A Week of Healthy, Make-Ahead Lunches from Joy Manning

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)
  • Meal Plan By: Joy Manning, food writer & editor
  • Number of meals: 3 lunches, 1 breakfast, 1 snack
  • Sized For: One to two adults

When I get into healthy eating and weight-loss mode, I tend to rely heavily on routines and repetition to keep myself on track. I will often eat the same breakfast every day, and then make a giant pot of my chicken lentil soup to eat for lunch all week long. A few easy meals like nori rolls or open-faced chicken salad sandwiches also fill in for variety.

Here’s how I bring it all together into a week-long meal plan of lunches.

(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

A Week of Lunches

These three lunches, plus one breakfast that can also serve as a lunch if you work from home or have a kitchen at work, are what I eat when I’m doing well in eating healthy and staying on track with my goals.

Tips for Adding Variety to This Menu

You can add variety to the four basic meals I give you by adding (or swapping) some grains and green vegetables to any meal where you want more substance, or spicing things up with a condiment like hot sauce or pesto. Sometimes I also eat the soup with warm fresh bread or toasted pita wedges topped with garlic and olive oil.

Want to Stretch It?

Want to make this meal plan stretch farther? Some of us have a high tolerance for meal repetition and/or have a small household, and could stretch these meals to last over a whole week of lunches and dinners. You could use the soup as a main and as a side dish on alternating evenings. Monday and Wednesday, eat the soup with a salad or roasted vegetables on the side. Tuesday, serve a small amount of soup over noodles or pasta. Thursday, have a small bowl of soup on the side but make a main dish of roasted salmon, steak, or cauliflower.

But it’s up to you. Everyone has a different amount of time for cooking each week, not to mention tolerance of meal repetition.

Your Meal Plan

Lunches: 3 Make-Ahead Options

Breakfast (Or an Extra Lunch)


The Recipes

Your Shopping List

Note that the scrambled egg breakfast can serve two people, the lunches both serve one person, and the Chicken Lentil Soup makes eight to 10 servings, which is enough for two people for lunch for a week. The shopping list and ingredient amounts below are calculated to reflect this daily meal plan and number of servings.

To buy at the store:

  • Yellow onion (2)
  • Shallots (2)
  • Green bell pepper (2)
  • Red bell pepper (2)
  • Medium carrot (4)
  • Celery (1 bunch)
  • Persian cucumber (2)
  • Pea shoots or bean sprouts (3/4 cup)
  • Avocado (1)
  • Lemon (1)
  • Garlic (3 cloves)
  • Button mushrooms (16-ounce container)
  • Arugula or baby spinach (5 cups)
  • Romaine lettuce (1 head, optional)
  • Eggs (2 dozen)
  • Sharp cheddar cheese (at least 4 ounces)
  • Plain Greek yogurt (1 small container)
  • Boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 pound, or skip if making the Chicken Lentil Soup with rotisserie chicken)
  • Rotisserie chicken (1, or 2 if also using for the Chicken Lentil Soup)
  • Whole-grain bread (1 loaf)
  • Artisan bread or pita bread (optional, for serving with the soup)
  • Nori sheets (1 package)
  • French lentils (2 cups)
  • Nutritional yeast flakes (1 cup + 2 tablespoons — you may need to go to a natural food store or a store with bulk bins for this)

Pantry staples (double check to make sure you have these on hand):

  • Olive oil
  • Butter or bacon fat (4 tablespoons)
  • Hot sauce
  • Mayonnaise
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Tomato paste
  • Chicken stock (12 cups)
  • Chili flakes (optional)
  • Parmesan or romano cheese, to garnish the soup
  • Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup)
  • Raw cashews (2 cups)
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Your Cooking Plan

What to Prep Ahead

You can prep all of these things on Sunday, or prep them the night before you need them. All items will keep refrigerated in airtight containers for five days.

  • Dice the onions, peppers, and mushrooms, and shred the cheese for breakfast omelettes.
  • Make the cashew cheese.
  • Shred the carrots and slice the cucumbers for nori rolls.
  • Shred the rotisserie chicken and mince the shallots for chicken sandwiches. The chicken salad can also be entirely made and kept refrigerated for five days.
  • Make the Chicken Lentil Soup or prep all the ingredients so you can quickly make it on Monday evening.

Weekday Task List

  • Last minute: Make Scrambled Eggs with Green Peppers & Mushrooms for breakfast or lunch.
  • For lunch, the Nori Rolls and the Chicken Salad Sandwich will keep, refrigerated, for a few hours until serving. If making the chicken salad, wait to toast the bread until just before eating.
(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)