Saturday, September 22, 2012

90 Healthy No-Heat Lunches for Taking to Work (Many are Low-Carb and Gluten-Free)

This post has 90 ideas for a Healthy No-Heat Lunch to take to work!

90 Healthy No-Heat Lunches for Taking to Work (Many are Low-Carb and Gluten-Free) found on

During the years I taught elementary school and also worked on this blog, I was grateful for leftovers that I could take to school and warm up for lunch,  But without a place to heat food at the workplace, healthy lunches are a lot more challenging.  I had a request on the Kalyn's Kitchen Facebook page to share ideas for healthy brown bag lunches that don't need to be heated, so for a few weeks now I've been looking for brown-bag friendly favorites that I'd enjoy for a healthy lunch.  Once I got started I found quite a few options; hope some of these 90 No-Heat Lunches for Taking to Work will appeal to you if you're someone who packs a lunch for work!

In this round-up I focused on dishes I think will keep in the fridge for at least a day or two, but check individual recipes for more information about that.  Some of these dishes contain ingredients (like fresh tomatoes or avocados) that I'd cut up in the morning and add when I eat the lunch, although you might not be as fussy.  Many salads might be best if you refrigerated the dressing and salad separately and combined at lunchtime, and a few of the dishes (like the tostadas) would definitely need to be packed separately and then assembled when you eat them.

I did tell you what phase each recipe is for the South Beach Dieters, but check individual recipes for more specific information about limited foods like dried beans, mayonnaise, or avocado. And if you're a low-carb eater who's not following South Beach, the recipes marked as all-phases are grain-free, gluten-free, and usually low-carb, with some exceptions for things that have dried beans.

Salads with Tomatoes for a No-Heat Lunch:

Tomatoes, Hearts of Palm, Olives, and Feta with Basil Vinaigrette (all phases)

Pitas, Tostadas, and Wraps for a No-Heat Lunch:
Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps with Capers and Tomatoes (shown above, all phases)

Slow Cooker Spicy Shredded Chicken Lettuce Wraps with Avocado Salsa (all phases; the spicy chicken is good hot or cold)

Egg Salad in Pita with Green Olives, Green Onions and Dijon (shown at top, phase 2 or 3)

Easy Leftover Turkey Pita Sandwiches with Fresh Cranberry Salsa (phase 2 or 3)

Deviled Ham Spread for Filling Whole Wheat Pita (phase 2 or 3)

Easy Guacamole Tostadas (phase 2 or 3)

Mediterranean Tostada with Hummus, Feta, and Kalamata Olives (phase 2 or 3)

Seven Layer Tostadas (a little more complicated to pack, but delicious; phase 2 or 3)   

Salads with Grain or Quinoa for a No-Heat Lunch:

Southwestern Quinoa Salad with Black Beans, Red Bell Peppers, and Cilantro (Shown above: recommended on Facebook by a reader named Jim, phase 2 or 3)

Lentil and Barley Greek-Style Salad with Tomatoes, Feta, and Capers (phase 2 or 3)

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Parsley and Mint (phase 2 or 3)

Farro Salad with Asparagus, Red Bell Pepper, and Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette (phase 2 or 3)

Black Bean, Rice, and Cilantro Salad (phase 2 or 3)

Salads with Beans or Lentils for a No-Heat Lunch:
Spicy Pinto Bean and Tuna Salad with Peperoncini, Tomatoes, and Parsley (Shown above; recommended on Facebook by a reader named Willemiek who adds avocado, all phases.)

Middle Eastern Bean Salad with Parsley and Lemon (phase 2 or 3)

Green Lentil and Red Pepper Salad with Red Onion, Mint, and Feta (phase 2 or 3)

Black Bean and Lentil Salad with Red Bell Pepper, Cumin, and Cilantro  (phase 2 or 3)

Salads with Chicken for a No-Heat Lunch:
 Chicken and Avocado Salad with Lime and Cilantro (Shown above; my sister Pam is not a cilantro fan, but she loves this salad.  All phases.)

Chicken, Black Bean, and Red Pepper Salad with Spicy Avocado Dressing (all phases)

Shredded Chicken Salad with Green Olives, Celery, and Green Onion (all phases)

Leftover Chicken Chopped Salad with Red Pepper, Olives, and Feta (all phases)

Leftover Chicken Pesto Salad (all phases)

Chicken Salad with Tarragon and Peas (phase 2 or 3)

Salads with Pasta for a No-Heat Lunch:
Tuna Pasta Salad with Lemon, Green Olives, and Cucumbers (Shown above, I love this salad!  Phase 2 or 3.)

Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Kale, Chickpeas, Lemon, and Feta (phase 2 or 3)

Easy Pesto Pasta Salad with Olives and Red Bell Pepper (phase 2 or 3)

Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta, and Herbs (phase 2 or 3)

Shrimp and Macaroni Salad (phase 2 or 3)

Pasta Salad with Italian Sausage, Zucchini, Red Peppers, and Olives (phase 2 or 3)

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Fried Kale, Tomatoes, Olives, and Pesto Vinaigrette (phase 2 or 3)  

Salads with Greens for a No-Heat Lunch:
Raw Baby Kale Salad with Apples, Sunflower Seeds, and Lemon-Dijon Vinaigrette (Shown above; phase 2 or 3.)

Baby Arugula Chopped Salad with Chicken, Fresh Mozzarella, and Tomatoes (all phases)

Arugula Chickpea Salad with Feta and Balsamic-Tahini Vinaigrette (all phases)

Baby Kale, White Bean, and Tuna Salad with Lemon (all phases)

Baby Kale Greek Salad (all phases)

Kale and Romaine Caesar Salad (all phases)

Spinach Salad Recipe with Marinated Garbanzo Beans and Feta Cheese (all phases)

Asian Spinach Salad with Chicken, Mushrooms, Pepper, and Almonds (all phases)      

Salads with Lettuce or Cabbage for a No-Heat Lunch
Kalyn's Favorite Antipasto Salad (all phases)

Peperoncini Chopped Salad with Romaine, Red Bell Pepper, and Feta (all phases) 

Fattoush - Lebanese "Crumbled Bread" Salad with Sumac and Pita Chips (phase 2 or 3)

Southwest Chicken Salad (all phases)

Mediterranean Salad with Hummus Dressing, Olives, Capers, and Feta (all phases)

Thai-Style Spicy Cabbage Slaw with Mint and Cilantro (all phases)

Crunchy Napa Cabbage Asian Slaw with Sugar Snap Peas, Radishes, Almonds (and Cilantro?) (all phases)

Red Cabbage and Chicken Asian Salad with Tangy Cilantro Dressing (all phases)

Chicken and Shredded Cabbage Salad with Mustard and Celery Seed (all phases)

Salads with Vegetables or Fruit for a No-Heat Lunch:
Jicama and Carrot Slaw with Radishes, Cilantro, and Cumin-Lime Vinaigrette (shown above; phase 2 or 3)

Marinated Zucchini Salad with Olives, Artichokes, Red Pepper, and Red Onion (all phases)

Green Bean, Tomato, and Feta Salad Oreganato (all phases)

Grilled Zucchini Greek Salad (all phases)

Cucumber and Avocado Salad with Lime, Mint, and Feta (all phases)

Barely-Blanched Broccoli Salad with Feta and Fried Almonds (all phases)
Easy Thai-Flavored Raw Broccoli Salad with Red Onion, Mint, and Peanuts (all phases)

Spicy Shredded Carrot Salad with Mint, Cilantro, Green Onion, Lime, and Jalapeno (all phases)

Green Apple, Celery, and Walnut Salad with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette (phase 2 or 3)

Winter Fruit Salad with Persimmons, Pears, and Grapes (phase 2 or 3)

Whole Wheat Couscous Salad with Persimmon, and Grapes (phase 2 or 3)

Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Green Onions, Basil, Thyme, and Feta (phase 2 or 3)

Snack Foods, Appetizers, and Dips for a No-Heat Lunch
Shrimp Cocktail with Low Sugar Cocktail Sauce (Shown above; all phases)

Sriracha Deviled Eggs plus Ten More Interesting Ideas for Deviled Eggs (check recipes for phase)

Roasted Asparagus Wrapped in Ham (all phases, this is good hot or cold)

Shrimp with Mustard-Horseradish Sauce (all phases)    

Hummus and Cucumber Appetizer Bites with Sesame Seeds (all phases)

Ham and Dill Pickle Appetizer Bites (all phases)

Grandma's Vegetable Dip (all phases)

Heart-Healthy Shrimp dip Served with Veggie Dippers (all phases)

White Bean and Artichoke Dip with Whole Wheat Tortilla Chips (phase 2 or 3)

Diet Friendly Ranch-Style Dip: Greek Yogurt and Cottage Cheese Dip with Dill (all phases)

Black-Eyed Pea Hummus with Olive Oil and Sumac (hummus is all phases)

Slow Roasted Tomato Hummus (hummus is all phases)

Parsley Hummus with Whole Wheat Pita Chips (phase 2 or 3)   

Did we Miss Your Favorite?
If you have a favorite idea for no-heat brown bag lunches, please let us know about it in the comments!

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.   

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More to Chew On:


  1. One of my goals is to come up with a list of ten recipes for healthy lunches. I have to stop eating those frozen meals. I'm sure I will find a few here. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Savvy WorkingGal, great idea. Really all you need are ten good lunch ideas to alternate and you're set. Glad this was helpful.

  3. What a great list of recipes! I'm not working right now (staying at home with my little one) but we are always on the go, and I've gone through the Starbucks drive thru for lunch more times than I can count. It was actually easier when I worked in an office because I had access to a microwave, but I don't right now, and I really needed no-cook ideas for when my babe and I are on the move!

  4. Kare, glad you like it. And I get it totally; I think I ate healthier lunches when I had to pack a lunch for work. Now it's far too easy to grab something when I'm out.

  5. Such a great post Kalyn. I made sure to pin it because heaven knows I can't keep track of where I found great ideas.

  6. Thanks Carrian, and thanks for the pin too!

  7. Great post to get out of the lunch rut! My husband is on a strict sodium restriction and many of these will work for him. Pinned to my Special Diets board to share with others :)

  8. What a fantastic collection of no-heat lunch recipes! Even though I work at home, I'm going to treat myself to some of these dishes for lunch.

  9. She's Cookin', so glad to hear there are ideas here that will work for you guys. And always appreciate the pin!

    Thanks Lydia! It was kind of fun looking through past recipes to find some of my old favorites.

  10. These are great ideas and so many to choose from! I'm going to Pin this and make my way through them all. No more hospital cafeteria food for me! JOY!

  11. Gwen, so glad it's helpful for you, and thanks for the pin!

  12. This is so prefectly timed, Kalyn. I am hopping back on phase one this week and I heading to the store tomorrow. This reminds me of some favorites and helps me write my shopping list!

  13. Alicia, so glad it's useful. Good luck on phase one. I return to it quite often myself!

  14. Wow Kalyn! I could just print all these out and try each one - thanks for putting so much time into pulling these recipes together. They would be perfect for our church luncheons too!

  15. Hi Kalyn,
    I have been looking at your website and it looks so delicious. I am wondering if I can lose weight with your receipes. I will try because I am at a dangerous weight at this time and I need to learn how to cook more healthy not only for myself but my family as well. thanks again

  16. Kalyn, Outstanding! I already know how delectable your recipes are. To have a list of no-heat lunches all in one place is a fantastic, easy to use resource for work and travel. You are the best. This page is getting an extra "favorite" as a go-to for healthy lunch options.
    Thank you again!

  17. Thanks Jeanette! It was fun finding some old favorites I had kind of forgotten about!

    Noritae, I do hear from a lot of people who have used my recipes to follow The South Beach Diet. If you're really serious about losing weight, here's a post on Getting Started on the South Beach Diet. I always recommend you start by reading the book!

  18. Thanks CJ! We were writing comments at the same time I guess.

  19. You have just inspired me to take my lunch! Healthier - more frugal - and yummier!

  20. Well this list sure beats the frozen green beans I'd take to work and pop in the microwave. So many great ideas here!

  21. Thanks Donna, so glad!

    Kelly I bet you don't miss those days!

  22. Thanks, Kalyn! This is great - I find that as a work-at-home person, it's hard to even stop for lunch never mind figure out what to eat. Now that cooler weather is coming, a roundup of nice warm lunches would also be helpful, if I might be so bold to request it. I find salads hard to face when it's cold outside.
    Thanks again!

  23. Linda, I will have to start thinking about that; good idea!

  24. Kalyn, I am SOOOO glad I saw this. My life is beyond chaotic at the moment, and I've been missing a lot of posts around the blogosphere, without a chance to even read my feeds.

    Anywway, this is a masterpiece of a post, and it will come in very very handy for me!

    thank you - I am going to have a post coming up soon on a simple salad, and will include a link to your article because it's a must read!

  25. Thanks Sally, and so glad it was useful for you! (I know what you mean about getting behind on the feed reader too!)

  26. Thanks Kalyn. Just went off meat for a while. Found great new recipes!

  27. Thank you for this, I ask am over the road truck driver. Eating is very hard to figure out. I think I Can try a few of these each time right after I do my shopping. Very little cigarette lighter fridge. Ugh. Thank you though iam excited to try.

  28. Christie, so glad it is giving you some good ideas. That does sound like a challenge!

  29. Yes you did miss my favorite.. IRS moong bean sprout or lentil sprout. I normally do my sprouts at home. But you can buy them at grossry stores too.

  30. These are great ideas! Thanks for sharing. I just really dislike microwaves so I love the help. One of my favorites is a Garbanzo bean and red pepper salad (on my blog). I make a big batch on Sundays and take it a few times. So easy!

  31. Thank you so much! I am part of a weight loss surgery group and we are always looking for easy and healthy things to fix! This is a GREAT inspiration for all of us! Thanks so much! I have shared this with our site.
    Lana in MI

  32. Lana, so glad it's helpful for you!

  33. What I need are ideas for lunches I can eat in the car. My job involves lots of travel and I hate to take the time to sit down to eat. If I eat and drive, I can get home quicker. It's way too easy to eat drive-thru food!

  34. Great website, Kalyn!!! I stumbled upon your website through Pinterest where I saw a picture of a salad from your 90 Healthy No-Heat Lunches. However,I can't find it. I wanted to see if this is a chicken or tuna salad with tomatoes on a leaf of Romaine. It reminded me of P.F. Chang's Lettuce Wraps. It's interesting that there are so many combinations of salads. Thank you

  35. Hi Cher,

    I think what you're describing sounds like Tuna Salad Lettuce Wraps with Capers and Tomatoes.

    Let me know if that's not the one.

  36. If you have a Trader Joe's, I combine one package their steamed and vacuum sealed lentils + one container of the yogurt onion and chive dip. Throw it in a pita with some mixed greens or spinach and you've got one flavorful no-heat lunch!

  37. Thanks a lot for this post! It's so helpful!

  38. Hello Kalyn - thanks so much for sharing your wonderful recipes. Some of your recipes feature peanuts, almonds, or peanut butter. Sometimes they are in a sauce. Any ideas for substitutes in these recipes? One of my family members has a peanut and nut allergy.

  39. Anita, I'm sure that many of the recipes that use peanut butter could be made with sunbutter if that works for you. That's the only sub that I can think of that doesn't have nuts.

  40. Baby spinach, sliced strawberries, almonds or sunflower seeds, feta cheese, and dressing (or just balsamic vinegar if you're really cutting calories). Substitute dried cranberries if you don't have fresh strawberries.

  41. Thanks for all the wonderful ideas for healthy lunches! So glad it's not a turkey sandwich!!

  42. Great ideas, thanks! I am new to the idea of grain salads but I'll try them :) I recently tried a steel cut oats waldorf salad that was amazing, I love to take a pint jar of it (with extra extra chopped apple) for my lunch.

  43. That's a new idea for me, but it sounds delish!

  44. I am trying to find some bag lunches for my husband to take to work. He is a truck driver so it has to be something that does not have to be heated up or kept cold. I know that is a lot to ask but he also has to be able to eat it on the go. He is a truck driver and can not stop to heat any thing and does not have a cooler or microwave to use either. So brown bagging it is all we can do..

  45. Ellen, there are a few things here that would work; look through them and find things that don't have ingredients that need to be refrigerated.

  46. These are awesome. Great variations. Sometimes it's hard to eat healthy because lack of ideas and ordering unhealthy food just seems easier.


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