Want to lose weight, but your lunch options aren’t healthy? Are you counting calories and feeling hungry all the time? You don’t have to starve yourself or go to great lengths for a healthy lunch. In fact, calorie deprivation may cause you to gain weight in the long term. Instead, focus on the quality of your food. Look for nutrient-dense, colorful, whole foods (organic is best), and balance your plate with the proper proportions: 1⁄2 leafy greens, 1⁄4 lean protein or legumes, 1/8 healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocado) and 1/8 healthy carbs (fruits and veggies).

Get all the valuable nutrients you need to stay healthy and avoid processed foods by making your own lunch. Layer salad ingredients in a lidded portable container and store your dressing in a small jar until ready to eat. Assemble ingredients the night before or on the weekend, and buy pre-cooked meats and chopped vegetables to make lunch prep easy. Instead of store-bought salad dressing, which can have sugar and other additives, make your own using 1/3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 2/3 parts vinegar, then shake well in a jar.

Below are some quick and easy salad recipes with dressing options to kick-start your transition to healthy lunches. Mix and match ingredients, but be sure to use proper proportions.

Kale/Salmon Salad:
(One serving)
2-3 cups baby kale
1⁄2 cup wild cooked salmon
1⁄4 cup shredded carrot
1⁄4 cup shelled pumpkin seeds
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1⁄4 teaspoon minced garlic (or pinch powdered)
Pinch salt and pepper, to taste

Arugula/Chicken/Pear Salad:
(One serving)
2-3 cups arugula
1⁄2 cup cooked chicken breast strips
1⁄4 cup sliced strawberries or pear
1⁄4 cup chopped walnuts
For the dressing:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut aminos or balsamic vinegar

Tex Mex Salad:
(One serving)
2-3 cups baby spinach leaves
1⁄2 cup cooked chicken breast strips
1⁄4 cup black beans (drained and rinsed)
1⁄4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1⁄4 cup organic corn (optional)
For a kick, sprinkle with red pepper flakes or diced jalapeños
For the dressing:
1⁄4 ripe avocado, mashed
1⁄4 teaspoon minced garlic (or pinch powdered)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Add water if needed to thin texture
Pinch salt and pepper, to taste

Rainbow Veggie Salad
(One serving)
2-3 cups mixed baby greens
1⁄2 cup chickpeas
1⁄2 cup mixed veggies (carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, or any other colorful veggie)
1⁄4 cup shelled hemp or pumpkin seeds
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons water or more to thin
1⁄2 teaspoon no-salt seasoning

By Jennifer Slaboda