Creative lunch ideas

I have a slight problem: I'm running out of decent lunch ideas.

Part of the problem is that I'm not much of a sandwich person, and I don't really like lunchmeat unless it's from the deli counter (it's a texture thing). 

I forgot to plan my lunch last night, and so today is a sandwich day by default, but I'm less than thrilled with this turn of events.

I'm reasonably creative at breakfast--at least as creative as I can be when half-asleep.  For some reason, breakfast ruts don't bother me as much as lunch.  Dinnertime is also rather varied.  Snacks are what they are- I often prefer a set of two or three different items, so that doesn't require much creativity.

But lunches--lunches are the bane of my existance.

So I'm turning to some of the best blog readers for some good (recovery-oriented) lunch ideas.  Also keep in mind that the nearest Whole Foods is 1.5 hours away, so please nothing too exotic.  I do follow a meal plan, so I will almost certainly end up tweaking whatever you suggest, but please: suggest away!

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Unknown said...

hi there carrie :) i check your blog everyday, but i rarely comment. so here goes!

one idea for lunches that could be really fun would be to make a japanese-style bento box. i make bentos for myself, and it really helps me when i'm struggling with getting in enough food. you can make musubi or onigiri (japanese rice balls) with shredded fish in them. i usually use tuna or salmon and mix freshly cooked rice with the fish. there are molds you can buy to make the rice balls, or you could form them by hand. adding some veggies or fruit on the side makes the meal more or less complete, with protein, carbs, and some veg. it can be really nice to be engaged in creating the food you'll eat.

i hope this helps, i think i'll email you a picture of a bento box i made to give you an idea. good luck with everything :)

hm said...

Smoooooooothie... Can't go wrong w/liquid lunch. You don't even have to chew. Put in fresh and/or frozen fruits and either frozen cooked carrots or fresh spinach leaves- you'll never even taste the veggies in there. Add 1/4 cup ground almond (or pecan or walnut) meal for your protein (or protein powder if you hate nuts), flaxseed for grains. Yogurt and milk (rice, soy, cow, whatever) for calcium. And ice, of course. All your food groups in one cup- no chewing required. Add in a bit of flavored coffee creamer if you prefer sweet, or a squirt of whipped cream on the top when its done. The Magic Bullet is waaaaay better than a blender- makes the smoothie right there in your cup, no mess, in 30 seconds or less. Damn, I should do commercials.

hm said...

P.S. The Magic Bullet also comes with an attachment for grinding up nuts etc. into meal- pretty freaking cool.

thefarsideofthemirror said...

I definitely agree with the smoothie comment . . . . they're a lifesaver!

Soup is also a good choice. You can mix together a variety of grains, veggies and meat in order to make the soup fit into your meal plan. Make a pot of it at the beginning of the week, portion the soup into containers and you're good to go! Add crackers, bread, pretzels, cheese, etc etc etc in order to round lunch out.

elizabeth marley said...

There's this blog, Just Bento, that posts a lot of lunch recipes. The author lives abroad, but most of what she cooks I can get at my local supermarket.

There's one thing I love. In the morning she sets up her rice cooker with rice and then in a foil packet puts chopped bell peppers and chicken and seals it up and puts the packet right into the rice cooker. The rice cooks and heats up the foil to cook the chicken. Since the peppers are moist it ends up not drying out at all.

I also like homemade chicken salad with LOTS of lemon and dill and diced carrots. So good!

Anonymous said...

I know often times making lunch seems like a major chore to do the night before. What I suggest is trying to literally make more for dinner the night before and portioning out the extra for the next day's lunch. That way, you save some brain space for having to plan a whole other meal!

eleedee said...

I eat a lot of salads with stuff on top: smoked salmon, feta or parmesan, nuts, etc. Yum!

Katie said...

Pasta salad! Since I'm a veg I usually put eggs in mine for protein, and whatever vegetables/dressing I have lying around. It is infinitely adaptable. Ooh, and soup over smoothies anyday :P it even stays nice and hot in a thermos flask. This preference might be because I am living 400 miles further north than usual...

Anonymous said...

I love bread, cheese, and soup!
Almond butter sandwiches..
Wraps with salads
Salads with veggie burgers
sweet potato and fish
roasted veggies
chicken salad on a bed of lettuce
I love chicken nuggets hahaha
sometimes I eat oatmeal for lunch with PB and greek yogurt
butternut squash fries with chicken
falafel's (i found this new ready made brand that I just pop in the easy!)
Stir fries (you can make the night before and just take em' to work) I usually use kale, veggie burgers, and other veggies I have on hand..add some cheese and salad dressing!
baked tofu and salad
tuna fish sandwich

I take all these things with me to work!! I have a microwave there to heat them up if needed

oh and dont forget dessert ;)

Dana xo

Katie said...

Hi Carrie,

I recently found your blog and have been a daily reader for several months now...I've been in recovery for a long time and just in this past year have managed to get a handle on intuitive eating, giving up my meal plan, etc. So, I too have been looking for a little more variety in my meals.

I agree with the whole pasta salad idea. I live alone and work a lot, so I'll make a box of pasta and then mix it with raw veggies, cheese, beans, italian dressing, tofu, parmesean...

Or I'm a big fan of flat bread wraps...with hummus, raw spinach, feta cheese, olives...pretty much whatever you want.

greek yogurt parfaits...vanilla greek yogurt, granola and fruit...maybe some honey.

quiche is one of my specialties. I take a frozen pie crust and pour a mixture of eggs, cheese, and vegetables into it...bake it in the oven for about an hour. I'll eat it hot if i'm eating it then, but often I'll slice it up, and pack it for lunch...just as good cold.

Hope this helps!


ellie said...

Never commented before! Feeling chatty tonight...hehe. Some of my go-to non-sandwichy lunches:

- couscous salad with chopped felafel, chopped veggies (tomato, carrot, cucumber, celery), and some sort of dressing- I love hummus or tzatziki, but sometimes switch the felafel for tofu/beans/tuna/chicken and add salad dressing (LOVE Annie's Goddess or balsamic vinegarette)

- noodle salad- I make a sauce with peanut butter, chilli sauce and soy (just whisk together to coat cooked noodles) and add some steamed snow peas, baby corn, water chestnuts, bell peppers and whatever protein you like- I love chicken or edemame

- muffins- I make savory corn muffins (usually with cheese in them and some extra corn/peppers) and have with chili or soup

- ^ ditto the above but with scones (google some British scone recipes- totally different from US scones and go great with soups/stews (do you have a thermos or access to a microwave? Batch cooking on a weekend is such a timesave!)

- pasta salads- anything goes! All time favourite is spinach and ricotta tortellini mixed with a sauce made from canned chopped tomatoes and mayo (just until creamy/good consistency) but possibilities are endless...any shape, any salad dressing, cheese, fruit, chopped veg, whatever! Feta, olives and Greek dressing are good additions.

- rice salads- I make a big batch at the start of the week. Curried mayo (yogurt/mayo, curry powder, tumeric), cooked/cooled rice, veg (I often add pineapple or raisins too), toasted almonds, chicken/tofu.

hm said...

Orrrr... Cook up some spinach (just throw it in a pan, or in a bowl in the microwave- a huge amount of it cooks to a small amount of limp stuff), let it cool, chop it up, mix it up with a can of black beans, drained, chopped up tomatoes, garlic and paprika, a bit of olive oil, throw in some shredded cheese (or not) and eat on whole wheat crackers, chips, or toast.

Sarah at Journeying With Him said...

When I'm home for lunch, I like to make hot lunch! I usually do soup + sandwich (hummus and cheese, grilled cheese with tomato and basil, or a tuna melt) or a homemade pizza on a pita or on real crust. Egg toast (two softboiled eggs over toast with salt and pepper) or egg salad are good. I also like making big salads paired with crusty bread--it elevates the meal to an occasion. Post-meal chocolate NOT optional.

Two favorites: goat cheese, almonds or walnuts, red wine vinegar dressing, and sliced pear on mixed greens. Or, what we call "Phat Salad" at my house: romaine with one cooked egg over easy, feta cheese, almost an entire avocado, tomatoes, and some of that yogurt-based Caesar dressing by Bolthouse Farms. So much fat, so much deliciousness. I'm getting hungry writing about it.

Cate said...

Wow, you guys are all amazing!! So imaginative, supportive and positive! Carrie does so much for us - it's really great to give back to her. Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions up my sleeve at the moment...but I love all of yours! Keep up the good work :-)

Holly said...

brown rice is my can add vegetables, meat, or tofu and then seasoning or sauce (I like bottle-curry). nice and easy. you can just throw veggies in to steam with the rice while it's finishing. or you could go the biryani route and add some nuts and fruit...mmm mmm.

Anonymous said...

chili (veg or meat) with cheese/avocado/sour cream + roll/corn muffin

salad with hummus/beans/corn/dressing + pita

salad with nuts/goat cheese/dressing + roll

cous cous/salmon/teriyaki sauce + salad with dressing + a pudding cup

grilled cheese + soup

tuna salad sandwich + a side of ice cream

Burrito: tortilla + beans/chicken + cheese/avocado + side of yogurt/sun flower seeds/fruit mixed

pasta with (soy) meat balls + cheese

bagel with cream cheese + lox + fruit + a cookie

bagel with egg salad + fruit/salad + a cookie

veggie burger with cheese + side of chips

salad with turkey, cheese, chickpeas, dressing + a roll

salad with chicken, goat cheese, cranberries, sliced almonds, dressing + a roll + a fruit

rice, chicken, a curry sauce, raisins, cashews, veggies

quinoa, shrimp, sund dried tomatoes, cashews, olive oil + fruit

chicken tortilla soup + avocado + chips

Renee said...

turkey bacon, lettuce and tomato with dijon and mayo on toasted whole grain.

omelettes - add ham, swiss cheese, mushrooms, spinach etc. with toast or some boiled new potatoes.

scrambled eggs with salsa and cheddar wrapped a tortilla

mac n' cheese (I like Amy's organc brand) with tuna and peas or a side of greens

cream cheese, lox and capers on a bagel with a mixed green salad.

quinoa, arugula, nuts, cranberries, goat's cheese, maybe some chicken, tossed in balsamic vinaigrette

peanut-butter rolls ups in tortilla wraps.

greek yoghurt with everything - on top of soups, as a dip for raw veggies

french toast - topped with mushrooms/cheese (savoury) with a mixed green salad, or with yoghurt and berries (sweet)

um...sardines on toast with a bowl of soup?

Carrie Arnold said...

Wow- thanks for all the great ideas!

I must confess that I am not nearly as motivated come lunchtime to create some of these great things.

For tomorrow, I have decided upon grilled cheese, tomato soup, and fruit. ;)

Danielle said...

Hmm.. Do you live near a lunds & byerly's? I love that place! I'm a vegetarian, so there's a ton of options for me but there will probably be even more for you.

You could premake a salad too! I usually make my salads with crisp lettuce, dressing, berries (frozen & thawed) and chik'n.
Good luck on the eating(:

e.motions and ana.lysis said...

Thought I'd throw an idea into the ring...savoury oatmeal: 1 cup of oats, 1 cup of broth (or I guess soup of any type would work too), add veggies, nuts or meat, etc. Add water until it's your preferred consistency. It's filling and tastes good hot or cold, but if you're taking it somewhere and it's going to be cold, you'll need to add a little more water to keep it the right texture.


June Alexander said...

Hi Carrie,
When I take my 4-y-o grandson Lachlan to his morning swim lesson, he always likes two tuna sushi rolls for his lunch. He loves them. I choose one tuna and one salmon sushi roll. Grand daughter Olivia Rose already eats one tuna sushi roll for her lunch and she is not one year old until two days before Christmas!
Other times, at home, apart from the inevitable sandwich, I sometimes have scrambled eggs with fresh parsley from my garden; pumpkin soup; and wraps.

Unknown said...

Even without an eating disorder I find myself unequal to the task of planning lunch. For me lunch is almost always leftovers from last night's dinner. I make or order extra with that in mind, so I solve tomorrow's lunch as I'm making dinner!

Briony said...

I think I'm definitely going to have to try some of the suggestions above! I have the exact same problem. Lunch for me tends to either be a chicken sandwich, a chicken wrap or baked beans on toast. I quite like bagels too- especially the cinnamon and raisin ones- with cream cheese or peanut butter.

In addition to the things mentioned above, jacket potatoes seem to be quite a common thing to have- with beans, cheese, chilli, etc. One of my housemates often likes to have a pie/pasty with oven fries and peas, which is something I always want to try.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Being of Japanese ancestry, I also love the "bento box." And of course, being a cat person I have one with a Maneki Neko beckoning cat on it... and have great pictures of what fits in one of the boxes (often very cute stuff for kids!)--and you can of course use more western style ingredients. Ideas:

My ideas: Rice, a hard boiled egg, seasoning (I like "gomashio" which is sesame seeds and salt), a thinly sliced cucumber salad, some carrot sticks
Piece of chicken, some pasta with bruschetta sauce (makes good instant pasta sauce!), a little grated cheese, some vegetables on the side

Non-bento idea if you have access to hot water and/or microwave: Thai Kitchen makes good rice noodle soups--just bring some protein to add like tofu, egg, or chicken, and some vegetables to add in, and you have an instant meal.

Renee said...

I love that on an ED forum we all have such an abundance of creative, delicious-sounding meal ideas. Yeah, cuz anorexics hate to eat, right? Ha.

Anonymous said...

Hi. As a person who suffered from Anorexia, I am so glad I found this blog. It's been awhile and I feel I have recovered fully, but it's still difficult. It was almost like I had gotten possessed by something. I was not even myself! Do you have an email address to reach you personally?

hm said...

Don't know if this applies to anyone but me, but it's an interesting tidbit of info: A while back, Carrie posted an article linking an overabundance of serotonin receptors in the AN brain to the desire to starve and to depression when refeeding (food triggers serotonin production- and too much serotonin leads to depression). Breakfast is tolerable for me but lunch is hell- I researched serotonin production throughout the day and found that it is lowest in the morning and at night, and highest when the sun is highest- right around lunchtime. Helped explain maybe why food seems more tolerable at some times for me than others.

Carrie Arnold said...


You can email me at So can anyone else! ;)

Also, I had two sushi rolls for my snack- I was at the grocery store, really hungry, and dammit, they just looked good. I also got my mom to pick up the tab. Thanks, Mom!

HikerRD said...

Quite an impressive collection of suggestions, everyone! I am referring clients to this comment section for exceptional ideas. Now, if only all of you could follow them!

Thanks for putting the carrot out and gathering this resource, Carrie.

Lori Lieberman, RD, CDE, MPH, LDN

Carrie Arnold said...

Today, I'm taking an idea from Katie and making pasta salad with tuna and garbanzo beans, some Italian dressing for lipids and flavor, and some diced carrots and broccoli. Also an English muffin with butter, garlic salt and Parmesan cheese, broiled. And maybe a string cheese, depending on how much tuna and beans I can scrounge up.

Lily said...

I live on cold sweet potatoes, peanut butter granola, and Hanover green beans!!

Also, a re fried bean wrap with lettuce, greek yogurt, cheese, beans, garlic, and salsa is a favorite lunch!!

Or hot soup in a thermos with some crackers or toast!!

hm said...

I feel like I'm over-commenting, but it actually feels good to talk about food in a positive way. Carrie, you're probably not in a place anymore where you need food to feel "forgivable" or "easy" but maybe some people are (I know I am) so here's another easy food: Powerballs! Great for easy snacks, in ready made small portions so you don't feel guilty for eating something huge. Mix 1 c natural smooth peanut butter with 1/2 c honey- blend till smooth. Gradually mix in 2.5 c old fashioned oats and 1/2 c ground flaxseed. Then blend in your extras- 1.5 c dried cranberries, or some raisins or dried blueberries (or a combination of those), or maybe, if you're feeling adventurous, some dark chocolate chips. When it's all mixed up together, take out 1-2 T at a time and mold it into little balls- put them in a bowl or tupperware and refrigerate. Take a few with you in a ziploc for an easy snack.

Carrie Arnold said...


I'm definitely going to try those Powerballs. They would be great for my cycling trips when I need to refuel mid-ride but want something small and portable.


Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie!

Something I do when I feel stalled for ideas is to go to the website "Tastespotting." It's pages of visuals taken from posts on different websites of recipes, food, and it has a basic search function, so you could even look for things that mention/highlight an ingredient, a food type, etc. If a photo or a caption sounds cool, you click the photo and get taken to its original posting site. When I feel like I'm not focusing on certain kinds of foods (I tend to eat very narrowly, if I don't pay attention) I'll type in something like orange, or brussell sprouts, etc, to see if I can find a tasty idea.


Incredible Eating Anorexics said...

banana and chocolate button toastie. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. x

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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