Healthy Eating

Pack a Better Lunch With These 11 High-Protein Options

From on-the-go protein smoothies to viral mac and cheese made healthy, all your cravings satisfied!

By: Lexy Parsons

Let’s face it, lunch is often the meal we neglect most. Whether it’s for lack of time, lack of energy, or lack of planning, it seems that our mid-day meal often takes a back seat. As a result,  we’re more likely to skip meals, call on takeout or fast food, or snack our way through the day. While life is understandably busy, making a conscious effort to prioritize a well-balanced and protein-packed lunch can significantly benefit our overall health. And though it might seem hard, it doesn’t have to be! In fact, to show you just how attainable it can be, we’re sharing high-protein lunch ideas that not only fit seamlessly into your busy schedule, but are also just as nutritious as they are delicious. From viral comfort food dishes to savory cottage cheese bowls, here’s how to pack a nutritious, protein-packed lunch with ease.

Why Protein Matters

While all macronutrients play an important role in a balanced and healthy diet, obtaining an adequate amount of protein in your mid-day meal is particularly crucial! Thanks to its high satiety value and ability to regulate blood sugar, protein has been shown to contribute to better appetite control throughout the day –— thereby supporting weight management and reducing overall calorie intake. Plus, it’s been shown to improve mental focus and sustain energy levels, which can help us prevent those afternoon slumps before they take place! And if opting for lean, whole-food protein sources, you’re supplying your body with a range of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

Additional Benefits of High-Protein Lunches

Proving just how important this macronutrient is, here are some other science-backed benefits of protein. Including protein in your lunch may help to:

  • Improve mood and cognitive function
  • Support bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Bolster the immune system
  • Aid tissue repair and wound healing
  • Support heart health
  • Boost metabolism and aid fat loss
  • Aid muscle growth and repair

Boost Your Lunch with a Serving of These High-Protein Foods

If you’re trying to boost your protein intake, know that you can always increase the protein content in any meal by adding an additional serving of protein! Here are some lean and healthy sources to consider when building your lunch menu. Hint: these can be added to any high–protein lunch ideas below!

High-Protein Lunch Ideas

#1 Cottage Cheese Greek Salad Bowl

Low in calories and carbs and packed with protein, this lunch bowl features cottage cheese — the latest superfood taking the internet by storm. Loved by health enthusiasts looking to maximize their protein intake, it’s used as the star ingredient (in place of feta) in this meal prep-friendly bowl. For an added protein boost, add a serving of chicken breast or chickpeas!


  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • ⅓ cup red onion, diced
  • ¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 tbsp olive oil 
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • Handful of fresh mint, chopped 
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste 
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon, optional 

Pack with: 

  • Grain-free crackers
  • A side of dressing, such as olive oil and vinegar
  • Optional side of protein such as shredded chicken or canned tuna or salmon


Step #1: In a large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of cottage cheese as the salad base. Then add the cucumber, tomato, red onion, and olives. Mix until well combined. 

Step #2: Toss in the fresh herbs, sea salt, black pepper, and olive oil. Stir well, adding a squeeze of fresh lemon juice if desired. 

Step #3: Transfer to a portable container with a tight-sealing lid. Store in the fridge until ready to pack and enjoy!

#2 One-Pot Lasagna Soup

Trending all over TikTok, this one-pot lasagna soup is the perfect high-protein lunch that screams healthy comfort food. It contains all the savory flavors of traditional lasagna, but in the form of a better-for-you, easy-to-pack soup. To amp up the protein content, we used chickpea lasagna noodles, added lean ground beef, and swapped ricotta for cottage cheese. The best part? It’s easy to customize! Add chopped zucchini, mushrooms, or any additional veggies of choice. And if you don’t have lasagna noodles, you can use any gluten-free pasta as a substitute. Double or triple the recipe and store for later.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 4 cups chicken broth or bone broth
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 28 oz crushed canned tomatoes
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce of choice
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste, optional 
  • ½ tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 16 oz container cottage cheese
  • 8-10 uncooked lasagna noodles, broken into pieces (or any gluten-free pasta of choice)

Pack with:

  • Parmesan cheese, to serve (or dairy-free alternative)
  • Shredded mozzarella, to serve (or dairy-free alternative)
  • Extra side of cottage cheese, to serve


Step #1: In a large pot, cook the ground beef over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until the meat is browned and onions are soft. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.

Step #2: Stir in the oregano, basil, sea salt, and black pepper. Then add the crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Crush the lasagna noodles and add to the mixture, simmering for another 10-12 minutes or until the pasta is cooked.

Step #3: Once the soup has finished simmering, stir in the cottage cheese and any other mix-ins such as sliced zucchini or mushrooms. 

Step #4: Store in the fridge or freezer until ready to serve. To reheat the soup from frozen, remove from the freezer and place in the fridge to thaw. Then, reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave.

Step #5: To prep your packable lunch, pour a serving into a portable bowl and seal tight. Pack with optional cheese toppings or added cottage cheese.

#3 10-Minute Spicy Salmon Rice Bowl

Another viral hit is this protein-packed salmon bowl. Easy to enjoy on the go, it’s perfect for busy days when you need a quick and easy lunch — especially if you have leftover rice that needs to be used up. Plus, it’s delicious with both canned salmon or canned tuna — the choice is yours! And to make it even more nutritious, we’re serving it with a homemade Greek yogurt spicy aioli in place of spicy mayo. 


  • ½ cup white or brown rice, pre-cooked
  • 1 can tuna or salmon, drained 
  • 2-3 tbsp Greek yogurt spicy aioli 
  • ½ large carrot, julienned, to serve 
  • ½ cup cucumber, chopped, to serve 
  • Roasted seaweed sheets, to serve

Homemade Spicy Greek Yogurt Aioli 

  • ½ cup plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tbsp sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp raw honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Pack with: 

  • Roasted seaweed sheets
  • Side of Greek yogurt spicy aioli
  • ½ ripe avocado, to serve


Step #1: Prep the Greek yogurt aioli by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl. Mix until smooth. 

Step #2: Next, strain the water from the tuna or salmon and add to a separate medium-sized bowl with 2-3 tbsp of the Greek yogurt aioli. Stir well, then add to a small meal-prep container. 

Step #3: In separate sealable containers, pack the rice, veggies, and optional toppings such as avocado and seaweed sheets. Option to pack additional dressing to serve.

#4 Egg Salad Lettuce Cups

This lightened-up Egg Salad is made with Greek yogurt and mashed avocado for an easy-prep lunch that’s satisfying and satiating. Pack it with lettuce cups for a low-carb alternative to bread, and enjoy it with a side of fresh fruit or protein-rich hemp or pumpkin seeds.


  • 6 large hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened 
  • 2-3 tbsp mashed avocado
  • 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion or 2 green onions, finely chopped 
  • 2 tbsp dill leaves, chopped
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • ¼ tsp smoked paprika 
  • Sea salt & black pepper, to taste 

Pack with: 

  • Butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce
  • Sliced avocado, to serve 
  • Cooked bacon or smoked salmon, to serve
  • Hemp or pumpkin seeds, to serve  


Step #1: In a large bowl, combine the chopped eggs, celery, onion, dill, and parsley. Then, stir in the Greek yogurt, mashed avocado, and Dijon mustard. Sprinkle in the smoked paprika, black pepper, and sea salt and stir well to combine. 

Step #2: Pack the egg salad in an airtight meal prep container. Pack with butter or iceberg lettuce and optional avocado, smoked salmon, cooked bits of bacon, and a side of hemp seeds or pumpkin seeds. When ready to serve, portion the egg salad into the lettuce cups and top with desired toppings of choice!

#5 Deconstructed Black Bean Bowls

These tacos are made with 10 simple ingredients and come together in minutes. Perfect for busy weeks when you’re looking for a nutritious mid-day meal!  


  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 30 oz canned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • sea salt & black pepper, to taste 
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo, minced
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp water

Pack with:

  • Gluten-free tortillas
  • Sliced avocado or guacamole
  • Shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes
  • Shredded cheese or dairy-free alternative
  • Greek yogurt


Step #1: Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Step #2: Add the onion and chipotle pepper. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onion begins to soften. Add the garlic and oregano. Cook for about one minute until fragrant. Add the black beans, tomato paste, and water.

Step #3: Stir to combine and cook for about 5 minutes until tomato paste has fully dissolved and the beans are warmed through. Taste and season as needed.

Step #4: Portion the black bean mixture into meal-prep containers to pack for lunch. Option to pack with a side of gluten-free tortillas and any other toppings of choice such as guacamole, chopped lettuce and tomatoes, shredded cheese, or Greek yogurt.

RELATED: 6 Healthy Taco Recipes That Taste Better Than The Real Thing

#6 Falafel & Hummus Bowls

Made from protein-rich plant foods like chickpeas and almond flour and baked to crispy perfection, this Mediterranean diet-inspired recipe is easy to pack for lunch on the go and full of good-for-you ingredients. Pack it with a side of Tzaki or hummus for dipping, and enjoy it with fresh veggies or pita!

Serves: 4


  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp almond flour
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cooking spray

Pack with: 

  • Hummus or tzatziki
  • Greek salad or tabbouleh
  • Fresh pita or grain-free crackers
  • Fresh sliced veggies


Step #1: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Step #2: In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper (if using), lemon juice, olive oil, almond flour, salt, and pepper. Pulse until well combined, but not pureed.

Step #3: Shape the mixture into 2-inch balls and place them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Flatten each ball slightly with the back of a spoon. Before baking, lightly spray the falafels with cooking spray.

Step #4: Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy on the outside. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

Step #5: In a bento box or segmented lunch box, pack 2-3 falafels, a dipping sauce such as hummus or tzatziki, a serving of Greek salad (or salad of choice), and fresh pita or crackers. Enjoy this high-protein meal-prep lunch!

#7 Mediterranean Hummus & Quinoa Salad Bowl

Another Mediterranean-inspired meal is this light yet nourishing plant-based protein salad. Its primary source of protein is from quinoa (a complete protein), which can easily be increased by swapping feta for cottage cheese or adding another vegetarian source of protein, such as lentils or chickpeas. You can even add shredded chicken or diced hard-boiled eggs! Easy to pack and assemble on the go when you want something healthy and nutrient-rich!

Serves: 4


  • 1 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 large seedless cucumber, chopped
  • ⅓ cup red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ cups cherry tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • ¾ cup fresh parsley
  • ½ cup feta cheese
  • 4 cups baby spinach or mixed greens

Hummus dressing:

  • ½ cup hummus of choice
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano 
  • 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard, optional 
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste


Step #1: In a medium pot, cook the quinoa according to packaged instructions. Onced fully cooked, remove from heat and set aside covered for 5 minutes.

Step #2: Meanwhile, create the hummus dressing. In a small bowl, mix the hummus, olive oil, lemon juice, water, spices, and optional Dijon. You can also customize it with any additional flavorings, such as thyme or red pepper flakes.

Step #3: Once the quinoa is cooked, assemble the salad (note: you can save time by prepping the quinoa in advance!). For the salad, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa with the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion, olives, chickpeas, feta, and spices. Toss until well mixed.

Step #4: Portion and pack the prepped salad, packing the dressing in a separate container. Store in the fridge until ready to enjoy!

#8 High-Protein Make-Ahead Soba Noodle Salad

Easy-prep noodles are trending, and this make-ahead cold noodle bowl definitely doesn’t disappoint. Full of veggies, edamame, and dressed with a creamy peanut sauce, this mason jar noodle salad is one of those high-protein lunch ideas that never disappoints. Prep in advance and enjoy on busy days.


  • 4 oz soba noodles
  • 1 cup broccoli florets, roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded or julienned
  • 1 cup shredded cabbage 
  • 2 cups shelled edamame
  • 2 green onions, finely diced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tbsp sesame seeds, optional 

Peanut Ginger Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 2-3 tbsp soy sauce or coconut aminos (low-sodium)
  • 1-2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1-2 tsp ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp honey or maple syrup, optional 
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp warm water, as needed to thin 


Step #1: To prepare dressing, whisk together the peanut butter, coconut aminos, rice vinegar, ginger, sesame oil, garlic, and optional honey or maple syrup. Add 1 tbsp of warm water at a time, as needed to thin. Set aside.

Step #2: Meanwhile, cook soba noodles according to packaged directions. Once cooked, remove from heat, strain, and set aside to cool. 

Step #3: In a large bowl, toss together the cooled noodles with the veggies, edamame, and fresh herbs. Coat with half the salad dressing, and toss until well combined.  

Step #4: Portion the noodle salad into mason jars, packing a serving of dressing separately on the side. Place in the fridge until ready to enjoy! Once ready to serve, add the dressing to the mason jar, along with any additional toppings such as cashews, avocado, or peanuts.

#9 Dairy-Free Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

Trending all over TikTok as a cozy fall meal, this healthy twist on mac and cheese proves comfort food can be healthy! Not only is it dairy-free, but by using lower-carb lupini bean pasta, this Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese dish is also full of fiber and protein. Make a big batch and portion out the servings for a comforting office lunch that can be enjoyed warm or cold!


  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed
  • ½ head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • ¼ cup nutritional yeast
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ¼ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cups Brami Lupini bean pasta, cooked (or pasta of choice)
  • Sea salt & black pepper, to taste


Step #1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking dish with parchment paper.

Step #2: Next, cook the vegetables to your liking and let them cool.

Step #3: Once cooled, add the cooked vegetables to a food processor or high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add in the nutritional yeast, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper, then blend again.

Step #4: Meanwhile, cook pasta according to packaged instructions. Drain and let cool. 

Step #5: Add the pureed vegetable mixture, chopped parsley, and cooked pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir to coat the pasta.

Step #6: Add the mixture to the baking dish and bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden. Allow to cool slightly before portioning into to-go containers for your meal-prep lunch.

#10 Tropical Protein Smoothie

Craving something sweet for lunch? Good news, you can easily prep a high-protein smoothie to enjoy as a nutritious on-the-go mid-day meal. All you need is an insulated tumbler or a sustainable to-go cup and a few simple ingredients! If your mornings are extra chaotic, you can even prep your smoothie cubes in advance and simply blend it up in the morning!

While you can make any smoothie of your choosing, this trending tropical smoothie is packed with protein and full of natural flavor — perfect when you’re looking for a delicious and guilt-free high-protein lunch idea that tastes like dessert. It even sneaks in a boost of vitamin C and greens!


  • 1 cup frozen kale
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple or mango
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, roughly chopped 
  • ½ large lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp almond or cashew butter 
  • ½ cup unsweetened Greek yogurt, plain or vanilla (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds, optional 
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or as needed to blend)


Step #1: Add all the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Taste and add sweetener if needed.

Step #2: Pour into a sustainable insulated to-go tumbler until ready to drink. Option to store in the fridge to keep cold for longer.

RELATED: The 5 Best Antioxidant-Rich Protein Smoothies

#11 Chia Pudding Parfait 

Another sweet, high-protein lunch recipe idea is this chia pudding parfait. In addition to protein-packed chia seeds, it’s layered with high-protein Greek yogurt and full of other ingredients like nut butter, granola, and fresh berries.

To make it, simply prep a big batch of your favorite chia seed pudding, then create your layers! Get creative and customize as desired, adding protein-rich layers of creamy Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a dairy-free alternative. In between each layer, you can add a drizzle of nut butter or a sprinkle of granola, nuts, or seeds. You can even add a scoop of protein powder to the yogurt layer for a super-charged protein-rich dish! The options are endless. Store in an airtight mason jar or meal-prep container, then pack and enjoy on the go!

RELATED: 6 Ways to Make Grab & Go Yogurt Parfait Cups With 10 grams of Protein or More

How to Pack More Protein Into Your Mid-Day Meal

Protein-packed soups, high-protein smoothies, and everything in between. Whether you’re craving comfort food made healthy in the form of mac and cheese and lasagna or looking for a dessert-like dish that’s guilt-free and nutritious, these easy-prep, packable lunch options will help you satisfy your taste cravings and nutrient needs all in one. With eleven options to choose from (and endless ways to customize them), make lunch the most protein-packed meal of the day!