10 Vegetarian Lunches You Can Make at Work

I get the question all the time.

What the **** do you vegetarians eat for lunch?

iStock 000000475287Small 300x199My answer, “leftovers,” has always felt unsatisfying.  To the person asking, usually an intrigued, maybe-one-day vegetarian, this makes it seem hard.  What if you didn’t cook the night before?  Are you stuck with salad?

To better answer the question and avoid turning off potential veggie converts, I put together a list of vegetarian lunch ideas fit for the office.  The only assumptions: You have access to a microwave, a toaster, and a way to keep food cold.  And no leftovers allowed.

Here’s what I came up with.  Many of them are meals in their own right; others are more like snacks that could be combined or supplemented with some fruit, nuts, or an energy bar to fill you up.

10 Vegetarian Lunch Ideas

1. Veggie wrap or pita.

Put hummus, cucumbers, lettuce, sprouts, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a whole-wheat or sprouted wrap or pita.  Other options: avocado, feta cheese, shredded carrots, beans, any other vegetable you like.

2. Bean burrito.

Heat black or pinto beans, pile onto a whole-wheat (lard-free) tortilla with salsa, cheese, lettuce, cilantro, and hot sauce.

3. Loaded-up salad.

Salad doesn’t have to be just greens.  Some ideas to boost the calorie-count with protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats include walnuts, sliced almonds, hemp seeds, soy nuts, sunflower seeds, orange slices, apple slices, avocado, fancy nut oils, lemon juice, tempeh, olives, dulse flakes, nori, and white, black, or pinto beans.  And about a million other options.  Try a slice of toasted bread on the side.

4. Peanut/almond/sunflower seed butter on a bagel.

A good, whole-wheat or sprouted bagel has more protein than you might think.  And nut butters generally provide healthy fats along with some more protein.  Some fun add-ons: sliced banana or vegetarian jelly.

5. Apple with nut butter.

This one’s a favorite recently in my house.  My wife and sister eat apples with sunflower seed butter like they’re going out of style.  (As if eating like a second-grader were ever in style.)  It’s not a meal on its own, but add some crackers, vegetables, or an energy bar, and it’s close.

6. Quesadilla.

You could make a standard Mexican version by melting some cheese between two tortillas and tossing in some mushrooms or roasted peppers and topping it with salsa.  Replace the cheese with some guacamole for a vegan version.  Or do away with the Mexican theme entirely and use hummus (black-bean hummus is a nice change) and fresh vegetables.

7. Veggie burger.

They’re best when they’re homemade, since you know exactly what you put in them.  Just make extra and freeze some for later. If you’re gonna get picky and call that “leftovers,” then buy some premade ones at the store.  Hint: Veggie burgers get a lot better when you dress them up with buffalo sauce, mustard, or whatever else you like.

8. A frozen, store-bought meal.

Michael Pollan has taught us that prepared meals you buy in a store are not real foods.  And this is a good rule of thumb.   But while I certainly wouldn’t eat them every day, there are some decent frozen vegetarian meals like pasta, pizza, and rice or noodle bowls, popping up in grocery-store freezers.  Amy’s and Kashi are two popular brands, but check out your health food store for more options. Just scour the ingredient list before you buy.

9. Vegetables dipped in hummus with toasted pita chips.

You can make your own hummus or buy it in the store.  If you buy it, try Tribe chipotle- or horseradish-flavored hummus.  They will knock your socks off.

10. Flatbread pizza.

Refer to Christine’s vegan flatbread recipe if you want to make it yourself.  Then add tomato sauce or vegetarian barbecue sauce, cheese if you eat it, and whatever vegetable toppings you can think of.  English muffins or bagels work just as well, as long as you get vegetarian or vegan versions.

There you have it.  Now there are 10 fewer excuses to keep eating meat.

But it’s important to note: These are supposed to be quick and convenient lunches.  Many of them aren’t exactly nutritional powerhouses, with protein being especially tough to come by in such simple-to-prepare meals.  But in a pinch, they’ll get you through a day when you don’t have leftovers.

If you have trouble finding any of these ingredients locally, I suggest that you order them from iherb.com. They’re cheap and sell quality stuff, and I have an affiliate deal with them where, as a No Meat Athlete reader, you’ll save $5 on your first order if you use the code RAZ652 at checkout.

Surely I haven’t thought of them all.  What are your favorite vegetarian lunches fit for work?

This post is part of a series on how to start eating a vegetarian diet, for new vegetarians or endurance athletes looking to take their performance to the next level.

73 Comments

 


Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

Get Fit, Become a Runner, and Love It



3D-5k-Roadmap Ever wished there was just a roadmap to guide you to the finish of your first 5K, starting from where you are now? The No Meat Athlete 5K Roadmap covers everything you need to know to get fit, become a runner, and love it:
  • Four 10-week training programs for your first 5K all the way to an advanced 10K
  • How to get started on a plant-based diet, and what to eat before, during, and after your workouts
  • Two-week meal plan plus 15 healthy, substantial, and easy recipes, so that you'll know you're getting everything you need
  • Two-hour "Getting Started With Running" audio series
Click here to learn more!

Comments

  1. Yes! These are fabulous suggestions, thank you. I agree with your point about frozen lunches. I don’t eat them very often but I find Amy’s Bowls to be very filling, same with Kashi (I really like the Tuscan Veggie Bake). My lunch today will look like this…super easy and all items from home.
    http://bokfullofjoy.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/whats-for-lunch/
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Run for the Hills =-.

  2. Laura M...ski says:

    quite a few vegetarians have gone the bento route, as well, to add variety in their meal. might want to check that out as an option. :)

  3. Mmmm, I can wait to try and make black bean hummus. Sounds amazing. And flatbread pizzas are the best thing ever!

  4. All of the above are great! A few of them are regular lunches for me. Also love veggie sushi: Spicy cucumber & avocado maki. Yum. Enjoy!
    .-= Traci´s last blog ..Amazing! =-.

  5. Lindsey says:

    Wow, I feel like you read my mind with this blog topic. I have been reading your blog for awhile and gradually phasing out meat from my diet. This week I decided to make the switch to going completely veg. Monday I was completely starving because I didn’t bring enough to eat and Tuesday I ended up eating toast at a restaurant that had no veg options. Today I packed several mini lunches to keep from getting hungry and so far so good! I will be putting your ideas to good use at work this week. Thanks for your help from a new vegetarian!

  6. Favorite vegetarian lunch: spinach dressed in raw hemp oil, chickpeas, raw cheddar cheese, and mulberries all made up into a salad

  7. Great ideas! =)

  8. Great ideas. One of my favorites is the roasted (fill in gourd or tuber) with ketchup. Acorn squash slabs, sweet potato fries, they’re all stupid-easy and delicious with chili powder.

    For easy protein, try lentils. At about 30 cents a serving and taking 10 minutes to boil, they’re a great deal. I am eating some now.
    .-= sarah´s last blog ..Coached to coacher, and the 1000s of pain =-.

  9. My favorite vegetarian lunches always include quinoa; it’s a complete protein, and so versatile! You can put it in a whole wheat wrap, or pack along some lettuce leaves and make a lettuce wrap! You can add flavor to the quinoa by adding curry powder or salsa, or dried fruit, chopped dates. Add an apple or some chopped veggies to munch on and it’s a great meal!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Being kind to me =-.

  10. also, how can I create an avatar so when I leave a comment it shows my picture? I feel weird leaving faceless comments!
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Being kind to me =-.

    • Amanda, I’m surprised it doesn’t automatically work with your blogspot image, if you’re using the same email address. But maybe blogspot doesn’t do it. Anyway, if you go to Gravatar.com you should be able to connect a photo to your email address.

  11. This is such a random comment, but I have to say that when I stopped being a vegan (and vegetarian), the one thing I was really bummed about was now I can’t order a No Meat Athlete shirt. ;)
    .-= Lindsey @ Sound Eats ´s last blog ..How I’m Changing My Blogging Style =-.

  12. Great post! Bean burgers are the best. I make chipotle bean burgers (recipe on vegetariantimes.com) and freeze them. They are great over a salad.
    .-= Sheri´s last blog ..Mango-Avocado Rolls =-.

  13. I usually pack a salad or veggies and hummus with some fruit. If I’m feeling particularly ravenous some pasta noodles with vinaigrette, veggies, artichoke hearts, olives etc makes an amazing meal.

  14. Great list! I’m partial to grain bowls as well- make a big batch of brown rice or any other grain and mix in salad type toppings(beans, nuts, fruits, veggies, etc)! Ow…I may need to get another shirt ;)
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Taste of the Nation: Greenville, SC =-.

  15. PS- we want a baby update ;)
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Taste of the Nation: Greenville, SC =-.

  16. When I’m feeling lazy I usually make a tofu scramble with lots of veggies and some crumbled up veggie burgers thrown in. Or if I have any wraps I’ll add avocado, tomato paste and/or hummus and make a breakfast burrito. Yummy.

  17. Very handy! I’ve got the requiste tools. Now no excuses! THANKS!

  18. checking to see if my avatar shows up…
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Being kind to me =-.

  19. Dawn Cox says:

    Great post….I am always wanting more ideas for lunch for myself and Jason.

  20. Veggies and hummus on pita or in wraps is my favorite go-to lunch. BUT, my new favorite are homemade bean burgers. This week I made them from black-eyed peas adapted from a recipe in Foster’s Market cookbook. They have been great on pita with home-sprouted sprouts (thank you for that lesson! I will never go back to store-bought sprouts!)
    .-= Laura´s last blog ..High Expectations =-.

  21. I just discovered your blog and I’m pretty sure I’m in internet heaven. Love Brendan Brazier and so awesome that you incorporate his stuff into your site. I just recently went vegetarian (slowly, vegan..maybe?) and have been training for a half marathon on the Great Wall of China…thanks for the tips on pre-race food!

  22. It makes me giggle when people ask that question, since I’ve learned more about veganism and I’ve been eating mostly-vegan on weekdays since last fall… now THERE is a challenge! Eating vegetarian seems easy in comparison, hehe.

    These are great ideas! You’ve listed many of my favourites :)
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Product Review and Giveaway: Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil =-.

  23. Vickie says:

    Erin and Christine are right about the sunflower seed butter with apples! I don’t really like peanut butter, but the sunflower seed butter is wonderful! I couldn’t stop eating the nut butter with apple snack after I got it home.

  24. Lindsay says:

    Another quick idea is an “Eggless Salad Sandwich” or “Chickpea Salad Sandwich”. Basically, for the Eggless Salad Sandwich, I crumble extra firm tofu in a bowl, add Vegennaise, stoneground mustard, salt, pepper, green onions, relish, a little cayenne, and if I’m feeling adventurous, I add some curry powder and grated carrot. For the chickpea variety, I mash the chickpeas in a bowl with the same other ingredients. It’s a good pita filler, too! Also, the ethnic section of most grocery stores have precooked rice pilafs and Indian dals etc., which can be nuked in the microwave and thrown together for a quick meal. And never underestimate the tofurkey avocado club!

  25. great list!
    did you see the vegetarian times 21-day lunch challenge? they have a lot of great recipes there too: link is here: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/lunchchallenge

  26. Great list! I’ve made many of those for quick fix lunches. Another idea – make an extra batch of black bean soup and freeze it in individual servings so all you’ve got to do is de-frost a serving and munch on fresh veggies on the side. Filling and great on cold days!

  27. Claire says:

    Wait, wait. Are you telling me that jelly isn’t always vegetarian??

    • Claire, yes I am. :( Most jellies use pork product as the gelling agent. I don’t really eat any jelly, but from what I hear, there are vegetarian versions available.

      • Ann-Drea says:

        I make my own jelly/jam. Pectin comes from fruit, but you don’t even need to use pectin for jelly/jams. A quick trip to the orchard, some canning jars, a hot water bath (or pressure canner, but those are expensive), and I’ve got great blueberry and peach jam.

        • Erin Creech says:

          Freezer jam is way simple, and all you need is fruit, pectin, plastic freezer containers and 3 minutes to stir it all together.

    • I’ve never heard of jelly not being vegetarian! The gelling agent is pectin, not gelatin. Pectin comes from fruit.

  28. Just plain ole’ grilled cheese and egg salad are both vegetarian lunches (I don’t understand why people assume veggie eats are so “wierd”…lol). I second the request for a baby update!

  29. GREAT post! I love that you all know how it feels to be the odd one out at work! I get it all the time! Great suggestions to! I bring mass majority of those, along with a good ole homemade veggie rice bowl or some homemade veggie soup :)

  30. What a great post! I have lost 70 lbs, quit smoking, became a vegetarian, and started running…while changing my career path to Clinical Nutrition to help others on the same path. This week, I have been working on the cardiac rehab floor with people who have had heart failure educating them on the 2 gm sodium restriction. Prevention is really the best medicine. I am also SOOO grateful for such a well-written blog proving that there can be healthy vegetarian athletes out there, that not all vegetarian foods are created equal and that healthy/athletic can be trendy and fun:-).
    THANK YOU!
    Maria

  31. Great list. I really like to heat apples up in the microwave too, then add PB. It feels like you are eating a dessert.

  32. Michelle says:

    Great post!
    Amy’s also has some great canned chili. I like half a can with some cheese and carrot sticks for lunch sometimes, really easy and quick.
    I love apples with peanut butter, or sometimes I will eat an apple with raw almonds and yogurt.
    In the deli section of most health food stores you can usually find a bean salad with lots of different veges and rice mixed into it – a meal in itself. I sometimes cut up a tomato and toss it in for extra flavor.

  33. These are all great ideas!

    I don’t claim to be the healthiest vegetarian, but here are some things I like to take to work:

    – Vegetarian soup – I like a vegetarian version of sopa de fideo (just omit the chicken broth or use veggie broth instead) with rice instead of noodles.

    – Beans – Today I just had some vegetarian refried beans w/ salsa and a few tortilla chips. It filled me up fast!

    – Sandwiches – Make a sandwich on a whole wheat bagel or toast with tomato, onion, lettuce, avocado, provolone cheese, some light mayo, etc.

    – Grilled cheese!

    – Tomato Soup!

    More ideas at my blog – http://sidedishqueen.wordpress.com/

    – JQ

  34. Just stumbled on your blog and am so happy I did! I’ve been a vegetarian pretty much my entire life (really, I would spit meat out as a toddler). And also a runner (marathons, but aiming for the ultras). I am ALWAYS in need of new meals… particularly lunches at the office. This post was so helpful. Your mention of veggie burgers and hot sauce in the same sentence inspired me, so here’s my new FAVORITE lunch:

    Veggie burger on a bun with hot wing sauce, lettuce, carrot straws, and crumbled blue cheese.

    It is delicious! Thanks for the post and can’t wait to browse the rest of your blog.

  35. I’m going to join your second grade wife and sister with this one…PB&J! It’s still one of my favorite lunches!

  36. What products are made with lard? Oreos? I would like to beome a vegetarian. :)

  37. Yoga Gurl says:

    I just learned how to make an insanely delicious “faux tuna” salad using garbanzo beans, vegan mayo, onions, lemon juice, salt and pepper. It is SO GOOD and healthy and affordable and lunchable. Find the recipe on vegweb.com.

  38. What a great site, and great post for ideas! Its so common to get stuck on what to eat and end up just eating “whatever” since meat is everywhere! My favorite lunch is kale sauteed with coconut oil and garlic (with a squeeze of lemon) served over quinoa. It’s easy to pack and tastes good warm or cold. Maybe some dark chocolate for dessert…

    • Hi Danielle,

      Do you have a link for the recipe you mentioned. I’ve been trying to find something easy to pack for my work. It’d be great if you can share your lunch recipe.

      Thanks,
      Satya

  39. I like a caprese style vegan sandwich. I cut tofu into small chunks, and toss it with some salt (or you can use mozzarella if you eat cheese). Then add to tomatoes and basil with some grapeseed oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh ground pepper. You can put it all on some hearty whole grain bread, in a yummy sprouted wheat wrap, or eat it over some mixed greens as a salad! Yum!

  40. I know people are generally split over eating raw tofu, but I find it a perfect base for my quick lunches. (My veg sister finds this repulsive) I do a variety, but the simplest for me is cutting up pressed firm tofu, throwing it in the tupperware, cutting up any and all veggies I can find, and drizzling it with balsamic and feta or soy sauce. It marinates in the fridge for a few hours and it’s like a salad but without the hassle of a separate dressing container.

    • I like that suggestion, Abby. I’ve just started to NOT find uncooked tofu repulsive. Question: what you say “raw,” do you know if tofu out of the package is truly a raw food? Or is it heated when it’s made? Surprised I haven’t thought about this before.

      • Hmmm…good point. The soybeans are boiled to make the tofu–I believe–so nope, wouldn’t be raw! The correct word would be “uncooked!”

  41. You can make a ‘mock’ tuna salad with mashed garbanzo beans, vegan mayo, mustard, chopped celery, green onions and relish. Its delicious for lunch, serve with vegetables or as a sandwich/wrap.

  42. Great ideas! As a longtime vegetarian, I eat these things for lunch frequently (right now as I type, I’m having an Amy’s bean burrito loaded with hot sauce, a sliced-up apple on the side, and sparkling water.)

  43. Rebecca Black says:

    How much nuts do vegetarians eat at breakfeast ?

    • Can only speak for self. 50g pecan cores(50g of eatible pecan, excl the shells) which covers 350cal to go along with 375ml blueberry smoothie and a 30g scoop of whey protein powder(Im vegetarian not vegan) which comes out of a total of 280+120+350 = 750cal but only after morning training passes, else nada for breakfast but a banana at 10am.

  44. What would you do when I person who is on the road a lot during the day for his job and wants to eat like this?

    • Stephanie Williams says:

      Invest in a good insulated lunchbox and a few ice packs. Take a few minutes every night to put together your food for the next day and enjoy great healthy food from the convenience of your front or back seat. My hubby is a truck driver and if he didn’t pack food for all his hunger needs throughout the day and relied on streetside food he would weigh 400 pounds. It’s worth the small effort every night to fill his lunchbox and belly without filling out his waistline. Also invest in a good water container, soda will fill out your waistline too…

  45. I too enjoy elementary school snacks…”ants on a log” is a favorite! Celery + peanut butter + raisins. delicious and very satisfying! (also, celery has a lot more vitamins than you probably thought!)
    Yes, raisins can be high in sugars, but you will probably only use a max of 1/4 cup.

  46. Danielle says:

    Stopping at the store and getting a can of black beans and a 90sec microwaveable bag of rice works in a pinch too! :) I did this and grabbed some sauteed peppers and onions for a topper and became the envy of the office barbeque where EVERYTHING else had meat in it.

  47. I have a recipe that I make up regularly for quinoa and beans. It is a simple, delicious and vegan recipe that can be eaten on its own or in a burrito. For a burrito, I start with a whole wheat shell, spread on some refried beans, add a few scoops of the quinoa and beans, maybe add on salsa or hot sauce, avocados (if I have some) and/or cilantro. If you eat dairy, feel free to throw on some sour cream or grated cheese. Heat it up in a panini grill if available, or the microwave, or just eat them cold. I find they make a great trail food, as they are handy and taste great cold.

  48. Robert Zannini says:

    I use hummus(Sabra) on veggies and beans and it’s awesome! Try it.

  49. Juliene Bell-Smith says:

    My favorite sandwich to take to work is baked tofu. After draining a block of tofu I cut it into 3 blocks–sprinkle some Mrs. Dash & Spike seasoning on both sides and baked until golden brown. Its delicious and doesn’t need to be heated. For an extra treat I’ll spread hummus on the bread–add a slice of avocado and lettuce/ sprouts.

  50. Carol Douty says:

    These are some good ideas. Remember, when you microwave anything, it kills the live enzymes and nutrients that make your food healthy and you end up eating empty calories.

  51. I have been considering the vegan lifestyle but have concerns about recommendations I see to eat breads, smoothies, and other processed items that would spike blood sugar. I tend to gain weight easily and have followed a low/lower carb lifestyle for about 9 months with fairly good results re: weight loss. I eat good deal of fat with some protein, and even less carbs except around exercise time. Would appreciate your thoughts on the topic of insulin spikes and (natural) sugar consumption from whole foods that are blended / processed – to me this would increase the rate at which they are absorbed (higher GI or GL) and lead to these spikes. Thanks

  52. Thanks for taking the time to make this post, I always have trouble finding good vegetarian suggestions for some of my clients since a lot of them are meat eaters, thanks again!

    Lisa

  53. Hey there. Great website! :) Im currently only eating fish with vegetarian (alot of fruit too) theme (pescatarian) i thin kits referred too atm. Will prob drop the fish bit later. I did do full lacto ovo for 11months and enjoyed that. I enetered 2 half marathons and a 3/4 marathon in 2011 as a vegetarian and managed a 100min 21km 1st ever halfa :). I have a half marathon coming up in 15weeks time and also are dropping roughly 16kg in the process. Cant wait to do another 1/2’a in july then all out effort for a ful lmarathon in oct in toowoomba road runners (TRR) cheap beautiful run they have there :). Will keep enjoying this site! I also enjoy Pea Protein Isolate naturally flavoured, and a whopping 82% from tons of golden split peas :) Happy running Cheers,
    ZAC

  54. Hey there! Great website! My namer is Vallarie, I’m 12 years old and I am starting to become a vegetarian. This is a fantastic site! I just made a healthy bean and cheese burrito of my own. I will start coming on here for now on more and more. I just want to be healthier!

  55. It was great to find your website today. I’m in my first month of living Vegan and it’s quite a transition for me. Sites like yours which focus on the positive aspects of this choice are just what I need to keep inspired. Thanks!

  56. Non-Hydrogenated lard is better for you then most vegetable oils

  57. I have no idea what the difference is between vegetarian and non-vegetarian bagels and English muffins (I didn’t know there was such a thing). Can someone please enlighten me?

  58. How to eat during the workday was my biggest concern when I was looking into a switch to began diet. These are some great ideas and recipes- an can be used as “fertilizer “for creative cooks and EATERS(that’s me) to survive… One big fun for me- Hummus made w/o garlic and added berries and Brown rice syrup. Sweet hummus is great on oatmeal or chip/crackers

    https://twitter.com/martyroddy

    Where to go now?

  59. I’m a dance student and a very hungry one at that- currently not a vegetarian but considering it, how do you eat enough to fill you? I need to get about 2700kcal a day for my height/weight/energy demands but am also a poor student! are all of these foods particularly expensive? thanks for these ideas :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] is a typical dinner for you? (FYI-I love that you give tips on vegetarian lunches to eat at work!) Now that I’m vegan I eat such a huge variety of foods that it’s hard to say […]

Leave a Comment

*