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Don’t skip lunch: 7 ideas for easy, healthy lunches


When I wasn’t regulating my eating habits, I found if I didn’t skip breakfast on a certain day, lunch was the next to go. It wasn’t necessarily I wasn’t eating anything, but while sitting at my desk all day going to and from meetings, grazing made the most sense. The foods I chose to fill up on weren’t exactly the ones that — when put together on a plate — would make up a healthy meal.

For runners, especially those who complete their workouts after work, lunch is critical. Not only does this mid-day meal provide a boost in energy by elevating blood sugars, it also aids with concentration. Skipping lunch or filling up on sugary/salty/fatty vending machine foods can also slow metabolism and — in not so technical terms — can leave you feeling pretty sluggish and icky.

Here are some ideas:

  • Microwave “baked” sweet potato. One of my favorite bring-along lunches — I’d pack a medium sweet potato (scrubbed clean) and plain Greek yogurt or guacamole and black beans or salsa and cheddar. Just poke the potato with the tines of a fork a few times, place atop a paper towel, cook on high for around 5 minutes, then flip and cook another 5. Let cool before slicing and topping.
  • Loaded salad. Think beyond just lettuce and dressing. Get yourself a large covered plastic container and add some baby spinach, raisins, dried cranberries, beans, tofu, hard-boiled egg, sunflower seeds, sliced peppers, apples, goat cheese, etc. Get creative and top with a simple oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Slow cooker soups. At the beginning of each week from fall through winter, I made a crock pot stew for lunches. I use whatever veggies we have leftover in the fridge, some broth or stock, and beans. Seasoned with salt and pepper to taste, this meal is simple and nutritionally complete.
  • Grown-up PB+J. I love this classic favorite. But this sandwich can be so much more interesting (and nutritionally dense). Try adding granola or sliced apples. Use different nut butters from almond to hazelnut to sunflower. Use a whole wheat wrap instead of bread. Venture into more adventurous jams (think red pepper jelly).
  • Quiche. If you can’t tell, I’m big on eggs for protein. I love making a quiche on the weekend and then cutting it into portions for weekday lunches. Plus, you can put almost anything in quiche — from vegetables to cheese to meat.
  • Noodle salads. Another make-for-the-week meal that can be served hot or cold. Use regular spaghetti or soba noodles or rice noodles, etc. Add-ins include anything from roasted cauliflower to shredded chicken to avocado chunks.

Packing a healthy lunch (whether you work from home, in an office, or on-the-go) simply requires a little planning. I still struggle with eating one cohesive meal, but having some go-tos helps make it more automatic. Overall, it’s worth a little extra time on the front end to keep energy stable throughout the day and, ultimately, throughout my workouts.

Photo and article by Ashley Marcin.

Related: 10 simple power-packed breakfast