isn’t that just carbs on carbs? Turns out, it was one of the most delicious toasties I have ever had, and the sweet potato worked so well in both flavour and texture that I’ve been back many times for more.
It’s also pretty awesome on the health front too as sweet potato is full of beta-carotene and plant based calcium, and the greens, of course, are just plain healthy as we all know. In fact, we should ALL be getting more green leafy veg into our diets, plant based or not, and here are some great ways to make greens palatable to anybody.
Eating a healthy lunch will help power you through your afternoons without the need for snacking, so be sure to make this meal count nutrition wise if you wish to stay alert and have all the energy you need for a busy afternoon ahead.
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Have a wicked plant based life!