High-Protein Lunch: 9 Ways to Avoid the Afternoon Slump
You've made it through the typical weekday rush of morning meetings, emails, and water cooler catch-ups, and it's not even 11 a.m. You're feeling efficient, energized, and happy thanks to the high-protein cereal you had for breakfast.
You know, that bowl of crunchy goodness that's not only tasty but great for your healthy eating goals. That's because it not only has a high amount of protein to keep you going longer, it's also low-carb, sugar-free, and free of preservatives, artificial colors, and flavors.
But protein, my friend, shouldn't only be something you have for breakfast. A high-protein lunch is just as important if you want to make it through the afternoon without a blood sugar crash — the one that causes you to stare out into space.
What's the Big Deal About Protein?
Before we share some delicious high-protein lunch recipes to fill you up, let's spend a little time talking about protein as a macronutrient.
While it's often associated with bodybuilders and gym junkies, eating protein alone won't cause you to gain muscle mass — you'll also need to exercise and weight train for that. So shake off those fears of turning into a muscle-bound beast from eating too much protein. You won't.
What protein will do for you is, as we mentioned earlier, help you feel full and stay full. At the same time, it'll reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. High-protein and low-carb diets — the basis of the keto diet — have also been found to help with weight loss.
And if you have a high-protein lunch, it'll likely keep you from dreaming of pizza and bagels in the middle of your afternoon departmental budget meeting.
High-Protein Lunch Ideas
To help you avoid the mid-afternoon daze, we've scoured the internet for healthy recipes that are high in protein, and easy to make and transport.
Get ready to meal prep without fear as these easy lunch ideas will make it from your home to your office looking just as appetizing as when you cooked them.
1. Grilled Chicken and Quinoa Burrito Bowl With Avocado Salsa
Image: Cooking Classy
This chicken and quinoa bowl is a high-protein Mexican lunch at its best because it's bursting with the familiar flavor we love, but without the tortilla or rice (read: carbs).
Instead, it uses protein-rich quinoa, which is also high in fiber, great for helping you feel full longer. These bowls are easily meal prepped and will keep for a few days if stored in an airtight container.
2. Broccoli & Chickpea Rainbow Power Bowls
Image: Jar of Lemons
Psst, we'll let you in on a secret: You don't need to just get your protein from meat. If you're vegan or vegetarian (or would simply like to up your veggie intake), this rainbow power bowl lunch recipe is just for you.
Chickpeas are an excellent protein source and are also rich in other nutrients, including fiber, iron, and calcium. The broccoli florets, red cabbage, and red peppers not only up your fiber intake but they also make your bowl of high-protein lunch look oh-so-pretty.
3. Italian Turkey Kale Roll-Ups
Image: Physical Kitchness
You don't need to wait for Thanksgiving to enjoy a bit of turkey, especially if you're trying out this roll-up recipe packed with nutrient-dense leafy greens and lean protein, enhanced with tons of Italian spices.
You can choose to enjoy them immediately or let them cool and refrigerate. They'll taste just as great reheated in the microwave the next day.
4. Chinese Chicken Salad
Image: Living Well Kitchen
Ah, chicken. Is there anything we don't like about this bird? You can roast it and eat it whole. You can make delicious chicken lettuce wraps with chicken breasts. You can even hard boil eggs for a high-protein snack.
For this chicken salad recipe, you can choose to roast the chicken, cook it in your slow cooker, or if you're too pressed for time, simply buy a rotisserie chicken from the store. You can keep this salad in the fridge for at least four days, although you should probably add the cashews right before serving for an extra crunch.
5. Slow Cooker Meatballs
Image: Dinner at the Zoo
With 31 grams of protein per serving, this is a lunch sure to keep you feeling full up until dinnertime. Slow simmered in the Crock-Pot, make these meatballs on a Sunday and enjoy them for lunch for the next few workdays. Throw them on top of pasta, or enjoy them with some cauliflower and couscous for a nutritious, high-protein meal.
6. High Protein Egg Salad With Cottage Cheese
Image: Six Sisters' Stuff
Scrambled, poached, or hard-boiled, we certainly love eggs. The beauty of this egg salad recipe is that it uses cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise, making it a high-protein, but surprisingly low-fat, delight.
Enjoy this as a sandwich with high-protein bread or try different types of salad sandwiches using tahini or hummus — both high in protein — as a spread.
7. Scrambled Chickpea and Spinach Pitas
This vegan sandwich will power you through the afternoon. The great thing about this pita pocket recipe, stuffed with spiced chickpeas and sautéed veggies, is that it can be prepared in advance and frozen. When you're ready for lunch, simply reheat and enjoy.
8. Brownie Batter Protein Smoothie
You may think a decadent sounding brownie batter smoothie recipe would be full of sugar and fats, but you'll be pleasantly surprised by this one. With just seven ingredients, including banana, almond milk, Greek yogurt, and protein powder, there are only 17 grams of sugar per serving and 24 grams of protein. Made in just five minutes, it's perfect when you need something on-the-go.
9. Lentil and Kielbasa Stew
Image: Real Simple
This is a satisfying and flavorful stew that's low in calories but high in protein. It's best made on a Sunday, as it does require some time simmering over the stove. However, most of the cooking time is hands-off — you'll only need to go back to it to stir occasionally.
Cereal as a High-Protein Lunch? We Say, Yes
We get it. Some days can start with a quick rush out the door and hardly enough time for breakfast, much less thoughts of preparing lunch. But you're trying to be healthy, which means takeout is on your no-no list.
On days like these, you want something that's not only convenient, quick, and healthy, but something you'll enjoy eating too. And that's where The Cereal School comes in. We're sure we're not the only ones who've had cereal for meals other than breakfast. You can taste it now, can't you? A big, crunchy bowl of breakfast cereal drenched in cold milk.
Sure, cereal has gotten a pretty bad rap in recent times because it can be full of added sugar with hardly any fiber or protein — a guaranteed recipe for a blood sugar spike and crash, but The Cereal School is different.
Just how different? 16 grams of protein, one tiny gram of carbs, and absolutely no sugar in each serving different. Oh, and because we like our food au naturel, it's also made from non-GMO ingredients with no artificial sweeteners or colors.
And with five delicious flavors — Fruity, Cinnamon Bun, Cocoa, Berries, and Peanut Butter — this is one high-protein lunch you can say yes to.