Whether you want to fit into a slinky LBD or you need to take control of your health, one of the keys to success is to choose the right kind of carbohydrates in your diet. It can be challenging to come up with ideas for low-carb lunches, especially when you’re rushing around, knocking items off of your to-do list. That’s why we’re sharing these 10 clean and lean low-carb lunches.
Unhealthy carbohydrates are those that have been processed, stripping the food of nutrients and fiber. Bad carbs generally include refined sugars and refined white grains. These foods quickly flood the body with glucose, creating an unhealthy spike in blood sugar. People who eat diets high in these unhealthy carbs are at risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. What’s more, eating a diet rich in these foods may increase the risk for mild cognitive impairment later in life .
What do good carbs, like those in our low-carb lunch recipes, do? This kind of carbohydrate is full of fiber, so the body absorbs it much more slowly, helping to prevent blood sugar spikes. Examples of good carbs include vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Learn more in Fiber and Weight Loss: Reasons You Need More Fiber in Your Diet. Low-fat dairy, like cheese and plain Greek yogurt, are also considered good carbohydrates. They don’t offer much fiber, but they do contain natural—not refined—sugars.
There are a variety of health benefits to be gained from a diet high in fiber. But if you are one of the many people confused by fiber, how much to eat, why to eat it and its effects on the body, read on to find out the fiber basics. A diet filled with whole grains, vegetables, fruit and nuts can offer you lots of healthy fiber but knowing the ins and outs of fiber can help you get all the best benefits.
Fiber is a carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. There are two types of fiber soluble, and insoluble.
Soluble Fiber attracts water to form a gel which slows digestion and can act as an appetite suppressant because it helps you feel full. Slower digestion may also have positive effects on insulin sensitivity, and may also affect blood sugar levels. Good sources of soluble fiber include: oatmeal, oat cereal, lentils, apples, oranges, pears, oat bran, strawberries, nuts, flaxseeds, beans, dried peas, blueberries, psyllium, cucumbers, celery, and carrots.
Insoluble Fiber has a laxative effect and is often used to support regularity. This type of fiber does not dissolve in water so it passes through the gastrointestinal tract intact, which speeds the passage of food through your digestive system. Good sources of insoluble fiber include: whole wheat, whole grains, wheat bran, corn bran, seeds, nuts, barley, couscous, brown rice, bulgur, zucchini, celery, broccoli, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, green beans, dark leafy vegetables, raisins, grapes, fruit, and root vegetable skins.(1) Ever heard of Quinoa? This great grain provides both soluble and insoluble fiber and other important nutrients!
1. Paleo-Friendly Meaty Veggie Roll-Ups
This easy-fixin’ recipe is a great option when you want ideas for low-carb lunches. It’s a meal that is not only simple to make, it’s also low-mess, which means it’s perfect for days when you’re stuck eating lunch at your desk. It offers 1.2 carbs per each 4- to 6-roll serving.
Yields: 12 roll-ups | Serving Size: 4-6 roll ups |Calories: 71 | Previous Points: 2 | Points Plus: 2 | Total Fat: 2.0 g | Saturated Fat: 0.6 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 29 mg | Sodium: 27 mg | Carbohydrates: 1.2 g | Dietary Fiber: 0 g | Sugars: 0.8 g | Protein: 11.3g |
- 12 thick slices unprocessed deli meat, we recommend Boar’s Head Brand
- 1 cup sliced vegetables
- 12 chives, optional
Place desired amount of vegetables on a piece of deli meat. Roll tightly, and if desired, use a chive to tie. Pack in a zip-top plastic bag or airtight container.
Favorite Flavor Combinations:
Roast beef with red bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, and cucumber slices with mustard for dipping.
Chicken with apple slices, red cabbage, and pickle strips with Dijon mustard for dipping.
Turkey with crumbled bacon and sliced avocado with salsa for dipping.
2. Garden Salad with Lemon & Oil Dressing
With fewer than 17 grams of carbs per serving, this is a healthy way to fuel up for the second half of the day. Ingredients like avocado and spinach deliver good, plant-based carbs full of fiber.
Yields: 2 salads | Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups | Calories: 220 | Previous Points: 5 | Points Plus: 6 | Total Fat: 17.3 g | Saturated Fat: 2.3 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 0 mg | Sodium: 49 mg | Carbohydrates: 16.3 g | Dietary Fiber: 7.5 g | Sugars: 3.8 g | Protein: 4.9 g |
- 1 cup baby spinach or large spinach leaves torn into bite size pieces
- 1/2 avocado, chopped (refrigerate the other half for another salad) (optional)
- 1/3 red onion thinly sliced (refrigerate the remaining 2/3 for another salad)
- 1/2 cucumber, sliced
- 1 carrot, grated
- 8 almonds, sliced
- 1 cup beans sprouts
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- 1 tomato, diced
- 1 cup (chopped) roasted chicken breast, optional (do not add if you are making this salad as part of our 3- Day Detox and Cleanse, chicken breast CAN be included for the 2-Day Flush Fat Menu)Dressing:
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Salt, to taste
Add the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine. In a small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad. This recipe can easily be made into a family salad by increasing the ingredients.
Note: It’s easy to prepare this salad for tomorrow’s lunch by simply preparing your veggies the night before and adding to separate zip-lock bags. When it’s time for lunch, toss all the veggies in a bowl, add almonds and drizzle with dressing.
3. Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Feta and Dill
We created this recipe based on the traditional Greek dish spanakopita. This variation boots the heavy dairy, phyllo dough, and fat for a light, refreshing, and gluten-free meal. It contains just 15 grams of carbohydrates in each serving, making it one of our favorite low-carb lunch recipes. Prepare quinoa the day before to speed prep time.
Yields: 6 servings | Serving size: 1 cup | Calories: 294.7 | Previous Points: 7 | Points Plus: 8 | Total Fat: 23.1 g | Saturated Fats: 4.9 g | Poly Unsat: 3.9g | Monosat: 2.1g | Cholesterol: 12 mg | Sodium: 577 mg | Carbohydrates: 15 g | Dietary fiber: 3.1 g | Sugars: .6 g | Protein: 10 g
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, RINSED (see Step 1)
- Sea salt
- ½ cup pine nuts, toasted (optional)
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced or 1 garlic clove, minced
- 6 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves (3 ounces)
- ½ cup chopped fresh dill
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint (optional)
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup unrefined, cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- 6 ounces feta, preferably made from goat or sheep’s milk
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste.
1) Rinse quinoa in a bowl with water or place quinoa in a fine mesh sieve and rinse under cold water until water runs clear. Drain and transfer to a medium saucepan with a pinch of sea salt and 1 ¾ cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover and lower heat to a simmer. Cook until water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Quinoa can remain in the pot until ready to combine with other salad ingredients or transfer to a serving bowl and fluff with a fork. Allow quinoa to cool slightly.
2) To the quinoa add remaining ingredients and toss to combine. * Or you can place the spinach on a serving platter and toss with 1 Tablespoon of the lemon juice and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil. Combine quinoa with remaining ingredients and mound on top of the spinach leaves. Taste for salt and pepper and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Notes: other additions can include Kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, and/or fresh corn kernels.
4. Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups
From Jaden at Steamy Kitchen, these lettuce cups are a smart way to go low carb—the recipe offers 4.1 grams per serving. The contrast between spicy warm meat and crisp lettuce is a nice change from many lunch recipes.
Yields: 6-8 servings | Serving Size: 1 lettuce cup |Calories: 120 | Previous Points: 3 | Points Plus: 3 | Total Fat: 6.4 g | Saturated Fat: 1.0 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 34 mg | Sodium: 319 mg | Carbohydrates: 4.1 g | Dietary Fiber: 1.1 g | Sugars: 1.6 g | Protein: 11.9 g
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cooking oil of choice
- 1/2 pound ground chicken breast
- 2 shallots, diced
- 1/4 red onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, very finely minced
- Minced fresh chiles, Jalapeño or Fresno (amount up to you)
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1/2 lime, juiced
- 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1 head iceberg lettuce, leaves separated into “cups”
- 1 handful of cilantro and/or mint, cut into chiffonade
Heat a wok or large sauté pan over high heat. When hot, swirl in 1 tablespoon of the oil and add the chicken. Use your spatula to break up the meat and spread out over the surface of the pan. Cook until browned, about 3 minutes.
Push the ground chicken to one side of the pan and swirl in the remaining ½ tablespoon of oil. To the oil, add the shallots, red onion, garlic, and fresh chiles and sauté the aromatics until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, and soy sauce.
Serve with lettuce cups and herbs
5. Grilled Chicken and Blueberry Salad
When you want ideas for low-carb lunches, include this in your menu planning. The recipe has about 18 grams per serving and includes good carbs like mixed greens, blueberries, and almonds. It’s also a good way to use leftover chicken breast.
Serving Size: 4 salads |Calories: 266 | Previous Points: 6 | Points Plus: 7 | Total Fat: 17.9 g | Saturated Fat: 2.6 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 25 mg | Sodium: 56 mg | Carbohydrates: 18.0 g | Dietary Fiber: 2.7 g | Sugars: 13.6 g | Protein: 10.9 g |
- 5 cups mixed greens
- 1 cup blueberries
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- 2 cups cubed chicken breasts, cooked
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup blueberries
- 2 Tbsp honey
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, toss the greens, blueberries, almonds, and chicken breasts until well mixed.
For the salad dressing, combine the olive oil, apple cider vinegar, blueberries, and honey in a blender. Blend until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
6. Clean Eating Cobb Salad
Whole, clean eating ingredients make this a great choice when you’re choosing low carb. With only 8 grams in each serving, this lunch recipe is a tasty and healthy alternative to the traditional Cobb salad.
Clean-Eating Cobb Salad
The fats in this salad come primarily from the avocados, chicken and olive oil. Yields: 6 servings| Serving size: 2-1/4 cups | Calories: 282 | Total Fat: 24 g | Saturated Fat: 4 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Previous Points:7 | Points Plus: 8 | Cholesterol: 84 | Carbohydrates: 8 g | Sodium: 437 mg | Dietary Fiber: 4 g | Sugars: 4 g | Protein: 10 g |
- 6 cups chopped romaine heart lettuce
- 2 ripe avocados, seeded and peeled, slice into 1″ pieces
- 1 split chicken breast, cooked, skin removed and cubed
- 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and slicedDressing
- 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
- Kosher or sea salt to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl. Combine dressing ingredients and drizzle over salad.
7. Luscious Grilled Shrimp Salad in an Avocado Shell with Spiced Yogurt
This is a decadent spa-like lunch that happens to offer fewer than 13 grams of carbs per serving. It takes a bit of prep, so it’s an ideal recipe for the weekend or when you have a day off.
Yields: 6 servings | Serving size: 1 cup| Calories: 306 | Total Fat: 20.5 gm | Saturated Fats: 3.0 gm | Points Plus: 8 | Trans Fats: 0.0 gm | Cholesterol: 199 mg | Sodium: 500 mg | Carbohydrates: 12.7 gm | Dietary fiber: 7.8 gm | Sugars: 3.2 gm | Protein: 20.1 gm|
- 3 avocados,
- 1 pound salad or miniature shrimp, peeled & deveined
- 1/4 cup chopped chives or scallions
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2 roasted red bell peppers, sliced into strips
- 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice plus 1 teaspoon reserved for yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 cup nonfat Greek-style plain yogurt
- Salt and pepper, to taste
For the shrimp:
Cook the baby shrimp either by skewering it, basting with olive oil, sprinkling with salt, and searing it on the grill over high heat for less than a minute on each side OR by getting a saute pan hot, adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil (get the oil hot), and searing the shrimp on both sides, for only 30 seconds or so on each side. You know shrimp is done when it’s pink and firm. Shrimp from the grill should have grill marks.
For the dressing:
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the dijon mustard, and the lemon or lime juice. Continue whisking while gradually pouring in the olive oil in a thin stream.
For the red bell peppers:
On the stovetop grate of a gas stove, place bell peppers directly onto the flame on medium/high heat. When one side blackens, flip with kitchen tongs, and repeat so that each side should blister and blacken.
Alternatively, peppers can be placed under the broiler set on high, and flipped as each side blackens. The important part is that the flame must directly have contact with the pepper.
Remove the peppers and place them in a plastic bag and seal or in a bowl sealed with plastic wrap (to catch the steam for easier peeling).
After about 10 minutes or more, take the peppers out and peel them. The peppers can be peeled by first removing the stem and the seeds, rubbing the skin with a wet towel, or by using your hands or the back (not the sharp side) of the blade of a knife to rub it off. If the peppers are still hot, kitchen gloves can be used while handling.
Cut the peeled pepper into small strips.
For the yogurt topping:
Combine the yogurt, cumin, paprika and teaspoon of lemon juice in a small bowl. Add salt to taste.
To prepare the avocado:
Use a tablespoon to scoop out the inside of each avocado, leaving a generous sized rim around the sides and on the bottom.
Chop the avocado that has been removed into bite-size pieces.
Put the salad together:
In a large bowl, combine the avocado pieces, chopped chives, roasted red pepper, shrimp (remove from the skewer if cooked that way), and the dressing, folding together until creamy. Taste and add as much salt as desired. Spoon into the 6 avocado halves. Top each with a dollop of the smoky yogurt.
Serve the halves on a platter or plate for sharing. Enjoy! This salad can be scooped with baked tortilla chips, or eaten with a small fork or spoon.
8. Slow Cooker Texas Chili
This is a meal that doubles as an easy entrée and one of the low-carb lunch recipes you’ll enjoy. Make it for dinner, and then eat the leftovers for lunch. It’s loaded with protein, so you’ll feel full throughout the afternoon, and it has about 8 grams of carbs per serving.
Yields: 8| Serving Size: 1 cup |Calories: 267| Previous Points: 6| Points Plus: 6| Total Fat: 9 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Trans Fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 101 mg | Sodium: 317 mg | Carbohydrates: 8 g | Dietary Fiber: 2 g | Sugars: 3 g | Protein: 36 g |
- 2 pounds lean beef chuck, cubed
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 1-2 jalapeño peppers, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 can chopped green chilies, drained
- 3 tablespoons Ancho chili powder
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cups beef stock, fat-free and low-sodium
- 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, and juices
- Chopped green onions and fat-free Greek yogurt for topping
Toss the cubed beef chuck with the flour. Add the oil to the pan and sear the beef until browned on all sides. Add the onions and jalapeños. Cook until vegetables are soft and add the garlic. Cook for one more minute and transfer the mixture to your slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir.
Cook the chili on low heat for 7-8 hours until chili is thick and rich. Serve with desired toppings.
9. Slow Cooker Balsamic Chicken
Another double-duty superstar, this popular recipe has only 5 grams of carbs in each serving. Enjoy it for dinner, and then use leftovers to top a green salad for lunch the next day.
Yields 10 Cups | Serving size: 1 Cup | Calories: 190 | Previous Points: 4 | Points Plus: 4 | Fat: 6g | Saturated fat: 1 g | Trans fat: 0 g | Cholesterol: 53 mg | Sodium: 121 mg | Carbohydrate: 5 g | Fiber: 1 g | Sugar: 3 g | Protein 26 g
- 4-6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (about 40 ounces)
- 2 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 medium onion thinly sliced (Not chopped)
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar (for gluten-free use White Balsamic Vinegar which doesn’t have caramel coloring)
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp each: dried oregano, basil, and rosemary
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- ground black pepper and salt to taste
Pour the olive oil on bottom of slow cooker, add chicken breasts, salt and pepper each breast, put sliced onion on top of chicken then put in all the dried herbs and garlic cloves. Pour in vinegar and top with tomatoes.
Cook on high 4 hours, serve over angel hair pasta.
10. Turkey Lettuce Wrap
Roll lean turkey, diced tomato, and salsa into a lettuce wrap for one of the easiest low-carb lunch recipes. Keep it clean (clean eating, that is) by choosing no-sugar-added salsa