Healthy Hot Lunch Options

by Kathryn Walsh

Make lunch easy with canned beans and frozen vegetables.

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While it may be tempting to use cold weather as an excuse to eat a heavy meal, choosing a healthy option can help you feel energized enough to have a productive afternoon. Hot lunches are also easy to reheat, which is ideal if you have a busy schedule and need to cook your lunch the night before.


A warm salad contains all the nutrients of leafy greens and chopped vegetables while also serving as a comforting meal. Any type of freshly cooked protein, such as a grilled chicken breast or sautéed, marinated tofu, will warm up the salad when it’s sliced and mixed with the vegetables. If you’re eating at work, prepare the salad by rinsing the vegetables in warm water while you reheat the protein in the microwave. Adding a cold dressing will zap some of the salad’s warmth, so heat some light salad dressing in a skillet or microwave to complete the meal.


A bowl of brown rice or quinoa is low in calories and high in fiber, and the mild flavor of these grains allows them to be paired with any number of ingredients. Once you’ve cooked the rice or quinoa according to the package’s instructions, you can stir-fry it with garlic and any number of vegetables, such as snap peas and broccoli, or combine it with corn, chicken and salsa for a Mexican-inspired dish. These grains get dry when they’re reheated, so it’s best to cook them fresh right before lunchtime.


A fast-food burrito is packed with fat and calories, but making your own warm burrito is quick and healthy. Using a whole wheat or vegetable-flavored tortilla as the base, fill it with beans, vegetables and some low-fat cheese, or make a seafood version using grilled tilapia and pico de gallo. You can easily make a burrito ahead of time, then microwave or grill it for a few minutes on each side just before you’re ready to eat.


There are few meals more comforting on a cold day than a bowl of soup or chili. Adding lean protein and chunky vegetables makes the dish hearty without filling it with fat and calories. Combine sauteed turkey or lean beef with corn, beans and diced tomatoes for a spicy chili or make a cream of mushroom soup with skim milk and fiber-rich barley. Cook a batch of soup on the weekend and divide it into separate glass containers to store in the refrigerator or freezer for easy convenience. Microwave one bowlful right before you’re ready to eat.

Photo Credits

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About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.