8 low-calorie, high-protein meal prep lunches I eat to lose weight and keep it off — all dietitian approved

·7 min read
Quinoa falafel bowl.
Quinoa and falafel with hummus is always delicious.Getty
  • A calorie deficit is required for weight loss, and prepping meals in advance can help.

  • Eating plenty of protein is also useful as it keeps you full and helps you maintain muscle.

  • Here are 8 of my favorite low-calorie, high-protein lunches that helped me lose 35 pounds and keep it off.

1. Falafel and hummus grain bowl

Quinoa falafel bowl.
Quinoa and falafel with hummus is always delicious.Getty

This is such an easy lunch, and if you're short on time you can even buy all the ingredients pre-cooked and just divide them into containers to take with you. I like to top quinoa with falafel, hummus, and roasted Mediterranean vegetables (such as red onion, peppers and or eggplant), but you can add whatever you like.

Dietitian Nichola Ludlam-Raine said: "Combining falafel with quinoa is a fantastic way to add variety to your lunches whilst still providing fiber and a complete source of plant-based protein (from the quinoa). Vegetables such as onion, peppers, and eggplant are highly nutritious yet low in calories, which support fat loss goals and you could even add low fat hummus or keep to 1-2 tbsp per portion to keep the calories down."

2. Roast chicken, sweet potato, and vegetables

Roast chicken traybake.
Baking a large tray of food is a great way to meal prep for the week.Getty

I like to think of this as a mini British roast dinner — take an hour or two on a Sunday to cook a load of food in the oven, and you've got lunches for the week.

Choose whatever ingredients you prefer but I like the combination of chicken breast, sweet potatoes, carrots or parsnips, and brussels sprouts. It's a balanced meal and delicious too.

Ludlam-Raine said: "Chicken breast is a lean and low fat source of protein so it's great to add to your meals if your goal is fat loss and muscle gain. Including high fiber vegetables from the sprouts and parsnips will help to keep you satiated alongside the sweet potato which provides energy plus one of your 5-a-day, as it's particularly rich in vitamins A and C (which help to support your immune system too)."

3. Goat's cheese and beetroot salad

Goat's cheese and beetroot salad.
Goat's cheese, beetroot, and walnuts is a classic combination.Getty

I love this classic salad combination. Simply top a bed of your favorite leaves with cooked beetroot, crumbled goat's cheese, and some walnuts, then drizzle over a little honey vinaigrette when ready to eat. Try adding grains or some bread for extra energy.

Ludlam-Raine said: "This sounds delicious. Both walnuts and beetroot are heart-healthy additions to a salad. Aiming for one small handful of nuts per portion and keeping the cheese to no more than a 30-50g portion (approximately) will still provide a good source of healthy fats as well as protein and calcium to support healthy joints and muscles but keep the calories and saturated fat levels down too."

4. Fajita bowl

A bowl of rice, chicken, peppers, avocado, and Greek yogurt.
A fajita bowl of rice, chicken, peppers, avocado, and Greek yogurt.Rachel Hosie

Whether in a bowl or in tupperware, this is essentially a fajita, but instead of in a wrap, on top of brown rice. If you want to lighten the calories or raise the protein of a classic fajita, swap sour cream for fat-free Greek yogurt. I often put together bowls like this from leftovers so there's no cooking involved.

Ingredients

  • 125g (1/2 cup) brown rice, cooked

  • 1 chicken breast, chopped into chunks

  • 1 pepper and/or zucchini, cut into thin slices

  • Fajita seasoning

  • 1/2 avocado

  • 1 tbsp Greek yogurt

Method

1. Heat a little oil or cooking spray in a pan on medium-high heat.

2. Add the chicken and vegetables and fry until the peppers are soft and the chicken is cooked through, stirring regularly. Season with fajita seasoning, salt, and pepper.

3. Spoon your rice into a bowl or container and top with the chicken, vegetables, avocado, and yogurt.

Ludlam-Raine said: "This sounds delicious! I love adding Greek yogurt as a condiment to my foods (especially spicy dishes) for a boost of protein, calcium, and naturally occurring probiotics. You could also add some homemade salsa using chopped tomatoes, red onion, and coriander for extra veggies."

6. Chicken avocado sandwich

A hand holding a chicken and avocado sandwich.
A chicken and avocado sandwich provides carbs, protein, and fats.Rachel Hosie

It's hard to go wrong with a simple sandwich. This combo is delicious and ticks all the macro boxes too. Use a bagel thin or try an open sandwich if you want to reduce the calories, or swap out avocado for cucumber or salad.

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices wholemeal bread

  • Roast chicken breast chunks or slices

  • 1/2 ripe avocado

  • Light cream cheese

  • Black pepper

Ludlam-Raine said: "Many people shy away from carbs such as bread, but they shouldn't be feared. Wholemeal and wholegrain breads are a key source of fiber in the diet as well as B vitamins, and may even be fortified with calcium and vitamin D too. Adding some lean protein such as chicken and cream cheese will help to keep you satiated, in addition to healthy fats from the avocado."

7. Chicken sausage pesto pasta with veggies

Turkey meatball pasta dishes.
Turkey meatballs or chicken sausages with pasta and vegetables is a staple meal.Rachel Hosie

This is a great recipe for dinner, and I love having leftovers for lunch — it's just as tasty reheated in a microwave or eaten cold as pasta salad.

Cook wholewheat pasta, stir in a sauce made from low-fat cream cheese and pesto, cook up some meatballs or sausages (I often use turkey or chicken versions to keep it light) and whatever vegetables you fancy, and combine it all.

Ludlam-Raine said: "Turkey is a great lean source of protein which is high in essential amino acids, including tryptophan which is involved in the production of certain hormones such as serotonin and melatonin which promote a good mood and better sleep, too. Using a light cream cheese for the sauce is a great way to keep the calories down and saturated fats, too."

8. Feta frittata

A feta and vegetable frittata.
You can add whatever ingredients you like to a frittata.Rachel Hosie

I love frittatas and always mix up the fillings based on what I have. A go-to combination is cooked sweet potatoes, sweetcorn, zucchini, red onion, and feta, and sometimes I add egg whites to my whole eggs for a protein boost. A large frittata can provide 3-4 lunches, perhaps served alongside some salad or bread.

All you have to do is cook your fillings in a large frying pan on a medium heat (or add pre-cooked ingredients to heat up). Whisk your eggs with seasoning then pour into the pan and top with feta. Cook for about five minutes on the stove before transferring to the oven for about 15 minutes, until cooked through and golden on top.

Ludlam-Raine said: "Frittatas are a great choice...satiating...and low-calorie (depending what you put in it of course). They're perfect for using up leftover vegetables and they're high in protein too, which is key to prioritize when losing weight as it will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer. Bulking out this recipe with lots of non-starchy vegetables and a handful of potatoes will add extra fiber too as well as 1-2 of your 5-a-day."

5. Chicken stir-fry

A chicken stir-fry with noodles and vegetables.
Chicken stir-fry is a go-to dinner when I'm hungry and feeling lazy.Rachel Hosie

Another dinner which doubles as lunch the next day, stir-fries are nutritious, fast, easy, and tasty. I sometimes speed up the process even more by buying pre-prepared mixes of stir-fry vegetables.

All you need to do is heat some oil in a hot wok, stir-fry chopped veggies for a few minutes, add your protein of choice and cook for a few minutes more, add ready-made noodles or rice, then stir in your sauce. Sometimes I use edamame or lentil noodles for an extra protein boost.

Ludlam-Raine said: "Stir-fries are a great way to pack a good volume of vegetables into your meal if you struggle to meet your five-a-day. If you wanted to boost the protein content here, you could even add an egg and scramble in with the vegetables for an egg-fried stir-fry."

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