Over the school holidays, or any other prolonged period at home, I'm always looking for easy healthy lunch ideas. I want something quick and I'm often relying on store cupboard ingredients. I do sometimes try to get ahead, and have a few things stashed in the freezer (such as these spinach and lentil parcels, and mini quiches). But often I'm looking around for something at the last minute. So here's my top easy healthy lunch ideas, packed with veggies and protein to keep you fuller for longer.
Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition, and are packed with high quality protein and disease fighting antioxidants. They are also very quick to cook, and I always try to have eggs in stock at home as they are so useful. We love poached, boiled and scrambled eggs. However, I'm generally trying to avoid bread, so I try to look for other ways of serving them. Poached eggs in particular are delicious served over vegetables such as asparagus and spinach. Scrambled eggs are lovely alongside a salad of tomatoes, peppers and spinach, or leftover courgettes in tomato sauce . However, if you are looking for a very quick bread option, 15 minute flatbreads are great for dipping into runny yolks. And of course, hard boiled eggs are perfect for a salad or a picnic, and travel well.
If you've got a jar of pesto and some stock, you could also try this egg drop pesto soup recipe. It's ready in just 10 minutes, so if you're starving and need something quick, this is a great option. Combining eggs with soup adds protein, which will help to stave off hunger pangs a couple of hours later. Or you could add some chopped hard boiled egg to soup as a garnish.
And of course an omelette, oozing with melted cheese makes a substantial lunch. Or try shakshuka which is eggs cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Add a teaspoon of mild curry powder to this healthy tomato sauce recipe, break the eggs into the sauce, and cook for a few minutes to your liking.
Tinned beans are a brilliant store cupboard item, and great for an easy, healthy lunch idea. Whilst I do sometimes cook up a big bag of beans in the slow cooker, and freeze them in portions, I very often use canned beans. This recipe for healthy baked beans uses either canned or home-cooked beans, and makes a delicious healthy lunch. Serve in a bowl with 15 minute flatbreads. Or pop some frozen green beans in a pan to cook, add some haricot beans and a fresh lemony dressing, and you'll have yourself a tasty filling lunch. You can also enjoy butter beans in this quick butter bean hummus recipe.
Tinned fish is another great easy, healthy lunch idea. Mackerel, pilchards, sardines and salmon contain as much omega 3 as fresh fish. It's a easy way to slip an extra portion of oily fish into your diet. You can transform a tin of mackerel into quick and healthy mackerel pate in a couple of minutes. Serve on oatcakes or wholemeal crackers with some salad on the side. And with a few salad greens, some frozen green beans and maybe a hard-boiled egg, a tin of tuna can be turned into a delicious salad nicoise. Tinned salmon with salad or baked potato is also a great way of adding some extra omega 3 oils to your diet. And if you've got a tin of sweetcorn as well as tuna, these tuna and sweetcorn fritters make a filling lunchtime option.
Hummus makes a quick easy healthy lunch
Hummus can turn a few salad ingredients into something delicious in the space of a few minutes. If you don't want to serve it as a dip, blitz it with a little water to make a thick dressing to tip over your salad. Add a few peanuts, or roast chickpeas for extra crunch and protein. Chickpeas are a great source of plant protein, fibre and folic acid.
Waldolf salad - a perfect, easy healthy lunch
Waldolf salad is a firm favourite in our house. It makes a light, fresh, yet substantial, easy, healthy lunch. Thin some mayonnaise with a little olive oil (it makes it healthier as well as easier to mix). Add chopped celery, apple, walnuts and a few sultanas. Whilst not traditional, chunks of cheddar cheese make this salad even more delicious and filling, as does a can of tuna. See the full waldorf salad recipe, which uses a mayo free yogurt dressing.
If you've got a few veggies and some stock, you can quickly make ramen noodles. Cook the veggies in the seasoned stock, and add your noodles for the final 5 minutes. Top with a hard boiled egg, or leftover chicken or pork.
Baked sweet potatoes
Baked potatoes take a while to cook, but need very little hands-on time and are super easy and filling. Try baking sweet potatoes in the slow cooker rather than having the oven going. It means you can go out whilst they are cooking, and it's also more energy efficient. In my slow cooker, they take around 2.5 - 3 hours to cook, so you'll need to remember to put them on in plenty of time. You don't need to add any water, just place the potatoes directly on the base of the slow cooker pot. When they are cooked, serve with cheese, baked beans or tuna mayonnaise. You could use white potatoes instead, but sweet potatoes have a lovely flavour and count as one of your five a day.
Lentil salad - another easy healthy lunch
As lentils take about 30 minutes to cook, I often cook a large batch and freeze them in small portions. Green, brown or Puy Lentils are lovely in a salad. But red lentils are not so good as they'll go mushy. Make a fresh herby salad with spinach, rocket, sorrel, parsley, or whatever you have on hand. Add grated carrot, lentils and a balsamic and oil dressing. Top with some salty parmesan if you have some. See here for a balsamic lentil salad recipe.
On a chilly day, it's lovely to have a bowl of hot soup. It's a perfect easy, healthy lunch. It'll add lots of extra veggies to your diet, as well as being warm and filling. Red lentil soup and hearty vegetable soup with rice are both a substantial meal. Or try carrot and apple or healthy green soup, with a side of cheese, nuts or roast chickpeas. You can find more healthy soup recipes here.
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Do you have any other favourite quick healthy lunches? If so, please do share them in the comments below.