Prioritizing home-cooked meals allows us to control the ingredients and portion size, while monitoring our caloric intake for weight management. That’s why meal prepping lunches can be so advantageous for your health and lifestyle. This post will discuss how to strike the right balance of calories and protein, with over 30 low calorie lunch meal prep ideas (with nutrition breakdown included)!
While it does require a little more planning, figuring out a meal prep routine that works for you can offer so many benefits. Whether you’re looking to make more mindful choices, or shed a few pounds, these recipes can be used as a guide on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
What Makes a Good Low Calorie Lunch for Meal Prep?
First of all, what is considered “low calorie” is subjective, but I find that meals should contain at least 300 calories to be considered substantial and filling. Therefore, this post will focus on lunch ideas with 300-500 calories per serving. Anything less than that will likely have you feeling hungry prior to dinner!
Not only that, but ensuring each serving has at least 20 grams of protein can assist with meal satiation and satisfaction. If you are trying to lose weight, it’s important to prioritize protein to preserve lean muscle mass.
Meal prep ideas should be relatively easy to make in bulk – some of the best recipes are one pot meals, sheet pan dinners, or slow cooker recipes.
Benefits of Low Calorie Meal Prep
Having lunch already prepped and prepared may prevent us from turning to take-out or filling up on empty calories from processed foods and leading to a lower overall caloric intake.
You might find that you have higher energy levels due to more stabilized blood sugar. Further, beyond the physical benefits, low-calorie, high protein meal prep can simplify your daily routine. It can save you time on hectic days, and eliminate the need to spend money for convenience.
When Is the Best Time to Meal Prep?
The best time to meal prep is the time that works for you. That could be spending a few hours on Sunday, or distributing it across a couple days a week.
If you’re someone who needs more variety in your meals, and can’t eat the same thing every day (like me) – it might be a good idea to prep 2-3 different options for the week.
Whatever you think will work best for you! The more often you have a plan, the more likely you are to stick to it. Also, the more you get into a routine of meal prepping – the easier it will get!
Tips For Success
- Prep 1-3 meals in advance.
- Change the sauce or protein for variety, while keeping other components of the meal the same.
- Meals should only stay in the fridge to prevent foodborne illness. Freeze individual portions (and then reheat) if needed.
- Batch cook a large amount of protein or grain and freeze for easy meal prep.
As an Amazon affiliate, this post does contain affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I receive a small compensation when a purchase is made. However, I only promote products I love and feel would be useful to you!
Products for meal prep
What makes the perfect storage containers for meal prep? I think the best qualities to look for would be dishwasher-safe, stackable, with the option to use dividers (or not).
Slow Cooker, Air Fryer and/or Instant Pot
Slow cookers, air fryers, and Instant pots make cooking in bulk a breeze. Every Sunday, or whatever day works for you, prep a slow cooker recipe (a large batch) and then divide it out in storage containers. The same can be said for cooking large amounts of protein in the air fryer, or meals in the instant pot.
If you want to expedite the meal prepping process, having a vegetable chopper like this FullStar Multi-Functional Vegetable Chopper is a game-changer.
It just makes it easier being able to cut and chop all the vegetables quickly and the exact same size – especially for chilis, soups, and power bowls.
- 30+ Delicious Recipes Low in Calories and High in Protein
- Low Calorie, High Protein Meal Prep Ideas
- Healthy, High Protein Frozen Meals for Easy Lunches
Low Calorie Lunch Meal Prep Ideas
Finding the right balance of calories and protein can be pretty tricky when it comes to meal prep. Here are over 30 healthy, low calorie lunch meal prep ideas with approximately 300-500 calories and at least 20 grams of protein per serving.
Nutritional information is just an estimation, and individual ingredients and preparation may lead to discrepancies. When it comes down to it, many recipes can be low calorie with appropriate portion sizes. Aim for 4 ounces of protein, 1/2 cup of whole grains, 1-2 cups of veggies and a drizzle of sauce.
Give one of these sandwich ideas a try for an easy handheld lunch instead of ordering out.
— Greek Chicken Salad Sandwich from Whitney Bond (359 calories, 33 grams of protein); A super easy and delicious pita sandwich! Serve with a side of veggies or fruit.
— Deli Turkey Wraps from Taste of Home (270 calories, 22 grams of protein).
— The Best Tuna Salad by Culinary Hill (345 calories, 19 grams of protein); Nutritional information is for 1/2 cup serving. With the addition of low-carb bread, this meal would be around 415 calories and 25 grams of protein!
The tricky part about salads is ensuring they stay fresh in the fridge for a few days. It’s always a good idea to store the dressing on the side until ready to eat!
— Easy Chopped Chicken Salad by Primavera Kitchen (353 calories, 30 grams of protein); This recipe makes 4 servings for easy meal prep for (almost) the whole week.
— Lemon Chicken Quinoa Salad from Little Broken (378 calories, 27 grams of protein).
— Grilled Chicken Salad by Dinner at the Zoo (480 calories, 23 grams of protein). Simple and easily customizable.
— Easy Cobb Salad Meal Prep by All the Healthy Things (394 calories, 29.6 grams of protein); An easy cobb salad with bacon, hard-boiled eggs, and chicken on a bed of lettuce with delicious dressing options.
I love stir-fries because there is usually a protein source with a variety of vegetables. Then you get to decide the grain – rice, quinoa or a lower-carb option like cauliflower rice.
— Teriyaki Ground Beef Stir Fry from Kinda Healthy Recipes (330 calories, 23 grams of protein); a super simple stir-fry with teriyaki sauce and a creamy yum yum sauce to drizzle on top.
— Sheet Pan Chicken Stir Fry by nom nom paleo (354 calories, 42 grams of protein); This recipe is stir-fry made simple utilizing one sheet pan. Just a little prep, then throw it in the oven and it’s done!
— Healthy Garlic Shrimp Stir Fry by Erin Lives Whole (286 calories, 28 grams of protein); The nutritional information for this recipe doesn’t include rice – so there is plenty of room to add your grain of choice.
— Shrimp Stir Fry with Vegetables by Bowl of Delicious (342 calories, 31 grams of protein); This is an easy, delicious shrimp stir-fry served over quinoa. 8 grams of fiber per serving!
Power bowls are what I like to call the “queen of throw together meals”. They’re super healthy and easily customizable so you never get bored. They usually consist of 1-2 veggies, protein and a grain with a flavorful sauce.
— Protein Buddha Bowl from The Conscious Plant Kitchen (495 calories, 25 grams of protein); This is a vegan tofu bowl with a flavorful protein dressing.
— Korean Beef Bowls by Well Plated Erin (303 calories, 24 grams of protein); Lean ground beef topped with picked carrots and cucumbers and a simple sauce.
— Pulled Buffalo Chicken and Rice Meal Prep from Haute and Healthy Living (411 calories, 30 grams of protein); Spicy buffalo chicken is made in a slower cooker and combined with veggies and rice for a simple and well-balanced meal.
— Slow Cooker Chicken Tikka Misala from The Girl on Bloor (403 calories, 30 grams of protein); Another easy throw everything in a slow cooker meal!
— Healthy Slow Cooker Ranch Chicken and Veggies from real food whole life (319 calories, 36 grams of protein).
— Chicken, Rice and Broccoli Meal Prep by Gimme Delicious (356 calories, 26 grams of protein); It doesn’t get anymore simple than this meal prep recipe – and can be made in 20 minutes or less.
— Shrimp Taco Bowl with Greek Yogurt Cream Sauce (466 calories, 40 grams of protein); This recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make, and is high in protein and fiber. Taco bowls are so easy to customize – so you can add in any toppings you like!
Similar to sheet pan dinners, prepping a large casserole then individually portioning into storage containers can make for an easy meal prep strategy.
— Spicy Southwest Butternut Squash Casserole from Jar of Lemons (406 calories, 29 grams of protein); A gluten-free and vegetarian option.
— Cheesy Italian Style Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Casserole by Garlic, Salt and Lime (284 calories, 28 grams of protein).
— Veggie Loaded Rotisserie Chicken Casserole by Project Meal Plan (335 calories, 32.5 grams of protein); This recipe is lower in carbs, packed with veggies, and utilizes a Rotisserie chicken for even more convenience.
Soups and Chilis
Soups and chili can be ideal for meal prep whether made in one pot or a slow cooker.
— One Pot Mexican Chili (400 calories, 25 grams of protein); A super simple throw everything in a pot meal that’s spicy and flavorful. Top with avocado slices the day of to prevent from spoiling.
— Easy Crockpot White Chicken Chili from real food whole life (331 calories, 30 grams of protein).
— Slow Cooker Chicken Wild Rice Soup from Eating Bird Food (297 calories, 23 grams of protein).
While cooking can be a bit time-consuming, spaghetti squash is the perfect vessel for a filling, nutritious low calorie meal prep idea.
— Chicken Alfredo Spaghetti Squash (339 calories, 43 grams of protein); A healthier take on a traditional Alfredo sauce – this recipe uses whipped cottage cheese and roasted garlic to make a creamy, decadent sauce that’s lower in calories.
— Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash from The Real Food Dietitians (308 calories, 36 grams of protein).
— Stuffed Spaghetti Squash from My Pocket Kitchen (361 calories, 28 grams of protein); A spaghetti squash is stuffed with lean ground beef, mushrooms and mozzarella.
Simple, Throw Together Ideas
— Greek Yogurt Parfait: 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt, 1 cup of sliced berries topped with hemp hearts and granola.
— Cottage Cheese Avocado Toast: 1/2 cup of cottage cheese on whole wheat toast and topped with avocado slices and Everything but the Bagel seasoning (or red chili flakes and honey).
— Tuna Salad Sandwich with 1/2 cup of fruit.
— Deli turkey sandwich with tomato and avocado slices on lower calorie, whole wheat bread.
A Couple More Thoughts
Making dinner everyday in and of itself is hard, and now the idea of meal prepping lunches too? I get it, it sounds like a lot of work.
If you’re too overwhelmed to meal prep lunches every week, think about making more for dinner so that you have leftovers for the next day. Even just trying to remember to make 2-3 more chicken breasts than your family would eat and freezing them would help for meal prepping in the future.
And, of course – don’t forget protein! I have a multitude of posts that discuss the importance of protein, so be sure to check them out!
Some images generated by AI using Canva.