As you reach the middle of a busy day, it’s easy to grab anything that will curb your hunger and return to work. With a few simple meal prep ideas for lunch under your belt, you can stick to healthy eating even during stressful times.
Healthy eating doesn't have to be boring or disappointing, you just have to find ways (i.e., substitutes, planning in advance, creating variety) to make meal prepping something that makes your life easier and your taste buds and body thank you. Below are a few simple and healthy recipes, both hot and cold, depending on your preference, to spruce up your lunch hour.
Caprese Chicken Salad Meal Prep Bowls (Cold)
Add a little bit of summer to your lunch with this caprese chicken salad recipe. This recipe has two parts, including separate instructions and ingredients for the balsamic vinegar dressing. A few things to keep in mind when turning a salad into a meal prep lunch: 1) Invest in a condiment container and don’t dress your salad ahead of time to avoid sogginess, and 2) Keep the basil separate from anything wet, adding it fresh if possible.
For the salad, you will need:
3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts 14 oz total
Salt and pepper
3 cups cherry tomatoes halved
1 bunch basil leaves whole but removed from stem
1 cup baby bocconcini
For the dressing, you will need:
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 tsp dijon
Salt and pepper
Cook the quinoa according to the package directions then allow it to cool. Heat your oven to 425°F.
Toss the chicken with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Bake the chicken breasts for 22-28 minutes until cooked through. Allow to rest 5 to 10 minutes before cutting into cubes.
Shake it together with the vinaigrette ingredients. Now, portion out the meal prep bowls with 1/2 chicken breast, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/4 cup bocconcini, 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, and basil leaves. Drizzle with vinaigrette, keeping in mind the previous tip to avoid an accidental soggy salad.
Meal Prep Burrito Bowls (Hot)
This recipe makes delicious and healthy burrito bowls that only take about 30 minutes to complete. A tip to make this extra healthy is to substitute white rice for brown rice or even replace the rice entirely with quinoa.
Burrito bowls are extremely customizable. For instance, you can add veggies or other toppings as you please.
For the chicken:
1 1/4 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lime juice
1 tsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp chili powder
For the cilantro lime rice:
3 cups cooked rice brown or white (or you can use quinoa)
1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Remaining burrito bowl ingredients:
15 oz can black beans drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels thawed from frozen or canned
1 cup fresh salsa
To prepare the marinade, pour the lime juice, olive oil, and water into a large resealable bag. Add the garlic, honey, salt, cumin, smoked paprika, onion powder, and chili powder. Seal the bag and shake it to combine.
Add the chicken to the bag of marinade then seal it and place it in the fridge (marinate at least 30 minutes or up to 8 hours). Preheat a grill, grill pan, or skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook it for 5-6 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Chop the cooked chicken into bite sized pieces.
Place the rice or quinoa in a large bowl. Add the cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat the rice evenly. Divide the rice between 4 meal prep containers. Arrange the chicken, beans, corn, and salsa on top. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to heat and serve!
Chicken and Kale Caesar Wrap (Cold)
Another cold recipe for easy meal prep is this chicken and kale caesar wrap. A good meal prep secret is to constantly have cooked chicken in your freezer, which can last to up to three months. These wraps are filled with veggies and feature a lighter, healthier, and vegetarian version of classic caesar dressing.
The caesar dressing recipe makes about one cup. You will need:
1 cup light mayo
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 tbsp capers
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
The wrap requires:
4 multi-grain wraps
2 chicken breasts
4 slices turkey bacon
1 small red onion, sliced
2 cups kale
Add all caesar dressing ingredients to a blender, food processor, or bowl with an immersion blender and blend until well-combined. Meanwhile, cook the chicken in a large pot of boiling water for 15 minutes. Let it cool then shred it apart with two forks.
At the same time, fry the turkey bacon in a pan on medium to high heat for 5-7 minutes until well cooked. Add 1/2 cup chicken, 1 slice turkey bacon (crumbled), a bit of red onion, and 1/2 cup kale to a large bowl. Toss with about 1/4 cup of the caesar dressing.
Add to the middle of each whole wheat wrap. Fold two edges of the wrap, then roll over with one of the free sides. Squeeze the ingredients inside and roll up into a wrap!
Sweet Potato Chicken Poppers (Hot)
These chicken poppers are gluten-free, paleo, and egg-free, but don’t let that trick you into thinking they’re anything less than delicious! They’re good for you because they include veggies like green onion and sweet potato to provide vitamins, nutrients, and flavor, as well as coconut flour that is grain-free and coconut oil that is a healthy fat.
You will need:
1 lb ground chicken (uncooked)
2 cups uncooked sweet potato, finely grated
2 tbsp coconut oil + 1 tsp for greasing the baking sheet
2 tbsp coconut flour
2-3 sprigs green onion, chopped fine
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Optional: 1 tsp paprika or chili powder
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper that is lightly greased with oil. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and thoroughly mix.
Begin rolling the mixture into small, slightly flattened poppers about one inch in diameter (you’ll have about 20-25 poppers) and place them on the baking sheet. Place them in the oven for 25-28 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Crisp further in a pan or place under the broiler if desired for 1-2 minutes to crisp further. Remove from the oven when thoroughly cooked through. Allow to cool and serve with your favorite sauce!
Whether you’re on the go or have plenty of time to meal prep, these lunch ideas are a great way to add some variety and flavor to your diet!