Lunch will forever be the highlight of my workday. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good brainstorm sesh, collaborating with co-workers, and checking all the things off my to-do list. But if I’m being honest, there’s nothing like giving my brain a break in the middle of the day and taking a little time to connect with some nourishing food. When I lived in Paris, I was always amazed to see cafés crowded during the lunch hour. Professionals of every age and pay grade would gather for sit-down meals with real silverware, actual tablecloths, and yes, wine. Coming from the work-hard, the play-hard mindset of the States, the concept of taking a looong break in the middle of the day was mind-blowing. But since then, I’ve vowed that no matter how busy I get, I’ll always give myself at least 30 minutes every day to recharge with healthy lunches that are perfect for work.
While I’m very aware of the many diverse challenges the past two years have brought, I’ve also prioritized being mindful of the opportunities that have come with the shift in lifestyle. Working from home, I’m fully responsible for how I structure my day. Not every day is perfect, of course, but in an ideal world, I’m making time for three things: movement, rest, and connection. You can define what these look like for yourself, but for me, I’m moving my body first thing, signing off at a reasonable time, and giving myself a little space in the middle of the day for a healthy and supportive meal. As with everything I bring into my life, I want to feel inspired by my food. I’m talking about color, I’m prioritizing flavor, and I’m focusing on packing my plate with all the nutrient-filled foods.
Don’t get me wrong: Some days, I have to turn my camera off and scarf down my salad during a meeting. But more often than not, I’m following the intention to mindfully enjoy my meals. So whatever your weekday looks like, keep scrolling for all the inspiring recipes that’ll help you sit down, take a deep breath, and dig in with joy.
Coconut Curry Lentil Soup With Kale from From My Bowl
Why We Love It: When the flavors of curry come together with the coziness of soup, nothing can beat it. We love a good lentil soup recipe around here. The legume lets vegans, vegetarians, and healthy eaters of all stripes enjoy some hearty plant-based protein. Stirred together with sweet potato, kale, and a whole medley of warming spices, the result is cozy, comfort food bliss.
Hero Ingredient: The shiitake mushrooms stand in as a satisfying meat substitute while also offering up a burst of umami flavor.
Vegan Butternut Squash Soup
Why We Love It: Y’all know I love soup, and the reasons are obvious. It’s easy to make in big batches to last you throughout the week and you can pack plenty of veggies into one single serving. This plant-based soup is my go-to for any time I need a reset (be it post-holidays or otherwise). While being undeniably good for you, it’s also just about the furthest thing from a cleanse. It’s luscious, creamy, and has loads of complex flavor. In other words, the perfect soup.
Hero Ingredient: Creamy without any cream in sight? Coconut milk makes it possible.
Black Lentil Salad With Roasted Vegetables & Goat Cheese
Why We Love It: How far we’ve come in our relationship to salads. Remember the days of limp lettuces (of the iceberg variety), flavorless dressings, and stale croutons? Yikes. It’s 2022, and we deserve to ask more from our salads. This recipe definitely delivers. Roasting your veggies ahead of time makes it easy to assemble on the fly and the lentils will keep you energized and full until dinner.
Hero Ingredient: Drizzling a little honey over your roasted veggies highlights their natural, caramelized sweetness.
Mandarin Chicken Salad from Downshiftology
Why We Love It: This recipe is chicken salad, transformed. I love the variety of flavors and textures I get from every forkful. The mixture of citrus, creamy avocado, fresh greens, and the juiciest chicken is unbelievably satisfying. While it’s nothing groundbreaking, this salad’s delicious simplicity is what really lets it stand out and shine.
Hero Ingredient: Try lightly toasting the slivered almonds in a dry pan. It’ll bring out their natural nuttiness even more and you can’t compete with the crunch. Trust me, you’ll be happy you put in a little extra effort.
Blackened Tempeh Salad from Eating Bird Food
Why We Love It: If I had to rank my favorite plant-based protein sources, tempeh would be at the top of my list. It has a distinctly nutty flavor and offers more texture than tofu. Plus, it’ll soak up all the goodness of any marinade. In this recipe, the blackened tempeh comes together with a mixture of maple syrup, paprika, oregano, cayenne, avocado oil, and sea salt. It’s the perfect topper to the salad’s colorful array of veggies and quinoa.
Hero Ingredient: The Citrus Tahini Dressing is fire, and it’s the orange zest and juice combo that gives it all the flavor.
Sandwiches & Wraps
Lettuce Wrapped Thai Chicken Burger
Why We Love It: The idea of a lightened-up burger used to confuse me. I mean, if I want a burger, I better go all in, right? I carried that mindset all the way through my early twenties until this recipe entered my life (and completely changed my lunchtime routine). If you eat meat, chicken is a great protein to opt for when you don’t want to feel weighed down by your meal. And while this recipe makes a great weekday lunch, it’ll also hold its own at your next burger night.
Hero Ingredient: This recipe is all about the herbs and spices. A mix of cilantro, mint, and curry powder brings a little heat that goes a long way.
Collard Wraps from Ambitious Kitchen
Why We Love It: My life changed the moment I learned to make collard wraps. When I make a wrap, I go big, and I want something that can stand up to all of my favorite fillings without falling apart in my hands. Collards are tough and crunchy, making them the ideal leafy green for your lunch. If you’re gluten-free, taking a break from the grains, or just want a way to work a little more of the green stuff into your daily meals, here’s your answer.
Hero Ingredient: This is more of a template than a recipe, but if you have to choose from any of the suggested fillings, I’d recommend the Roasted Carrot Cauliflower Quinoa Salad. It’s sweet, salty, and fresh—basically the perfect match for your collard wrap.
Chicken Lettuce Wraps from The Recipe Critic
Why We Love It: For years, any lettuce wrap recipe I came across would conjure up memories of The South Beach Diet books that used to crowd all of our shelves. Thankfully, our lettuce wraps have come a long way. Nowadays, they’re more about getting our greens than canceling carbs. These wraps are light, fresh, but unbelievably filling. Oh, and they couldn’t be any easier to throw together.
Hero Ingredient: Sriracha gives the sauce a little sour heat that coats your chicken with a bright and beautiful flavor.
Rainbow Roll-Ups With Peanut Sauce from Pinch of Yum
Why We Love It: Any recipe with “rainbow” in the title will immediately pique my interest. I love when my meals are full of inspiring colors, and I know that vibrancy will translate to amazing flavors, too. These roll-ups include an entire spectrum of hues: carrots, red cabbage, dark leafy greens, and curry hummus. Because your food should always look as good as its tastes.
Hero Ingredient: This is hands down the best peanut sauce you’ll ever put on anything. Dip dip, hooray.
Vegan Egg Salad from Love & Lemons
Why We Love It: Egg salad can be polarizing. Some people love it, some people hate it, and some folks love to hate on it. I’m an egg salad lover through and through, and this is the recipe I turn to when I want a plant-based take on the classic. I love the color and bit of spice it gets from turmeric and mustard. If you’re ever worried about your egg salad getting gloppy, know that this recipe will never let you down.
Hero Ingredient: Tiny but mighty, capers bring a pop of bright, briny flavor that makes this recipe really stand out.
Herby Kale Rice Bowl
Why We Love It: I live for recipes that not only help me get my greens but let me use up produce that’s on its way out. Always the brilliant recipe creator, our food editor, Suruchi, uses this recipe to highlight one of her favorite waste-reducing hacks: kale cubes! Blanch your greens, blend with herbs and olive oil and pour into an ice cube tray for a boost of easy, whenever-you-need it, nourishment.
Hero Ingredient: Whether it’s leftover from another meal or just prepped in advance, it’s not the easiest-ever rice bowl without the rice.
Meal Prep Week-Long Power Bowls from Oh She Glows
Why We Love It: I’m a long-time bowl lover and this template for meal-prepped power bowls has only intensified the love affair. It takes the concept of complex meal prepping and turns it on its head. This recipe supplies you with a few quick and easy steps you can do Sunday afternoon for a healthy, nourishing lunch all throughout the workweek. Roast your veggies, cook a grain, chop a few more ingredients, and fill your fridge with toppings you can add on the fly. Assemble and enjoy.
Hero Ingredient: While you’re free to mix and match ingredients as you please, I’m a passionate supporter of topping every lunch bowl with ripe and creamy avocado.
Green Goddess Fig Nourish Bowls from Cotter Crunch
Why We Love It: Growing up in northern New Hampshire, finding fresh and flavorful figs was, of course, impossible. As a result, I fell hard for dried figs from a very early age. Like any dried fruit, the flavor and sweetness are super concentrated, making it the perfect healthy indulgence. In this recipe, they beautifully balance the herb-packed dressing and loads of greens you’ll get in every bite.
Hero Ingredient: There’s green goddess dressing, then there’s this vegan, full-of-healthy-fats green goddess dressing. It’s vibrant, keeps well, and is totally addictive. Get ready to put it on everything.
Vegan Sushi Rice Bowl With Sesame Soy Dressing from Jessica in the Kitchen
Why We Love It: Sushi is one of my favorite meals out. I love mixing and matching my rolls with friends, and it’s relatively easy to get a lot of good stuff while still enjoying a lunch or dinner out of the house. And while you can totally make your own sushi at home, sometimes, you want all of the flavors without any of the work. Enter: this recipe. It has all the components of your go-to sushi order while still giving you the freedom to change it up as you please. Colorful, crave-worthy, and endlessly customizable.
Hero Ingredient: Sushi ginger is the subtle, little bit of spice that completes every sushi roll. And just because it’s in a bowl doesn’t make this recipe any different.
Spicy Tofu Banh Mí Bowl
Why We Love It: My favorite sandwich, in bowl form. Seriously, it has everything: crusty baguette, pickled veggies, and the best-tasting tofu you’ve ever tucked into a bowl. A truly transformative lunch awaits.
Hero Ingredient: Sautéeing your tofu with lemongrass gives it a light and fresh flavor.
Which recipes will you be adding to your lunchtime rotation?
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