Where do you get your protein? How can I increase protein at lunch? These are a couple of very regularly asked questions around these parts and I’ll tell you, I can understand the desire for more protein at lunch specifically for a couple reasons. First, if you rely on eating out at lunch time, I find many establishments serve up sad vegan salads with a sprinkling of beans or will dish up a hummus wrap with barely any hummus. When we rely on eating out, we may not be consuming adequate nutrients to help nourish our bodies – or we may be consuming more sodium, fat, etc than we bargained for. Ever have a salt bomb lunch that left you super thirsty and guzzling water the rest of the day only to feel lethargic and maybe even bloated? Totally been there too. Adequate protein is important at lunch to not only help meet nutrition needs but to help stabilize blood sugar throughout the afternoon.
However, before we get carried away – it may not be quite as much protein at lunch as what you’re thinking. For example, the recommendation is that most healthy adults only need about .8 – 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 68kg and the estimated protein needs would be between 54 – 68 grams per day.
When we aren’t eating meat or animal products at all or very little, it’s important to remind ourselves that protein can be found in many plant-based foods like whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and even in unsuspecting places like nutritional yeast. Sure, even vegetables have small amounts of protein that can add up in a day. So, if you’re eating a wide variety of foods and adequate amounts at each meal, there’s a good chance you’re already consuming enough plant-based protein throughout the day.
When we think about taking our lunch to work, a few things come to mind. First, I think lunch should be a midday reset button and what a better way to do that than with a nourishing vegan meal?? So with that, I think meals should have some sort of pizazz to them to spice up your life (literally). Or I think that lunches should be so incredibly simple that it saves you time and energy with all of the craziness life can throw your way. Frequently, I think leftovers make the best lunches and so many of the suggestions listed are easy meals that can double as leftovers for lunch. Or alternatively, you can always meal prep a recipe (or two) and take that in for your vegan lunch.
Eating vegan or predominately plant-based doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive but when it comes to taking your lunch to work, it is important to have adequate protein, starch, fiber, and fat to help keep you rocking and rolling. These recipes are meant to give you new inspiration without compromising your time or energy to help nourish your lunch time. I’m curious which ones spark the most interest for you – comment below and let me know which ones you plan on trying out! PS: These are recipes I frequently make and adapt for lunch so I know you’ll be in good hands!
8 High Protein Vegan Lunches For Work
This vegan hearty stew gets the vegan protein from the peanuts and peanut butter. PS: I always add way more peanut butter to increase the protein content and make it extra luxurious and creamy. My favorite peanut butters for this are either Crazy Richard’s Peanut Butter or Teddie’s Peanut Butter – in either crunchy or salty! This recipe can also be done with or without the brown rice (although does add a bit of protein) and can also be done with spinach instead of collard greens.
I’m honestly not the biggest fan of quinoa. I’m not sure why, but it’s just not my jam. HOWEVER, add some crisp edamame and swirled inbetween some soy sauce, ginger, and spices?? And now we’re talking! You’ll find plant-based vegan protein from the quinoa and edamame. Still want more protein? Add in some cooked and chopped tofu! Because this recipe doesn’t require to be heated – it can make the perfect lunch for work! Plus, it makes enough for all week.
While we’re on the quinoa train….these stuffed peppers are packed with flavor and can be reheated for your work lunch as is or can be served with avocado or a vegan sour cream to add a bit more of that satisfaction factor with fat in the meal. If you’ve only stuffed peppers with the Italian flavor profile, you’re in for a treat because not only does this recipe come together quickly but it tastes better the next day and the flavor profile is on point!
Soups are sometimes the best possible thing to reheat for lunch when you’re working in a cold office space. Plus, there’s no messy eating (**cough cough: tacos/sandwiches**) and it’s super easy to pack soups with fiber and protein. Bean based soups are my go-to, similar to this curried lentil soup. Red lentils are fun because they give your meal a bit more color than brown lentils but they both cook in under 30 minutes – which is fantastic! You can make for an easy dinner or meal prep for your vegan lunch. I always tend to add way more carrots, celery, onions, and spinach/greens than recipes suggest because I think more vegetables the better. So use the vegetable amounts in recipe as a guide but definitely feel free to add more to help fill in nutritional gaps and also help keep you nourished and satisfied. So for example, in this recipe I would add a package of chopped frozen spinach or a few heaping heaping handfuls of freshly chopped spinach.
Bean based chilis are a great way to pack in the protein and are just as easy to pack for a work lunch. This is simply an example of one recipe that uses at least 3 cans of beans – I tend to go for 4 cans of beans when I make chili just because I like leftover and I also love the texture variability. So if you want to add more, do so and know that you may need to adjust the other liquid/tomatoes/seasoning. Chili can be served for lunch as is or with crumbled chips, or over potatoes (sweet or white), or even over pasta and melted vegan cheese for a chili mac and cheese situation. Chili is super versatile for leftovers which means that you won’t get burnt out taking the same thing over and over again to work.
If bowls are more your jam at lunch time, this is a great high protein vegan option that combines edamame, whole grain brown rice, and baked tofu. Whenever I plan on having bowls for lunch, I plan my meal prep or dinners a few days out with similar ingredients/foods. For example, I would make a large pot of brown rice and serve it with a curry one night for dinner, maybe the Buddha Bowl for lunch, and then a fried rice a couple nights later. This dramatically cuts down on prep time. I do the same with roasting/baking tofu. So I would roast/bake 2 or 3 packages of the super firm tofu similar to this recipe and then use it for the Buddha bowls, the fried rice, and maybe in a wrap for a third meal. Again, multiplying your meals makes a huge difference and doesn’t feel like these fancy bowl situations are hard at all (because they don’t have to be)
7. Mediterranean Bowl
There are a bajillion variations of this that you can search for but essentially combine 1/2 cup garbanzo beans + few tablespoons hummus + tomatoes + cucumbers + olives + whole grain like brown rice, farro, quinoa, or even roasted potatoes! Add all of that to a bed of romaine or spinach or other greens. I like to mix the cucumbers with a homemade Italian Dressing (olive oil, lemon juice, seasoning) and add just before serving to help add some flavor pop to the whole meal without the greens getting soggy because nobody like soggy greens.
8. Cowboy Casserole courtesy of the Zinsli Family circa since forever
Growing up in the Midwest, casseroles were and still are a huge part of my life – they just look a little different these days. And as it turns out, casseroles make for great lunch leftovers! I’m not entirely sure where this family recipe started but here’s the deal…take 1 lb veggie crumbles cooked + 1 jar favorite marinara type sauce + 1 large can of vegetarian Bush’s baked beans + 4 servings of a whole wheat or brown rice based rotini noodle + sauteed onion + sauteed mushrooms + 1/2 cup frozen spinach + vegan cheese (optional). Mix it all together and option to serve as is or bake at 350 with vegan cheese on top. The protein comes from the beans, the crumbles, and the whole grain noodles and although it’s a strange combination, there’s something magical about the spaghetti sauce and baked bean combination.
There you have it…..8 high protein vegan options that are great to taking into work. I hope this gave you some inspiration! Which one(s) are you looking forward to trying first?