The Components of Healthy Lunches

A healthy lunch is the meal that fuels you through the afternoon and keeps your blood sugar stable so you won't have that afternoon crash. Learn to use the Healthy Plate model to build a lunch that incorporates all the food groups in the right proportions.


Lunch is the meal that fuels you through the afternoon and is just as important as your other meals. Nutritionally, lunch is important to keep your blood sugar stable so that you won’t have the afternoon crash. Use the plate model to incorporate each food group and in proper proportions.

  1. Fill one quarter of your plate with whole grains: such as one slice 100% whole grain bread, one medium sprouted whole grain tortilla or pita, two small corn tortillas, one half cup quinoa, brown rice, or one medium sweet or regular potato (potatoes count toward whole grains, not vegetables).
  2. Fill another quarter with protein: such as 1-2 ounces lean turkey or chicken, two hard-boiled eggs, or one cup beans. Consider selecting a protein that is high in calcium such as: unflavored yogurt, cottage cheese, or 1 ounce cheese (about 1⁄3 cup shredded).
  3. Fill half your plate with fruit and vegetables: such as one peach, a half cup chopped melon, sliced apples, or a small bunch of grapes, half cup green beans, bell peppers, yellow squash, zucchini, or tomatoes. Consider selecting a fruit or vegetable that is high in calcium such as: an orange, one cup of broccoli, or one cup of fresh spinach or other leafy greens.
  4. Add a healthy fat: such as 1 teaspoon of olive oil, 1⁄8 avocado, 1⁄2 ounce almonds or other nut, or 1⁄2 tablespoon nut butter.
  5. Add a healthy beverage for hydration: such as a glass of unflavored milk or soy, unsweetened tea, or regular or sparkling water. Juice, soda, and sugar-sweetened drinks are not healthy beverages.


Lunchtime Ideas

Below are lunch ideas that can be incorporated into a healthy meal that are easy to pack up to take to work or school.


Choose freshly roasted meats over deli meats. Try roasting vegetables for a vegetarian option and add flavor with healthy spreads such as pesto, mashed avocado or hummus. Choose a whole grain bread or wrap.


Mixed greens with chopped veggies (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, broccoli, and others). Add fresh herbs (mint, parsley, cilantro, and more) for extra flavor. Mix it up with fresh fruit such as strawberries, apples or pears along with a sprinkle of feta or goat cheese. For protein, add grilled chicken, fish, or beans such as garbanzo or black beans. For dressing, mix 2:1 olive oil with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, or rice vinegar, plus spices such as oregano, basil, or pepper.


Make a big pot of soup at the start of the week. Store soup in single-use containers in the fridge or freezer for quick meals. If taking soup to work, purchase a thermos.


Add a side to your sandwich, salad or soup to complete your meal. This is a great way to get in your fruit and vegetable servings. Ideas include: freshly cut vegetables with hummus, a piece of fruit or fresh fruit salad mix, a cup of plain yogurt (add some fresh fruit for flavor, rather than buying sweetened yogurt), small side salad for soup and sandwiches, roasted vegetables (great hot or cold).