If we could all pack leftover pizza and Pop-Tarts for lunch every day, we’d probably complain about packing lunches a whole lot less. But since that wouldn’t be exactly, well, “healthy,” we reached out to Philadelphia-area nutritionists to find out what they pack for lunch. Spoiler alert: lean proteins and vegetables are pretty popular. But if your packed lunches need a little inspiration, look no further than the healthy, nutritionist-approved options below.
Photograph courtesy Theresa Shank.
What’s in it: Salad topped with five ounces of salmon, avocado, broccoli, tomatoes, and peppers
Why it’s great: “I usually make lunch my largest meal of the day since I could be working with clients until 8 p.m. in the evening. I look to put together a lunch combo that consists mostly of veggies (a bed of arugula or kale topped with at least three different cooked or raw vegetables), a good source of protein (five ounces of chicken, tuna, turkey or salmon) and a serving of healthy fat (avocado, nuts, seeds or hummus). For a kick of flavor I’ll use either primal kitchen salad dressing or hot sauce. This combo helps stabilize my blood sugars so I’m not feeling sluggish after lunch and crashing before my late afternoon snack.” – Theresa Shank, registered dietitian of Philly Dietitian
Vegan Sweet Potato Quinoa Crock Pot Chili
Photograph courtesy Katelan Glutz.
What’s in it: Sweet potato, red onion, bell pepper, garlic, black beans, tomato paste, vegetable broth, quinoa, hot sauce, spices
Why it’s great: Nutritionist Katelan Glutz of OnPoint Nutrition can whip up a crock pot on the weekend, then divide it into lunch servings for the week. You know what that means? No rushing to make a lunch five minutes before you’re headed out door! And as a vegan, this chili allows her to get in some plant-based protein with the quinoa, along with lots of veggies.
Chicken with Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Photograph courtesy Angela Luciani.
What’s in it: Baked chicken with sautéed Brussels sprouts and butternut squash
Why it’s great: “This meal was quick and took less than 20 minutes to make! The protein in my meal aids in repairing and rebuilding muscle, especially after tough morning workouts. I added the butternut squash for color and as a source of carbs in addition to the Brussels sprouts for fiber to help keep me feeling full. The other items are snacks that I eat throughout the day that incorporate a combo of protein and carbs for the same idea.” – Angela Luciani, registered dietitian of Rittenhouse Women’s Wellness Center
Sesame Soy Ginger Cooked Cabbage with Edamame and Quinoa
Photograph courtesy Kelly Strogen.
What’s in it: Cooked cabbage, onions, and Swiss chard with edamame and quinoa, flavored with Trader Joe’s sesame soy ginger vinaigrette and sesame oil.
Why it’s great: “I’m pretty sure I have never bought lunch at work since it is so much cheaper and healthier to make my own. My go-to is a lunch bowl consisting of a grain (usually half a cup of cooked quinoa, farro, or barley) plus three ounces of protein (chicken, tuna, turkey, or edamame/beans), several cups of veggies (cooked and/or raw), and usually some slices of avocado. I mix up variety by adding different flavoring agents (plain Greek yogurt and salsa, tzatziki sauce, a good balsamic vinegar, or a low-sugar stir fry sauce, etc.). I make several of these bowls on a Sunday afternoon so that I can just grab them throughout the week.” – Kelly Strogen, registered dietitian of Wayne Nutrition
Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
Photography courtesy Brittany Kennedy.
What’s in it: Chickpeas, garlic, cucumber, Roma tomatoes, feta cheese, red onion, parsley, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper, and chicken sautéed in canola oil
Why it’s great: “For lunch I try to make sure I hit my three major macronutrients within each meal—some kind of protein, some kind of carbohydrate, some sort of fat—and an adequate kind of vegetables. I’m a lover of all things chicken. I usually try to not make a salad out of it, but I try to get vegetables with it. I’ll mix the chicken with tomatoes, cucumbers, vegetables, chickpeas, and then I’ll usually season it with olive oil, a little bit of oregano and parsley, and then some feta cheese.” — Brittany Kennedy, nutritionist and founder of OnPoint Nutrition
Chicken, Green Beans, and Quinoa
Photograph courtesy Sheena Pradhan.
What’s in it: Rosemary-garlic chicken, string beans, and quinoa
Why it’s great: “I run two companies and often am away from my apartment all day, so I like to take both a lunch and dinner meal with me. Today I only have an apple for a snack, but on an ideal day, I would also have a source of protein (trail mix, nuts, peanut butter, etc.). My lunch and dinner meals are leftovers from the meal prep delivery company that I run, Bodybuilder Kitchen. The meals consist of rosemary-garlic chicken, string beans, and quinoa.” – Sheena Pradhan, registered dietitian-nutritionist of Nutritious Balance