Low-Calorie Lunches
August 10, 2022 11:06 AM   Subscribe

I need to do a better job of watching my daily calorie intake, and lunch seems to be the meal where things can spin slightly out of control for me. I'm looking for recipes or ideas that are verifiably under 300 calories. Bonus points for recipes that are NOT salads and can be made in bulk over the weekend and portioned out into containers for the week days.

So far, I've enjoyed: 1) making something like a squash or broccoli casserole and dividing it into smaller servings that I can reheat, 2) soups, 3) half-portions of dinner leftovers. I prefer hot lunches to cold lunches and salads that have more beans or grains than leafy greens--but I'm open to hearing about your faves so long as you can confirm they're under 300 calories. I need to be able to pack said lunch, and I have the option of heating it up either on a hotplate or in a microwave. Thank you in advance!
posted by pinkacademic to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Chickpeas plus assorted chopped vegetables (avocado, tomato, red onion, red cabbage, radish, cucumber...) plus a dressing of lime juice, olive oil, and spices (eg cumin and chili powder) would work for you, I think.
posted by derrinyet at 11:10 AM on August 10, 2022

Super easy bean salad:
1 can chickpeas
1 can 3 bean salad mix
1 can corn
Salt/pepper to taste, throw in whatever veggies you need to use up. I often add scallions and some Parmesan cheese.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:17 AM on August 10, 2022

This the very reason for which an open faced turkey sandwich was born.

Low fat cheese
One slice toast

You can warm it to melt the cheese.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:20 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

I was also thinking chickpeas or "cauliflower rice" based dishes. Chickpeas + spices + stovetop can be particularly easy and tasty. (I would personally try this recipe on the stovetop).

Lentils are also quite filling (e.g. lentil soup).
posted by oceano at 11:24 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]


In winter, we make soup for lunch and bring it in thermos flasks. If you have access to a microwave, you can just bring it cold. Hokkaido soup is good, and so is minestrone. I like a piece of sourdough with my soup but I don't calculate the calories.
posted by mumimor at 11:28 AM on August 10, 2022

this isn't precisely what you asked for, but several times a week I bring a Huel drink to work for my lunch and I have grown from tolerating it to (almost) looking forward to it. You can control the precise calories that you get and they have both cold and hot options.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:37 AM on August 10, 2022

Warm farro salad with lentils/beans and roast veg of your choosing. Add a hard boiled egg for extra protein.
posted by windbox at 11:56 AM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

1 serving canned beans (90 kcal)
1/4 to 1/4 cup rice (~60-120 kcal depending on type)
1 egg, prepared how you like it (~70-90 kcal). It’s nice scrambled into the rice as you warm it on the stove
A tiny bit of oil
Spices of choice (such as a spice blend or appropriate spices for different cuisines)

Heat, add desired spices, enjoy. You can add some veggies if you use less rice.
This can be made ahead or to order. You can vary the spices, beans, or veg to add variety.
posted by Red Desk at 1:39 PM on August 10, 2022

I don't count calories but I do WW and this lunch works for me: I meal prep chicken salad (or tuna salad, or canned salmon salad, or shrimp salad using pre-cooked little shrimpies from the fish counter) with light mayo, 4 servings at a time. Use whatever vegetables, additional sauces, and seasonings you like. I like mustard for the chicken or tuna salad, no-sugar ketchup for the shrimp, and for any of them either chopped pickles or cucumbers. I either scoop with crackers or top a piece of wheat toast. Side of fruit or raw veggies.
posted by radioamy at 2:00 PM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

My dead easy solution: buy a frozen meal that is under 300 calories (brands like Smart Ones or Healthy Choice but check the label for actual calories) and a can of vegetables that goes with (usually green beans or canned mushrooms). Heat the meal in the microwave, open the can and dump out the liquid. Put veg on plate, add cooked meal, add extra seasoning if desired (pepper or mustard or hot sauce). Eat. Option B: frozen meal plus a piece of fresh fruit.
posted by metahawk at 3:04 PM on August 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Amy's Organic Chunky Vegetable Soup is 130 calories for the whole can. An ounce of pretzels to go with is around 110.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:03 PM on August 10, 2022 [2 favorites]

Make extra dinner in the right portion. Freeze it. Work out a rotation for your lunches. Why cook two meals, when you can save part of one. If you have glass saver containers, then you can put your lunch to be, in the fridge to thaw out over night, and it will heat quickly for lunch the next day. You can put your side dishes, crackers, fruit, etc, in your bag in the fridge. The frozen meal shoud be on a fridge shelf to thaw, not in your go bag, newer ones are insulated.
posted by Oyéah at 4:04 PM on August 10, 2022

Amy's Organic Lentil soup is 300 calories per can

Progresso Chicken & Sausage Gumbo is 220 per can

Smart One's Angel Hair Marinara frozen dinner is 200 calories. I usually make extra zucchini in the air fryer because I really love zucchini.

Two Oscar Mayer turkey franks are 200 calories. An medium ear of sweet corn is around 77. Use a few spritzes of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray on the corn. Incidentally, you can cook your corn in the microwave in about 4 minutes by shucking it and wrapping it in a moist paper towel.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:17 PM on August 10, 2022

I hesitate to recommend them because of the recent revelations about how bad their labor practices are, but a lot of Amy's frozen burritos are right around the 300 calorie mark and are quite tasty (the samosa wrap is 270, the bean & rice burrito is 320, the black bean burrito 290). I think Trader Joe's has similarly-sized black been burritos in their frozen section as well. Of course, you could also make and freeze your own homemade burritos, but that doesn't have the ease of knowing the calories that comes with packaged food.
posted by snaw at 3:31 AM on August 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

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