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5 Quick and Healthy Lunch Recipes for Busy Students

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These days I often find myself staring at the fridge, clueless on what I'm going cook up for lunch. When I want to whip up a meal in a flash, instant cup noodles are always a tempting option. They cook and cool in five minutes, and I can quickly eat them while shuffling in and out of my online classes. But before I know it, I've had instant noodles for three days in a row. While they are delicious, all of the sodium and additives end up making me feel sluggish. That's why I turned to the Internet to help me discover some healthier lunchtime meals. Ahead, check out five easy and nutritious recipes that are just as quick to make as instant noodles.

1. Scrambled Egg-Avocado Sandwich 

This is my convenient take on an egg salad sandwich. Instead of waiting for a perfect hard-boiled egg, I scramble the egg to get a similar consistency as egg salad. A mashed avocado does a superb job at replacing mayonnaise used in egg salad, which is filled with saturated fats. The avocado combines with the egg perfectly to form a smooth mixture. Feel free to add your favorite spices. I like to mix black pepper and cilantro to taste. 

Ingredients
  • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 1 egg, scrambled
  • ½ to 1 whole avocado, depending on your preference
  • Black pepper
  • Cilantro

2. Salmon-Cucumber-Avocado Sushi Roll 

Making homemade sushi is not as crazy as it may sound! Using Trader Joe’s smoked salmon, cucumber, avocado, steamed rice, and nori sheets; you can make yourself a simple and delicious sushi roll. 
 

Ingredients
  • ½ cup steamed rice
  • 3 slices of Trader Joe’s smoked salmon
  • 6 elongated slices of cucumber 
  • 3 elongated slices of avocado
  • 1 nori (seaweed) sheet

Directions

  1. Place the seaweed on a bamboo mat*, then cover the sheet of seaweed with an even layer of steamed rice. Smooth gently with a rice paddle. 
  2. Layer salmon, cucumber, and avocado across the width of the rice-seaweed sheet, along a single line. Roll it up tightly. Slice with a sharp knife, and enjoy!

*Use parchment paper if you don't have a bamboo mat

3. Santa Fe Salad

Upgrade from a plain caesar salad to this lively mix of crispy lettuce, sweet corn, hearty black beans, grilled chicken, a few crunchy tortilla chips, chipotle dressing, and tangy lime! I like to make Santa Fe Salad when there are leftover chicken and corn from last night’s dinner. It cuts the prep time in half, and yesterday’s leftovers don’t end up in the trash. Salad may not be a common craving, but my mouth is just watering thinking about this dish!

If you love a Santa Fe Salad as much as I do, a bottle of southwest chipotle dressing is nice to have in the fridge. Be careful to not use too much salad dressing. Just enough to lightly coat the lettuce should do! Two tablespoons of this salad dressing is already 100 calories.  

Ingredients
  • ½ seasoned boneless chicken breast, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of taco seasoning for chicken
  • 1-2 cups romaine lettuce, chopped
  • ⅛ cup thawed frozen corn
  • ⅛ cup black beans
  • 2-3 tortilla chips, broken up into bite-size pieces
  • southwest chipotle dressing
  • 1 lime wedge

For homemade taco seasoning:

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Directions

  1. Season the chicken breast with preferred seasoning, or using the seasoning ingredients listed above. Let stand at room temperature for about 1 hour.
  2. Place the chicken on a nonstick pan. Pan-grill each side on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Remove from heat, cover loosely with foil, and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Slice chicken into bite-size pieces.
  4. Place the lettuce, corn, and black beans in a bowl. Toss together gently. Top with the pan-grilled chicken, tortilla chips, and the desired amount of southwest chipotle dressing.

4. Lemon Rice with Grilled Chicken

Spice up a plate of brown rice with zesty lemon, fresh herbs, and a pinch of kosher salt. This is my go-to lemon rice recipe, but I avoid the coconut oil to skip out on some calories. Revitalizing leftover chicken in this flavorful fish makes this healthy meal so quick to make.

Lemon rice takes about an hour to cook, so it's a great meal prep dish! This recipe makes 6 servings. You can store this in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. 

Lemon Rice Ingredients
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 3/4 cups coconut water
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon
  • 2 tablespoons parsley

Lemon Rice Directions

  1. Rinse and drain the rice. Combine the rice, coconut water, salt, and coconut oil in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil.
  2. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Check if the bottom is rice is sticking to the bottom of the pan, especially towards the end as the rice cooks. Splash in additional coconut water to prevent sticking, as needed.
  3. Remove from heat. Add the lemon zest and lemon juice, and then fluff with a fork to combine. 
  4. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Serve with grilled chicken and enjoy!

Grilled Chicken Ingredients

  • 4 medium boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Grilled Chicken Directions

  1. Combine all the dry seasoning in a small bowl. Season both sides of the chicken with the dry seasoning mix.
  2. Heat a grill pan to high heat for about 2-3 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-high and add oil to the pan.
  3. Add chicken breasts to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes on the first side without moving, until the undersides develop dark grill marks. Flip the chicken breasts and cook the other side for 5-6 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. Allow chicken breasts to rest in pan for at least 5 minutes before cutting. Serve with lemon rice and enjoy!

5. Turkey and Veggie Bagel Sandwich

Bagels are my favorite breakfast carb. Now I can have it for lunch too! Take a healthier, savory twist on the bagel-cream cheese combo by placing lean turkey meat, a small amount of reduced-fat (or even plant-based) cream cheese, cucumber, and lots of sprouts in between the bagel buns.

Ingredients

  • 1 thin rye bagel
  • 1 tablespoon of 1/3 less fat chive and onion cream cheese
  • 2 slices lean turkey meat
  • 4 slices cucumber
  • Spouts
I hope these quick and filling lunch ideas motivated you to ditch the instant cup noodles! Which one are you going to try first? Let us know in the comments below!
Tiffany Marie Tran is currently a high school senior in San Jose, CA. She loves the challenge of writing: her poetry is in the Articulation is Power anthology, and she writes monthly activism articles as the Editor-In-Chief of Youth Art Magazine. Hoping to become a political journalist, she spends her time preparing for policy debate tournaments, organizing community events as a city council intern, and participating in the Santa Clara Office of Women's Policy Girls Advisory Team. To stay healthy during a busy week, Tiffany Marie enjoys figure skating or gardening.