Meal planning is an effective way to stay organized with your diet, dietitian Sammi Brondo said.
She said that protein and fiber can help make filling lunches that are 500 calories or less.
Dishes like salmon bowls and turkey meatballs with pasta are packed with healthy fats and protein.
Meal planning is a great way to take the stress out of figuring out what to eat for the week, especially if you want to stay within the parameters of a certain diet, the dietitian Sammi Brondo said.
While it may seem difficult to have a satiating, 500-calorie lunch, there are plenty of meals you can prepare. She said that adding foods with protein and fiber will help keep you fuller for longer, without adding too many calories.
The portions sizes given for each of these meals are not universal for everyone, Brondo said. While the lunches are 500 calories or less, she said every person needs a different amount of food to feel full and satisfied.
Brondo said that recipes like salmon rice bowls and her Greek farro salad are easy to prepare and full of protein, vegetables, and whole grains, and they're under 500 calories.
Mediterranean chopped salad with pita
Chopped salads are a great lunch option for vegetarians looking for a nutritious meal, Brondo said.
To prepare the salad, finely chop as much cucumber, tomato, and red onion as you'd like into a bowl. Mix in 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and a little bit of lemon juice, salt, and pepper. You can pair the salad with a whole-grain pita and about 2 tablespoons of hummus. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of feta on top when you're ready to eat it, she said.
Hummus is full of vitamins and minerals and has around 7.9 grams protein per serving, according to Healthline.
Salmon rice bowl
Brondo saw people making salmon bowls on Tik Tok, so she was inspired to whip up her own recipe. To make, season 3 to 5 ounces of salmon with paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and cook it in an air fryer or in the oven, along with a 1/2 cup of rice.
Add chopped cucumber, half of a sliced avocado, seaweed, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of spicy mayo in a bowl with the rice and salmon. She said the salmon and avocado in salmon bowls are packed with healthy fats, which can help you feel full, and the vegetables up the vitamin content of the meal.
Pasta with roasted veggies and chicken sausage
Brondo said pasta is great for meal prep because it's versatile and easy to make in advance. You can choose any vegetables, but she usually roasts broccoli, carrots, or bell peppers in olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then add the sauce of your choice, like pesto or tomato sauce. She typically makes this lunch with one or two links of chicken sausage and a 1/2 cup of pasta.
Chicken sausage is an easy-to-make lean protein that pairs well with pasta, Brondo said, but you can use other kinds of sausage if you'd like. She said the combination of protein from the sausage and fiber from the vegetables will help keep you full for longer.
"Fiber helps keep us full, promotes bowel regularity, can reduce total cholesterol, and can help manage blood sugar," Brondo told Insider.
Greek farro salad
A Greek farro salad is another easy vegetarian meal, Brondo said. Chop tomato and cucumber into a bowl of arugula and add olives, 1/4 cup of feta, and a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of farro.
Farro is a whole grain full of B vitamins and fiber. It's important to consistently eat B vitamins because our bodies aren't good at storing them long term, the dietitian Rachael Hartley previously told Insider. B vitamins help the body grow and maintain daily energy levels.
Peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches
A peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich is a classic, filling lunch option and easy to prep, Brondo said. When paired with whole-grain bread for fiber and extra vitamins, they're also pretty nutritious. She uses about 1 to 2 tablespoons of both peanut butter and jelly.
Two tablespoons of peanut butter contains about 7.2 grams of protein, which is about 14% of the daily recommended intake for most people. Peanut butter is also rich in essential vitamins like magnesium, potassium, and zinc, and may help manage blood-sugar levels.
Brondo said you can add a cup of fruit or carrots on the side to make this meal even more filling.
For taco bowls, Brondo said to cook a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of rice ahead of time, and sauté bell peppers and onions. Then add a 1/2 cup of canned black beans, which are inexpensive and full of protein, along with some avocado.
For even more protein, you can add shrimp, chicken, or salmon as easy-to-prepare options.
Turkey meatballs and pasta
This turkey meatball recipe is delicious, Brondo said, and full of protein and healthy fats. The recipe also makes enough meatballs for a few days, so you can have leftovers for different meals.
Mix garlic, onion, bread crumbs, an egg, Parmesan and Pecorino cheese, ketchup, parsley, salt, and pepper into 1 pound of ground turkey and shape the meatballs, according to Giada De Laurentiis' recipe. Then fry the meatballs in a pan for 5 minutes.
Find the full recipe and portions on the Food Network's website.
Cook 1/2 a cup of pasta beforehand, Brondo said, and place the meatballs on top to complete this lunch.
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