Medically Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on May 13, 2021

Power Lunch

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Want to beat the afternoon slump? Eat a protein-rich lunch. It helps keep your blood sugar steady, so you won’t have an energy spike and crash. Plus, research shows that protein keeps you full and satisfied, which means you may be less likely to overeat. Aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein at your midday meal.

Turkey-and-Apple Sandwich

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Turkey sandwiches are a lunchtime staple, and for good reason: Two ounces of sliced deli turkey has about 9 grams of protein. Look for a low-sodium version, and use it in this twist on the brown-bag favorite: Spread whole-wheat bread with whole-grain mustard. Top with turkey, cheddar cheese, thin slices of green apple, and spinach.

Edamame Salad

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It isn’t just an appetizer at Japanese restaurants. You can find these soybeans in the frozen section of many supermarkets. They’re high in protein (8 grams in a half-cup), fiber, and iron. Mix shelled edamame into a salad with black beans, corn, diced bell pepper, and chopped red onion. Toss with lime juice and olive oil.

Nuts, Cheese, and Crackers

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Lunch on the run? It doesn’t get much easier than nuts. Pick peanuts, walnuts, almonds, or pistachios, and you’ll get at least 4 grams of protein per 1-ounce handful. Plus, they serve up fiber, vitamins, and heart-healthy fats. For a full meal, pair them with whole-wheat crackers, cheese, and a piece of fruit.

Yogurt, Fruit, and Veggie Smoothie

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No time to sit down for a meal? Sip a smoothie on the go. For protein, add a cup of low-fat or nondairy milk with a half-cup of Greek yogurt. Then blend with your favorite fruits and veggies. Try banana and spinach with strawberries or cherries. To make it a chocolaty treat, add a scoop of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Beef Tacos

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Lean ground beef serves up protein (25 grams in 3 ounces), iron, and energy-boosting B vitamins. Turn last night’s leftovers into a satisfying lunch: Add salsa and cheese to beef crumbles. Pack some avocado in a separate container. Wrap shells in aluminum foil. When it’s time to eat, reheat the meat and put the tacos together.

Quinoa Bowl

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These whole grains are actually tiny seeds, and they’re high in protein. One cup has 8 grams and a bonus of 5 grams of fiber. For a tasty lunch bowl, top quinoa with roasted veggies, diced chicken, and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds or slivered almonds. Drizzle with your favorite dressing. You can have this one warm or cold.

Greek Yogurt Parfait

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Not all yogurts are created equal. Thick Greek yogurt packs in more protein than the regular kind: 1 cup delivers 18 grams protein. Layer the creamy stuff with fresh fruit like berries or banana slices. You can sprinkle on a handful of nuts or chia seeds if you have them -- about 2 tablespoons of those will give you an extra 5 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber.

Hummus and Pita

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Made from chickpeas, this creamy Middle Eastern dip adds flavor to egg and tuna salads. Swap it for the usual mayo to save 256 calories and 38 grams of fat per quarter-cup. And you’ll gain an extra 4 grams each of protein and fiber. If you don't want to dip, wrap some hummus with lettuce and tomato in a whole-wheat pita, or use it as a salad dressing. 

Bean Soup

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With around 7 grams of protein per half-cup, beans give soups more staying power -- research shows that eating beans can help you feel full. Add chickpeas to a veggie stew or white beans to a tomato or chicken soup. You can make your own by simmering beans with broth, onions, carrots, and celery until soft.

Avocado Toast With Eggs

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Eggs aren’t just for breakfast: With 6 grams of protein each, there’s reason to get cracking at lunch, too. For a quick meal, mash half an avocado with olive oil and lime juice, and spread onto two slices of whole-grain toast. Top each with a fried egg. Research shows that eating avocados at lunch fends off hunger throughout the afternoon, but they’re high in calories, so make this an occasional treat.   

Salmon Wrap

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Keep canned salmon (in water) in your pantry for a quick, healthy lunch. It’s high in protein (17 grams in 3 ounces) and heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Toss the flaked fish with olive oil, lemon juice, and capers. Rather have it creamy? Stir in a spoonful of Greek yogurt. Serve with veggies in a whole-wheat wrap or on top of a green salad.

Baked Tofu

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Tofu’s healthy rep is well-deserved. Made from soybeans, it delivers protein (11 grams in a half-cup), and most brands also have bone-building calcium. You can bake it and serve it with your favorite veggies and dressing.

Spinach Salad With Chicken

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Upgrade a plain salad with this dark leafy green. It adds vitamins, minerals, and protein (1 gram per cup). Toss some with sliced strawberries, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette. For extra protein, top with slices of grilled chicken and slivered almonds. No time to cook? Pick up a ready-made rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. 

Open-Faced Sandwich With Cottage Cheese

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This lumpy cheese adds a creamy layer to sandwiches, and it’s loaded with protein. Half a cup has 14 grams, plus bone-building calcium. Choose a low-fat, low-sodium version, and spread it on two slices of crusty whole-grain bread. Top with cucumber and tomato slices. Or add olive oil, black pepper, and thin slices of radish.

Barbecued Seitan

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Seitan has a meaty texture, but it’s actually made from wheat. A 3-ounce serving has around 15 grams of protein. Saute seitan strips in barbecue sauce, and serve with lettuce, tomato, and avocado in a whole-wheat wrap.

Shrimp Fried Rice

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Put down that take-out menu! Save calories -- and cash -- and whip up your own fried rice with protein-packed shrimp (20 grams in 3 ounces). Saute chopped onion and garlic, and add cooked shrimp, brown rice, green peas, and scrambled egg. Stir in sesame oil and soy sauce, and dig in.

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