How to Meal Prep a Week of High-Protein Lunches in 30 Minutes

By: Carolyn A. Hodges, R.D.

Follow these steps for prepping healthy, high-protein lunches you can grab on your way out the door.

Meal-prepping your week of lunches in advance can help you stay on course with healthy eating habits and save you time and money in the process. Making your meals in advance means you're in full control of what you eat and how much you eat—no need for expensive, high-calorie take-out meals when your lunch is already made! And while meal-prepping does take some commitment, the time you spend up front prepping is less than what you'd collectively spend prepping meals before or after busy workdays.

Related: A Beginner's Guide to Meal Prep

The high-protein lunches in this meal-prep plan are easy options for anyone looking for healthy lunch ideas and are particularly helpful if you're trying to lose weight. Because protein increases satiety, a high-protein lunch can help you feel fuller for longer and prevent that afternoon "energy crash" that leaves you feeling wiped and craving high-calorie foods. Plus, in combination with exercise, eating a balanced diet with protein-rich foods can help build and maintain muscle. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn over the course of the day.

Related: The Benefits of Protein & How Much You Should be Eating

How much protein you need depends on a variety of factors, such as age, gender and activity level. For example, a moderately active 30-year-old woman needs about 50 grams of protein per day. If you break it down over the course of the day, you should aim to consume about one-third of your daily protein needs at lunch and the other two-thirds at breakfast and dinner.

Follow This Formula to Build High-Protein Lunches

how to meal prep high protein lunches

1. Choose 1-2 servings of lean protein

1 serving = 3 oz. chicken, fish or beef; 1/2 cup tofu; 1/2 cup edamame; 1 egg; 2 Tbsp. hummus; 1/2 cup cooked beans or lentils

2. Add in 1 serving of fiber-rich carbohydrates

1 serving = 1/2 cup cooked brown rice, quinoa or whole-wheat pasta; 1 cup edamame; 1/2 cup cooked beans or lentils; 1 cup winter squash

3. Include 1 or more servings of nutrient-dense vegetables

1 serving = 1 cup raw or cooked vegetables; 2 cups leafy greens; 1 large bell pepper or tomato; 2 medium carrots or celery stalks

4. Incorporate 1 serving of healthy fat

1 serving = 1/4 of an avocado; 1 Tbsp. pumpkin or sunflower seeds; 1 oz. nuts (24 almonds, 48 pistachios; 14 walnut halves); 1 tsp. olive oil

 

How to Meal-Prep High-Protein Lunches

We've outlined the steps to help you prep and pack three different lunches in less than 30 minutes. These high-protein lunches will keep you satisfied through the afternoon to help you reach your health and weight-loss goals.

How to Meal-Prep Low-Carb Asian Slaw Bowls with Shrimp

Low-Carb Asian Slaw Bowls with Shrimp

Ready in: 20 minutes | Protein per serving: 28 grams

Quick, 10-minute Spicy Cabbage Slaw serves as the low-carb veggie-packed base in this recipe, and can be topped with any protein you like. We're adding shrimp and edamame, but feel free to swap in leftover grilled chicken, salmon or tofu. The edamame doubles as a healthy carbohydrate source, while the avocado serves as the healthy fat.

Step 1: Thaw shrimp & edamame

Place 12 ounces of frozen cooked shrimp in a colander and set it under cold running water for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are thawed. Defrost 2 cups frozen edamame in the microwave for 5 minutes (or follow package instructions).

Step 2: Prepare the Spicy Cabbage Slaw

Make the Spicy Cabbage Slaw. Add the thawed edamame; toss and set aside.

Step 3: Slice avocado

Slice an avocado and toss with fresh lime juice to minimize browning. You can also wait to slice and add the avocado until you're ready to eat.

Step 4: Assemble lunch containers

Divide the slaw mixture among 4 lunch containers. Top each with a quarter of the shrimp (about 3 ounces) and ¼ of the sliced avocado. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

How to Meal-Prep Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowls

Mediterranean Chicken Quinoa Bowls

Ready in: 30 minutes | Protein per serving: 34 grams

In addition to lean chicken, quinoa doubles as a healthy source of plant-based protein as well as a high-fiber carbohydrate. The olives and olive oil in the sauce serve as the healthy fat, while the red peppers in the sauce plus cucumbers fill out the meal with veggies.

Step 1: Prepare quinoa

Begin by cooking 2/3 cup of dry quinoa in 1 1/3 cups of water. This will yield about 2 cups of cooked quinoa, or 1/2 cup for each lunch serving.

Step 2: Cook chicken & make roasted red pepper sauce

Follow the recipe to cook the chicken (Steps 1 and 2). While the chicken cooks, prepare the red pepper sauce (Step 3).

Step 3: Chop vegetables & herbs

On a clean cutting board, chop olives and red onion, and combine with the cooked quinoa and oil (Step 4). Dice the cucumber and chop the parsley. Set aside.

Step 4: Assemble lunch containers

Divide the quinoa mixture among 4 lunch containers. Top each with ¼ cup cucumber, about 3 oz. cooked chicken, ¼ cup sauce and 1 tablespoon crumbled feta cheese; sprinkle with parsley. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.

How to Meal-Prep Vegan South of the Border Buddha Bowls

Vegan South of the Border Buddha Bowls

Ready in: 35 minutes | Protein per serving: 19 grams

Chili-spiced tofu combines with high-fiber brown rice, colorful vegetables, a healthy homemade dressing and crunchy pumpkin seeds (our healthy fat sources) for a high-protein vegan bowl brimming with flavor. Note that the original recipe makes two servings—you'll want to double the ingredients to make enough for four lunches.

Step 1: Prepare brown rice

Begin by cooking 2/3 cup of dry brown rice in 1 1/3 cups of water. This will yield about 2 cups of cooked rice, or 1/2 cup for each lunch serving. You can easily swap in microwavable rice pouches to cut down on prep time.

Step 2: Chop vegetables

Slice red bell peppers and red onion. Chop romaine and halve cherry tomatoes.

Step 3: Roast tofu & make dressing

Follow the recipe to roast the tofu and vegetables (Steps 1 and 2). While these cook, prepare the dressing (Step 3). Portion the dressing into 4 small containers and refrigerate.

Step 4: Assemble lunch containers

Divide the rice mixture among 4 lunch containers. Top each with a quarter of the tofu and roasted vegetables, lettuce, tomato and pumpkin seeds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. Dress just before serving.

 

Watch: How to Meal Prep a Week of Vegan Lunches

Don't Miss!
How to Meal Prep 5 Mediterranean Lunches for the Week in Under an Hour
How to Meal Prep a Week of Healthy Lunches for Less Than $20
How to Meal Prep for a Week of Vegan Lunches