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How to Transform Dinner Leftovers into Nutritious Lunches

November 25, 2020

When you’re busy, lunch can often become an afterthought.  But it’s an important part of your day as this meal helps give you the nutrients and energy that you need to get through the afternoon and beat the midday slump.  During workdays, taking time for lunch has some serious benefits like improving focus and keeping your blood sugar levels steady, which can prevent you from feeling overly hungry later and even being more predisposed to stress. Luckily, a nutritious lunch doesn’t have to be overly complicated.  Taking a little time to plan ahead can make it easy to rethink traditional leftovers to create a nourishing and tasty healthy lunch.

Nutritious and Easy Bowl Recipes

Mix Up a Bowl

Leftover meat, veggies, and grains can quickly be transformed into a bowl to reinvent your leftover ingredients:

  • Fajita bowl: Combine leftover cajun or fajita chicken with rice, black beans, corn, avocado, cilantro, and fresh lime juice;
  • Buddha bowl: Grab a leftover lean protein (chicken breast, ground turkey or beef, or black beans or chickpeas), a grain (quinoa, brown rice, or farro), and leftover roasted veggies and top with nuts and seeds, hummus, and/or your favorite salad dressing;
  • Shawarma bowl: Reuse Greek or Mediterranean-flavoured chicken or pork.  Add rice, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, tzatziki sauce, and feta cheese for a balanced bowl;
  • Teriyaki bowl: If you have leftover Asian-style chicken or pork, a teriyaki bowl is a great way to level things up for a nutritious lunch.  Combine your protein with rice, teriyaki sauce, pineapple, and veggies of your choice;
Nutritious and delicious sandwich recipes

Rethink Sandwiches

Sandwiches are a classic lunch option,  but can quickly get boring when you’re sticking to the same basics.  Here a few ways to mix up your traditional sandwiches:

  • Get Melty: If you’re currently working from home, take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to pack a cold lunch by creating a toasted or melted sandwich or panini.  Other options for warm sandwiches include meatball subs, open-faced melts, or a pork Cuban sandwich;
  • Switch Up Your Bread: Step outside the traditional sandwich bread for something a little different like a tortilla wrap, bagel, sourdough bread, a waffle, or stuffing a pita pocket, perhaps with some Crunchy Chicken Salad;
  • Get Creative with Topping Ideas: Sauerkraut, pickles, microgreens, jalapenos, roasted veggies, fried eggs, potato chips, and different cheeses are all fun options.  And don’t be afraid to get creative with your condiments, either, swapping out traditional mayo and mustard for options like guacamole, hummus, flavored mayo and aiolis, and chutney.  For an additional flavor boost, try piling on fresh herbs to your sandwich, too;
Nutritious and delicious soup recipes

Cozy Up with Soup

When loaded with veggies and protein, soup is a comforting and nutritious lunch option.  When you cook dinner on the weekend, try making extra of your protein so you’re able to make a pot of soup on Sunday to help get you through the week.  And don’t forget that soup freezes well so you can stock your freezer for more nutritious lunches ahead of time. Some options include:

Switch Up Salads

Healthy and delicious salad recipes

Salads are a go-to for a healthy lunch, but they don’t always have to be the typical greens and protein.   Instead, try:

  • Cobb Salad: Combine leftover chicken breast and bacon with a hardboiled egg, iceberg lettuce, bleu cheese, avocado, tomatoes, and top with ranch dressing;
  • Pasta Salad: Reuse leftover pasta in a pasta salad for a filling lunch.  We love Mediterranean Pasta Salad with its yummy dijon-lemon dressing and plenty of fresh ingredients, or Easy Italian Pasta Salad, which makes great use of leftover salami or summer sausage;
  • Quinoa Salad: Loaded with protein and fiber, quinoa salad makes a nutritious and satisfying lunch.  Cook a little extra for your sides for dinner, and give it a makeover into Seriously Good Quinoa Salad, which is packed with plenty of crunchy veggies and a variety of nuts and seeds, or try something unique with Thai Quinoa Salad;
Healthy, delicious nontraditional recipes

Think Beyond the Traditional

Sandwiches, soups, and salads are healthy lunch go-to’s, but moving beyond them is a great way to switch up your lunch options:

  • Frittata: Eggs are loaded with healthy fats, protein, and plenty of vitamins.  A frittata is a great way to use up whatever leftover veggies you might have as well as any leftover protein;
  • Fried Rice: Reheated rice isn’t typically the best, but it’s perfect for fried rice.  Use leftover brown rice, which is rich in fiber to keep you feeling satisfied with this Chicken Fried Rice Recipe for a well-balanced lunch;
  • Charcuterie Plate: Lunch doesn’t always have to be a typical meal.  A charcuterie plate or snack plate can provide you with a balance of nutrients while feeling a little more fun. Some ideas for items to include are cubed leftover chicken breast or ham, bacon, hummus, almonds, hard-boiled eggs, crudites, and cheese;
Looking for more ideas to cut down on your time cooking healthy meals? Check out our Five Tips for Mastering Meal Prep for even more time-saving prep tips.


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