Healthy food has a reputation for being expensive, but there are lots of ways to eat well on a budget. That’s where the subreddit r/EatCheapandHealthy comes in. Its archives are full of recipes that don’t break the bank while being high in protein, full of veggies, or low in salt and sugar. And they have tons of ideas for what kind of lunches to pack when you have to rely on something cold.
To be clear, no single food is good or bad for you in isolation, so the recipes reflect a variety of foods that can fit into a healthy diet, depending on your needs and what else you’re eating. So if you need ideas for cold lunches, take a look at these. Some can be cooked the night before and eaten cold; others are ready to go straight from fridge or pantry ingredients.
Salmon niçoise pasta salad
The classic French salade Niçoise is full of protein and flavour, and this version adds pasta to make it more filling. A reply notes that you can make another French favourite with bread in place of pasta: “If you make [salade niçoicse] into a sandwich on a baguette, you’ve got the classic French beach food pan bagnat.”
Tonkatsu bento box
This redditor shared a tonkatsu recipe, which they package into a bento box with rice, pickles, and veggies. Don’t forget the sweet and tangy sauce, which is made mostly from pantry staples.
Chickpea and tuna salad
For a meal that’s filling and veggie-heavy, crack open a can of tuna and a can of chickpeas. A few fresh veggies and a dressing round out the meal.
Amelia Earhart’s cold potatoes
This may not be the most complete meal in itself — go ahead and pack some proteins and veggies to round it out — but I couldn’t resist this story about Amelia Earhart and her flying teacher relying on cold boiled potatoes when they flew.
Marinated tofu and veggies
This plant-based salad uses one of the vegan world’s best flavour hacks: marinated tofu. Toss with veggies, tahini, sriracha, and sesame seeds for a tasty cold dish. Or go for a different texture: A reply recommends hiyayakko, seasoned and chilled silken tofu, as an alternative to the marinated stuff.
Caprese salad is a perfect summertime lunch. (When tomatoes first come in to season each summer, I have been known to throw a pile of them along with sliced fresh mozzarella and basil leaves on a giant platter on the dinner table, and we all eat from there like it’s some sort of feeding trough.) This version uses Italian dressing; you can also use balsamic vinegar, or eat it naked if your tomatoes are tasty enough.
Spinach tzatziki dip
For a change of pace, try this hybrid of tzatziki and a spinach dip. Spinach in place of the traditional cucumbers (plus salt, olive oil, and garlic) makes for a great cold topping for pita bread.
Beans and rice are a great cheap and healthy dish for anytime, so don’t sleep on their cold incarnations. This version uses wild rice and chickpeas, with plenty of room for variation in the veggies and dressing. To up the protein even more, you could add some chicken or tuna.
Breakfast for lunch
You’ve heard of breakfast for dinner, but breakfast for lunch is an even more genius idea. Have something hot for breakfast (a great summer idea, so you get your cooking out of the way before the heat of the day hits) and then pack your smoothie or cold oats.
Protein yogurt parfait
This one works great with the “breakfast for lunch” theme, but is also great on its own — and I know because this is one of my personal favourite lunches. Yogurt, protein powder, and fruit make a filling parfait (mix the yogurt and protein powder before adding the fruit). If the fruit is frozen, the parfait will stay icy cold until you’re ready to eat it.