In a hurry for a fast lunch? These healthy store-bought lunch ideas are quick and easy and perfect for a healthy lifestyle!
Let’s face it: Nowadays, we’re just plain busy.
Sometimes we can barely think about what we’re making for dinner, let alone what kind of lunch to grab for the day. We just need an easy meal.
While I’m a huge fan of eating on a budget, I know that convenience wins out at times. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.
Your local grocery store is full of healthier foods- WAY different than it used to be. If you’re looking for healthy whole foods for your midday meal that are pre-made, keep reading! I tried many healthy meal ideas straight from the store and I’ll share in detail below.
What makes a lunch healthy?
The word “healthy” means many things to many people. There is no right or wrong answer, but here’s what I look for:
- Whole grains: Food with whole grains means fiber. And fiber keeps you full. I look for options with 3 grams or more per serving.
- Protein: Not only does protein keep you full longer, but it can help you burn more calories throughout the day! I look for at least 10 grams of protein per serving, but the more the better.
- Healthy fats: Fat gives flavor and satiety! Olive oil is a great way to get in your fats, but also look for things like avocado, nuts/ peanut butter, and even cheese.
- Vegetables: This is not a necessity, but I always look for ways to add vegetables in my diet.
- Calories: Calorie needs vary from person to person. But eating too few means you’ll be super hungry in about an hour. A typical lunch ranges between 300-500 calories.
I’m not always perfect with this. But these are guidelines that help me figure out whether a lunch is a good choice.
What other healthy foods can you add to these lunches?
Like I said above, our calorie needs are all different. Sometimes these lunches have too few calories and we simply need more food.
Here’s what I like to add to these lunches:
- Fresh fruit (Grapes, banana, apple slices)
- Extra protein (Leftover chicken or cooked beans are great for this)
- Side salad (This would go well with soup!)
- Yogurt (Greek yogurt is higher in protein and can keep you full longer)
Healthy Store-Bought Lunch Ideas
Retail price: $2.50-$3.00
This is such a great healthy option for lunch! You can find pre-made salads at just about any grocery store. They’re either in the deli section or the produce section. And it’s such an easy way to get in your vegetables!
Again, I look for options with protein: Chicken, black beans, hard boiled eggs, etc. This one I found at Aldi was a Southwestern Chicken salad and it was REALLY good.
This one even comes with a plastic fork! Super convenient!
Now, this small salad only has 220 calories, which might not be enough for a lunch. Keep that in mind. But you can always add things to bulk up your salad: Whole grains like instant brown rice, extra vegetables, etc.
Salad kits with grilled chicken
Retail price: $3.50
Honestly, I used to dislike these salad kits. You pay over $3.00 for a bag of salad that feeds maybe 2 people. And if you’re like me, that might not be enough.
HOWEVER- if it comes down to eating all of it vs. throwing away those Romaine hearts you forgot to use, then this salad kit is a great option.
Another quick option is a bag of frozen grilled chicken strips to make this a high-protein meal. They’re already cooked and just need to be microwaved.
I assembled the salad kit, put half of it in a bowl, and put some chicken on top. A lean protein option will keep you full MUCH longer than just the vegetables. And this pre-cooked chicken is super convenient!
Retail price: $2.50-$4.50
Okay, hear me out. Yes, a lot of them are full of sodium and plenty of carbs. But there are plenty of healthier options out there now. You just have to know what to look for!
For example, Healthy Choice has a good line of meals and have simple ingredients. The one that I tried was the Cafe Steamers Grilled Chicken Marinara with Parmesan. The Cafe Steamers seems to be a healthier alternative to some of their other types that don’t typically include vegetables.
As you can see on the box, it actually has broccoli in it! A lot of frozen meals nowadays contain good amounts of vegetables.
The problem with some of these is the low calorie count. This one has 280 calories, which isn’t enough for me. So I used a hack that I teach many of my clients:
I microwaved a bag of frozen broccoli and added half of it to my dish!
It might take a little extra time, but it’s worth it. This is one of the easier ways to eat healthy when you’re busy! Adding extra vegetables adds bulk, as well as extra nutrients!
Another brand I like is Amy’s. This brand makes a lot of vegetarian/vegan meals, and the one I tried was the Black Beans and Quinoa.
This one had butternut squash and chard in it, but was still a little low on calories. I added a leftover turkey burger patty for extra protein.
Retail price: $2.00
This is another meal that many people dislike because of the sodium. That can definitely be an issue, but again- you just have to look carefully.
Campbell’s now makes a soup called Well Yes! that has super good ingredients. From chicken noodle soup to a creamy butternut squash, you’re bound to find one that you like.
I tried the Southwest Style Chicken Tortilla and was really impressed! It was actually quite good.
One thing to pay attention to is the portion size. A lot of times one can actually contains 2 servings, so just make sure you look out for that!
Snack “Charcuterie” Lunches
Retail price: $2.50
Most grocery stores have little snack packs you can buy that have a few items in them. Usually crackers, cheese, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe some salami.
I sometimes laugh at them because, really- these are basically Lunchables for adults. Which I have zero issue with.
Even though they say “snack”, they can really be a small lunch if you want them to. Some have upwards of 300 calories, which depending on your calorie needs may be too much for a snack.
But honestly, these are perfect for a quick grab-and-go option when you don’t have access to a microwave!
Now, these healthy lunches are only a few ideas. But they’re ones that I’ve tried and can honestly recommend for busy people who may not have time to cook all the time.
As you can see, you can eat store-made foods and still live a healthy lifestyle!
Leave a comment and tell me: What are your favorite grab-and-go options from the store for lunch?
Jaime is a Nutrition Coach and professional writer. She enjoys cooking easy meals, running, and learning more about food.
Jaime specializes in helping women with ADHD learn to meal plan and cook healthier meals without getting overwhelmed.