Eating a high protein lunch helps keep you full and focused through the afternoon. However it’s important to note that certain protein rich foods such, as meats and cheeses can have a calorie content. The trick is to strike a combination of proteins, whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats that will leave you feeling satisfied while consuming fewer calories.
This beginner’s guide will walk you through 7 different high protein lunch ideas that clock in under 500 calories. You’ll also learn tips for building balanced, nutritious low-calorie lunches that will keep you energized all day long. Let’s get started!
1. Turkey, Apple and Cheese Wrap
Wraps make a great on-the-go high protein lunch. This turkey, apple and cheese wrap provides a good balance of filling protein, fiber and fat to keep you satisfied with just 480 calories.
The key is choosing thin, high-fiber tortillas rather than thick, flour-based wraps. Thin wraps have around 60-80 calories versus 200-300 calories in thick, flour tortillas.
Fill your wrap with 3-4 ounces of sliced turkey breast which packs 25 grams of protein. Pair it with 1 ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese for an extra 7 grams of protein.
For crunch and fiber, add thin apple slices. Baby spinach or kale are also excellent nutritious wrap fillings. Spread the tortilla with 1 tablespoon of hummus or mustard for a flavor and protein boost.
Calories: 480 Protein: 32g
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2. Tuna and White Bean Salad
Tuna is an easy, convenient way to add high-quality protein into your lunchtime salad. Pair it with fiber-rich beans and vegetables for a filling meal under 500 calories.
This tuna and white bean salad provides 36 grams of protein from a 5-ounce can of water-packed tuna and 1/2 cup white beans. The beans also give you an extra dose of fiber to keep you full.
Chopped cucumbers and tomatoes provide vitamin C, potassium and water to help you stay hydrated through the afternoon. For healthy fat and flavor, toss the salad with 1 tablespoon olive oil and unlimited vinegar or lemon juice. Season with salt, pepper and your other favorite spices.
Calories: 495 Protein: 36g
3. Greek Yogurt Bowl
Greek yogurt bowls are an endlessly adaptable high protein lunch that combines filling dairy protein and probiotics with fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
This balanced Greek yogurt bowl packs 35 grams of protein without going over 500 calories.
It starts with non-fat plain Greek yogurt, which provides 23 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Sprinkle the yogurt with 1 tablespoon chia seeds to add fiber, healthy fats and 4 extra grams of protein.
Top your yogurt with 1/2 cup mixed berries for antioxidants and natural sweetness. You can also add other fresh fruits like mango, peach or apple. For crunch, sprinkle the bowl with 2 tablespoons granola.
For extra nutrition, top the bowl with 1/2 cup chopped raw spinach or kale. The options for Greek yogurt bowls are endless!
Calories: 492 Protein: 35g
4. Chicken Salad Sandwich
Chicken salad is a lean, versatile high protein filling for sandwiches. While deli chicken salad can be high in calories and fat from mayonnaise-based fillings, this easy homemade version uses non-fat Greek yogurt for creaminess.
Chop or shred 1 cup cooked chicken breast and combine it with 2 tablespoons non-fat Greek yogurt, 1 tablespoon mustard and unlimited herbs and spices. Stuff the chicken salad into a whole grain sandwich thin or spread it between two slices of whole wheat bread.
Pair your chicken salad sandwich with sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or any other fresh vegetables to add fiber, nutrients and crunch. You can also serve it alongside a small salad or a side of fruit like melon or berries.
Keep the total calories under 500 by sticking with just one slice of bread or choosing a 100-calorie sandwich thin.
Calories: 490 Protein: 50g
5. Egg White and Vegetable Scramble Lunch
Eggs are a nutritional powerhouse and egg whites provide an easy way to cut the calories while still getting high-quality protein. For an energizing high protein breakfast, try this egg white scramble filled with lean ham, vegetables and cheese.
Whisk together 4-5 egg whites for an easy 20 grams of protein to start your meal. Cook the eggs over medium heat and add 1/2 cup vegetables like mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes or peppers for bulk and nutrients.
Chopped ham or Canadian bacon adds salty flavor for just 25-50 calories per ounce. Sprinkle the finished scramble with 1 ounce of reduced-fat cheddar or feta cheese to get an extra 7 grams of protein.
Pair your veggie egg white scramble with a slice of whole grain toast topped with smashed avocado for healthy fats and fiber.
Calories: 465 Protein: 41g
6. Cobb Salad
The Cobb salad is a protein-packed classic, combining chicken, eggs, avocado and blue cheese on a base of vitamin-rich lettuce and vegetables. While restaurant Cobb salads can top 1,000 calories, this light homemade version comes in under 500 calories.
Begin by using 2 cups of chopped romaine lettuce and 1 cup of greens as the base, for your salad. Add 4 ounces of chicken breast that has been chopped along with 2 slices of turkey bacon, 1 hardboiled egg and a quarter of an avocado. Lastly sprinkle on 1 ounce of cheese.
To complete your salad incorporate a quarter cup each of chopped tomatoes and cucumbers. For a touch drizzle the salad with, about 1 to 2 tablespoons of light salad dressing.
With 48 grams of protein, this filling salad will keep your energy and concentration levels high all afternoon long. To make it even healthier, swap in grilled chicken or shrimp for the bacon.
Calories: 490 Protein: 48g
7. Vegetable and Tofu Stir Fry
Stir fries provide an easy way to combine lean protein and unlimited vegetables into a satisfying high protein meal. This veggie and tofu stir fry packs 36 grams of plant-based protein.
Chop 1 block of firm or extra firm tofu into cubes. Toss the tofu with 2 teaspoons cornstarch, 1 teaspoon sesame oil and soy sauce. Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to absorb the flavors.
Heat 1 teaspoon avocado or grapeseed oil in a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Remove it from the pan and set aside.
Add 1 cup broccoli florets, 1 chopped red pepper and 1 cup snap peas to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Add the tofu back in and stir together.
Season your veggie and tofu stir fry with additional soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger or chili flakes. Serve over 1/2 cup cooked brown rice.
Calories: 490 Protein: 36g
Putting Together Balanced, Satisfying Low-Calorie High Protein Lunches
Packing enough protein, fiber and nutrition into a meal while keeping calories low can be challenging. Here are some tips to help you build filling, balanced lunches that provide at least 25-30 grams of protein for under 500 calories:
- Lead with lean protein: To start you’ll need around three to five ounces of protein options. Consider sources, like turkey, chicken, fish, eggs, Greek yogurt or plant based alternatives such, as edamame, beans or tofu.
- Bulk up with vegetables: Fill out meals by incorporating nutrient-dense vegetables like leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli. They provide antioxidants, vitamins and fiber with minimal calories.
- Include whole grains: Pair lean proteins with 100 calories or less of whole grains like whole wheat bread or brown rice to add filling fiber.
- Add healthy fats: To enhance your satisfaction it is advisable to incorporate portions of fats from options such, as avocado, nuts, seeds, cheese and olive oil.
- Control calorie-dense ingredients: Limit the consumption of high calorie food items, such, as nuts, oils, condiments and cheese to 1 ounce or 1 2 teaspoons, per serving.
- Season generously: Boost flavor with unlimited herbs, spices, vinegars and citrus to prevent overeating.
By incorporating some imagination and strategic thinking you can come up with a range of lunch options that are both protein rich and low, in calories. These nutritious meal ideas, along with the accompanying tips can serve as your blueprint, for crafting lunches that align with your calorie objectives.