8 Healthy Lunches Under 500 Calories That Aren't Salads

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The chickpeas on this pizza serve up a healthy dose of plant-based protein.
Image Credit: vaaseenaa/Adobe Stock

If you're looking to shed a few pounds, your meal options may suddenly feel limited. Chances are you think you're confined to bland eats and boring midday meals. Not so. We're here to prove that there's no need to eat a salad for lunch every day if you're trying to lose weight. Yes, really.

Below, eight good-for-you lunch recipes that serve up all the veggies — without confining you to a tired mixed-green salad. Read on for the simple, nutritious meals that look nothing like a #SadDeskLunch, and get ready to hit your health goals.

1. Spiced Hummus Flatbread “Pizza”

  • Calories: 332
  • Fat: 15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 35 grams
  • Protein: 14 grams

We love a weight-loss plan that includes pizza. This recipe gets a nutrient boost from good-for-you ingredients like pulses, a group of plants that includes beans, lentils and peas. The pulses on this pizza? Garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas.

"Hummus contains chickpeas, which are an awesome source of plant-based protein and fiber to fill you up and keep your hunger at bay for hours," says Whitney English, RDN, a Los Angeles-based dietitian and founder of the practice Whitney E. RD.

This flatbread pizza offers up an impressive 14 grams of plant-based protein per serving, about the same amount as two eggs. Opt for a flatbread that's made from whole wheat or whole grains to add extra fiber to this meal, suggests English.

If you aren't feeling a flatbread for lunch, no fear. "I love to use hummus in wraps, sandwiches and even as a salad dressing," English says.

2. Tuna Salad-Stuffed Avocado

This lunch is loaded with healthy fats and fiber.
Image Credit: Vitalina Rybakova/Adobe Stock
  • Calories: 282
  • Fat: 22 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Protein: 14 grams

Looking to load up on good-for-you fats? Consider this awesome avocado upgrade. "This dish is full of healthy fats from avocado, fish and even mayonnaise," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, dietitian and author of The Superfood Swap.

"Avocado is loaded with filling fiber and contains heart-smart monounsaturated fat, while fatty fish like tuna is rich in omega-3 fat, which benefits heart, brain and joint health," Blatner says.

Want more healthy recipes? Download the MyPlate app and get simple, tasty meals and snacks tailored to your nutrition goals.

A December 2017 review published in the International Journal of Molecular Science also noted that omega-3 supplementation may help bolster immune function. The long-chain fatty acid is also thought to positively affect the composition of your gut microbiome.

As for the mayo? Blatner says it's A-OK in moderation. Pro tip: "Mayo isn't usually considered a health food, but when you choose an avocado- or olive oil-based mayonnaise, you'll get a dose of unsaturated, 'good' fat," she says.

3. Mediterranean Zoodles with Creamy Feta Dressing

Add chicken and quinoa to this dish for a protein boost.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative
  • Calories: 212
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 17 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams

"This veggie-heavy lunch is high in protein without any meat, poultry or fish thanks to the Greek yogurt," says Blatner. "Plus, it's low-carb and gluten-free for those who may be avoiding it."

At just over 200 calories, this zoodle bowl is more snack than full-blown lunch. To bulk it up, Blatner recommends turning it into a Greek Chicken Bowl. "Just add a half cup cooked quinoa and one-quarter cup chopped grilled chicken or chickpeas [if you're looking to keep this vegetarian]. Doing so will add about 200 calories, so the meal is still under 500 calories total."

Another option? This Pesto Zucchini Noodle Pasta With Avocado and Soft-Boiled Eggs. It's higher in calories and healthy fats, but is lower in carbs and still clocks in at less than 500 calories.

4. Italian Roast Beef Roll Ups

Swap in grilled chicken for the roast beef to up the health factor on this meal.
Image Credit: Keri Glassman
  • Calories: 360
  • Fat: 15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 17 grams
  • Protein: 39 grams

Processed meats, which include meat and poultry products that have been prepared by techniques such as smoking, curing, salting and/or with the addition of chemical agents, should be consumed in moderation, per the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Since roast beef falls into the processed meat category, it's best to enjoy this lunch on an every-so-often basis. "If you want to eat this meal more regularly, consider turning it into a 'graze board' using strips of grilled chicken breast instead of roast beef," suggests Blatner. "Then you can munch on ingredients separately instead of wrapping them up."

Whether or not you wrap it up, this high-protein lunch is a great option for those on a variety of meal plans, from low-carb or keto to gluten- or grain-free, says Blatner. Plus, it's easy to modify. "To round this dish out, add about eight brown rice and seed crackers to your plate. Want to cut back on cheese? Swap in olives instead." It all works.

5. Vegan Black Bean Sandwich with Slaw

Black beans are the star player in this yummy sandwich.
Image Credit: Keri Glassman
  • Calories: 416
  • Fat: 9 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 66 grams
  • Protein: 17 grams

Move over, classic coleslaw. This veggie-forward sandwich gets its satisfying crunch from a nutrient-rich cabbage slaw that's vegan-friendly. The good-for-you condiment delivers a tangy flavor thanks to ingredients like red wine vinegar and whole-grain mustard.

"The black beans in this sandwich are a great source of plant protein and fiber, both nutrients shown to support good health," adds English. "And cabbage is a cruciferous vegetable that contains phytochemicals with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits."

Looking for other meatless sandwich ideas? "There are so many delicious plant-based sandwich stuffer options," says English. "I love to make an eggless salad with crumbled tofu, 'tuna salad' made from garbanzo beans and 'TLTs' using tempeh bacon."

6. Rainbow Collard Wrap

Who needs salad when you can have a low-calorie lunch this colorful?
Image Credit: Yovana Mendoza
  • Calories: 337
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 21 grams
  • Protein: 32 grams

The more (natural) colors on your plate, the better. Fortunately, this nutrient-dense lunch is full of healthy hues. "This recipe is mostly made of colorful vegetables, so it's anti-inflammatory and packed with disease-fighting antioxidants," says Blatner. "It's basically like eating the rainbow."

Collard greens are a great swap for traditional wraps thanks to their high vitamin C content and low-calorie profile. A cup and a half of collard greens delivers 50 percent of the daily value of vitamin C and just 25 calories, per the USDA.

If you're looking to add a little more to this lunch, Blatner recommends throwing a half cup of whole grains, like brown rice, into the wrap for a hit of complex carbs and extra fiber.

Get the recipe: Rainbow Collard Wrap

7. Vegan 3-Layer Mexican Dip in a Jar

This low-calorie lunch is like a fiesta in a jar.
Image Credit: Jackie Newgent
  • Calories: 333
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 47 grams
  • Protein: 9 grams

Is it just us, or does eating out of a jar make meals feel more fun? We love that this vegan three-layer Mexican dip can be packed in a jar and eaten on the go. "This easy, tasty option packs healthy fat from the avocado and plant protein from the beans, making it a great balanced snack option," says English.

At less than 350 calories, this dip isn't quite a complete lunch. "If you're looking to make this more of a meal, I'd suggest making it into tacos with whole-wheat or corn tortillas as opposed to tortilla chips, which can be higher in salt," says English.

Looking for something on the warmer side? We also love this Keto Tortilla Soup.

8. Cauliflower “Grilled Cheese” Sandwich

This low-calorie lunch is a healthier twist on grilled cheese.
Image Credit: LIVESTRONG.com Creative
  • Calories: 306
  • Fat: 24 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 8 grams
  • Protein: 15 grams

If you're on board with the keto craze, you need this cauliflower "grilled cheese" in your life. The innovative sandwich taps cauliflower "bread" (made from cauli, seeds and eggs) instead of traditional bread to keep things low-carb and keto-friendly. The whole sandwich serves up just 8 grams of carbohydrates, about the same amount as one-third of a medium-sized apple.

If making faux bread from cauliflower feels like a lot of work, we don't blame you. Instead, simply try adding the versatile veggie to other meals. A few ideas: "Use cauliflower instead of rice to make a healthy fried rice with chicken or shrimp, or replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower as a side with grilled salmon," suggests Blatner.

Craving pizza? Create a low-carb crust using cauliflower instead of white flour. Says Blatner, "Pair it with an Italian side salad and you've got yourself your next pizza party!" We'll just be here... waiting on our invite.

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