Healthy Lunch Ideas


It is Sunday afternoon, and I am on my computer looking for ideas. What are some healthy lunch ideas for the week? I can tell you one thing: if I don’t prepare for this week’s lunches today, we’ll either go hungry, or, well, I guess that’s it. We’ll go hungry, because we don’t keep crap food in our house.

But we keep easy, yummy food on hand to help. Some of our favorites include pasta, marinara, cheesy cashew dip, lentil chips, salsa, blue corn chips, Beanitos pinto beans and flax chips, and vegetables cut into snack-friendly sticks. A “must have” mid morning snack at our house are Boundless Nutrition’s Oatmega bars. A delicious, decadent treat is the Coco Loco spread…Mmmmm….

The Quest for Easy, Grab and Go Ideas

Typically, I write a post AFTER I’ve had some sort of breakthrough. Researching the answers to questions I have about eating healthy, fitting exercise into a busy schedule, or eliminating toxins and medications is my favorite way to start a post, not finish it.

Today I’m working backwards. Last week I was hungry most of the week because I neglected washing vegetables, cutting them up, cooking for the week, and portioning everything out to stock our fridge so we could have easy, grab-and-go, healthy food.

When I’m done with this post it will serve as an actual, working copy of my “to do” list today to help us eat healthier (and more abundantly) this week.

I thought I’d let you in on my process.

Sunday To Do List: The Process

This week, I thought it might nice for us to have food to eat all week. I know for a fact that the only way to meet this need is for me to do the following:

1. Create Finished Food Lists

This is where I go through recipes and find foods that “fit the bill.” The foods must

  • Be portionable: I need to be able to put them into single-serving plastic containers or baggies (which we get at Costco).
  • Keep safely: It must not spoil in 4 hours while it sits in a bag, waiting to be eaten. Please don’t use any of my lists as an “approved list of foods that keep at room temperature for 4 hours.” For as many professionals as there are in the world, there are almost as many interpretations of safe food keeping. Please do your research. I judge based on how cold the food is when it is packed, we keep it in a cool, dark place, and eat within 4 hours.
  • Not be too messy: After all, I’ll be eating at my desk, Duane and Alex will be eating at a job site, and Miranda will be eating at school (well, not now, but usually)
  • Be delicious and look good: or at least an attempt at something amazing.

So – what foods do I need?

  • High protein foods (Goal: 3 different proteins) – Nuts don’t count on my list, because they are always on hand, and a “back up”. If they did count, I’d have a goal of 4 or 5 high protein foods on this list.
  • Main Course Dishes (Goal: 3 different main courses) – These are perceived as a “main course”.  This is typically dinner ideas for “fast food” in a pinch.
  • Salads (Goal: 2 salads)
  • Soup (Goal 1 soup)

2. Make a Grocery List

  • Go through “Staples” (if you’d like a copy of what we consider “must have staples,” sign up for our e-mail list).
  • Add anything needed from recipes for the “Finished Food List”
  • Vegetables! 3+ green vegetables, Carrots, Celery, kale, onions, garlic, cilantro, plus anything else that looks pretty and doesn’t cost much. We also want to have at least 3 bags of plain, frozen, green vegetables in the freezer (we always have Brussels sprouts and one other vegetable). Other than our “must haves,” I avoid a specific list of vegetables so I’m free to buy what really looks good and is most affordable – this usually means we’re getting produce that is in season.
  • Fruit: Berries and 1 or 2 vegetables that look pretty and don’t cost much.  Lemons and limes are musts.
  • Beverage MUST HAVES: water, lemonade (so much sugar, I know, but my family loves it, and they eat so well otherwise – and it’s not the cheap kind, so the amount everyone drinks is limited), coconut water, almond milk

3. Go Grocery Shopping

Before I shop, I have to remember to grab the cash from our “groceries” envelope from our budget. If you are on the “envelope system”, you’ll understand what I mean. We are still getting in that habit, so that’s why it’s on this “to do” list.

4. Wash Vegetables

If I don’t wash those babies as soon as I walk in the door, they are unlikely to be 100% eaten before they spoil. The family *may* eat 50-75% (still not good enough for me, when I know what I need to get to 100%).

This is my process:

  • Wash the sink out.Healthy Lunch Ideas - Prepping Vegetables
  • Lay towels all over the counters.
  • Fill the sink with cold water and a drop of non-toxic, health-friendly dish soap.
  • Set my vegetable basket in the empty sink (straining basket)
  • Put out my chef’s knife and cutting board
  • Put out a large bowl for trimmings
  • Set out a pan for “dog safe*” trimmings
  • Toss most vegetables that can be soaked into the sink, and wash other fruits and vegetables in the strainer. I don’t soak celery, bell peppers, and other vegetables that can rapidly soak up the soap water.
  • Scrub and rinse soaking vegetables
  • Everything sits on the towels to dry while I do the following:
    • Take all left overs out of the fridge
    • Throw out the gross stuff
    • Chop questionable vegetables, throw them on a cookie sheet that I cover with aluminum foil, add onions, garlic, and jalapeno, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt/pepper, and roast (uncovered) at 425 degrees until edges of vegetables are brown
    • Throw questionable fruit into the blender, add coconut milk and a half – or whole – banana – for a yummy smoothie for the family.
  • Cook, cool, blend, and store the dog food vegetables.
*We feed our dogs real food, so I cook up (overcook) greens and trimmings from dog-safe vegetables to be mixed with other stuff throughout the week to feed to our dogs. It’s unbelievable how eating real food has helped our dogs – even (I believe) saved the life of our 10 year-old, large, mixed-breed dog.

5. Cook

  • Make the salads
  • Make the soup
  • Prepare (either cook, or prepare for on-the-go cooking) Main Dishes
  • Ask Alex to make rice – he’s the only one in the house who can manage to cook brown rice properly – don’t ask me why, but why fight it?

6. PortionHealthy Lunch Ideas - Prepping

Time to grab the portion sized totes and plastic baggies to pack it all up and stock up that fridge!! Oh, how beautiful that fridge will look.

 7. Kick Back

The only thing on my agenda for Sunday night is our Small Group, and nothing else. After preparing food for the week, I’m usually pretty wiped out, but I love to first bask in the beautiful feeling of knowing there is a beautiful abundance of delicious, healthy food to fuel us for the week. I love the feeling of knowing my family is going to have energy, be in a much better mood, and look bright and shiny-eyed because their bodies have the right fuel.

If you go to the trouble of prepping food for the week like this, really take a moment to look at what you’ve done, smile, close your eyes, and take it in.

Three days later, I’m going to have to do a mini version of this, so having that moment of blissfully taking it all in will encourage me when my brain tells me I’m too tired to do it Wednesday or Thursday night.

What’s on the Finished Food List?

The fact is that our Healthy Lunch Ideas actually feed us throughout the day – even for dinner. Eating healthy shouldn’t annoy us – it’s such a blessing to be able to fuel ourselves. It’s about what the REST of our life feels like, not what it feels like to eat.

Or, conversely, if we want to celebrate (or are feeling blue), having some things in our fridge or pantry that we are excited to eat will quench that urge. Whether they are foods that are healthy or unhealthy is our own choice.

Hopefully you are finding ideas that will empower you to take action and get foods in your kitchen that are healthy AND that you are excited to eat. Then, when you open the fridge for comfort or celebration, you’ll be happy to grab something that will make your body as happy as it makes your spirit.

I’ll comment below with what I’ll be putting on my Finished Food List. Can you do the same?

Please share your gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free ideas. Links are ok if they are included WITH details (please nothing like, “see this article” – include the detailed suggestion). Thank you so much!

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  1. Hi again! Here is my Finished Food List for this week:

    > Cashew Dip (we’ll eat it with cut vegetables)
    > Protein bars (we eat Abounding Bar – will be online @ later this month)
    > Quinoa – I’ll cook it up so the kids can add the sauce of their choice

    > Meatballs (I’ll cook these up)
    > Deer steak (I’ll prep – clean, season, store ready to cook)
    > Gluten free pasta – I make sure we have 3 servings on hand

    These salads may look a little unorthodox – but remember, I don’t like salad
    > Frisee salad (I’ll post the recipe this week – my favorite salad ever)
    > Curry sauce for dressing and for use on the quinoa (Miranda’s favorite – curry, coconut milk, fresh ginger, olive oil, apple cider vinegar and honey, blended)

    > Miranda’s been asking me to make a healthy cream of broccoli soup. This is the week I’ll give it a shot.

    We have lots of nuts for snacking, and I’ll be sure to get a bunch of vegetables. Pineapples have been cheap and awesome, so they’ll make the grocery list. Oh – and bananas.

    I also picked up some cookie dough ice cream made with coconut, which is a delicious treat. It’s super expensive, so we don’t eat much. Guess what – we don’t want to eat much, anyway, so expensive is perfect!

    I’m excited to see what you’re working on this week for healthy lunch ideas!

  2. OK – so I had two choices, change my mind about what I’ll be making this week and
    1. Edit my comment above
    2. Add a new comment.

    To illustrate a typical Sunday, I decided to add a new comment.

    I am ALSO going to make this Sweet Potato pasta (I’ll substitute the butter, and will use olive oil, coconut oil, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast instead)

    And, instead of my frisee salad, I’m going to make our beet salad, per Miranda’s request.

    Have a great week!

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