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Sneaky But Healthy Lunches

Sneaky But Healthy Lunches

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The Sneaky Chef Missy Chase Lapine offers subtle ways to get your kids to eat healthy at school

We all know kids love pancakes, and Missy Chase Lapine knows how to sneak some healthy ingredients into them.

Let’s face it: we’re not always successful when it comes to getting our kids to eat healthy. No matter what we’ve tried — whether it is orange juice-braised carrots or cream cheese on the zucchini — it’s always a struggle to get kids to forget about their fear of vegetables and start eating healthy.

Click here to see the 12 Ways to Sneak Vegetables Into Kids' Favorite Lunchbox Recipes Slideshow

And then there’s the problem of lunch. As kids head off to school each day, we can only hope they’re getting the nutrition they need from their tiny little lunchboxes. It makes us wonder: will the boring PB&J or ham-and-cheese sandwich we’ve packed even be finished? Do those have enough nutrients in them to begin with?

Because packing an appealing and nutritious lunch is a constant struggle for moms and dads alike, we’ve asked The Sneaky Chef, Missy Chase Lapine, to apply her clever tricks to lunch recipes to help get some health back in the lunchbox. These recipes are simple to make, easy to do ahead of time, and best of all, they’re kid-favorites that are packed with healthy ingredients, hidden so the kids can’t see them. Whether it’s the Mac and Cheese Muffins or the "Sneak-Wiches," these lunches will have your kids asking for more, and you can be sure they’re getting a nutritious lunch every time.

Anne Dolce is the Cook Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @anniecdolce

70 Tasty, Healthy Lunch Ideas That Will Truly Keep You Full Until Dinner

Further proof that delicious, nutritious, and easy-to-make lunches are possible.

Getting bored of the same lunch salad every day? Instead of plowing through uninspired lunches for yet another week, try mixing up your midday meal routine. And who said a healthy lunch always needs to be a salad? These crazy delicious soup, sandwich, and pasta recipes are proof that diet-friendly lunches are much more than just a bed of greens. Not only are these lunches super easy, they're also super quick &mdash you can throw them together in a few spare minutes in the morning, or set aside a little bit of meal prep time the night before. Either way, you'll start looking forward to getting to eat these healthy and easy lunch ideas.

The heartiest items on our lunch menus are chock-full of lean protein, which can help you feel satisfied all the way up until dinner &mdash think staples like chicken and salmon, rich dairy sources including cottage cheese and yogurt, and nutrient-packed add-ons like seeds (i.e. sunflower seeds!) and legumes. And don't be surprised if you see a lot of ingredients with lots of fiber, like avocado and chickpeas, as they're low in calories and also aid in helping you feel wholly satisfied.

Not only will you fill up on the good stuff (that means no more post-lunch crash!), but these easy-to-prep recipes are seriously affordable, which means you'll have more money to spend when the weekend rolls around. Of course, healthy eating doesn't stop at noon: start your day off with a healthy breakfast recipe and then keep it going with one of these low-calorie dinners.

RELATED: Sign up for our membership club GH+ to get a first look at seasonal, healthy recipes from the magazine.

PB&J Sushi Sandwiches

Serve the kids a lunchtime staple with an inventive twist. By rolling the bread flat, this PB&J sandwich transforms into sushi rolls that are fun to eat with a fork and knife or chopsticks.

Mini Monster Sandwiches

Halloween will be here before you know it so why not give a ham and cheese sandwich a spooky makeover with olive eyes? It only takes a few minutes to cut out shapes in the cheese and bread for a totally silly creation kids will enjoy gobbling up.

I Heart Panini

The contents of this grilled panini can be swapped with whatever kind of cheese or deli meat you have on hand. The sweetest part? This dish is shaped like a heart.

Message in a Bottle Sandwich

Grab some cookie cutter letters and carve out love notes to little (or big) kids. Whether you write, "Good luck on the exam," or "I love you to the moon and back," it's easy to feel appreciated when mom or dad sends a personal note. When looking for ways to avoid allergens like peanuts, swap the nut butter for cafeteria-friendly sunflower seed butter.

Sunflower Butter & Grape Sandwich

So many kids love PB&Js, but sometimes the sugar content of the jam and the need for an alternative to peanut butter (many districts don't allow peanut products these days) call for a different kind of sandwich. Nutritionist Frances Largeman-Roth swaps high-fructose jelly for freshly sliced grapes and uses sunflower butter.

Minion Bento Sandwich

These Minion characters look like a pastry chef's work of art, but all parents really need to master this sandwich design are orange and yellow cheese, some nori wrappers and kitchen shears. Decorating the Minions with different facial expressions is also a fun activity for kids to do if they're at home and can help make lunch themselves.

Hidden Vegetable Recipes for Picky Eaters

Do your kids fight you on veggies? Or are you a veggie hater yourself? Whether you love veggies or not, these Hidden Vegetable Recipes will give you a TON of great ideas for getting extra green in your meals each and every day!

We all know that kids can be tough critics when it comes to vegetables. But, the truth is, there are plenty of adults out there who really aren’t huge fans either. So, I’ve made it a personal goal to sneak yummy veggies into as many of my recipes as possible.

All you FIXers can relate- some days you wonder how in the world you will eat another GREEN. But that, my friend, is where these beautiful sneaky veggie recipes come in.

So whether you’re trying to feed your favorite veggie-hating 4 or 40 year old, check out this list packed with Hidden Vegetable Power!

Sneaky Veggie Breakfasts:

Low Carb Cauliflower Hash Browns – my new favorite way to get a full green in at breakfast, these delicious are made with only 3 ingredients but are so darn tasty my picky, veggie hating son, loves to eat them for breakfast!

21 Day Fix Mason Jar Egg Casseroles – no, those aren’t hash browns at the bottom of these adorable and delicious mason jar casseroles…but, shh…nobody needs to know what it really is!

Make Ahead Ham and Cheese Breakfast Quiche | Carrie Elle – there are TWO cups of hidden veggies in this delicious, kid friendly breakfast but they are literally undetectable with all that ham and cheesy goodness.

21 Day Fix Crock Pot Breakfast Casserole Start the day with an entire GREEN in this casserole! Now, that’s the way to stay on track!

Instant Pot Eggs Benedict | The Foodie and The Fix Healthy Hollandaise sauce with sneaky cauliflower?? My mind is blown!

Sneaky Veggie Soups and Chili

Instant Pot Low Carb Stuffed Pepper Soup [21 Day Fix | 2B Mindset] This soup has been getting rave reviews since I shared it- even from cauliflower haters!

21 Day Fix Loaded Potato and Cauliflower Soup (Stove-top/Instant Pot) No one will EVER know there is cauliflower in this soup- totally tastes like a loaded baked potato!

21 Day Fix Broccoli Cheddar Soup | The Foodie and The Fix Cauliflower to the rescue again. I mean, is there anything this veggie can’t do?! (Plus there’s tons of broccoli, too, of course!)

Easy Instant Pot Tomato Soup with Crispy Cheese Chips (21 Day Fix | Low Carb| Vegan friendly) Tons of carrots, onions, and tomatoes become warm, comforting tomato soup, thanks to your immersion blender! Oh, and don’t even get me started on the cheese chips!

21 Day Fix Clam Chowder | The Foodie and The Fix This 21 Day Fix New England Clam Chowder uses cauliflower’s superpowers to make it taste rich and creamy without all of the fat and calories of heavy cream.

Healthy Chicken Pot Pie Soup | My Crazy Good Life Jicama is the new sneaky veggie here… you have to try it!! This soup is delish!

Instant Pot Bacon and Beer Cheese Soup | The Foodie and The Fix You had me at bacon. And beer. (Plus extra veggies? I’m in heaven!)

Sneaky Veggie Lunches and Dinners

Hidden Cauliflower Taco Meat (21 Day Fix Friendly/Instant Pot Friendly) The first time I made this Taco Meat, my husband LEGIT asked me why the tacos were extra delicious ?. Well, sweetie, it’s because I hid a ton of veggies in the meat, of course.

Healthy Instant Pot Chili Mac [21 Day Fix | Gluten-Free | StoveTop Option] Total picky kid pleaser here, despite the fact that there are over ten cups of veggies in this recipe!

Instant Pot Goulash | My Crazy Good Life Zucchini, bell peppers and tomatoes make this pasta dish -oh- so healthy! I love it on a chilly day!

Low Carb Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole | 21 Day Fix Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Casserole This is the recipe that got my broccoli-hating husband to eat his fair share…plus, there’s a ton of hidden cauli rice in it, too!

21 Day Fix One Skillet Lazy Zucchini Lasagna What’s the best way to get extra greens? Shove a bunch of them into a lasagna skillet, because, lasagna!

Healthy Instant Pot Baked Ziti | 21 Day Fix Instant Pot Baked Ziti [Gluten-free] Hidden spinach and homemade sauce turn this into a healthier version of the Italian staple.

21 Day Fix Lazy Zucchini Enchilada Skillet Not only do you get out of rolling enchiladas with this recipe, you also get a TON of veggie power in this Lazy Zucchini Enchilada Skillet!

21 Day Fix Mini Philly Cheesesteak Stuffed Pepper Nachos Cute mini peppers make the perfect vessel for portion controlled Philly Cheesesteak nachos- HUGE crowd pleaser!

Instant Pot Loaded Cauliflower Mash (21 Day Fix | 2B Mindset) You will not find a single potato in this mash, but the taste is spot on. The bacon and cheese don’t hurt either.

21 Day Fix Italian Stuffed Peppers A two GREEN meal? Yes, please! Between the homemade sauce, peppers, and hidden zucchini there is so much veggie power!

Cheesy Zucchini Taco Skillet One skillet and packs IN the veggies! So yummy, no one will even care they’re there!

Related Recipes

Grain bowls

"I love putting veggies and grain bowl together because you can use up what you've got in the fridge and create endless variations," says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN. "I like starting with a base of high fiber barley or quinoa and adding whatever colorful veggies I have on hand. This time of year it's probably roasted Brussels sprouts and carrots, plus a bit of kimchee for probiotics and then a packet of tuna for high-quality protein. I like the ones from Bumble Bee because they come in tasty flavors like Thai Chili, they require no prep, and they offer important vitamins and minerals, like vitamin D (so important for winter!), iron, and selenium."

Free drink refills


If you order a soft drink at a restaurant, you can expect the drink to keep on flowing the entire duration of dinner. Free refills are almost always expected at restaurants, and this money-saving "deal" adds on calories quicker than we may realize.

It's no secret that the average soda contains 150-200 calories per 12-ounce serving. The key here is noting that most restaurants will not serve you a 12-ounce cup to begin with. You can expect your cup to be 16 ounces or larger, and by the time you add on a few refills, you could realistically be close to 450-600 calories before you ever even touch your food!

Healthy lunch recipes

Healthy chicken lunch: harissa chicken and white bean bake

This vibrant recipe sees chicken thighs slathered with harissa and cooked in a rich tomato sauce with white beans and olives – a healthy, high-protein meal. Make it for dinner and pack up the leftovers for a delicious lunch the next day! Chicken thighs offer selenium, choline and folate (folic acid), while white beans provide a great source of plant protein, fibre, magnesium, B6 and iron.

Healthy salad lunch: spelt and apple salad with crispy nuts and seeds

Pack plenty of crunch into this balanced vegetarian salad by sprinkling with a homemade nut and seed mix. This moreish lunch option is packed with healthy fats and fibre to fill you up without weighing you down. Spelt is a type of wheat that provides a great source of iron, protein and magnesium, while apples are rich in potassium, vitamin C and quercetin – a potent anti-inflammatory plant compound.

More of a meat person? Try our quinoa chicken salad.

Healthy soup: red lentil dahl soup with broccoli tarka

Our vegan red lentil dahl soup is low in calories and rich in plant protein – the perfect midweek winter warmer! Lentils offer a wonderful source of inexpensive plant protein, while broccoli provides a healthy dose of fibre, as well as an alphabet of micronutrients, from iron, potassium and calcium, to B vitamins, folate (folic acid) and sulforaphane.

Check out our best healthy soup recipes for more inspiration.

High-protein lunch: turkey kheema matar

Put turkey on the menu with this kheema matar (mince and pea curry) dish. Not only does it provide 43.2g protein per portion, but turkey also contains tryptophan – an amino acid that’s required to create serotonin in the body. Serotonin helps regulate mood, and is also involved in the creation of the sleep hormone melatonin – making this a great choice for the days where you’re feeling a bit more tired and stressed.

Healthy pasta lunch: orzo, bean and tuna salad

Turn storecupboard staples into this vibrant, nutritious orzo pasta salad with roasted red peppers and black olives. Tuna is a convenient source of lean protein, while olives provide heart-healthy fats, such as oleic acid. Make sure to cook your pasta ‘al dente’ (with bite), as this helps maintain more of the resistant starch – a type of fibre that’s good for your gut.

Healthy sandwich: smoked haddock and spinach rye toasts

This quick and easy dish makes a great savoury breakfast, or light but satisfying lunch. Rye bread is a good option for those watching their blood sugar levels thanks to its high fibre content. As it’s naturally lower in gluten, it can also be easier on the digestive system for anyone who might be sensitive. Topped with smoked haddock, eggs and spinach, you’ll also get a healthy 29.5g protein, plus iron and magnesium for just 273 calories.

Healthy wraps: chipotle chicken lunch wrap

Wraps are the perfect quick and convenient option to take with you for a speedy workday lunch. These spicy chicken wraps are high in protein and low in calories and fat. Soured cream adds calcium, while fresh coriander provides a healthy dose of antioxidants – important for immune system, brain and skin health.

Grilled chicken wrap

Grilled chicken wraps, featuring a deliciously nutty pesto and cherry tomatoes, make for a quick and low-calorie lunch.

Healthy lunch box: 4 quick & easy grain bowls

If you’re in need of a speedy lunch box recipe that can be prepared in minutes, look no further than these easy grain bowls. Whether you’re looking for something vegan, vegetarian or even fishy, we have some great options. Grains offer a fibre-rich base, which is great for lunch as the wholegrains provide a healthy energy boost to sustain you until dinnertime. Each recipe provides a balanced source of healthy fats, protein and fibre to keep you satisfied.

Want even more options? Check out our healthy lunch box ideas for work.

Healthy vegetarian lunch: broccoli and roasted red pepper frittata

This broccoli and roasted red pepper frittata makes for a quick and nutritious midweek meal that’s delicious served hot or cold. It’s on the table in just 20 minutes, plus it’s low in calories and 5:2-diet-friendly. Eggs are a convenient and inexpensive source of protein and healthy fats, while the mix of fresh vegetables provides fibre to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Healthy vegan lunch: vegan chilli non carne

Is it possible to resist this sweet and smoky chilli NON carne? This recipe is the epitome of healthy comfort food, providing plenty of satisfying plant protein and fibre from the kidney and black beans. The luscious, smoky tomato sauce is rich in skin-healthy antioxidants and potassium – important for replenishing your salt balance after a workout. This recipe freezes well, so it’s a great one to keep on hand for an easy, healthy meal on busier days.

Low-fat lunch: freekeh risotto with spring greens

Freekeh is made from cracked, roasted green wheat and offers a unique nuttiness and bite to this simple risotto. This is a great way to use up your greens for a special lunch when working from home. Asparagus is particularly high in insoluble fibre which supports healthy bowel movements, while fat-free quark adds creaminess and protein without the added calories.

Low-calorie lunch: zero (konjac) noodles with poached miso ginger chicken broth

Would you believe that this lunch is just 147 calories per portion, but still offers a healthy 25.6g protein? Konjac noodles, also referred to as ‘zero’ or ‘shirataki’ noodles, are made from glucomannan – a type of fibre that comes from the root of the konjac plant. As these noodles are very low in calories and digestible carbohydrates, they’re a great way to add bulk to a low-calorie dish. Glucomannan can also absorb up to 50 times its weight in water, making it a popular choice for weight loss.

Low-salt lunch: grilled hake with smoky chickpeas, preserved lemon and kale

Simply grilled hake, with a side of lemony paprika chickpeas. This dish is naturally gluten-free and provides just 0.5g salt per serving. It also offers 41.3g protein and almost 9g soluble and insoluble fibres from the chickpeas and kale, which will keep you full until dinnertime!

If you’re not a fish person, why not try our delicious avocado fusilli pasta for a low-salt vegan option?

Gut-friendly lunch: miso chickpeas and avocado on toast

Liven up a storecupboard staple with this super-simple dish. Chickpeas are high in fibre, especially a soluble fibre called raffinose, which is broken down by beneficial gut bacteria to support regular bowel movements. Avocado offers a bunch of healthy nutrients, such as magnesium, zinc and potassium, to support digestion.

Check out our gut-healthy collection for more digestion-friendly options.

Tracey Raye is the Health Editor for olive and BBC Good Food. Tracey, MSc, is a registered nutritionist, holding a master’s degree in Personalised Nutrition. She is passionate about harnessing the power of all things health and wellbeing – in a way that enhances, rather than limits our lives. She covers our nourishing recipes and collections, oversees our health strategy and stays adrift of the latest health and lifestyle trends – in order to bring you the tools and inspiration you need to find what health means for you.

While some kids are happy to have the same fillings every day, others get bored and complain. “Not Vegemite again,” is one of my son’s most used phrases when packing school lunches in the mornings.

So we’ve put together some of our favourite healthy sandwich ideas for kids. And thank you to our community of mums who shared their favourite sandwich filling suggestions on our Facebook page!

Our favourite sandwich recipes:

Have you tried all the classics yet? You may be able to rotate these into the daily lunch box battle or you may discover a combination that your kids haven’t tried but actually love!

Healthy Lunches for Work

I've rounded up my favourite healthy meal prep recipes from my fave food bloggers so you can switch up your weekly meal prep routine and give some more thought to the creative side of lunch time!

All it takes is a couple of hours (or less) on the weekend and you're on your way to healthy eating throughout the work week – and no stressing over what to take for lunch either, or doing any last minute scrambling!

Let me tell you about these Healthy Meal Prep Lunch Ideas for Work: they are super fun ways to switch up your weekly meal prep process so that you're eating healthy whole foods that are also delicious!

Benefits of healthy lunches:

  • They save time
  • They save money so you're not buying lunch out
  • You're more organized
  • You're less stressed in the morning – no wondering what to eat and when
  • You're eating healthy, unprocessed food on a consistent basis
  • You'll have more energy because you're eating better

More Healthy Lunch Ideas & Resources

If you're looking for more delicious recipe inspiration, look no further than some of these helpful resources below!

Picking Easy Lunch Ideas

The key to really sticking with a meal prep routine is to pick easy recipes that come together with just a small ingredient list.

All of the recipes below are categorized according to each type of lunch idea. For instance, I have some sheet pan recipes below that cook on one pan that you can then distribute into meal prep bowls and warm up once you're at work. Of course, I also have some salads, wraps and sandwiches too.

Here are the types of easy lunch ideas you'll find below as you scroll down:

  • One pan recipes
  • Wraps
  • Sandwiches
  • Soups
  • Casseroles
  • Pastas
  • Salads
  • Rice bowls
  • Lettuce wraps

There are also vegan, gluten-free and low-carb lunch ideas organized by category. Happy meal prepping!

Make a meal plan for your weekly lunches

Meal planning is the best way I stay on track with lunch ideas. I will usually fill in what I plan to make for lunch in a meal planner and then make one or two lunch recipes for the week in advance. For a limited time, you can now download my FREE 4-Week Meal Prep Plan HERE.

If you need some help coming up with lunch ideas in general, be sure to check out my Start Here page to learn how to best use my blog to help with meal prep! Or you can check out my step-by-step meal prep process here.

Wraps & Sandwiches

And of course, where would we be if I didn't list some wrap and sandwich options?! I really dislike the traditional types of sandwiches with cold cuts so I try to cook up chicken breast and shred it to use in wraps or sandwiches but from time to time lean cold cuts like turkey are ok. Even just cheese and vegetables will give you enough protein to sustain yourself for the day too! Try these new wrap and sandwich ideas below.

Soup Recipes for Lunch

Soups are really great options for work and are easier to transport than you think! And before you think soups aren't filling enough think again! I've included some thicker soups/stews in this round up to give you some ideas of ways you can add protein to your soups. Most are also vegan/vegetarian-friendly so soups can be super budget-friendly as long as you have access to a microwave at work.

One Pan Lunch Ideas

If you're meal prepping ahead of time, these are my favorite type of healthy lunches to make! You basically throw everything on a sheet pan or in a skillet, cook, then divide into glass meal prep bowls. You can often switch up the veggies you're using too, these one pan recipes are so versatile and customizable! My personal faves are the Greek Chicken bowls and Sweet Chili Chicken, link below.

Vegetarian Lunch Ideas

Vegetarian lunch ideas are great for when you're looking to eat lunch on a budget. Typically all you need is a can of beans or chickpeas, or some tofu that has been quickly marinated along with a killer sauce and veggies. Sometimes you can even get away with a couple no-cook recipes where you can just throw everything in a meal prep bowl or jar and call it a day!

65 Healthy Lunch Ideas You'll Want To Eat All Day, Every Day

It's a common misconception that when searching for healthy lunch recipes, or just easy and light meals, your options are profoundly limited. Turns out, there are plenty of healthy meals out there that aren't just salads or blandly seasoned fish with steamed vegetables (though those do work, if that's what you like!)

"The key to building a healthy lunch is having a balance of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrate, and there [are] infinite ways to do this," Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Atlanta, tells Woman's Day. "You might enjoy fish tacos with the tortilla, fish, and vegetables, you're all set in one dish. Or maybe it's a soup and salad kind of day &mdash both great opportunities to pile in plenty of vegetables."

In addition to protein, healthy fats, and some carbohydrates, adding whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to all of your meals can give your light, easy lunch even more health benefits, Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian and owner of Plant-Based Eats in Stamford, CT, says. "The protein, healthy fat, and fiber from the whole grain and produce help keep you fuller for longer &mdash and this combination of foods also provides important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants," she tells Woman's Day. For protein, the dietitian suggests eggs, salmon, and beans, just to name a few. Oats, quinoa, and whole-grain or sprouted-grain bread are great carbohydrate options. And as for fruits and veggies? They all have plenty of health benefits, so take your pick. There are so many healthy lunch ideas, but it all come down to balance. Protein, healthy fats, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are all you need to make these easy, light lunch recipes.