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Simple, Healthy Plan-Ahead Lunches That Follow Dietary Guidelines

Written by Bravo Wellness Strategist, Abby Saponaro, MS, RDN, LD

When life gets busy and your routine isn't what it used to be, it can be easy to forget to pack or plan out your lunch. This can lead to more snacking throughout the day or not eating at all until the workday is over and inevitably overeating in the evening. Sound familiar?

We have enough to worry about during the day—lunch should not be one of them. Get back on track by planning these simple lunches that are both delicious and nutritious.

The Plate Method

When planning any meal, remember the plate method! To follow the plate method, make half your plate full of vegetables and some fruit. Be sure to always pack your lunch full of produce. Complete the meal with a whole grain and some lean protein. Stay hydrated with water or any unsweetened beverage of choice like unsweetened iced tea.

A healthy plate guide has been used in nutrition counseling for patients with diabetes for decades. It has been adopted by multiple organizations (Harvard, USDA, Canada’s food guide and more) to help everyone remember what we should be eating on a regular basis for overall health and disease prevention.1 A recent study published in JAMA further confirms this healthy eating pattern and found it is associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke.2

Mix and Match Lunch List

To help make things easier and more interesting, we made a mix and match lunch idea list with different foods in each food group to build your own healthy lunch using the plate method.

Download the expanded PRINTABLE VERSION for quick and easy lunch inspiration.

simple lunch ideas for home

Pre-Configured Healthy Lunch Ideas Using the Plate Method

Here are a few of my favorite examples of how to build a healthy plate for lunch at home:

nutriton images for abby

2 cups mixed greens with drizzle of oil and vinegar

½ cup cooked brown rice

4 oz grilled chicken breast

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Steamer bag of veggies (1-2 cups)

½ cup cooked quinoa

4 oz salmon

nutriton images for abby3Leftover grilled veggies (peppers, onions, mushrooms)

1 serving whole wheat pita chips

¼ cup hummus

nutriton images for abby4 Chickpea and veggie salad – chickpeas, cucumber, red pepper, red onion, spinach, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sprinkle of oregano.

1 serving whole wheat pita or pita chips




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1 cup steamed broccoli

½ cup cooked quinoa

4 oz chicken breast




Other Lunch Recipes That Follow the Plate Method

More from Abby Saponaro: Nutrition Back To Basics Web Series

There's a lot of misinformation in the world of nutrition. We set the facts straight on our recent video series, helping you get "back to basics" by learning about the pillars of a healthy diet to reduce risk of chronic disease.

Watch Now


¹ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at

² Shan Z, Li Y, Baden MY, et al. Association Between Healthy Eating Patterns and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease. JAMA Intern Med. Published online June 15, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.2176

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