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39 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Anyone on a Budget

Save money, feel good and keep your energy up all day long with our cheap, healthy lunch ideas!

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Woman in blue t-shirt preparing a lunchbox in the kitchenPhotographee.eu/Shutterstock

Prepping your own healthy lunch can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s well worth it. Eating a diet rich in nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables cuts your risk for heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Not only will this save you some serious money on medical bills later on, but eating a healthy lunch will keep you feeling light and energized all afternoon long. Oh, and here’s why you really need to stop skipping your lunch break.

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Cropped image of a man on his lunch break eating a fresh and healthy salad with chicken, avocado, sundried tomatoes and fresh sliced baguette on the side while sitting at a wooden table.Shutterstock / mavo

Save Your Money

If buying the occasional burrito from the office cafeteria seems like a good deal, it’s not. According to a survey in USA Today, the average American spends about $20 per week buying lunch in restaurants, and that adds up to over $1,000 per year. If you include ordering takeout and packing meals, that number jumps to $2,746 per year. Just imagine the amazing vacation you could plan with that kind of money! To start saving today, check out these healthy lunch ideas.

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Dilly Chickpea Salad Sandwiches Exps Tohjj20 190103 B02 06 10b 14

Dilly Chickpea Salad Sandwiches

These chickpea salad sandwiches are super flavorful and contain less fat and cholesterol than chicken salad. They make delightful picnic sandwiches. —Deanna McDonald, Muskegon, Michigan
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Turkey Spinach Salad With Maple Dressing Exps Cf2bz20 40327 E12 06 5b 5

Turkey Spinach Salad with Maple Dressing

"My husband and I love to hike in New England," writes Jessica Gerschitz of Jericho, New York. "The maple syrup in Vermont is wonderful, and we always bring some home to extend the vacation spirit. This recipe I created reminds us of those lovely days."
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Vegan Taco Salad Exps Ft19 245343 F 0912 1 1

Vegan Taco Salad

The best salads are made with ingredients that have different textures and complementary flavors. In this vegan taco salad, you'll love the crunch of the tortilla chips with the sweet, crisp lettuce and "meaty" crumble mixture. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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Chicken Avocado Wraps

I came up with this chicken avocado wrap while trying to figure out what to make for lunch one day. The recipe is now a favorite at my house. —Shiva Houshidari, Plano, Texas
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Turkey Pinto Bean Salad With Southern Molasses Dressing Exps Fbbz19 135882 B04 10 3b 4

Turkey Pinto Bean Salad with Southern Molasses Dressing

This salad is a welcome alternative to the usual post-Thanksgiving fare. It's a tasty main dish loaded with good-for-you protein.—Lily Julow, Lawrenceville, Georgia
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Deli Turkey Lettuce Wraps Exps Sdam19 147427 C12 07 6b 4

Deli Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I used to make these during my training days when I worked at a restaurant in Hawaii. They're low-fat, low-carb, high-protein, quick and delicious—a great choice before or after a workout. —Duncan Omarzu, Astoria, New York
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Couscous Tabbouleh With Fresh Mint Feta Exps Sdam19 127302 E12 07 8b 5

Couscous Tabbouleh with Fresh Mint & Feta

Using couscous instead of bulgur for tabbouleh really speeds up the process of making this colorful salad. Other quick-cooking grains, such as barley or quinoa, also work well. —Elodie Rosinovsky, Brighton, Massachusetts
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Cool Beans Salad Exps Opbz18 120578 B06 07 4b 23

Cool Beans Salad

This protein-filled dish could be served as a colorful side dish or a meatless main entree. When you make it, double the recipe because it will be gone in a flash! The basmati rice add a unique flavor and the dressing gives it a bit of a tang. —Janelle Lee, Appleton, Wisconsin
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Chicken And Hummus Pasta Salad Exps Sdas18 199593 C03 28  8b 3

Chicken and Spinach Pasta Salad

My family loves pasta salads, but usually they have too much mayonnaise or oily dressing. Using hummus gives this dish a great taste and texture, while also increasing its nutritional profile. Adding chicken (store-bought rotisserie chicken works well), makes this pasta salad a complete meal. —Jenny Lynch, Rock Island, Illinois
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Hummus Veggie Wrap Up Exps Cwas18 106657 B04 05  4b 3

Hummus & Veggie Wrap-Up

I had a vegan wrap that was similar to this once when I stopped at a diner while on a long and arduous walk. I enjoyed it so much that I modified it to my own taste and now have it for lunch on a regular basis. Everyone at work wants to know how to make it. —Michael Steffens, Indianapolis, Indiana
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Orzo-Tuna Salad with Tomatoes

Stuffed tomatoes provide endless options when you add meat, cheese, rice, veggies – or in this case, orzo. — Jenni Dise, Phoenix, Arizona
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Chopped Greek Salad Exps Sdam18 87201 D12 06 4b 2

Chopped Greek Salad

While living in San Diego during college, I had a favorite Greek casual dining spot. Now that I'm back in my hometown, I've re-created some dishes from the Greek diner and it takes me right back. —Jennifer Tidwell, Fair Oaks, California
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Sesame Chicken Slaw Salad Exps Hcka18 53392 C10 20 2b 3

Sesame Chicken Slaw Salad

I tasted many types of Asian chicken salad in California. When I moved back to Georgia, I wanted more. Here’s a gingery-sweet recipe using wonton strips. —Michelle Mulrain, Evans, Georgia
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Better Than Egg Salad Exps Hcka19 30922 C10 13 1b 4

Better than Egg Salad

Tofu takes on the taste and texture of egg salad in this quick-fixing sandwich from Lisa Renshaw of Kansas City, Missouri.
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Mediterranean Bulgur Bowl Exps Sdas17 185656 D04 04 05 5b 1

Mediterranean Bulgur Bowl

You can also transform this tasty bowl into an Italian version with mozzarella, pesto, tomatoes, spinach and basil. —Renata Smith, Brookline, Massachusetts
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Herbed Tuna And White Bean Salad Exps Sdjj18 199950 B02 09 3b 2

Herbed Tuna and White Bean Salad

This is a quick and delicious salad that can be made special for guests—or yourself—by grilling fresh tuna steaks instead of using canned. —Charlene Chambers, Ormond Beach, Florida
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Turkey Sandwich With Raspberry Mustard Spread Exps Sddj19 214388 E07 17 7b 5

Turkey Sandwich with Raspberry-Mustard Spread

My hearty sandwich has different yet complementary flavors and textures. It is filled with flavor and nutrients, without all the unhealthy fats, sodium and added sugar many other sandwiches have. And it’s absolutely delicious! —Sarah Savage, Buena Vista, Virginia
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Exps140058 Sd163614c12 01 12b 1

Lemony Garbanzo Salad

Everybody goes for this super fresh salad with the cumin-coriander dressing, especially on warm days. —Sonya Labbe, West Hollywood, California
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Pear Waldorf Pitas Exps Thca19 12570 B08 23 1b 2

Pear Waldorf Pitas

Here's a guaranteed table brightener for a shower, luncheon or party. Just stand back and watch these sandwiches vanish. For an eye-catching presentation, I tuck each one into a colorful folded napkin. —Roxann Parker, Dover, Delaware
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Avocado Egg Salad Toast Exps Sdjj19 211990 B02 25 2b Rms 5

Avocado Egg Salad Toast

I had a surplus of avocados after purchasing too many for an event. A few days later, I was making egg salad sandwiches for lunch and had the fantastic idea to use avocado to bind it together instead of traditional mayo. Not only was this version unbelievably delicious but the healthy fats in the avocado make this a much better option than the traditional mayo-laden version. —Shannon Dobos, Calgary, Alberta
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Honeydew Prosciutto Salad Exps Jmz18 152605 B03 01 4b 2

Honeydew & Prosciutto Salad

For parties, I turn melon and prosciutto into an easy salad with a honey mustard dressing. To add zip, stir in fresh basil and mint. —Julie Merriman, Seattle, Washington
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Cobb Salad Wraps

A homemade dressing lightens up these refreshing tortilla wraps. The avocado, bacon, blue cheese and tomato deliver the flavors I enjoy most while keeping me on my healthy eating plan. -Lynne Van Wagenen of Salt Lake City, Utah
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Peanut Butter Honey Pear Open Faced Sandwiches Exps Thn18 165203 B06 01 4b 6

Peanut Butter, Honey & Pear Open-Faced Sandwiches

I work a 12-hour night shift at a hospital, and when I come home in the morning, I don't want to cook a big breakfast. I love these sandwiches because they're versatile; sometimes I use apples instead of pears and different cheeses, such as Brie or grated Parmesan. —L.J.Washington, Carpinteria, California
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Skinny Cobb Salad

This "skinny" version of Cobb salad has all the taste and creaminess with half the fat and calories. You can skip the coleslaw mix and do all lettuce, but I like the crunch you get with cabbage. —Taylor Kiser, Brandon, Florida
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Yellow Squash Turkey Salad Exps Sdas18 28399 D03 30  4b 3

Yellow Squash Turkey Salad

With a wonderful mix of flavors, colors and textures, this impressive salad can be made in minutes for lunch with a friend or for a light dinner with your sweetie. It’s my favorite fast recipe! —Mildred Sherrer, Fort Worth, Texas
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Turkey Lunch-Box Wraps

These wraps taste wonderful cold or warmed in the microwave. They make a great brown-bag treat. —Denise Marshall, Jacksonville, Florida
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Tropical Layered Chicken Salad

This is a fresh and delicious recipe that is a big hit whenever I take it to a potluck—always the first to go! —Frances Pietsch, Flower Mound, Texas
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Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches Exps Ft20 36104 F 0311 1

Cashew Chicken Salad Sandwiches

I think this is the best cashew chicken salad sandwich recipe around. It’s good for you and quick to make, and it has wonderful flavor. —Peggi Kelly, Fairbury, Nebraska
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Turkey Ranch Wraps Exps8189 Kac2379526d05 16 6b Rms 1

Turkey Ranch Wraps

Here's a cool idea that's ready to gobble up in no time. It's a terrific use for deli turkey. Just add lettuce, tomato, green pepper, shredded cheese and ranch dressing for a flavorful blend. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen
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Grilled Chicken Salad With Blueberry Vinaigrette Exps Sdjj17 48167 C02 16 2b 2

Grilled Chicken Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

When it comes to grilled chicken recipes, we love this refreshing salad in the summer. The real star here is the vinaigrette made with blueberry preserves and maple syrup. It goes great with a fresh baguette and a frosty glass of minted lemonade. —Susan Gauthier, Falmouth, Maine
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Exps161499 Hck153422a09 03 4b 7

Microwave Egg Sandwich

If you're looking for a grab-and-go breakfast for busy days, this high-protein sandwich is low in fat and keeps me full all morning. Plus, it's only about 200 calories! —Brenda Otto, Reedsburg, Wisconsin
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Tropical Beef Wrap

For my finicky little ones, I create fast, tasty recipes like this tropical sandwich wrap. You can even use up leftover roast beef in a pinch. —Amy Tong, Anaheim, California
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Edamame Salad With Sesame Ginger Dressing Exps Sddj18 204868 D08 08 2b 8

Edamame Salad with Sesame Ginger Dressing

This bright baby kale salad is packed with a little bit of everything: hearty greens, a nutty crunch, a zip of citrusy goodness and a big protein punch. It's pure bliss in a bowl. —Darla Andrews, Schertz, Texas
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Cilantro-Avocado Tuna Salad Sandwiches

Lime juice and cilantro in tuna salad – who knew? This recipe for avocado tuna salad came to me as a way to have a protein-packed meal with lots of pizzazz. —Heather Waldorf, Black Mountain, North Carolina
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Fruited Turkey Wraps Exps32274 Sd2856494d12 03 5bc Rms

Fruited Turkey Wraps

This colorful wrap tastes great and is so good for you. It's packed with lean protein, fruit and veggies and wrapped in whole-grain goodness! —Lisa Renshaw, Kansas City, Missouri
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Warm Rice & Pintos Salad

During my undergrad years, my roommate taught me how to cook vegetarian dishes like brown rice with pintos. It's so versatile; you can turn it into a wrap or casserole. —Natalie Van Apeldoorn, Vancouver, British Columbia
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Fruity Peanut Butter Pitas

My kids ask for these pita sandwiches all the time. They haven’t noticed that as good as they taste, they’re also good for them. —Kim Holmes, Emerald Park, Saskatchewan
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BLT Wraps

My mom and I used to make these easy wrap-ups for summer days at the lake with our entire family. These days, we love to bring them to picnics and days in the park. —Jonnah Burks, Brighton, Missouri
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Grilled Hummus Turkey Sandwich

I created this toasted sandwich last summer using homemade hummus and veggies from our garden. We really can't get enough! —Gunjan Gilbert, Franklin, Maine

Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.
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