Chances are you clicked on this article not just because you’re looking for paleo lunch ideas, but because you recently found yourself in one of the two following situations.
Scenario one: You eat what could be called a “standard” diet with plenty of bread, dairy, and sugar.
Your lunch usually consists of a sandwich, maybe with a snack on either side like a granola bar or some yogurt.
You haven’t had any luck finding a paleo sandwich at any of your usual lunch spots, so you’re not sure where to start with converting your lunch to something more paleo.
Scenario two: you’ve attempted to create your own paleo lunch but it didn’t go so great.
You started off strong with an apple, celery sticks, and some chicken breast with lettuce. It looked super healthy and didn’t have any non-paleo ingredients, but you were starving again not long after lunch.
You might have decided paleo was bland and unsustainable, or caved and eaten a bag of chips because potatoes are paleo, right?
Paleo is supposed to be as simple as just eating “real food”.
But if it were really that simple, there probably wouldn’t need to be articles like this one helping to figure out what they should eat for lunch instead of their usual PB&J sandwich.
Eating paleo isn’t hard, but it isn’t completely simple, either. It’s a big departure from the standard grain-and-sugar heavy diets most people have followed their entire lives.
There’s also more to it than throwing a random assortment of paleo-approved foods in your lunchbox and heading to work.
Whether you’re not sure where to start or have been feeling more fail-eo than paleo, there are so many simple and delicious paleo lunch ideas that won’t leave you feeling hungry or deprived.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- The Do and Do Not Eat List for Paleo Lunches
- Can’t I Just Eat Leftovers?
- What About Snacks?
- 30 Paleo Lunch Recipes
- The Foolproof Way to Have a Great Paleo Lunch Every Day
The Do and Do Not Eat List for Paleo Lunches
Paleo excludes grains, dairy, sugar, and legumes. So what does this mean in the context of your lunchbox?
Take a look at these common non-paleo foods that might be hiding in your lunch:
- Bread, wrap, tortilla or bun made from wheat or gluten-free grains
- Grains such as lentils, bulgur, couscous, pasta, or rice (the paleo jury is still out on quinoa and buckwheat)
- Mayonnaise made from non-paleo oils such as canola, sunflower, or soy
- Spreads, sauces, and dressings containing milk, added sugar, or non-paleo oils
- Peanut butter
- Mock meat made from soy
- Veggie burger patty made from soy or other beans
- Beans such as kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas
- Cured meat containing added sugar
- Canned fish in non-paleo oils
- Butter and margarine
You could probably make a few non-paleo lunches with all those foods alone!
But if you want to take the paleo route, there are some great alternatives. You can find a more comprehensive list of recipes further down, but here are some simple swaps to paleo-fy your lunch:
- Wraps made from lettuce, greens, or nori sheets
- Bread made from almond or coconut flour, or cauliflower
- Sliced sweet potato
- Nutritional yeast
- Non-dairy, non-soy cheese
- Cauliflower, broccoli, or sweet potato “rice”
Non-paleo sauces, spreads, and dressings
- Apple cider vinegar
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut aminos
- Mayonnaise made from olive or avocado oil
- Non-peanut nut butter
Mock meat or cheese made from soy
- Walnut mince
Veggie burgers made from legumes
- Veggie burgers or fritters made from beetroot, zucchini, or cauliflower
- Cauliflower falafel
- Nuts such as cashews
Cured meat containing sugar
- Cured meat without sugar
Canned fish in non-paleo oils
- Canned fish in brine or olive oil
Butter and margarine
- Coconut oil
As you can see, creating a paleo meal is easy if you know what to replace those key ingredients with.
Can’t I Just Eat Leftovers?
Sure you can. You can totally make an extra-large batch of whatever dinner you’re cooking so you can have leftovers for lunch the next day.
But leftovers for lunch aren’t for everyone. Here’s why.
It’s possible you don’t have access to a microwave to reheat your leftovers. Or perhaps you prefer something a bit lighter than a homecooked meal in the middle of the day.
Or maybe you need your lunch to actually look like lunch. You know, something you can quickly assemble before running out the door in the morning.
What About Snacks?
There’s no rule against snacking on paleo, but you might be more satisfied skipping the snacks in favor of a larger lunch. This can be as simple as including your snacks with your meal rather than spacing them out.
If you do want to snack, make sure you have something paleo-appropriate on hand. Fruit, nuts, and cut up vegetables work great in a pinch.
30 Paleo Lunch Recipes
Don’t spend another lunch eating a bland salad or raiding the local cafe’s sandwich display. Get inspired (and prepared) with these 30 paleo lunch recipes.
Iceberg lettuce and some shredded carrot? You can do better than that. These epic paleo salads are balanced, filling, and super tasty.
- Cuban Sandwich Bowls
- Salmon Poke Bowls With Pineapple And Avocado Recipe
- Cucumber Radish Salad with Citrus Basil Vinaigrette and Grilled Chicken
- Chicken-Bacon Salad
- Roasted Winter Veggie Power Bowl
Sandwiches & Wraps
It’s okay to miss sandwiches. But these paleo alternatives are so amazing that you won’t want to go back to the real deal.
- Paleo Club Sandwich
- Tuna Chard Wraps with Fresh Dill Sauce
- Summer Rolls
- Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cauliflower Sandwiches
- One Pan Steak Fajita Lettuce Wraps
Sure, your kids can eat the same lunch as the rest of the family, but making them fun and easy-to-grab means they’re less likely to return home with a still-full lunchbox.
These kid-appropriate paleo lunches are so good they might even keep your kids from eating their friends’ sandwiches.
- Turkey BLTA Roll-Ups
- Sugar Free Keto Low Carb Granola Bars
- Paleo Herbed Sweet Potato Savory Muffins
- Paleo Pretzel Dogs
- Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Ham Wraps
Vegan & Vegetarian
You don’t need animal products to make a paleo lunch! These plant-based options are totally free from eggs, meat, honey, and dairy (yes, even ghee).
- Vegan Kale Caesar Salad Recipe
- Pumpkin Seed and Herb Salad
- California Avocado Matcha Chia Pudding
- Sweet Potato Pumpkin Fritters
- Kale Salad with Goji Berries & Maple Roasted Almonds
Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)
Are you following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)? Then you likely know the annoying experience of finding an amazing lunch recipe only to discover it contains ingredients that you can’t eat, like eggs or nightshades.
Fortunately, these lunch recipes are totally AIP-compliant.
- Smoked Salmon With Fresh Vegetables
- AIP Zucchini Fritters
- Vietnamese Lemongrass Meatball Bowl
- Health in a Jar Meal Prep Salad
- Tilapia Lettuce Wraps with Mango Papaya Salsa
A little preparation on a Sunday can provide you with lunches for the entire work week. These make-ahead options are also great paired with any paleo salad.
- Cauliflower Pizza Bites
- Grilled Pesto Shrimp Skewers
- Spinach and Mushroom Frittata
- Veggie Fritters with Chive Coconut Cream
- Greek Chicken Kabobs
The Foolproof Way to Have a Great Paleo Lunch Every Day
Your paleo journey might not be smooth sailing from day one. But whether it’s an experimental yet unpalatable lunch creation or having no idea what to do when you leave your lunch at home, there’s always a paleo solution available.
You eat lunch every day, so there’s no excuse to be unprepared.
Keep some simple paleo options on hand so you can easily whip up a paleo lunch. That could include keeping some tinned fish and nuts in your desk drawer at work, or having pre-cooked salad ingredients in the fridge ready to go.
Creating the Perfect Paleo Lunch
Variety is the spice of life, and also any paleo diet.
Make sure your lunch contains not just a good mixture of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, but textures and flavors, too.
Add some seeds to your salad. Put some roast beets in your collard wrap. Have a couple of different options to eat throughout the week. It’s all about keeping your diet interesting.
How to Buy a Paleo Lunch Just About Anywhere
If you have access to a grocery store, you can grab some fresh lettuce or baby spinach, an avocado, a lemon, some nuts or seeds and meat, such as pre-cooked chicken or smoked salmon. Now you’ve got yourself a simple paleo salad.
Ordering out? Start out with a protein, like meat or eggs. Nix the grains and dairy and opt for a base of vegetables instead. This might mean ordering the garden salad, or asking for a bed of greens.
Sauces are often loaded with sugar and non-paleo oils, so swap it out for simple olive oil and lemon. Don’t be afraid to ask what your meal is cooked in, as many restaurants cook in butter.
If your lunch order is looking a little light, add the magic ingredient: Avocado. It’s a great way to give your lunch a boost of fat and make it a complete meal.
Do you follow a paleo diet? We’d love to hear what you regularly eat for lunch, so comment below and share your go-to meals!