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high protein lunches for weight loss

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Having a balanced lunch is essential to sustainable weight loss, but it’s easy to run out of ideas or not know what to make in the moment. Today I’ll share 11 high protein lunch ideas for weight loss that are easy, filling, and delicious to help you stick to your healthy eating goals. From mason jar salads to snack plates to bento boxes, we got you covered!

Many of my weight loss clients struggle with thinking of lunch ideas or finding ones that satisfy them without blowing their daily calorie budget. Lunch is honestly one of the most important meals to focus on for weight loss, as what you choose sets you up for the second half of your day.

Having a satisfying lunch (i.e. not just a salad with chicken every day) can help prevent the afternoon slump, help fuel a late-afternoon workout, or reduce cravings in the evening time. And the best part is you don’t have to spend a lot of time making a balanced lunch. 

So if you’re looking for more easy, balanced lunch ideas, I got you! Here are 11 high protein lunch recipes for weight loss, approved by Registered Dietitians.

1. Healthy Cranberry Walnut Chicken Salad

Chicken salad is one of my favorite go-to lunches. You can make it ahead, and it packs a lot of protein in a small number of calories. 

“This is a healthier chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, which also increases the protein content. The addition of cranberries provides a combination of sweet and savory, with crunchy walnuts for the perfect bite,” says Elysia Cartlidge, RD of Haute and Healthy Living.

This recipe is perfect for meal prep and a great way to use leftover chicken. I personally love shredding leftover rotisserie chicken and making it into a salad.

Calories per serving: 254

Protein: 21 g

2. High Protein Pasta with Broccoli and Red Peppers

This meal only takes 15 minutes and can be made as a dinner or leftover lunch.

It is bursting with protein, especially if you choose the higher protein pasta options such as black soy, edamame, or mung bean. 

Being a pasta lover, I love how there are so many higher protein options out there now to get your pasta fix in a more filling way.

“Try this super quick vegan meal for a tasty, easy, healthy weekday lunch or dinner,” says Melissa Traub, RD, a plant-based dietitian.

Calories per serving: 218

Protein: 24 g

3. Balanced Snack Plate

Sometimes you don’t have time to prep, and that’s where having some snack plate ingredients can come in handy. A snack plate, recently known as a “girl dinner,” is simply a mix of:

  • Lean proteins like hard-boiled eggs, turkey, ham, or cottage cheese
  • Fruit – grapes, apples
  • Veggies – Bell peppers, carrots, celery, cucumbers
  • Nuts – Mixed nuts, pistachios, almonds
  • Cheeses – feta, cheddar, or Swiss; cottage cheese
  • Starch – Whole wheat pita or flatbread broken into small triangles 

No cooking is required. They can be well-balanced with the right ingredients and only take a few minutes to make! Since they’re so quick, you can make them right in the moment or set them up ahead of time in portable Tupperware containers so they’re ready to go for work.

Average calories per serving (depending on ingredients): 530

Protein: 36 g

4. Bento Boxes

Bento boxes are one of my favorite high protein lunch ideas for weight loss, because they’re so easy and portable. Similar to a snack plate, you are arranging various ingredients such as a small sandwich, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, fruit, and raw veggies in individual bento boxes that are pre-portioned. 

These help with portion control and planning ahead, knowing you’ll have a fresh, balanced meal. You can have different themed boxes to mix things up such as PB&J, hummus, tuna, or turkey and cheese.

They are so easy, filling, and help curb late afternoon hunger! For more bento box ideas, check out my post “5 Quick & Easy Bento Boxes for Adults.”

Average calories per serving (depending on ingredients): 500

Protein: 20-25 grams

5. Berry Blast Smoothie

A lot of smoothies may appear healthy, but are loaded with added sugar, syrups, and calories. This energizing smoothie is rich with essential nutrients, protein, and fiber to keep you full and mimic a balanced meal.

This smoothie is perfect for extra busy days and you can sip it while in work meetings, driving your kids to and fro, or while doing things around the house. 

Add the following ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • 1/2 ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (whey or plant-based)
  • 1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • Handful of spinach, kale, or mixed greens for added nutrients and fiber

Add all ingredients together and blend with enough almond milk or low-fat dairy milk to fill the top. Add a fancy straw and enjoy!

Calories: ~350-400, depending on exact ingredients

Protein – at least 20 g

6. Corn, Quinoa, and Chicken Salad with Pistachios

If you’re looking for something different and a little sweetness, this salad bowl is a great lunch choice. It also has cherries mixed in, which can satisfy a sweet tooth, especially if you tend to crave sweets late afternoon.

With a fiber packed trio of corn, quinoa, and cherries this lunch is refreshing and delicious to get you thorugh a busy afternoon. It is also packed with lean protein from chicken breast, youcan also add frozen shrimp, tuna, salmon, or edamame as alternate protein options.

Calories: 549

Protein: 34 g 

7. Mason Jar Salad with Chicken

If you’re looking for a fun, portable salad meal, mason jars are one of the best high protein lunch ideas for weight loss. Simply add all ingredients plus dressing, shake it up, and let it marinade overnight. This mason jar salad is packed with yummy, nutritious ingredients such as chicken, feta cheese, craisins, peppers, and more and only takes 10-15 minutes to make.

Say goodbye to boring romaine salads!

Calories: 368

Protein: 39 g

8. Twisted Caesar Pesto Chopped Salad Mix with Protein

This is my new favorite chopped salad mix, and really helped reignite my love for salad kits! Chopped salad kits are incredibly easy, all you have to do is mix together what’s in the bag, add a protein and healthy carb, and you’re done. PS – I always recommend adding some sort of carb to your salad to provide balance and satisfaction. 

Protein ideas to add: 4 oz frozen chicken breast strips, frozen shrimp, 1 packet tuna or salmon, edamame or tofu.

Carb ideas to add: handful of chickpeas, chopped butternut squash or sweet potato, corn, peas, or a grain like farro or quinoa.

RD tip – You can choose any chopped sala mix you’d like, but this one is my personal favorite.

9. Tuna Avocado Wrap

Tuna is one of the best protein sources for weight loss, as it contains a large amount of protein per number of calories. Just one 3 oz packet of tuna contains close to 20 grams of protein and only 70-90 calories. I love the Starkist tuna pouches, and they come in a variety of fun flavors too.

Simply add one pouch tuna, 1/4 mashed ripe avocado, lettuce and tomato to a whole wheat or low-carb tortilla wrap like Mission Carb Balance. Enjoy with your favorite raw veggies and a small handful of your favorite chips or popcorn.

10. Acai Bowl

If you love smoothies but prefer to enjoy them as a whole-food version, you should definitely try a deconstructed smoothie acai bowl. These are often thought of for breakfast, but are also an awesome lunch idea that satisfies a sweet craving. The ingredients are similar to what you’d add to a smoothie but presented in a different way.

Mixing up the way you eat your favorite foods in this way helps keep things interesting and makes it easier to stick to your healthy eating goals.

This acai bowl with protein includes a variety of yummy ingredients like frozen and fresh fruit, protein powder, and almond milk blended together into a thick consistency. Pour into a bowl and top with more fruit, granola, nut butter, coconut, or a drizzle of honey!

11. Avocado Egg Salad Sandwich

This sandwich is a twist on a classic egg salad, using avocado instead of mayo. Avocado is incredibly nutritious and rich in anti-inflammatory fats that may support weight loss and healthy skin. 

In fact, one study showed that eating one avocado a day as part of a lower-calorie diet is associated with a higher amount of weight loss than a low-calorie diet alone. I try to enjoy avocados as often as I can, whether with my breakfast, in a smoothie, or mashing into guacamole.

Avocado and eggs are also a perfect pair, delivering delicious flavor and satisfaction.

Calories: 351

Protein: 17 g

RD tip – Bump up the protein content past 20 grams by using a higher protein bread, such as Dave’s Killer Bread thins.

Bottom Line

These 11 high protein lunch ideas for weight loss are easy, lower in calories but packed with protein and fiber to keep you full and satisfied. Eating a balanced lunch is so important, as it sets you up for healthier eating habits later in the day when many people start to fall off their routine. Especially if you tend to graze on snacks while making dinner, overeat at night, or crave snacks, having a balanced lunch you actually like will make all the difference in your day.

For more healthy and easy lunch ideas, head over to my blog “10 Quick & Healthy No-Heat Lunch Ideas.

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