Here's how to prepare a week's worth of healthy 400-calorie lunches in less than 15 minutes, using healthy items from Trader Joe's.

Carolyn A. Hodges, R.D.
December 30, 2019
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Meal-prepping lunches ahead of time has many benefits—it can save you time during the week and will likely help you save money by reducing food waste and curbing money spent on takeout. If weight loss is one of your goals, meal-prepping takes the guesswork out of portion control, which can be key when it comes to following a lower-calorie diet. Having a healthy meal prepared in advance can help you avoid the trap of mindless snacking or grazing when you're feeling hungry and pressed for time.

Whether you're new to meal-prepping or just in the mood to change things up a bit, look no further than your neighborhood Trader Joe's. Known for their unique, affordable and Insta-worthy products, TJ's carries a number of items perfect for faster-than-takeout meals that are also good for you. We've scoped out the store and put together three meal-prep plans to help you make a week's worth of lunches in about 10 minutes (yep, 10 minutes), each using four or five products. These lunches are nutrient-packed but all come in under 400 calories, making them the perfect addition to your weight-loss plan.

Tips for Meal-Prepping Weight-Loss Lunches Using Trader Joe's Products

Load up the veg

Filling at least half your lunch bowl with vegetables will not only make your meal look satisfying, it will bump up the fiber to keep you feeling full for hours. Nonstarchy vegetables like lettuce or other greens, summer squash, celery and carrots are less calorie-dense than proteins and grains, making them the perfect base for your bowl. Try one of Trader Joe's ready-to-eat bagged greens or prechopped vegetable blends to add bulk and satisfying crunch.

Pack in the protein

A potential pitfall of a reduced-calorie diet is not feeling satisfied after meals. This is where protein saves the day—add at least one serving of lean protein to your midday meal to increase satiety and keep hunger at bay. Easy meal-prep protein options can be found around every corner at Trader Joe's. Check the cooler for pregrilled chicken breast and baked tofu, the freezer section for microwaveable high-protein grains like quinoa, and the canned goods aisle for wild-caught seafood and assorted beans.

Try something new

Keeping healthy meals exciting reduces boredom, which is why we encourage you to consider trying your favorite foods with a twist. One of the many reasons we love Trader Joe's is their commitment to making food fun. Just check their hummus section (their Chocolate Hummus has a cult following for good reason). Topping their unique Buffalo Style Hummus with crumbled blue cheese makes for one crave-worthy Buffalo-Style Bistro Lunch Box you'll look forward to diving into all week.

Flavor is everything

Cutting back on calories shouldn't mean cutting back on flavor! Make a lunch you can't wait to dig into with simple toppers to enhance flavor, like a bright dressing or bold cheese. We can always rely on Trader Joe's for new and exciting sauces and dressings, and their refrigerated salad dressings are no exception. With just 60 calories for 2 tablespoons, TJ's Almond Butter Turmeric Salad Dressing is the perfect way to top the Chopped Veggie Grain Bowls with Turmeric Dressing. You'll also find some real gems by the cheeses, like the flavor-packed marinated goat's milk cheese medallions. A little goes a long way in the Grilled Vegetable Salads with Goat Cheese.

How to Meal-Prep a Week of Lunches for Weight Loss with Products from Trader Joe's

To make meal-prep easier, we've mapped out the simple step-by-step instructions to put together four lunches for the week in about 10 minutes using products found at Trader Joe's (this allows you to pack leftovers or grab lunch out one day during the week). These lunches come in under 400 calories and are packed with nutrients like fiber and protein to keep hunger at bay all afternoon.

Buffalo-Style Bistro Lunch Box

These tailgate-inspired lunch bowls can be assembled in about 15 minutes using just a handful of ingredients from Trader Joe's, like pregrilled chicken breast and spicy Buffalo-flavored hummus. We're packing these up with crunchy veggie sticks and blue cheese so you can savor all the flavors of game day, but for a fraction of the calories.

Step 1: Prepare celery and carrot sticks

Trim 1 bunch celery and cut into sticks. Peel and trim 1 pound carrots and cut into sticks. Divide vegetables into 4 single-serving divided containers with lids.

Step 2: Cut chicken

Cut 1 (12-ounce) package Trader Joe's Grilled Seasoned White Meat Chicken Strips into bite-size pieces. Divide among the containers.

Step 3: Portion out hummus

Measure 1/4 cup Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus into a compartment (or into a small lidded single-serving container) and top with 1/2 ounce Trader Joe's Crumbled Blue Cheese (about 2 tablespoons). Seal the containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Grilled Vegetable Salads with Marinated Goat Cheese

These satisfying lunch bowls are big on flavor but lower in calories (and prep work!). To save time, we're using a bag of Trader Joe's frozen seasoned vegetables (which thaw overnight in your meal-prep container). If you want to bump up the protein, leftover chicken breast or salmon pairs perfectly with the flavors in this hearty salad.

Step 1: Portion out kale

Divide 1 (10-ounce) package Trader Joe's Organic Tuscan Kale among 4 single-serving containers with lids.

Step 2: Add cheese and seeds

Top each container with 1 ounce Trader Joe's Marinated Goat's Milk Cheese Medallions (about half a medallion) and 1 tablespoon Trader Joe's Roasted Unsalted Sunflower Seeds.

Step 3: Portion out vinaigrette

Transfer 2 tablespoons Trader Joe's Organic Balsamic & Fig Dressing into each of 4 small lidded containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Step 4: Add grilled vegetables (the night before serving)

The evening before taking your lunch to go, transfer one-quarter of the bag of Trader Joe's frozen Misto alla Griglia (about 1 cup) to a container (the grilled vegetables will be thawed and ready to eat by lunchtime the following day). Seal and refrigerate overnight. Top with dressing before serving.

Chopped Veggie Grain Bowls with Turmeric Dressing

By using a few of our favorite Trader Joe's convenience items—like prechopped fresh veggie mix and frozen precooked quinoa—we eliminate nearly all prep work so you can assemble 4 days' worth of lunches with minimal effort. These crunchy chopped salads are high in fiber but lower in calories, making them perfect for those following a reduced-calorie diet.

Step 1: Heat quinoa

Follow the microwave directions on the box of Trader Joe's frozen Fully Cooked Quinoa to prepare the quinoa (you'll need both pouches). Once heated, transfer the quinoa to a shallow bowl to cool completely before assembling the bowls.

Step 2: Portion out dressing

Transfer 2 tablespoons of Trader Joe's Almond Butter Turmeric Salad Dressing (found near the salads in the refrigerated section) into each of 4 small lidded containers and refrigerate for up to 4 days.

Step 3: Assemble lunch containers

Divide 1 (16-ounce) container Trader Joe's Healthy 8 Chopped Veggie Mix among 4 single-serving lidded containers. Top each with one-fourth of the cooled quinoa and one-fourth can of Trader Joe's Organic Garbanzo Beans (rinsed). Seal the containers and refrigerate up to 4 days. Toss with dressing just before serving.