9 Make-Ahead Lunches That Will Last You All Week

By Anisha Jhaveri |

Say goodbye to sad sandwiches and wilted salads! These easy recipes will save you time and keep you satisfied until dinner.

SilverSneakers Potato Split Pea Soup

Lunch is the red-headed stepchild of meals. Think about it: When was the last time you really got excited to prepare and eat an impressive midday bite?

Your same old sandwich or salad may serve its purpose, but you might be surprised by how much a lunch upgrade can brighten up your afternoon. Not convinced? Give a few of the batch recipes below a try! All come highly recommended by top nutrition experts and food bloggers.

And the best part? You can whip them up on Sunday (or any day you prefer) to last you through the whole week—perfect for an energizing meal after your favorite SilverSneakers class or before your afternoon workout. (Check your eligibility for free access to gyms and fitness classes through SilverSneakers here, or find a location here.)

Bon appétit!

1. Chickpea Pita Pockets

“This lunch includes protein- and fiber-packed chickpeas, along with a hearty serving of veggies and a bit of feta and lemon-yogurt dressing for an extra punch of flavor,” says Virginia-based dietitian and wellness consultant Tina Gowin Carlucci, R.D.N. Her expert tip: “Wait to stuff the pita pockets until just before eating.” It’ll prevent the pita from becoming soggy come lunchtime.

You’ll need:

  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 large cucumber, diced
  • 1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup chopped parsley
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 5 ounces feta cheese
  • 5 whole wheat pocket pitas, halved

What to do: Mix together tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, the juice of half the lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Divide evenly among five containers with lids.

In a separate bowl, mix together yogurt, the juice of the remaining lemon half, and salt and pepper to taste. Divide evenly among five small containers with lids.

For each day of the week, grab a container of the chickpea mixture, and toss in one ounce of feta cheese. Take a container of the yogurt dressing and a whole wheat pocket pita. At lunchtime, stuff each pita half with the chickpea-feta mixture, and drizzle with yogurt dressing as you eat.

2. Fast Fried Rice

Lindsey Joe, R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Tennessee Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, often relies on this quick fried rice—inspired by her mother’s recipe—for easy weekday meals. “It’s a quick cook and a nutritionally balanced meal that includes all the food groups, from protein-rich eggs and shrimp to complex carbohydrates from the brown rice,” she says.

SilverSneakers Fast Fried RicePhoto: Lindsey Joe, R.D.N.

You’ll need:

  • 1 bag frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 bags boil-in-bag brown rice, cooked
  • 1½ pounds chicken or shrimp, cooked (optional)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons oyster sauce

What to do: In a lightly oiled pan, sauté the vegetables until the onions are translucent. Move the vegetables to the sides of your skillet, and pour in the eggs to scramble.

Once the eggs are cooked, add in the rice, chicken or shrimp if using, and oyster sauce. Stir the mixture until ingredients are incorporated. Store in a large container until ready to eat.

3. Tuna Nicoise Salad

This salad comes straight from the pages of The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook by Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, who loves it for being packed with protein. “As for the dressing, either place it on the bottom of the container or carry it on the side,” she suggests. This will help you avoid a soggy salad.

SilverSneakers Tuna Nicoise SaladPhoto: Copyright Toby Amidor, The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook: Easy and Wholesome Meals to Cook, Prep, Grab, and Go, Rockridge Press, 2017. Photo courtesy of Nat and Cody Gantz.

You’ll need:

  • 2 small red potatoes, sliced into 1-inch cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cans (4 ounces) tuna packed in olive oil, undrained
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon, quartered

What to do: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. In a small bowl, toss potatoes with olive oil and salt. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are roasting, bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, then add your eggs and cook seven to eight minutes. Drain and cool in ice water for about 10 minutes. Peel and slice into quarters lengthwise.

In each of four glass containers, put one cup spinach. Top each with ¼ cup potatoes, four egg quarters, ¼ cup each of green beans and tomatoes, and ½ can of tuna (with oil). Sprinkle each with the black pepper, and add a lemon wedge. When ready to eat, squeeze the lemon juice on the tuna. Store each sealed container for up to five days.

Connect
Eligibility
Locations
Subscribe to our newsletter
It's quick and easy. You could be one of the 13 million people who are eligible.
Already a member? Click to discover our 13,000 participating locations.

Follow Us

4. Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla Soup

“This hearty soup is packed with protein and soluble fiber, so it’s filling enough for a meal but still leaves you feeling light,” says Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., a Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families. Try it for an especially warming and cozy lunch during the cold months. Dudash suggests adding a hefty squeeze of lemon or lime on top for a good dose of vitamin C, plus diced avocado for some healthy fats.

SilverSneakers Rotisserie Chicken Tortilla SoupPhoto: Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., of Clean Eating Cooking School

You’ll need:

  • 1 store-bought rotisserie chicken
  • 2 jars salsa
  • 16 ounces chicken broth
  • 1 can black beans
  • Southwest seasoning to taste
  • Baked tortilla chips, broken into pieces
  • For serving: diced avocado and lime juice

What to do: Heat salsa, chicken broth, black beans, and Southwest seasoning in a pot.

Meanwhile, cut the chicken into pieces. The bones actually add a lot of flavor, so you can include the legs, thighs, etc. Add the chicken to the pot, and simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Store the soup in a large, freezer-friendly container. When ready to eat, place broken tortilla chips into a bowl, ladle in the reheated soup, and top with avocados and lime juice.

5. Arugula Lentil Salad

This salad is a lunchtime favorite for Jessica Jones, R.D., author of 28-Day Plant-Powered Health Reboot. Assemble it in advance, so all that’s left to do when you’re ready to eat is pour the dressing on top. “It’s balanced in healthy fats, protein, veggies, fiber, and complex carbs,” Jones says. “It’s also really delicious and keeps me full for four to five hours.”

You’ll need:

  • 4 to 5 cups arugula, washed
  • 2½ cups cooked or canned lentils
  • 2½ cups cooked quinoa (about ¾ cup dry)
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup olives
  • 2 avocados
  • ½ cup cranberries (optional)
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do: Mix arugula, lentils, quinoa, sliced almonds, olives, and avocado in a large bowl. Top with salt, pepper, and cranberries if using. Store in a large airtight container, or portion into four or five individual containers.

Mix the olive oil and lemon juice, and keep the dressing in a separate container until ready to eat.

6. Potato Split Pea Soup

Large batch soups are some of the easiest make-ahead meals. Packing in an entire cup of dried split peas, this one is brimming with filling fiber and plant protein, says Kaleigh McMordie, R.D.N., author and recipe developer of Lively Table. There’s some bacon in there too, but the soup is just as tasty without the meat.

SilverSneakers Potato Split Pea SoupPhoto: Kaleigh McMordie, R.D.N., of Lively Table

You’ll need:

  • 3 strips applewood smoked bacon, cut into small pieces (optional)
    • If omitting bacon: 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup dried split peas
  • 2 cups gold potatoes, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • For garnish: cooked bacon (optional), chopped parsley, and sour cream or Greek yogurt

What to do: In a heavy-bottomed pot, add bacon pieces and cook, stirring, over medium-low heat until bacon is crispy. Remove bacon from pot to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain. Wipe out the grease with a paper towel, leaving just enough to coat the pot.

If omitting the bacon, add olive oil to heavy-bottomed pot. Add onion, garlic, celery, and parsley to the pot, and sauté until soft and fragrant, about five minutes. Add split peas, potatoes, salt, pepper, and stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until peas are soft.

Turn off heat and transfer everything in the pot to a blender, or use an immersion blender to purée until smooth. If you use a regular blender, be sure you don’t completely seal the lid on top—it may explode with hot soup.

Let soup and bacon cool, and refrigerate separately. When you’re ready to eat, ladle soup into a bowl, reheat, and garnish with bacon, parsley, and sour cream or Greek yogurt.

7. Three-Bean Veggie Chili

A hearty bowl of chili is pure comfort when the temperature drops. “The flavors intensify as they marinate, so the chili may taste even better as the week goes on,” Gowin Carlucci says. “Pack it into microwave-safe containers so you can reheat and eat as you need.”

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 small can chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • Approximately 2 cups water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional toppers: shredded cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt, or chopped scallions

What to do: Heat canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and stir constantly for 30 seconds to one minute, or until fragrant. Add onion, plus a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and sauté until translucent, about seven to 10 minutes.

Pull out one to three chipotle peppers from the adobo sauce (depending on how spicy you’d like your chili to be), and carefully dice them. Add to the sautéed onions, and stir to combine. (Tip: Freeze the remaining chipotle peppers and adobo sauce for future use).

Add all bell peppers to the pot, and cook for about five minutes or until slightly softened. Add the diced tomatoes, beans, chili powder, and cumin. Stir to combine.

Slowly add water to the pot. You want to add enough so all the ingredients are touching water but aren’t drowning; you may not use all two cups. Cover the pot and allow chili to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Divide chili among five microwave-safe containers, and store in the refrigerator for lunches throughout the week. Feel free to add optional toppers like shredded cheese, Greek yogurt, or chopped scallions after reheating.

8. Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad

Like the chili above, the flavors in this recipe get even better the longer they marinate. It may include pasta, but thanks to the grilled chicken and mozzarella, it still makes for a protein-packed lunch, McMordie says.

SilverSneakers Chicken Caprese Pasta Salad

Photo: Kaleigh McMordie, R.D.N., of Lively Table

You’ll need:

  • 8 ounces whole wheat pasta or chickpea pasta
  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cooked
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 to 3 ounces fresh mozzarella (halved if using small balls or cubed if using one large ball)
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

What to do: Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and cool. Cut cooked chicken breast into one-inch cubes. In a large bowl, combine pasta, chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour over pasta mixture and gently stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

9. Roasted Kale and Eggplant Quinoa Salad

Far from a standard pile of leaves, this hearty quinoa salad is a great way to pack more vegetables into your day, McMordie says. Roasting the kale and eggplant brings out their natural flavors. The dish is perfect on its own, but can also be paired with any leftover protein for an even more filling meal.

SilverSneakers Roasted Kale and Eggplant Quinoa Salad
Photo: Kaleigh McMordie, R.D.N., of Lively Table

You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 eggplant
  • 4 large kale leaves, stalks removed
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • Salt and pepper to taste

What to do: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut eggplant into uniform one-inch cubes. Toss with ½ tablespoon olive oil, and spread onto one of the baking sheets. Chop kale into uniform pieces. Toss kale with the other ½ tablespoon of olive oil, and spread onto the other baking sheet, along with the pine nuts.

Roast kale and pine nuts for 10 minutes, or until crispy but not burned. Roast eggplant for 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.

Meanwhile, rinse the uncooked quinoa. Mince garlic, and add quinoa, garlic, broth, and water to a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has soaked up all the water.

Thinly slice the basil leaves into ribbons, and prepare dressing by mixing with the lemon juice and olive oil.

In a large bowl, toss together the cooked quinoa, eggplant, and kale. Add dressing, parmesan, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or cold. The salad can be stored in the fridge for up to five days.

Healthy Meal Plan: Salad a Day