If you're currently following a low carb eating plan, or you're looking to reduce your carb intake, these low carb lunch ideas will make preparing a midday meal so much easier.
The NHS recommends that we consume 260g of carbs daily. A low carb diet usually requires that you eat half that – so 130g carbs or less a day. Some diets such as the Keto diet only allow a daily intake of 50g or less in order to reach the fat-burning stage of ketosis (though it's strongly advised you speak to a health professional before trying this). If followed correctly, a low carb diet can help you lose weight, prevent sugar crashes and help manage diabetes.
If you want to eat low carb recipes throughout the week, aim for 30g or under per meal. To create easy low carb lunches focus on protein such as lean meat, eggs, tofu, nuts, and seeds, and limit or eliminate really starchy foods such as bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, and certainly avoid sugar. "Use less rice and bulk lunches up with cauliflower rice instead, or opt for one slice of toast loaded up with eggs and avocado rather than two slices of toast with butter and jam," says nutritionist Jenna Hope from Jenna Hope Nutrition.
"Choose your foods carefully, as certain food products can increase your carb intake while providing little to no nutritional value." comments nutritionist Daniel Harris. "As a rule of thumb, opt for low carb yet high protein foods such as chicken, 'above ground' vegetables, such as cauliflower, and alternatives to starchy foods such as bread and pasta. Equally, to maintain your energy levels for the afternoon ahead, opt for low sugar foods to avoid dealing with the dreaded afternoon crash."
Low carb lunch ideas
1. Chorizo and bean salad
Carbs: 21g | Calories: 352 | Saturated fat: 17.6g per portion
This quick and easy to prepare veg-packed salad is deceptively filling. The chorizo provides plenty of flavour and a hint of spice while the nutritious cannellini beans bring fiber, iron, magnesium, and protein to the plate. A balanced dish all round and one that can be enjoyed on a low carb eating plan.
Get the recipe: Chorizo and bean salad
2. Spanish-style prawns
Carbs: 8.7g | Calories: 169 | Saturated fat: 8.9g per portion
Enjoy succulent protein-rich prawns in a sweet, tangy Mediterranean tomato sauce and feel full until dinner time. At around 11g carbs per slice, you can serve with a piece of wholegrain bread and still keep this meal under 20g carbs.
Daniel says; "This recipe is a more indulgent lunchtime meal than others, as it contains sherry and bread, which are both higher in carbs. Prawns, however, are a great source of vitamins and minerals and contain calcium and iron which helps the heart and supports the immune system. Per 100g of cooked prawns, they contain only 0.2g of carbs, making them a great ingredient for a low carb diet."
Get the recipe: Spanish-style prawns recipe
3. Low-fat carrot soup
Carbs: 12g | Calories: 104 | Saturated fat: 3.5g per portion
While this low-fat recipe won't work for those on low carb high fat diet, it's still a low carb meal if you eat it without any bread. Just half a medium-sized carrot is one of your five-a-day, plus carrots are packed with beta-carotene which converts into vitamin A in the body – just what you need for healthy bones and teeth.
"A soup is a fantastic way to get all the nutrition you need for the day, on a low carb basis. Not only are carrots great low carb options, but perhaps more surprisingly the soft cheese is also a good addition to your meal – especially if you are on the keto diet. Soft cheese is a great source of fat which is low in carbs too." comments nutritionist Daniel Harris.
Get the recipe: Low fat carrot soup
4. Phil Vickery’s potato, apple and tuna frittata
Carbs: 13.8g | Calories: 351 | Saturated fat: 17.6g per portion
Although this frittata contains starchy potato, it's packed with protein thanks to the tuna and eggs. This tasty frittata from TV chef Phil Vickery is also full of nutritious fruit such as apple and veg such onion to make one flavour-packed lunch option. The sweetness of the apple and the softness of the potato and flaky tuna work wonders together.
Get the recipe: Phil Vickery’s potato, apple and tuna frittata
5. White fish and chorizo stew
Carbs: 16g | Calories: 391 | Saturated fat: 19g per portion
Not all stews require slow cooking. This flavourful Spanish-style dish takes around 15 minutes to cook and contains plenty of animal protein provided by the chorizo and fish. The fiber-rich beans will help keep your energy levels steady throughout the day. This hearty stew is just 391 calories per serving too, making it one of our great low calorie meals.
Get the recipe: White fish and chorizo stew
6. Lentil and bacon soup
Carbs: 24g | Calories: 224 | Saturated fat: 9.3g per portion
Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber, which will help you feel satisfied and keep your energy steady throughout the day. Although this soup is hearty it contains less than 10g fat per serving and only 24g carbs, which makes it another of our low carb lunch ideas worth making.
Daniel adds; "Another luxurious soup, this meal is a great low carb yet high protein soup. Bacon, in small doses, is a good source of fat and protein for those on the keto diet, as it is low carb. Although it isn’t recommended to eat this kind of meal too frequently, once in a while as a luxurious and hearty lunchtime meal will cause no harm."
Get the recipe: Lentil and bacon soup
7. Chicken Caesar salad with avocado
Carbs: 4g | Calories: 598 | Saturated fat: 51g per portion
At just 4g carbs per portion, this protein-enriched salad manages to be simultaneously healthy, moreish, and keto-friendly. The egg yolks, chicken, and anchovies are all fine sources of protein while avocado contains antioxidants that support eye health and heart-protecting fatty acids.
"Avocado is an indulgent plant food which is also low-carb and rich in vitamins and minerals and healthy fats. Avocado makes a great addition to a salad as it provides an extra depth to the salad, and the chicken breasts are a healthy option as breasts are much healthier than other cuts of chicken," comments Daniel.
Get the recipe: Chicken Caesar salad with avocado
8. Leftover turkey curry
Carbs: 20.6g | Calories: 434 | Saturated fat: 22.3g per portion
You don't need to wait until the day after Christmas to enjoy this high protein curry with lashings of veg, including peppers and tomatoes which are both great sources of vitamin C (which supports the immune system and is active in the production of collagen). Rustle up this easy dish in less than 15 minutes and you've got yourself a low carb lunch that will keep your mind off food until the evening. Just don't be tempted to add rice.
Get the recipe: Leftover turkey curry
9. Hot potato salad with smoked mackerel
Carbs: 26g | Calories: 500 | Saturated fat: 31g per portion
If you want to get your fill of oily fish – which is bursting with heart-healthy fatty acids – then choose this tasty salad. It even contains potatoes (though not enough to take it over 30g carbs per portion) which means low carb lunchers can tuck in. At 500 calories per portion, it's on the higher spectrum in terms of calories but it will certainly keep you fuller for longer.
Get the recipe: Hot potato salad with smoked mackerel
10. Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
Carbs: 13.8g | Calories: 327 | Saturated fat: 5.5g per portion
This classic dish can be eaten any time of the day, so don't just save it for brunch. Both the eggs and the smoked salmon pack a protein punch. Smoked salmon is also an oily fish known to provide heart-and-brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. To keep the carb content low, replace the toast with wilted spinach. Yet another of our low carb lunch ideas that will satisfy.
Get the recipe: Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon
11. Grilled peach salad with feta, bacon and green beans
Carbs: 9g | Calories: 280| Saturated fat: 11g per portion
This bright and bold combo of meat, cheese, and peaches is a delight – savoury, salty with a touch of sweet; it's got it all. Bacon provides protein, feta provides calcium for healthy bones and teeth, and peaches are a good source of fiber. It's super low in carbs, too.
Nutritionist Daniel Harris says; "Incorporating fruits into a low-carb or keto diet can be difficult, as fruits are naturally high in sugars and carbs, however peaches and nectarines are a great addition to this salad as they provide freshness within the salad without high carb content. For every 100g of peaches and nectarines, there is only 8g of carbs."
Get the recipe: Grilled peach salad with feta, bacon and green beans
12. Baked lamb steaks
Carbs: 17.4g | Calories: 364 | Saturated fat: 17.1g per portion
Eating protein-rich lamb is a good way to keep you fuller for longer. Lamb is also a great choice for adding more iron, zinc, and vitamin B12 to your diet – these essential minerals and vitamins help to maintain muscle and keep tiredness at bay. You will lose even more carbs from this dish if you swap the potatoes for a green salad.
Get the recipe: Baked lamb steaks
13. Cauliflower steaks with anchovy and lemon butter
Carbs: 8g | Calories: 206 | Saturated fat: 16g per portion
This is an ideal dish if you're on a flexitarian diet or want to minimise your intake of meat. Ready in 15-20 minutes, the cauliflower steak is smothered in a rich and tasty butter that contains a good dose of calcium, thanks to the dairy and anchovies. Yet another of our low carb lunch ideas that will satisfy.
Get the recipe: Cauliflower steaks with anchovy and lemon butter
14. Roast squash, burrata and green bean salad
Carbs: 11g | Calories: 220 | Saturated fat: 150g per portion
This gorgeous salad is high in fat but low in carbs so would work on a keto diet. There are two types of veg; squash, which is an excellent source of vitamin C and beta-carotene for eye health, and fiber-rich green beans – plus hazelnuts, which are known to be a good plant source of omega-3 fatty acids.
"Butternut squash is a low-carb and keto diet dream as despite being a starchier vegetable, it is naturally low in carbs so can easily be incorporated into low carb and keto diets. Squash actually has a very similar nutrient profile to courgette, as they are high in vitamin c yet contain only 3g of carbohydrate per serving," adds Daniel.
Get the recipe: Roast squash, burrata and green bean salad
15. Crunchy tuna filler
Carbs: 10.6g | Calories: 190 | Saturated fat: 1.3g per portion
Another of our low carb lunch ideas, this mix of tinned tuna (which although tinned contains omega-3), red pepper, cucumber, and onion can be eaten in lettuce cups for a light yet nutritious keto-style alternative to a traditional sandwich. Choose wholemeal bread or opt to scatter this tuna filler over a fresh bed of salad leaves instead.
Get the recipe: Crunchy tuna filler
16. Bacon and blue cheese salad
Carbs: 3.6g | Calories: 347 | Saturated fat: 12.1g per portion
Last on our low carb lunch ideas list is this dish. Judging by the protein-heavy ingredients (bacon and blue cheese) and the lack of starches (not a potato in sight) you can safely assume that this is a keto-style salad that will tantalise your tastebuds without the need for carbs. At just 3.6 grams of carbs per portion, this lunch is certainly a low carb contender.
Get the recipe: Bacon and blue cheese salad
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Debra Waters is an experienced online editor and parenting writer. She also has a strong background on health, wellbeing, beauty, and food. She currently writes for Goodto and Woman&Home, and print publications Woman, Woman’s Own, and Woman’s Weekly. Debra has written for What to Expect, Everyday Health, and Time Out. In addition, she has had articles published in The Telegraph and The Big Issue.
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