The Best Vegan Lunch Ideas for Weight Loss, According to Nutritionists
Lunch: That often overlooked meal that is actually so important. It keeps your blood sugar stable, gives you energy to power through your afternoon, and provides you with a necessary break from staring at your laptop screen on your couch because, let’s be real, that’s been “the office” for the past few months.
Below, nutritionists share their go-to healthy vegan lunches that—coupled with a balanced diet and exercise—can help you lose weight. As an added benefit, many of these dishes are “cook once, eat multiple time” deals, providing you with tasty leftovers for days to come.
1. Lentil Chickpea Vegetable Salad from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN, culinary-nutrition expert in Westchester, NY
How to make it: Toss together one-and-a-half cups cooked lentils, one cup canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed), a ½ -cup diced bell peppers, and a ½-cup diced cucumbers. For the dressing, whisk together three tablespoons of lemon juice, four teaspoons of olive oil, one-and-a-half teaspoons of grainy Dijon mustard, one-and-a-half teaspoons of maple syrup, and a ¼ -teaspoon Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Pour dressing over lentil chickpea salad and toss to combine. Serve over a bed of your favorite lettuce, if you’d like. Optional: Add a ¼ -cup pomegranate arils or two tablespoons dried cranberries for a touch of sweetness. This recipe makes eight ½-cup servings
Why it helps with weight loss: “This is a delicious and healthy lunch for plant-based eaters looking to lose weight. It's rich in fiber and plant-based protein, two nutrients that will keep you full and satiated,” comments Levinson. “It's also quick and easy to make, especially if you use canned or vacuum-sealed ready-to-eat lentils,” she adds, advising you whip this salad up over the weekend to have at the ready for a quick weekday lunch.
2. Mujadara from Christie Gagnon, RD, LD
How to make it: Add two-and-a-half cups brown lentils to a large pot with seven cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add one cup of jasmine rice and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. While the lentils and rice are cooking, halve, peel, and slice six onions. Sauté onions in ¼-cup olive oil, stirring frequently for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and caramelized. Once the lentils and rice are done, remove the pot from heat and let sit for 10 minutes before removing the lid. Stir in one tablespoon of cumin, a ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, a ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper, and half of the onions to the lentil-and-rice pot and combine. Portion out servings and top with remaining onions. The recipe makes 12 servings, “so it's perfect for meal prepping lunches for the week,” says Gagnon.
Why it helps with weight loss: “With less than 300 calories per serving, Mujadara is an excellent lunch choice for those trying to lose weight. It is packed full of protein, fiber, and healthy fat which helps slow down digestion and keeps us staying full longer,” notes Gagnon. “It's an inexpensive dish that is nutrient-dense and packed full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.” You can experiment with green lentils and basmati rice in lieu of brown lentils and jasmine rice.
3. Power Bowl with Maple-Dijon Dressing from Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian in the New York City area and owner of Plant-Based Eats.
How to make it: Combine two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, one-and-a-half tablespoons balsamic vinegar, one tablespoon pure maple syrup, and two teaspoons Dijon mustard in a sealed container, such as a mason jar. Shake until well combined, and set aside. Spray a grill or cast-iron grill pan with spray oil. Grill onions, garlic, and squash over medium-high heat flipping once, until desired tenderness. Grill lemon wedges until slightly browned, turning once. Place a bed of arugula in two bowls, and top with one cup cooked quinoa, prepared with low-sodium vegetable broth according to package directions. Add grilled vegetables, tomatoes, one cup low-sodium canned kidney beans, drained and rinsed, and half an avocado, sliced. Season with salt and pepper; drizzle with maple-Dijon dressing. Add lemon wedge, and enjoy immediately. This recipe makes two servings.
Why it helps with weight loss: “I love making this vegan bowl for lunch. It’s filled with so many fueling plant-based ingredients—including quinoa, grilled veggies, and canned beans,” shares Gorin. “It’s an excellent source of both protein and fiber, which work together to keep you filled for longer. This means less snacking!”
4. Chickpea Curry Bowl with Cauliflower and Golden Raisins from Rania Batayneh, MPH, bestselling author of The One One One Diet: The Simple 1:1:1 Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss
How to make it: Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas. Next you will want to use a frying pan to defrost three cups of frozen cauliflower (feel free to use a tri-color frozen mix). Once they have come to a boil, turn the heat down and pour in the can of chickpeas. Allow both ingredients to simmer and warm up together. Once the chickpeas are a little softer (about three-to-four minutes), pour in a store-bought yellow curry sauce. Allow all of this to simmer for about two minutes. When you are ready to eat, you can top with a teaspoon of golden raisins for added sweetness and a teaspoon of toasted slivered almonds for some healthy fats. This recipe makes three servings and each serving is one-and-a-half cups.
Why it helps with weight loss: “The cauliflower adds fiber and antioxidants. Combined with the chickpeas, a plant protein that is also a complex carbohydrate, you also get more fiber,” shares Batayneh, noting that a cup of chickpeas boasts 14 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber. “The fiber and protein in the chickpeas help to keep your blood sugar stable which can impact your energy, mood, and cravings.” Got leftovers? Use it in a wrap the next day, Batayneh suggests.
5. Baked Tofu Avocado Sandwich from Jessica Levinson
How to make it: Toast two slices of whole wheat bread or a whole-wheat English Muffin. While the bread is toasting, mash half an avocado with Kosher salt and pepper. Spread mashed avocado on both slices of toasted bread. Top one piece of bread with two or three slices of baked tofu, sliced tomato, and arugula. Cover with a second slice of bread and enjoy. If you’re feeling fancy, you can also add a drizzle of olive oil or balsamic vinegar (or both) on your sandwich before serving.
Why it helps with weight loss: Take your avocado toast to greater nutrition heights with this simple recipe that contains plant-based protein, healthy fat, and fiber. “Avocados are a good source of fiber and healthy, unsaturated fat, and recent research showed an increase in satiety when avocados are added to meals. Research also shows an association between tofu/soy food consumption and weight loss,” comments Levinson.
6. Chickpea Salad with Bell Peppers, Scallions, and Dried Cranberries from Christie Gagnon
How to make it: Simply mix the following ingredients together in a bowl: two cans of chickpeas (drained), one cup of edamame, one cup of carrots (grated), one red bell pepper (diced), one yellow bell pepper (diced), ¼-cup of scallions (thinly sliced), ½-cup of dried cranberries, ⅓-cup of olive oil, two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, one teaspoon of cumin, ½-teaspoon of Italian seasoning, ½-teaspoon of garlic powder, ¼-teaspoon salt, and a ¼-teaspoon black pepper. This recipe makes six servings so meal prep away.
Why it helps with weight loss: “Packed full of protein, fiber, and healthy fat, this chickpea salad will keep you feeling satisfied for hours. There are only 200 calories per serving, but lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” states Gagnon, noting that this salad provides more than 100% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for vitamins A and C.
7. Beet Quinoa Salad from Jessica Levinson
How to make it: Mix together one-and-a-half cups of cooked quinoa, one cup of diced, cooked beets, one tablespoon of olive oil, two teaspoons of lemon juice, ¼-teaspoon of Kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste. You can add chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, edamame beans, or cubed tofu if you’d like a protein boost, notes Levinson. Serve on top of a bed of lettuce or eat on its own. This recipe makes four ¾-cup servings.
Why it helps with weight loss: “Protein and fiber from quinoa combine with antioxidant-rich beets and a light lemon vinaigrette dressing to provide you with a light vegan lunch,” says Levinson, adding that you can reduce prep time by using pre-cooked beets.