Want the perfect workout program?Take Quiz
Fact checked by Andrew Lenau, ISSA CPT & Sports NutritionistFACT CHECKED
December 08, 2022
Lunch is often the most challenging meal of the day to put together. Most of us are short on time and ultra hungry by the time our midday meal rolls around, which can make it difficult to build a healthy high protein dish that fills you up and ensures you hit your muscle-building goals.
After all, how many days in a row can you eat plain chicken and rice before going to the nearest fast food drive-through?
To help make lunchtime less stressful, we have twelve easy and delicious high-protein lunch ideas. Whether you're looking for high protein lunch ideas for weight loss, recipes to help you bulk, or just need some easy high protein lunch ideas to help with your midday meal, we've got you covered!
You can make a good protein lunch, like these meals, with little hassle, even if you are a newbie in the kitchen. Some meals can be prepped in advance, while others can be thrown together at the last minute.
This article will discuss the following:
**For full transparency, this post may contain affiliate links where we could earn a commission on a purchase you make at no additional cost to you. We only recommend products that we have thoroughly researched and think you will find valuable.**
High-protein lunches are what they sound like, a meal high in protein you can eat for lunch. What separates lunch meals from foods you would eat for breakfast, like protein coffee or protein French toast, for example, or dinner, is the food selection and the ease of packability.
Typically, people eat lunch while at work or school. Because of this, high-protein lunches need to be easy to make and pack. Bonus points go for lunch meals that work well with meal prep.
The importance of high-protein lunches comes down to how valuable protein intake is to our health and fitness. For starters, we must consume nine essential amino acids from our diet to maintain good health. Amino acid deficiency can cause numerous health problems.
The good news is that you will have no trouble hitting your daily protein requirements if you regularly consume high-protein lunches.
Here are two reasons why protein is essential to a healthy diet.
Protein repairs cells and makes new ones, including muscle cells, which is why protein is critical to building muscle.
But the benefits don't stop there. Protein for lunch also helps maintain muscle while on a calorie-restricted diet too. Losing lean body mass is a big concern when on a fat-loss diet.
Not only does losing muscle crash your metabolism, but it also hurts the look of your physique. Eating enough protein ensures that weight loss is primarily fat instead of muscle.
Protein is the most satiating macronutrient on a per-calorie basis, meaning it helps you feel full more than fat or carbohydrates. Managing hunger is a huge advantage when dieting.
Fish, eggs, chicken, beef, and Greek yogurt, all score high on the satiety index1. This 7 day meal plan for muscle gain provides examples of how you can use all of these filling and nutritious foods. Having a high-protein lunch helps keep you fuller throughout the day to prevent afternoon snacking.
Before determining how much protein you should eat for lunch, we must figure out how much protein you need daily to build muscle.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is only .8g/kg (.36/lb) of body weight. The RDA is the amount of protein you need to meet your basic nutritional requirements. Eating .8g/kg (.36/lb.) is the minimum amount you need to avoid getting sick, not the amount to eat for a healthy and active lifestyle.
For athletic (or dieting) populations looking to maximize performance or aesthetics, .8g/kg is not enough.
Based on the latest research, consuming between .7 and 1g of protein per pound of body weight is ideal for muscle hypertrophy and muscular development2. With these numbers in mind, aiming for 1 gram per pound of body weight is perfect.
Shooting for 1 gram per pound of body weight even gives you a little wiggle room to fall short and still be in the optimal range. So, if you weigh 165 pounds, aim for 165 grams of protein daily.
Determining how much protein you should eat for lunch depends on how many meals you eat. If you eat the standard breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals, divide the total daily grams of protein by three.
If you need 165 grams of protein per day, that equates to three meals of 55 grams each. If you add a snack or another meal, it will come out to a little over 41g of protein spread across four feedings. The goal is to distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day.
Of course, a high-protein lunch doesn't only contain protein. You have to consider your other macros as well. A well-rounded lunch is high in protein but also contains carbohydrates and fats.
The ideal macro breakdown for lunch depends mainly on the type of diet you follow. For example, if you are on a low-carb diet, your lunch will be high protein, moderate fat, and low carbohydrates.
On the other hand, if you follow a low-fat diet, your lunch will be high protein, moderate to high carbohydrates, and low fat. The macro breakdown will also change, depending on if you are bulking or cutting.
In either case, always start by calculating your protein intake. We went over that in detail above. Eat roughly one gram of protein per pound of body weight spread evenly throughout the day.
After you figure out protein, you can distribute carbs and fats based on your diet preferences. Aim for around 50% protein, 20% carbohydrates, and 30% fat for a low-carb diet. For a low-fat diet, shoot for approximately 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 20% fat.
Remember fiber, too. Fiber is vital for gut health and maintaining proper bowel function. It can help lower cholesterol and can aid in controlling blood sugar too. Aim for 20-40 grams of fiber daily.
Beyond that, if you eat lunch before working out, ensure you consume food that sits well in your stomach, like these best foods to eat before a workout. The last thing you want in the middle of a heavy squat is to have an upset stomach.
Knowing all of the reasons why high-protein lunches are valuable is one thing. But, preparing them is another. When it comes to lunch, there are two main options for how to prepare the meals. You can prepare them ahead of time or make meals quickly and easily in the morning before work or school.
Let's talk about meal prep recipes first. Meal prep for weight loss has been a staple in the fitness community for decades. One of the biggest challenges of being consistent with your nutrition comes down to being prepared. It is easier to hit your macros and stay on plan when making the food before you need it.
To go the meal prep route, cook a bunch of meals twice a week. Not only will meal prep make it easier to hit your nutrition goals, but it will also save you time and money. And you'll appreciate having pre-made high protein lunch ideas for work.
That said, let's be honest. Only some people are going to meal prep. For those who don't, preparing quick and easy recipes in the morning is essential before heading out the door.
If you decide to go this route, here are a few foods to keep on hand: canned chicken and tuna, deli meat, beef jerky, protein bars, precooked bags of rice, whole grain bread, fruit, and mixed nuts.
Lastly, we should mention that those who don't want to do any cooking or meal prep might find some solace in using a meal delivery service. If this sounds like you, then make sure to check out our Trifecta Nutrition Meals Review.
When putting together high-protein lunch meals, there are a few critical things to remember. The first, of course, is protein. Build each meal around a high-quality protein source. Chicken, turkey, beef, tuna, eggs, and Greek yogurt are all great options. It's also a good idea to find a delicious protein powder you can include in easy protein shake recipes and yogurt bowls.
Once you have the protein source figured out, putting a solid meal together is much easier. From there, you can add carbohydrates and fat based on your nutritional needs and preferences.
Let's start with delicious recipes for a bulking lunch. These recipes are higher in calories to help you maximize muscular strength and development.
Everyone loves tacos, but this is a unique spin on a familiar favorite. Using ground pork instead of beef is an entirely different flavor. By doubling or tripling the ingredients, you can make two or three servings of this protein bowl and have multiple meals to eat throughout the week.
And if you're in a serious bulk and struggling to meet your daily macros, try adding a tablespoon or two of sour cream and a handful of tortilla chips. Just make sure to include both additions in your total macro breakdown!
Nutrition Breakdown: 40g of protein, 75g of carbohydrates, and 25g of fat [685 calories]
An egg salad is a lunchtime classic that also happens to be one of the best easy high protein lunch ideas for work. The best part about this recipe is it is super simple to make.
Anyone following a clean bulk workout and diet will appreciate this recipe's simplicity, flavor, and macro breakdown. Need some additional healthy fats in this dish? Try topping your sandwich with some creamy avocado!
Nutrition Breakdown (2 large sandwiches): 34g of protein, 62g of carbohydrates, 28g of fat [646 calories]
High protein pasta is one of my favorite meal ideas! Ground beef and pasta is a recipe that tastes great and only has three ingredients. If you are bulking, this meal should be a go-to.
Looking to add some more plants into the mix? Cherry tomatoes are an awesome addition!
Nutrition Breakdown: 56g of protein, 73g of carbohydrates, 25g of fat [741 calories]
Ok, as far as healthy protein lunch ideas go, this is not really a recipe. However, we have all been caught traveling and unprepared, requiring a high in protein lunch.
If you find yourself in this situation, here is a quick and easy snack you can throw together at a gas station.
The only instruction needed for this "recipe" is to pick the fruit that looks the freshest. You never know what you will find at a gas station. If you can't find fruit that looks good, you can replace it with a granola bar.
Nutrition Breakdown: 36g of protein, 73g of carbohydrates, 20g of fat [616 calories]
Instead of going to a local fast-food joint, make your cheeseburgers yourself. You can even elevate this recipe by using goat cheese instead of pepper jack cheese and topping it with caramelized onions.
You'll appreciate this decadent meal after putting the work in following your workout split!
Nutrition Breakdown (two burgers): 60g of protein, 60g of carbohydrates, 30g of fat [ 750 calories]
A delicious protein shake is one of our favorite high protein vegetarian lunch ideas. This protein shake recipe tastes fantastic and is easy to make.
If you are short on time, throw these ingredients into a blender and enjoy!
Nutrition Breakdown: 34g of protein, 38g of carbohydrates, and 20g of fat [468 calories]
Now let's tackle six fat loss recipes. These high protein lunch ideas for weight loss are low-calorie meals that will help you get lean. Trust us, if you're following a cutting workout and diet plan, these recipes are a must!
Spicy ground chicken and brown rice is a simple dish you can make with minimal hassle anytime you need a high-protein meal to prep.
You'll love the flavor and simplicity of this recipe so much, we're certain it'll become one of your favorite high protein low calorie lunch ideas.
Nutrition Breakdown: 40g of protein, 45g of carbohydrates, 10g of fat [430 calories]
When you think of high-protein lunch ideas, tuna fish is often a lean protein at the top of the list.
If you're looking to add some more volume to your meal, try adding some veggie protein for an added nutrient boost. Or, for a little extra flavor, top your tuna with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.
Nutrition Breakdown: 35g of protein, 40g of carbohydrates, 9g of fat [381 calories]
One of the struggles of cutting, or following a plan like the 80 20 rule diet, is satisfying your sweet tooth because it is hard to eat anything sweet when dieting.
However, this simple Greek yogurt recipe will make you think you are cheating. And, it also happens to be one of the best high protein cold lunch ideas, so no microwave is needed.
Nutrition Breakdown: 36g of protein, 48g of carbohydrates, and 10g of fat [426 calories]
Looking for some great high protein low fat lunch ideas? Look no further than a grilled chicken salad, a meal that can be as intricate or basic as you want.
The key is finding a low-calorie dressing that you enjoy. Depending on your macros for the day, you can also add even more flavor by including a sprinkle of feta cheese.
Nutrition Breakdown: 40g of protein, 20g of carbohydrates, 10g of fat [330 calories]
There's a reason chicken breast is one of our favorite high protein low fat foods. It can be hard to find low calorie high protein lunch ideas that are also easy. Fortunately, slow-cooker chicken breast is exactly that!
The slow cooker is a healthy eater's best friend. All you have to do is set it and forget it. You can meal prep this recipe as well, making it a great high protein lunch idea. Serve this chicken alongside fresh veggies for a great fiber boost.
Nutrition Breakdown: 42g of protein, 60g of carbohydrates, 5g of fat [453 calories]
Salmon, rice, and broccoli is an easy, low-calorie, and high-protein meal that always hits the spot.
This is a great high protein meal prep recipe to include in your regular rotation and tastes extra delicious following a tough morning leg workout.
Nutrition Breakdown: 40g of protein, 55g of carbohydrates, and 10g of fat [470 calories]
Here is a shopping list you can take to the grocery store to pick up everything you need to make delicious high-protein lunch recipes.
Remember, easy healthy high protein lunch ideas are only easy if you have the right ingredients to make them.
Eating healthy is a lot more enjoyable when the food tastes good, like in these best protein lunch ideas. Although it's not an exhaustive list, the twelve recipes outlined in this article are packed with the best foods for muscles and will give you a great start to planning delicious high-protein lunches.
Feel free to play around with the recipes, mixing and matching ingredients to your preferences so you can make the best high protein lunch for you. However, stick with a few meals you love once you find them. The key to progress is consistency.
And if you'd like to stay even more consistent with your diet, check out our 7-Day Bodybuilding High Protein Meal Plan. It includes a week's worth of meals to help you hit your goals!
Also, be sure to get yourself a high quality protein powder. At SET FOR SET, we've tested tons of protein powders, here's our 14 favorite protein powders on the market now.
Comments will be approved before showing up.
September 30, 2023
September 29, 2023
At SFS we strive to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed for your fitness journey. Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases, killer workouts, actionable fitness content and more. As our motto goes - "You don't have to get ready if you stay #alwaysready!"