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Lunch seems like it should be the simplest meal of the day, but it often isn’t. Between busy schedules, limited prep time, a sparse between-grocery-store-runs pantry, and boredom of eating the same thing every day — figuring out what to eat for a nutritious, filling and enjoyable lunch can be a headache.

But it shouldn’t have to be. That’s why we asked some UW Medicine dietitians what their go-to easy, healthy weekday lunches are. Whether you want to make something from scratch or amp up the nutrition in a premade meal, find some inspiration from our dietitians.

Premade meals with some add-ins

Kianna Aumiller, MS, RDN, UW Medical Center – Northwest

“I frequently make extra dinner to bring for lunch the next day, which is timesaving.

My go-to’s include:

  • Vegetable fried rice (from frozen) with added tofu and broccoli
  • Vegetable pizza (from frozen) with added chicken sausage
  • Chicken potstickers (from frozen) with added vegetables (from frozen or fresh steamed)
  • Mediterranean orzo salad (premade) with added chicken, broccoli, garbanzo beans (canned)
  • Turkey chili (premade chili base with added cooked ground turkey)
  • Deli turkey sandwich on sourdough
  • Restaurant leftovers

To take the pressure off the entrée, sometimes I bring several grab-and-go sides such as yogurt, apple slices, sliced cheese, crackers, nutrition bars, nuts or protein shakes.

My colleagues and I all utilize the cafe to treat ourselves to lunch or a side of soup, fries, chips, sauteed vegetables or salad when needed. We also each have snack drawers which helps curb hunger between meals.”

A salad bowl

Emily Ball, RDN, UW Medical Center

“I typically like to rotate between a few different variations with a similar formula for each:

  • Grain or starchy vegetable: quinoa, farro, bulgar wheat or roasted sweet potatoes
  • Vegetables: leafy green like arugula, romaine, butter lettuce or shredded kale; and other vegetables like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green onions or roasted vegetables such as green beans, red onions, mushrooms or peppers
  • Protein: grilled chicken, garbanzo or cannellini beans
  • Fat: avocado, olive oil
  • Added flavor: herbs such as dill and parsley, pickled onions, kimchi, sauerkraut, olives or a cheese such as feta
  • Crunch: toasted sunflower seeds or pistachios

Here is one of my recent go-tos: Cooked bulgar wheat mixed with dill, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, diced cucumber and cherry tomatoes. On top of this I add arugula, grilled chicken, pickled onions and olives. I toss the arugula with a bit of olive oil and lemon juice.”

Premade sweet kale chopped salad kit with extras

Alex Roberts, RD, MS, Harborview

“This makes two lunches because I add extra veggies: bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion and more lettuce to the premade salad. I also add shredded rotisserie chicken for a good source of protein. I will also eat a sliced apple and some sort of chocolate for a sweet finish.”

Southwest quinoa salad

Yasmeen Samad, MS, RDN, UW Medical Center

“Qunioa is one of the few plant-based complete proteins out there and it’s also packed with fiber, so it helps me get through long workdays without feeling starving by the end of the day. I like to make this salad from Kristine’s Kitchen blog.”

Salmon with roasted broccoli and brown rice

Chelsea Whealdon, RDN, MPH, UW Medical Center – Roosevelt

“I like to make this as an easy dinner and bring the leftovers for lunch, but you could also make it as a lunch meal prep. Here’s what I do: Roast the salmon and broccoli at the same time and cook a big batch of brown rice. I like to use a simple marinade with sesame oil, tamari, lemon juice and garlic for the salmon, and olive oil, salt and pepper for the broccoli. I’ll drizzle some tamari over the top when I pack it for my lunch.

Sometimes instead of salmon I’ll roast chicken. Pro tip: Buying pre-cut broccoli florets also shortens the prep time.”


Warren Williams, RD, UW Medical Center – Northwest

“In general, I aim for a 500-700 kcal sandwich with a minimum of 20g protein and 4g fiber. I look for a low-fat protein source like turkey or chicken breast and whole wheat bread/wrap for dietary fiber. When making a choice on cheese, I typically opt for American cheese. It is lower in saturated fat than most, as it is effectively just cheddar cheese that is diluted and emulsified with water. The sandwich as a whole is not low fat and typically falls within AMDR (Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range) after adding a polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fat-based spreads, such as nut and seed butters or spreads that have an avocado, olive oil, canola oil or soybean base.”

Leftovers from last night’s dinner

Angela Yue, RD, Harborview

“I always make extra dinner portions so I have enough for lunch. This is a great time and money saver. When planning meals, I do my best to include a protein, carbohydrate and vegetable. Take any veggie and protein you have in the kitchen, stir fry together with seasonings, and serve with rice or noodles. Canned and frozen vegetables work great too. I am also a fan of pre-made bagged salads, they are very convenient. If cooking a meal on the stove is too much, bake everything in the oven together, or heat up items using the microwave.

Sample ingredients for a meal:

  • Canned refried beans. Heat up in the microwave or on the stove.
  • Sauteed kale with garlic. Cook on the stove.
  • Rice. I normally use my rice cooker, but use whatever method you prefer.
  • Put all the items together in a bowl. Serve with salsa, avocado, hot sauce, etc.”