20 Easy, Healthy, Vegetarian Lunch IdeasThis post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure.
Are you tired of the same lunch options week after week? Or are you trying to go meatless for a few meals but don’t know where to start? Here are 20 easy, healthy and delicious vegetarian lunch ideas that are perfect for taking to work or enjoying at home!
Whether you’re making your own lunch (to take to work or eat at home), or looking for something your kids will enjoy, coming up with healthy options for lunch can be so hard! Ideally, you want something that will keep you full (so you don’t end up with a candy bar in your hand at 3pm), and something that super fast and doesn’t require much cooking or prep time.
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Here are 20 vegetarian lunch ideas that are tasty, good for you, and that kids will love!
What Do Vegetarians Eat?
There are five different categories of vegetarians, although, what all vegetarians have in common is that they do not eat meat, poultry, or pork.
- Lacto Vegetarians: This type of vegetarian includes dairy in their diet such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and milk.
- Ovo Vegetarians: This type of vegetarian includes eggs in their diet, but not dairy products.
- Lacto-Ovo Vegetarians: This type of vegetarian includes both eggs and dairy products in their diet.
- Pescatarian: A pescatarian generally excludes all meat, poultry, pork, eggs, and dairy, but does allow for fish.
- Vegan: Vegans exclude all animal products including meat, poultry, pork, eggs, dairy, and fish.
Why Do People Become Vegetarian?
There are many reasons why a person may choose to become vegetarian.
- Religious beliefs: Some religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Seventh Day Adventist, and Jains follow a vegetarian diet because it promotes nonviolence.
- Health concerns: Following a healthy and well balanced vegetarian diet can improve your overall health, as well as reduce your risk of many chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease. In addition, hormones and antibiotics are used in some livestock. People choose to avoid meat to reduce their exposure.
- Animal rights: People also choose to follow a vegetarian diet because of their love for animals, and wanting to treat animals humanely and with respect.
- Environmental concerns: The production of meat causes green house gases that have an impact on our environment.
- Budget Friendly: Others may choose a vegetarian diet because it is more budget friendly. Plant sources of protein are less expensive than animals sources of protein.
Is Following a Vegetarian Diet Healthy?
If you follow a well balanced vegetarian diet, and make sure that you are eating plenty of plant protein, whole grains, vegetables and fruits, you will see numerous health benefits.
- Reduced Risk of Heart Disease: The consumption of red meat increases your risk of developing heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, liver disease, respiratory illness, infections, and kidney disease.
- Reduced Cancer Risk: Studies have shown that eating red meat increases your risk of developing cancers such as breast cancer, prostate, pancreatic, skin, colorectal cancer. Processed meats have the highest link to increased risk of cancer.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Vegetarians on average weight about 10% less than non-vegetarians. If following a well balanced and healthy vegetarian diet, you will generally consume fewer calories and fat. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
- Reduced Risk of Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a large belly. If you have metabolic syndrome you have an increased risk in developing heart disease, and diabetes.
Can You Lose Weight on a Vegetarian Diet?
If following a well balanced low-sugar vegetarian diet, you can certainly lose weight.
As with any diet, you need to be conscientious about what you are consuming. You can easily fill up on unhealthy vegetarian foods like ice cream, cookies, crackers, chips, dips, cheese, and other high sugar, refined carbohydrate, or high fat foods.
If you choose to follow a vegetarian diet with the purpose of losing weight be sure to limit or eliminate refined sugars and sweets. Limit the amount of cheese, dairy, and eggs you consume. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates including white pastas, white bread, and crackers.
Instead eat plenty of fruit when you have sweet cravings.
Replace white carbs with whole grains such as whole wheat pastas, whole wheat bread, oats, bulgar, barley, and brown rice.
Increase your consumption of vegetables. Be sure to add vegetables to your meals. I like to think about filling half of my plate with vegetables. Not only do you benefit from the vitamins and minerals in vegetables, but also vegetables are low in calorie, but very filling. Include a wide variety of vegetables, and be sure in include leafy greens.
What Should You Look For In A Healthy Vegetarian Lunch?
When it comes to lunch, you want something that’s easy, flavorful and will keep you full. Here are some other things to look for when figuring out what to make for lunch:
- Low Sugar: Choose a recipe that won’t make you feel sluggish (no sugar highs and crashes!)
- Well Balanced: Look for lunches that are balanced when it comes to protein, fats, carbs and have a good amount of vegetables. You especially want to make sure there is enough plant-protein to keep you full.
- Easy to Pack: Because if you’re taking lunch on the go, you need it to be easy to transport and not have 100 components to put together!
What Can I Eat For Lunch Without Meat?
- Simple veggie filled sandwiches: Using a whole grain bread fill your salad with layers of grilled or fresh veggies. Use a healthy spread such as hummus, guacamole, or a slice of low-fat cheese.
- Hearty salads filled with legumes, a light amount of cheese, and a small amount of dressing. This will make your salad filling and feel like a meal.
- Soups, Stews and Chilis: Preparing a pot of soup or a hearty stew will provide you with lunch for several days! Pair with a side of whole grain bread, and be sure to add some plant protein such as beans to make it a complete meal.
- Rice and grain bowls. Begin with a base of brown rice or a whole grain such as farro, bulgar, barley, or even oats. Top with sautéd vegetables, a light and simple sauce, and a plant protein such as tofu, beans, or tempeh.
20 Vegetarian Lunch Ideas
Hearty Sandwiches and Burgers
Sandwiches and burgers are lunchtime staples, but can become boring if you have the same thing every day. Try these recipes to switch things up!
Other Sandwich Tips
- For an everyday savory sandwich: Start with sprouted wheat bread like Ezekiel, and layer on some plant-based protein (mild cheddar cheese, hummus, baked tofu, etc.), any veggies you like (greens, tomatoes, sprouts, cucumbers, roasted vegetable slices, etc.), and add some flavor (salt/pepper, mashed avocado or guacamole, mustard, pesto, etc.) For kids, I like to “deconstruct” the sandwich and serve it bento-style since being able to hold a sandwich that big without everything spilling out can be hard for little hands. You really can’t go wrong with a healthy, filling sandwich, and you can change things up slightly every day!
- For a sweeter sandwich: Try using a combination of nut and seed butters, fresh fruit, and toppings like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. One of my favorites is a combo of almond butter, pear slices, walnuts and cinnamon!
- For a quick veggie burger: I recommend making the patties in bulk and freezing them, so you can spend 5 minutes warming them up and assembling them before you head out for the day. For kids, I pack a deconstructed burger with the patty in one compartment, toppings in another and the bun cut in half in the third. That way it doesn’t get soggy by the time they eat it and it’s easier for kids to eat without getting messy!
Salads That Pack Well
You can pretty much do anything you want with a salad. For kids, I recommend chopping up the veggies/toppings/etc into smaller bite sized chunks so it’s easier to chew. And in general, there are a few rules to keep in mind to make sure any salad you make is both tasty & healthy:
Other Salad Tips
- Lots of Veggies: Start as many veggies as you like! Greens, cucumbers, peppers, roasted veggies, tomatoes, and anything that’s in season is always fun to add in. Just avoid anything that’s already pre-dressed – like from a deli.
- Lean Protein: Some of my favorites include hardboiled eggs (use more of the whites vs. the yolks), beans, lentils or nuts and seeds
- Seasoning: To season your salad, use salt & pepper – they do wonders for flavor, and 2 tsp olive oil with 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
- Spreads: You can add in hummus or guacamole for extra flavor! Just stick to 1-2 tbsp per salad serving.
- What to Avoid: Avoid croutons, chips, dried fruit, and pre-made dressing – they are generally high in calories, low in nutrients and high in processed ingredients and/or sugar
- In Moderation: If you’re using cheese, just watch the portions! 2-3 tbsp is enough for 1 salad.
Soups and Stews That Make Great Leftovers
When it comes to soups, I recommend making a big batch one evening and using it a couple times during the week. It packs really well in a thermos for kids (or adults too honestly!), or you can pack it alongside other lunch items in my favorite bento box that incorporates hot and cold items in the same box!
Bowls, Grains, and Pastas
Bowls are great because you can just throw them together and they travel really well. Grains and pastas can both be wonderful bases for healthy and filling meals! All of these taste great hot or cold, so they work well in kids’ lunchboxes especially if they don’t have a place to reheat their lunch.
Vegetarian Lunch Ideas for Kids School Luches
When it comes to preparing a healthy vegetarian school lunch for your child you want to look for ideas that are simple, easily portable, healthy, satisfying, and super tasty!
You also want to prepare a lunch that is well rounded with all of the important food groups included. That means protein, fruit, vegetables, whole grains.
Just because a lunch is vegetarian does not mean it doesn’t include protein. You can add plant protein to your child’s lunch by adding nuts, seeds, cheese, beans, legumes, and hummus. These ingredients are satiating, delicious, and healthy!
- Hummus and veggie sandwich
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Nut butter and fresh fruit sandwich
- Falafel sandwich with veggies
- Black bean & cheese quesadilla
- Thermos of soup
- Sliced fresh veggies with hummus
- Fruit paired with nut butter or Greek Yogurt for dipping
- Homemade granola bars
- Low sugar muffins
- Quinoa and bean salad with tortilla chips
- Black bean tacos with corn tortilla and fresh veggies
For toddlers, try these healthy vegetarian toddler lunch ideas (and most of these can be adapted to big kids too)!
Looking for More Recipes? Check Out These Other Vegetarian Lunch Ideas!
- Chickpea Salad Sandwich from A Couple Cooks
- Roasted Chickpea Gyros from Live Eat Learn
- Bento Box Lunches from The Kitchn
And that’s it! 20 ways to completely makeover your lunchbox that will leave you and your family feeling satisfied, happy and full!