The most delicious, healthy recipes for a perfect midday meal.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD 1 / 11
During busy weekdays or even busier weekends, it’s not always easy to get a high-protein lunch to help keep you ripped and lean. But it is possible—all you really need is a little advanced planning and you can ensure you eat right every day of the week. Here are 10 lean muscle-building recipes that prove it. Choose one or two to make each week. Do your grocery shopping and cooking on Sunday and your coworkers will be envious come lunchtime on Monday (and Tuesday, Wednesday... you get it).The Best Muscle-Building Diet >>>
1. Tuna “Superfood” Salad Sandwich
More than a tuna salad, this “superfood” sandwich is packed with both tuna and salmon, which gives you a boost of protein, omega-3 fats, and selenium. Served between two slices of whole grain bread or stuffed in a whole wheat pita, it’s a quick and easy lunch for any busy day.
Ingredients: One 5-ounce can tuna One 5- to 6-ounce can wild salmon 3 medium stalks celery, diced 2 tablespoons capers, lightly chopped ¼ cup diced red onion 2 tablespoons lemon juice 3 tablespoons mayonnaise 2 to 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt 8 slices 100% whole wheat bread
Instructions: 1. Empty the tuna and salmon into a medium bowl and break up with a fork. 2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until just combined. 3. Scoop ¼ of the tuna salad onto 1 slice of bread and top with a second slice. 4. Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Instructions: 1. Mix the turkey, 2 tablespoons marinara sauce, garlic, cheese, oregano, thyme, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes together in a large bowl. 2. Form into four patties. 3. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the patties. 4. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes until cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. 5. During the last minute of cooking, add 2 tablespoons shredded cheese on top of each burger and cover the skillet to melt the cheese. 6. To serve, place the patties on toasted hamburger buns. Top each patty with 1 tablespoon marinara sauce and a few basil leaves. 7. Add the bun top and serve!
3. Sumac Shrimp & Crispy Chickpea Salad with Figs, Beets, and Feta
Shrimp is a very lean protein that contains BCAAs. Although it was once thought that the cholesterol in shellfish like shrimp is not healthy, studies are revealing that it doesn’t impact the blood cholesterol as once thought.
For the salad 6 cups spring mix lettuce 1 English cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced ½ cup pickled beets, sliced 8 figs, quartered ¼ cup reduced fat feta, crumbled ¼ cup mint leaves, chiffonade
For the shrimp ½ tablespoon olive oil 1 lb shrimp, shells and tails removed Generous pinches of salt, paprika and sumac
For the dressing 1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Adjust seasonings, as necessary. Set aside.
For the chickpeas 1. Preheat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the chickpeas and a generous pinch of salt, pepper and paprika. Sauté until golden and crispy, shaking or stirring often, for about 6 minutes.
For the salad 1. In a large bowl, mix together the lettuce, cucumber, beets, figs, feta and mint.
For the shrimp 1. Preheat the oil in the nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp, along with a pinch of salt, paprika and sumac. Cook, flipping once, until shrimp are pink and curled, about 3-5 minutes.
To assemble 1. Divide the salad between four plates, top with the shrimp, chickpeas and the salad dressing.
This simple, nourishing, and tasty meal is also good for you. The egg provides muscle building amino acids, while you’ll get a whole lot of healthy fat from the avocado. Make sure to get a 100% whole grain bread in order to get those important whole grains too. If one toast isn’t filling enough for lunch, then double the recipe.
Ingredients: 1 slice of whole grain bread, toasted (I like Healthfull® Bread® Nuts and Seeds) 1/4 avocado, mashed 1 hard-boiled egg, sliced 3 cucumber slices 1/4 teaspoon chili oil Lime zest Salt and pepper to taste
Dress up your muscle-building Greek yogurt with savory ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes, quinoa, parsley, olives, and walnuts. The quinoa adds even more muscle ripping BCAAs to your meal, while the walnuts have inflammation lowering omega-3s.
Ingredients: 2 cups cooked quinoa 1 cup finely diced cucumber ½ cup loosely packed sun-dried tomatoes, chopped* 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar 2 tablespoons minced, fresh parsley Pinch of salt 3 cups plain low fat Greek yogurt 2 cloves of garlic, minced 1 cup sliced California black ripe olives ¼ cup chopped walnuts
Instructions: 1. Combine quinoa, cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, red wine vinegar, parsley, and salt. Mix well and set aside. 2. In a separate bowl, mix yogurt with minced garlic. 3. In a tall round goblet or parfait cup, layer about ⅓ cup yogurt then 2 tablespoons of sliced black olives and then ½ cup quinoa mixture. Repeat with another ⅓ cup of yogurt. Then top with 2 more tablespoons of black olives. Lastly, sprinkle top with a tablespoon of chopped walnuts. 4. Refrigerate if not eating right away.
*Chef’s note: I used plain sun dried tomatoes but you can use the kind stored in oil. Just drain off some of the oil before chopping.
This Italian favorite is known for having a high fat and calorie count. It’s also known for having a ton of fillers, artificial ingredients, and nitrites (used to preserve deli meat). To make this a healthier version, keep deli meats under strict portion control (as indicated by the portions below) and choose deli meats that are free of artificial ingredients, fillers, and nitrites (like Applegate).
Ingredients: 2 slices whole grain bread Spicy Dijon mustard 1 oz herb turkey breast (I like Applegate) 1 oz black forest ham 4 slices Genoa salami (I like Applegate) ½ cup mixed greens 1 slice provolone cheese
Recipe and photo by registered dietitian and certified athletic trainer Dana Angelo White, MS RD, ATC.
7. Tuna Quinoa Cakes
These quinoa cakes are easy to make and even better to tote to work as leftovers. To make a hearty lunch, add on top of a large green vegetable salad or stuff in a whole grain pita filled with lettuce and tomato.
Instructions: 1. In a small bowl, combine the tuna and sweet potato and mix well. 2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well combined. 3. Using your hands, form into 6 cakes. 4. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 min, flipping once.
Farro is an Italian-born grain that dates back to ancient Rome. It has a nutty flavor and pleasant, chewy texture and contains 8 grams of protein per cooked cup. Farro is cooked like rice, in broth or water, and is ready in about 25 minutes.
Ingredients: 8 ounces green beans, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces 1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions and cooled to room temperature 1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced 1 stalk celery, finely diced 1/2 cup red onion, finely diced 1/2 cup nicoise olives or kalamata olives, pitted and halved or quartered 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (well drained), thinly sliced 2 tablespoons capers 1 (10-ounce) jar cocktail baby artichokes, halved or regular artichoke hearts, quartered 2 (7-ounce) cans chunk white tuna fish, drained and flaked 6 hard-boiled eggs
For the vinaigrette Zest and juice of one lemon 1 large shallot, minced 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon 1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar 1/3 cup olive oil 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Instructions: 1. Create a water bath. Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice and water. Set aside. 2. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water. Add a teaspoon of salt and fit the pan with a lid. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid and add the green beans. Cook the beans for 4-5 minutes until tender. Use a spider or slotted spoon to scoop the beans from the water and plunge them into the ice bath to stop the cooking. Set aside. 3. Add the farro to the bean water and cook for the time recommended on the package directions. 4. When the farro is done, drain in a colander or sieve and return the farro to the pot. Place the lid on the pot and set aside for about 10 minutes—this last part allows the farro to steam a little in the pot. 5. Remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Set aside without the lid to cool. 6. Meanwhile, in a large bowl add the bell pepper, celery, red onion, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, artichokes and tuna. Toss to combine.
To make the vinaigrette 1. In a small bowl combine the zest and juice of the lemon, shallot, tarragon, vinegar, olive oil, mustard, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine.
To assemble the salad 1. Add the farro to the vegetables and toss. Add the vinaigrette and toss so that vegetables and farro are coated with the dressing. 2. To serve, mound the salad on a plate. Halve or quarter the eggs and arrange them on or beside the salad.
When choosing beef for an everyday salad, it should be a lean cut like top sirloin steak, strip steak, tenderloin, of flank steak. All you need is three ounces cooked, and it will provide a boatload of protein, zinc, iron, and energy boosting B-vitamins.
Instructions: 1. Combine dressing ingredients in bottom of medium container or small bowl with lid. 2. Layer salad greens, vegetables, pasta or beans and beef on top of dressing. Close lid securely or cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to use. 3. Before serving, shake covered container to coat salad well.
Recipe by Chef Dave Zino, Executive Chef, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on behalf of The Beef Checkoff.
10. Toasted Chickpea Sea-Salad Sandwiches
This chickpea-based sandwich is rich in protein and fiber. The fermented pickles also contain live bacteria that help keep your gut healthy. If you aren’t a bread person, serve the salad on a bed of lettuce greens instead. The leftovers can be stored in a airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Instructions: 1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until lightly browned, or use a toaster. 2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher into a chunky paste. 3. Mix in the celery, onion, pickles, carrots, parsley, capers, and seaweed. 4. In a small bowl, make the dressing by mixing together the plant-based mayonnaise, mustard, miso paste, lemon juice, soy sauce, and nutritional yeast until smooth. 5. Stir the dressing into the chickpea mixture. 6. To make a sandwich, spread ½ cup of the filling across 1 slice of toasted bread. Top with 1 lettuce leaf, 2 slices of tomato, and 2 additional pickle slices. Top with another slice of bread. Continue until you have 6 sandwiches. Slice them in half diagonally and serve immediately.