How to Meal Prep Healthy Low-Carb Lunches in 30 Minutes
Kick-start healthy eating with help from this low-carb lunch meal-prep plan. Making your lunches ahead of time guarantees you'll have something satisfying to eat during the busy workday that's cheaper and healthier than takeout and tailored to help you meet your specific health goals. The low-carb lunches in this meal-prep plan are good options for anyone looking for fast and healthy lunch ideas, and they can be particularly helpful if you're trying to lose weight.
Related: How to Start a Low-Carb Diet
Some research suggests low-carb diets can be an effective way to lose weight. While popular low-carb diets, like the ketogenic diet and Atkins diet, call for super-low carb limits, you don't need to go as low as they suggest. In fact, eating too few carbs can actually make weight loss harder, as you miss out on key nutrients (like fiber from whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables) that help you to feel full and satisfied on fewer calories. The lunches in this plan come in at 15 grams of carbohydrates per serving and are packed with veggies, lean protein and healthy fats to create satisfying lunches for the week.
Follow This Formula to Build Low-Carb Lunches
Use this formula as a guide for building low-carb lunches with 15 grams of carbohydrates or less per serving.
1. Start with 1-2 servings of low-carbohydrate vegetables
1 serving = 2 cups salad greens, spinach or cabbage; 1 cup cooked zucchini or cauliflower; 1 cup raw cucumber, celery or mushrooms; 1 cup chopped tomato or bell pepper; ½ cup chopped carrot
2. Add in 1-2 servings of lean protein
1 serving = 3 oz. cooked chicken, fish or beef; 1 egg; ⅓ cup shredded cheese; ½ cup tofu
3. Incorporate 1 serving of healthy fat
1 serving = ¼ of an avocado; 1 Tbsp. pumpkin or sunflower seeds; 1 oz. nuts (24 almonds, 48 pistachios or 14 walnut halves); 1 tsp. olive oil
How to Meal-Prep Low-Carb Lunches
Follow the easy steps below to prep and pack three different low-carb lunches for the week, ready in about 30 minutes.
Store these healthy lunches in an air-tight meal-prep container to keep fresh (To buy: amazon.com, $30 for 5). Store any dressings or dips separately in a leak-proof container (To buy: amazon.com, $11.50 for 8) and wait to add till ready to eat to prevent wilting.
How to Meal-Prep Low-Carb Zucchini Noodles with Quick Turkey Bolognese Sauce
Ready in: 35 minutes | Carbohydrates per serving: 15 grams
Swap out regular pasta (and most of the carbs) for raw spiralized zucchini "noodles," which become tender when heated in the microwave with sauce. The hearty turkey-and-mushroom meat sauce provides protein and additional fiber to keep you full through the afternoon.
Step 1: Prepare the Quick Turkey Meat Sauce
You need half of the recipe (3 cups) for this week's lunches. Consider freezing the rest, or use it for dinner.
Step 2: Make zucchini "noodles"
While the sauce simmers, cut 3 medium zucchini into thin strands using a julienne vegetable peeler or spiral vegetable slicer so you have 8 cups. (To cut down on prep time, look for fresh zucchini noodles in the produce section of your grocery store.)
Step 3: Assemble lunch containers
Divide the zucchini noodles among 4 lunch containers (2 cups each). Top each with ¾ cup Quick Turkey Meat Sauce and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Note: To reheat, vent lid and microwave on High until the sauce is steaming and the zucchini noodles are tender, 2½ to 3 minutes.
Totals: 216 calories, 15 g carbohydrates, 19 g protein, 10 g fat, 555 mg sodium
How to Meal-Prep Low-Carb Vegan Burrito Bowls with Cauliflower Rice
Ready in: 30 minutes | Carbohydrates per serving: 15 grams
Here we use frozen riced cauliflower, a good low-carb substitute for rice, to cut down on prep time in these vegan burrito-style bowls. Paired with the tofu-based Beefless Ground Beef recipe and topped with avocado and pico de gallo, this satisfying vegan lunch will carry you through to dinner.
Step 1: Prepare the Beefless Ground Beef
Follow the recipe to prepare the Beefless Ground Beef.
Step 2: Cook the cauliflower
While the tofu cooks, defrost the riced cauliflower in the microwave according to package directions. Toss with 4 tsp. olive oil and 1 tsp. no-salt-added taco seasoning.
Step 3: Prep produce
Thinly slice red cabbage to make 1 cup, dice 1 medium avocado and coarsely chop 1/4 cup cilantro.
Step 4: Assemble lunch containers
Divide the cauliflower rice among 4 lunch containers. Top each with ½ cup Beefless Ground Beef, ¼ cup shredded cabbage, ¼ cup diced avocado and 2 tablespoons pico de gallo; sprinkle with cilantro. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat.
Totals: 298 calories, 15 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein, 20 g fat, 680 mg sodium
How to Meal-Prep Low-Carb Chicken Satay Bowls with Spicy Peanut Sauce
Ready in: 35 minutes | Carbohydrates per serving: 15 grams
A crunchy Asian-inspired slaw serves as the satisfying low-carb base in these filling chicken satay bowls. While the chicken marinates (for a quick 15 minutes), you can prep the dressing and vegetables.
Step 1: Marinate chicken
Follow Step 1 of the Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce recipe and marinate the chicken for 15 minutes.
Step 2: Make the spicy peanut sauce
Follow Step 2 of the Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce recipe to prepare the spicy peanut sauce. Divide the sauce among 4 small single-serve containers and refrigerate.
Step 3: Prepare the slaw
Thinly slice Savoy or green cabbage to make 6 cups. Slice red bell pepper to make 1/2 cup, and green onions to make 1/4 cup; toss together in a large bowl with 1/2 cup precut matchstick carrots.
Step 4: Cook chicken
Follow Step 3 of the Thai Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce recipe to cook the chicken. To save time, you can skip the skewers and cook the chicken on a grill pan or sauté pan. Once cooked, slice the chicken tenders into strips.
Step 5: Assemble lunch containers
Divide the slaw among 4 lunch containers. Top each with a quarter of the chicken and sprinkle with ½ tablespoon sesame seeds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to eat. Dress with peanut sauce just before serving.
Totals: 351 calories, 14 g carbohydrates, 28 g protein, 20 g fat, 498 mg sodium