More than any other meal, there’s something about lunch that can be tricky for people. You need it to come together pretty quickly if you’re packing it in the morning. Or if you pack it the night before, you need it to hold up over hours and hours. No one likes soggy food come lunchtime. Add in finding paleo-friendly options and sometimes it can feel hopeless. But don’t fear – I’m going to show you how I approach it and give you some of my favorite paleo lunch ideas.
How to make the perfect lunch
I’m here to tell you that eating absolutely does not have to be complicated. That being said, I understand why it is. There’s so much conflicting information out there. Should you eat red meat or no? What about coconut oil? Keto, paleo, intermittent fasting, or vegan?
Not only that but there are so many options. There are an endless number of cookbooks, recipe developers, Instagram foodie accounts. You name it, it’s out there. But you don’t have to only eat beautifully-constructed meals that came from a recipe from your favorite food blogger that included an ingredient list that was 15+ items long.
If that’s your jam, hey, don’t let me stop you. But all I’m saying is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Anytime I build out a meal, I’m thinking about 4 things.
First off, a source of protein. This can be anything that sounds good to you – beef, chicken, seafood, fish, eggs, etc. Actually, if you want to know literally every protein source that’s available to you, visit our food list page and see all the options you have.
Spoiler alert – it’s a lot.
When it comes to portioning out protein, the amount you need is totally dependent on your lifestyle, goals, etc. BUT – a good guide to go by…for women, one palm-sized amount. For men, two palm-sized portions. That’s a good starting place.
If you need a way to get high-quality protein sources delivered right to your door, we recommend Butcher Box. Use the code UltimatePaleo10 for $10 off your order!
I always make sure to get some healthy fats on my plate – breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Fats are not to be feared! My go-to healthy fats are avocado, olive/macadamia/avocado oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, coconut (in all forms), and olives. You can also include nut butters in there but I try not to rely on those only…because I find them highly addicting 😅
You also want to make sure you’ve got some starch on your plate. Starchy vegetables are made up of carbohydrates that are essential for proper functioning of our body.
That being said, how many carbs you consume on a daily basis is – again – so incredibly individualized. So, if you have a question about that, work closely with a nutrition coach or healthcare professional who can determine that number for you.
But, in general, you need to be eating some amount of carbohydrates.
My favorite, paleo-friendly starches include sweet potatoes, yams, squashes of all sorts, and beets.
You could also throw fruit into this category. I try to keep my fruit consumption between 1-3 pieces/day.
I end my plate off with vegetables. For lunch, I try to get two different types of vegetables on my plate. Sometimes I can, sometimes it doesn’t happen. But that’s ok..it’s something I always try to work towards.
Vegetables are loaded down with micronutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that our body needs to not only function properly – but to feel its best.
The one I pay most attention to is fiber. The goal is to get at least 25g of fiber/day. By loading my plate down with 2 types of veggies, I usually hit that goal no problem.
So I focus on choosing one thing from each of those categories. Sometimes, they make sense together – for example, a hash with protein, sweet potatoes, vegetables, and avocado on the side. Sometimes, though, they might not go together at all – like Crockpot-cooked chicken, carrot and celery sticks, handful of nuts, and a piece of fruit.
Either way, it gets the job done.
Paleo Lunch Recipes
Now you know my secret formula for basically all of the meals that I eat.
That being said, we have plenty of lunch recipes from our archives that will fill you up and keep you happy until it’s time for dinner. Not only that, but nothing is too complicated so it won’t take much time out of your day. They’re all easily prep-able, so feel free to make a batch on a free day and portion out for the week.
Crunchy almonds, tangy cranberries, and savory beef amp the flavor of shredded Brussels sprouts. This quick meal is super filling, extra delicious, and amazingly nutritious.
It makes 2 servings, so if you’re making this for yourself, the leftovers will keep in the fridge for the next day!
This flavorful soup comes together in a flash. It’s healthy, comforting, and perfect for a cold winter day when you want dinner fast.
It makes six servings as written, so it’s the perfect prepped lunch option to get you through those cold winter months.
This paleo-friendly pesto spices up plain chicken. Place that delicious combo inside a warm sweet potato and you have a delicious lunch option. Serve with your favorite steamed veggie for a complete meal.
Pan seared salmon is extra crispy and delicious and adds flavor and protein to this quick and easy salad. This is a lunchtime classic. But pro tip – I would make this one the day of…just so the kale and salmon don’t get soggy.
These easy meatballs get their flavor from buffalo sauce. Rich and spicy, they are delicious when served with your favorite green veggie, but can be eaten with zucchini noodles or cauliflower rice as well.
Tuna salad is a classic lunch option. Takes me right back to my elementary school days. But the traditional recipe calls for mayonnaise – which isn’t always Paleo-friendly. (Looking for a Paleo mayo recipe – check out this recipe.)
You can forget the mayo and still have an awesome tuna salad option.
This alternative to traditional mayo based tuna salad will have you questioning all your previous choices when it comes to tuna. Eat this on celery or cucumber slices for the perfect high protein snack.
Ok, I know I already included a recipe for meatballs, but as I’m writing this, the leaves outside are changing from green to a bright red and the air is just a tad crisp.
I’m in a fall mood and craving all the fall foods, so I couldn’t leave these babies out of my round-up.
Again, you’ll want to pair these with your favorite vegetable or two and maybe some roasted squash. Yummm.
This is simple, healthy, delicious, and lets you take advantage of your grilling skills without overdoing it.
Grilling the chicken, marinated in a simple concoction of olive oil, tangy balsamic vinegar, and spicy Dijon mustard, ensures that the chicken is juicy and bursting with flavor.
Topping this delicious chicken on top of a simple salad takes the meal to a whole new level.
Stews are the best lunchtime meals because they’re easy to prep. They’ll last a few days in the fridge and you can easily portion them out into their own containers. I also love stews because you can throw a bunch of nutritious ingredients together and it ends up tasting great.
This is a quick and healthy classic beef and broccoli dish. The flavor in this recipe is brought out with the orange juice and vinegar. Mix in ginger to add a zing that keeps it from becoming too sweet. Don’t forget to season with salt and pepper, which will really bring out the flavor.
Double this recipe for a week’s worth of lunches.
I hope this quick explainer on paleo lunches helps all of you out there who find this to be a difficult meal to tackle. Maybe you like to throw things together (like me) or you’d rather make a recipe or two to get you through the week…no matter your preference, boring, difficult lunches are now a thing of the past!
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