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Quick & easy vegetarian lunch ideas

Let’s face it, lunch isn’t always given the love it deserves. Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about what we’re going to eat for dinner, but not so with lunch. Hello, cheese toastie!

But your midday meal really matters – in fact, it’s critical if you’re aiming to eat the recommended five serves of vegetables a day. So we’ve called in the experts to show you how you can have a healthy, delicious plant-powered lunch ready to go in just 2 minutes – less time than it will take you to read this article!

Top ideas for your midday meal

Sanitarium dietitian Charlotte Moor says a quick-prep vegetarian lunch can be tasty, inexpensive and, importantly, healthy. And a good lunch is going to give you all the energy you need to power through the afternoon – and maybe stop the mid-afternoon search for the biscuit tin.

Charlotte suggests using lots of fresh salad ingredients, tinned beans or legumes, tofu and pre-cooked noodles or quick-cook rice as a good starting point for a quick-prep lunch.

Buddha bowls or Nourish bowls are really popular and ideal for a quick lunch because you can use what you have handy,” Charlotte says.

“You can start with the carbohydrate, something like a brown rice sachet that you can cook in the microwave for 90 seconds and start building your bowl from there.
Add loads of salad or raw vegetables, any beans you like, or marinated tofu. Some sliced avocado and a sprinkle of nuts adds some healthy fat. Top with a variety of seeds, a good squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. It really takes no effort at all. And it’s going to be a lot cheaper than buying it from the local shop.”

Charlotte’s other favourite quick and healthy lunch ideas include:

  • Quesadillas (or focaccia) – filled with a savoury bean mix, even baked beans, with a sprinkle of cheese and some salsa and popped into the sandwich press, makes a yummy, quick meal. Kids love this!
  • 2-minute nachos – a handful of corn chips, topped with a can of four bean mix or Mexican-style beans, heated in the microwave, then topped with salad veggies (for example, chopped tomato, cucumber, capsicum, corn, avocado). Add a dollop of natural yoghurt (or lite sour cream) and some spicy salsa for an authentic Mexican flavour.
  • Beetroot, feta and grain salad – toss together some mixed leaves, marinated feta, beetroot and a mixed-grain pouch for a quick, tasty salad. Here’s a grain salad recipe for inspo!

Leftover love

It’s a great idea to deliberately make more dinner than you need and have the leftovers the next day for lunch. Often, less than 2 minutes in the microwave is all you need to have a hot, tasty lunch ready to go.

“Pastas, salads and quiche all make easy next day lunches. As well as helping you to stick to health goals, lunching on leftovers is a great way to save money,” Charlotte says.

But, she says, DO NOT eat in front of your computer. By eating while distracted, we don’t always recognise when we’re full, and can easily consume much more than we actually need. “Remember to sit down at the table and enjoy your meal undistracted, and hopefully with some good company,” Charlotte says.

To protein or not to protein... 

Some good news when it comes to quick-prep lunches – there is no need to go out of your way to look for high-protein options.

“Having some plant protein included is a good idea, such as tofu, legumes and nuts, but almost all foods contain protein, including vegetables and wholegrains,” Charlotte says.

“The real focus should be on getting some fibre. Eating unrefined, whole foods with fibre, will help with sustained energy.”

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Why lunch matters

The Better Health Channel says people who cook at home are likely to eat smaller portions, leading to a healthier weight. And that’s true for all meals, including lunch.

It’s also important for our metabolism that we eat at regular intervals throughout the day. The US National Weight Control Registry found that the individuals most successful in maintaining their weight ate lunch every day – and ate it at lunchtime, not at 3pm.

Charlotte agrees. She says, even if you’re at work, you should make sure you’ve got something on hand ready for the midday meal.

Got more time? Here are 5 great lunchtime recipes you can even prep ahead

Got a few more minutes to spare? Set aside just a little time over the weekend, buy some good-quality containers, and you’ll have all the quick, healthy lunchtime options you could possibly want. Give these lunches a go: