8 High-Protein Lunches Trainers Pack For Busy Days

Whether you’re bouncing from meeting to meeting in the office or client to client in the gym, lunch can often feel like an afterthought. Thing is, no matter how you spend your days, you need a healthy lunch to keep you fueled, body and mind—especially if you plan on breaking a sweat at some point.

To help you fuel like a pro, we rounded up trainers’ go-to lunches for busy days. Not only do they provide a slew of vitamins and minerals, but they also pack the protein your body needs to stay strong all day long. They’re easy to throw together on the spot or prep in advance and pack for the week!

1. Chicken With Spinach, Peppers, Onions, & Quinoa

“This is my go to lunch because I can prep it ahead of time and eat it cold,” says Tony Carvajal, CF-L1, trainer with RSP Nutrition, who eats lunch on-the-go every single day. That’s right, no microwave or toaster oven required.

“It’s just the combination of calories, fats, carbs, and protein I need to sustain energy throughout my day,” he says.

Spend a few minutes prepping this dish over the weekend, and you’ll have lunch ready-to-go when things get crazy mid-week.

Ingredients

  • 6-9 oz grilled chicken
  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp Italian dressing
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • ½ bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped

Instructions

  1. Add raw chicken, olive oil, and Italian dressing to a plastic bag and let sit for at least two hours.
  2. Grill the chicken until cooked through.
  3. As the chicken cooks, make quinoa according to package instructions.
  4. Once all chicken and quinoa are cooked, mix with spinach, peppers, and onions.

While Carvajal goes dressing-free from there, add a low-sodium, low-calorie dressing, as desired.

2. Power Oatmeal Bowl

Oatmeal isn’t just for breakfast! In fact, it’s a lunchtime go-to for sports dietitian Rachel Fine M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.D.N., owner of To The Pointe Nutrition, who works with athletes all day long.

“This oatmeal dish provides me all three macronutrients—carbs, protein, and fat,” she says. The steel-cut oats are a great source of soluble fiber, while the protein powder give the dish a creamy texture and boost of protein. Plus, “the almond slices and hemp seeds keep me satisfied and add delicious crunch,” she adds.

Related: 9 High-Protein Breakfasts That Aren’t Eggs

Have a particularly active afternoon? Consider adding an extra scoop of protein powder.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1 Tbsp sliced almonds
  • 1 cup mixed berries
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1 serving steel-cut oats
  • water, to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the steel cut oats, adding water as needed for desired consistency.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and enjoy!

3. Shake & Snack Combo

No lunch break? Personal trainer Franklin Antoian, founder of iBodyFit and author of The Fit Executive knows the struggle. “I’m usually super busy during lunchtime,” he says. “That’s why I pack a Vega protein shake, an apple, and some nuts.” (You can mix a serving of Vega One All-In-One Shake with water or your go-to nut milk for quick nutrition on-the-go.)

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“The shake keeps my protein up, while the carbohydrates from the apple and fats from the nuts help me sustain the energy I need to train clients all afternoon.”

Ingredients

Doesn’t get any easier than that!

4. Grilled Chicken Stir Fry With Chia Seeds

This lunch may sound elaborate, but rest assured, it takes less than 10 minutes to pull together!

“This protein-filled stir-fry gives me the energy and satiety I need for my afternoon, says Allen Conrad, B.S., D.C., C.S.C.S. of Montgomery County Chiropractic Center.

“The chicken is an excellent source of lean protein, and the chia seeds add even more protein, plus fiber,” he says. More fiber equals more stable blood sugar, which means you have more stable energy for hours after eating.

Whip this meal up the night before a hectic day and stash in the fridge ‘til you need it.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup pre-cooked chicken breast
  • 1 bag stir-fry vegetable blend (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 Tbsp low-sugar, low-calorie Asian dressing
  • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 oz extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Add olive oil and pre-cooked chicken to a medium pan to brown sides.
  2. Then, add stir fry vegetables and sauce.
  3. Cover and steam for three or four minutes.
  4. Once cooled, sprinkle in chia seeds.

5. Tempeh Hummus Salad

Looking for a vegetarian friendly option? Try this Tempeh Hummus Salad, a favorite of Sarah Gawron, personal trainer and coach with Ketanga Fitness Retreats.

“This is my lunch every day because it is simple, delicious, keeps me full, and provides more than 25 grams of protein,” she says.

Since the tempeh only takes about six minutes to cook and travels well, this is an easy one to prep.

Ingredients

  • ½ Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 serving tempeh
  • 2 tsp of coconut aminos
  • 2 cups mixed greens
  • ½ bell pepper
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp plain hummus

Instructions

  1. Heat coconut oil in a small pan at medium heat.
  2. Add tempeh and coconut aminos and sauté until golden brown.
  3. While the tempeh cooks, make your salad by mixing the greens, peppers, and mushrooms.
  4. Top with hummus and tempeh.

6. No-Mayo Chicken Salad

For easy grab-and-go lunches all week, Dianna Falzarano, Director of TRX at Flex Studios, preps her no-mayo chicken salad on Sundays. “This way, I don’t have to stress about cooking or buying food throughout the week,” she says. Plus, this meal is easy to transport.

Related: 9 Easy Ways To Up Your Protein Intake

While the protein from the chicken supports healthy muscles, the healthy fats from the avocado oil and coconut oil and fiber from the vegetables keep Falzarano satiated until dinner.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 splash apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ lbs chicken breast strips
  • Handful of spinach, finely sliced
  • ½ white or red onion, chopped
  • ½ cup celery, chopped
  • ½ cup carrots, chopped
  • Handful of dried cranberries
  • Yellow mustard, to taste
  • Pepper, garlic powder, and oregano, to taste
  • Crackers, lettuce wraps, or other ‘vehicle’

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and coat a medium-sized pan with half the avocado oil.
  2. Add the chicken to the pan and drizzle with remaining avocado oil and apple cider vinegar. Season with pepper, garlic, and red pepper flakes to taste.
  3. Cook the chicken for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. As the chicken cooks, chop all of the vegetables well.
  5. Once chicken is cooked and cooled, dice and mix with vegetables in a large bowl.
  6. Stir in yellow mustard until you reach desired creaminess and consistency.
  7. Separate into three lunch containers with lettuce wraps, gluten-free crackers, and coconut tortilla wraps.

7. Make-Ahead Egg Bake

To the front, breakfast lovers! “Why limit myself to just one breakfast a day?,” says personal trainer and nutrition coach, Esther Avant, C.P.T., PN2.

“Every week, I make an egg bake for lunches using eggs and whatever leftover meat and veggies I have from the week before,” she says. It’s a great way to prep for a busy week—and prevent food waste.

It also provides tons of protein from the eggs, vitamins and antioxidants from the veggies, carbs from the potatoes, and healthy fats.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups frozen veggie medley
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups egg whites
  • 2 cups potatoes, butternut squash, or another starchy veggie, diced
  • Any other leftover vegetables or meat in the fridge
  • ¼ avocado, to top (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Beat together eggs and egg whites, and add to a small baking dish.
  3. Stir in all add-ins and season as desired.
  4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until eggs are set.
  5. Let cool, cut into quarters, and pack into lunch containers.

Want to boost the healthy fats? “When I’m really hungry I’ll top with sliced avocado,” says Avant.

8. Citrus Chicken Salad

“As a business owner and CrossFit athlete, being well-fueled with protein and veggies is crucial for having the energy to train clients and work out hard,” says trainer and USA Powerlifting Coach Kyra Williams.

That’s why Williams keeps prepped chicken, chopped veggies, and homemade salad dressing on hand to grab between clients, emails, and workouts. “The combo tastes good, keeps me full, and keeps me from reaching for junk when things get busy,” she says.

Ingredients

For salad:

  • 6 oz cooked chicken breast
  • 2 cups spinach, chopped
  • ½ Roma tomato, chopped
  • ½ oz goat cheese crumbles

For orange cilantro dressing:

  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ¼ cup sunflower oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Instructions

  1. Chop spinach and tomato and separate into lunch containers.
  2. Cook your chicken. (Williams dices, seasons, and sautés it in a cast iron pan.)
  3. To make the dressing, bring juice to a boil in a small sauce pan and reduce to about two tablespoons—about eight minutes.
  4. Once cooled, add orange juice to a blender.
  5. Add cumin, cilantro, and lemon juice, and blend until smooth.
  6. Continue to blend, and add sunflower oil in a thin, steady stream.
  7. Season with salt and cayenne.

Come lunch time, all you have to do is toss together your salad and chicken, and top with goat cheese and dressing.

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