Breakfast often gets a lot of hype as the most important meal of the day, but anyone looking to be healthier shouldn’t discount the importance of lunch. Too many people make poor choices at lunch, picking up high-fat fast food or carb-heavy foods like sub sandwiches. This might give a quick boost of energy, but you’ll soon hit the mid-afternoon slump and start craving the junk food in the vending machines.
Whether you’re following a strict low-carb diet or just want to limit the amount of refined carbohydrates you’re eating, it’s smart to plan a healthy, low-carb lunch. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that eating low-carb means eating nothing but meat. We’ve prepared a wide selection of meals that will tantalize your taste buds and provide you with the energy you need to make it through to dinner.
Don’t Go Hungry – Fuel Your Body with these 50 Low Carb Lunch Ideas
1. Caprese Avocado Salad
What can go wrong when you combine tomatoes, mozzarella and avocados? The diced chicken included in this delicious salad makes it hearty enough to call a meal, and the balsamic dressing makes it feel a lot lighter than something with a heavy dressing. You won’t miss that creaminess with the avocado, which adds plenty of the “good fats” to the meal. This meal works best when you’re eating at home, but if you want to take it on-the-go, toss the avocado with a bit of lemon juice to avoid browning and keep the dressing separate until you’re ready to eat.
2. Shrimp & Cauliflower Salad
Pasta is high in carbohydrates and can make you feel sluggish soon after you eat. This unique shrimp salad uses finely chopped and lightly cooked cauliflower in place off the orzo that you might normally use in a lunchtime salad. Shrimp adds protein to the meal to keep you feeling full. Since cauliflower is so low in calories, you can eat as much of this salad as you want without feeling any of the guilt you’d feel over eating copious amounts of orzo salad.
3. Vegetable Stir Fry with Broccoli, Carrots, and Cauliflower
If you’re craving Chinese food, but don’t want all the fat and calories that come in the typical take-out box, you’ll be surprised how easy it can be to make this yourself. This version uses healthy ingredients along with a secret ingredient – corn starch. That helps to thicken up the sauce to the right consistency. With such a large helping of vegetables, you’ll definitely feel full. Keep this low-carb by eating it on its own, serving alongside “rice” made from cauliflower or with “noodles” made from zucchini.
4. 15-Minute Zucchini Pasta with Poached Eggs and Quick Heirloom Cherry Tomato Basil Sauce
If you’re looking for a way to make use of the summer’s bounty coming from your garden – or the local farmer’s market – look no further than this simple dish. Though the recipe here calls for a mixture of pasta and spiralized zucchini, you can make it low-carb by leaving out the pasta and increasing the amount of zucchini you use. The sauce has a delightful summer taste that might have you licking your plate clean. Adding a poached egg to the dish helps increase the amount of protein, but the dish could be vegan if you leave out the egg.
5. California Turkey and Bacon Lettuce Wraps
When you find yourself craving the typical lunchtime sandwich but you know you’ll feel better having a carb free lunch, make this great little sandwich wrap. With a basil-mayonnaise dressing, your mouth will be so surprised, you won’t even miss the bread. The key to success with this wrap is to carefully layer all of the ingredients, then roll them all together.
6. Shawarma Chicken Bowls with Basil-Lemon Vinaigrette
If a salad doesn’t seem like a hearty enough low-carb lunch, think about this chicken bowl instead. It has all of the ingredients you’d typically expect in a salad – lettuce, tomatoes, avocado – but the amount of chicken is a bit amped up. Basil-lemon vinaigrette gives the dish an unexpected flavor, while the chicken provides a lot of protein and the veggies provide the fiber your body needs. Serving the chicken warm on a bed of cold vegetables makes for a unique experience as well.
7. Portabella and Halloumi “Burgers”
For obvious reasons, many low-carb lunch recipes rely on a hefty serving of meat, and a lot of vegetarian recipes try to emulate the taste of meat. This recipe idea turns all of those ideas upside down. Due to its meaty texture, portabella mushrooms often take the place of hamburgers in a vegetarian burger. However, this recipe uses the mushroom as the bun. With the halloumi cheese and tomatoes in the middle, you’ve got a great tasting “burger”. Consider eating it with a fork, though, as it’s bound to get a little bit messy.
8. Oh My Gosh, Spaghetti Squash
Spaghetti squash is a staple food for those who follow a low-carb lifestyle with good reason. It’s delicious, packed with vitamins and does a decent job emulating the texture of pasta. It’s good enough to eat roasted on its own, but you’ll feel like royalty when you eat it this way. Kale adds vitamins and minerals while the chickpeas add protein. With a garlicky sauce and the shaved cheese on top, you’re in for a delightful treat.
9. Crispy Peanut Tofu & Cauliflower Rice Stir Fry
The key to making this carb-free lunch perfect is to pre-bake the tofu before adding it to the pan. This helps give it that crunchy-on-the-outside-creamy-on-the-inside feel that you really want with it. The Thai peanut sauce is the perfect partner with tofu cooked this way, and you’ll love that the cauliflower rice makes it uber-healthy.
10. Chicken and Asparagus Lemon Stir Fry
The flavors of chicken and lemon just seem to go together, which is readily apparent in low-carb lunch recipes like this one. Stir-frying the asparagus until just crisp gives it that rich, smoky flavor, and the sauce will thicken up with corn starch. Eat this on its own or with cauliflower rice. Feeling like something a little different? You could also eat this as a wrap using a large lettuce leaf or a store-bought low carb tortilla.