• Rachel Paul, PhD, RD

College Nutritionist: EASY (But Fancy) To-Go Lunches

This article is shared from Rachel's website, https://www.collegenutritionist.com/blog/easy-fancy-lunches

Here's my go-to formula for lunches & dinners

2 cups non-starchy vegetables (about 50 calories)

1 "regular" serving of protein (about 150 calories)

100-200 calories of fats

A lot of my lunches are fairly plain & definitely NOT complex, BUT here are some other, more fun options!

1. Taco Bowls

2 cups veg: 1 cup lettuce + 1 cup tomatoes & onions + 1/2 stir-fried bell pepper

4-5oz protein: 4oz grilled chicken - I like Trader Joe’s pre-grilled!

100-200 calories of fats: 1/3 cup shredded cheese

Just triple or quadruple the recipe if you’re making for a few days 🤩🙌🏼 Season with basil, oregano 🌿 salt & pepper if you like

2. Zoodles & Meatballs

🍝 2 cups veggies: 2 cups zucchini noodles - I made them from frozen pre-zoodled zoodles

🧀 100-200 calories of fats: 1/3 cup feta cheese & 1 yogurt for some extra protein on the side

🍗 4-5oz protein: 5 turkey meatballs - made from frozen!

🌱 Seasoned with basil, oregano, salt & pepper

3. Pineapple Chicken

100-200 calories of fats: 1/2 avocado - I ran out for pictures but add 1/2 avocado or 1 single-serving packet of guacamole to each!)

4-5oz protein: 4oz chicken per serving - I made this chicken in the air fryer and then added 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce to each serving)

2 cups veggies: 2 cups shredded green & purple cabbage - I bought pre-shredded cabbage from Trader Joe’s

Added 3/4 cup pineapple 🍍 tidbits (let thaw frozen frozen before adding to your lunch to make sure there won’t be extra liquid)

And! Add 2 Tbsp fat free balsamic dressing to the cabbage “salad”. I love the taste of dressing & need it for salads, but it’s not worth the 200-300 calories of normal bottled dressing or even oil & vinegar! 🥄

4. Tuna Salad

🥗 2 cups veggies: 1 cup greens + 1 1/2 cucumbers, chopped

🥜 100-200 calories of fats: 1/8 cup walnuts + 1 Tbsp regular mayo

🐟 4-5oz protein: 1/2 can tuna + 1 hard boiled egg

Also added 1/2 apple 🍎🤩

5. Shrimp & Zoodle Bake

🥒 2 cups veggies: 2 cups zoodles - I use the frozen, pre-zoodled kind from Trader Joe’s! Heat them in a pot on the stove

🧀 100-200 calories of fats: 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

🍤 4-5oz protein: About 20 frozen pre-cooked shrimp - I like the medium ones from TJs. Also stir-fry these with an oil spray on the stove top - in a different pan from the zoodles!

6. Sausage & Pepper Sheet Pan with Cauli Rice

🍚 2 cups veggies: 1 bell pepper + 1 cup pre-riced cauliflower

🧀 100-200 calories of fats: 1/3 cup shredded cheese + 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese

🌭 4-5oz protein: 1 sausage - I like Trader Joe’s apple chicken one

7. DIY Poke Bowls

🥒 2 cups veggies: 2 small cucumbers, sliced

🥑 100-200 calories of fats: 1/2 small avocado

🐟 4-5oz protein: 2oz smoked salmon + 1/2 cup cooked, shelled edamame - I boiled the frozen Trader Joe’s kind!

Made it with 1/2 cup cooked rice! 🍚 and topped with 1 Tbsp sesame seeds and 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce🥄

8. Mediterranean Bowls

🍅 2 cups veggies: 1 tomato + 1 cucumber, chopped + seasoned with basil, oregano, salt & pepper

🧀 100-200 calories of fats: 1/4 cup feta cheese + 1/3 cup olives

🍗 4-5oz protein: 4oz chicken - I like the pre-grilled strips from Trader Joe’s!

9. Chicken, Rice & Tzatziki

🍅 2 cups veggies: 2 cups cherry tomatoes - 1 cup is pictured here but you make it correctly with 2 cups

🧀 100-200 calories of fats: 1 serving tzatziki

🍗 4-5oz protein: 4oz chicken - I like the pre-grilled strips from Trader Joe’s! Can you tell? I think I talk about it on repeat haha!

10. Collard Wrap Sandwiches

Ingredients for 2 wraps (1 serving)

4 collard greens leaves (2 per wrap)

4 oz shredded chicken (you can make this in the stove or in the Instant Pot)

1/2 cup shredded carrots (1/4 cup per wrap)

1/2 avocado (half per wrap)

Dip these in peanut sauce to add some extra filling fat 🤤 I love the Trader Joe’s & Whole Foods ones!

11. Pesto Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Protein: 4 oz grilled chicken

Fats: 1/8 cup pesto

Veggies: 1 cup tomatoes, chopped + 1 cucumber, sliced + 2 large lettuce leaves

Fruit: 1 apple - I stick with 1 fruit per day!

12. Guacamole & Turkey Bento Boxes

Protein: 4 oz turkey deli slices

Fats: 1 guacamole packet to-go and 1 string cheese

Veggies: 1 cup baby carrots & 1 cucumber, sliced

13. Caprese Bites Lunches

Protein & Fat: 3 oz mini mozz balls

Veggies: 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes

Stick with toothpicks & dip in balsamic vinegar or glaze!

14. Pistachios, Eggs, and Round Wax Cheese Bento Box

Protein: 2 hard boiled eggs

Fat: 1 round wax cheese + 1/4 cup in-shell pistachios

Veggies: 1 cup baby carrots + 1 cucumber, sliced

Swap out nuts for a to-go guac if you prefer!


If you are looking for the EASIEST and most realistic weight loss program - that works for the LONG term (it incorporates weekly meal plans, how to stop stress & boredom eating, AND an accountability group) - check out my program HERE!

Dr. Rachel Paul is a registered dietician who completed her undergrad, masters, and Dietetic internship at Case Western Reserve University and her PhD in Behavioral Nutrition at Columbia University. She is an expert on intuitive and practical nutrition for college students. She can be found on instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. Her website is https://www.collegenutritionist.com.