10 Delicious (and Healthy!) Lunch Ideas from around the World
Leave the greasy hamburger and fries for another day, and opt in to these healthier choices from around the world, instead.
Soup beats the heat in humid Singapore
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This tiny island nation is soupy hot, all year long. Even so, a healthy, popular lunch here is fish bee hoon soup. The delicious broth, lusciously garnished with Chinese parsley and fried onions, is low in saturated fat. It’s often served with a small platter of fresh, red chili peppers, which may even give this nutritious lunch an anti-cancer boost. (Did you know cayenne pepper has these six health benefits?) “Fish bee hoon is most commonly sold in hawker centers at an extremely affordable price. Boasting a base of thick rice noodles, the pale, white soup gets its rich, distinct flavor from fish stock, and a little bit of milk, with either boiled or fried fish slices as the star ingredient. Cubed tofu is often added, along with cooked tomatoes and high-fiber, nutritious vegetables,” says Felicia Lim, a food writer, and native Singaporean. “Be prepared to perspire while you eat this dish in hot, humid weather. I can assure you it’s worth every slurp!” she adds.
Go for the fresh fish in Mexico
International etiquette expert, Sharon Schweitzer, has lunched around the world. Mexico’s seminal lunch dish—ceviche—is one of her healthiest picks. “A traditional seafood dish, ceviche includes fresh fish, shrimp, diced vegetables, avocados, cilantro, and lime. It’s commonly found in coastal cities, and seafood restaurants throughout Mexico.” This no-cook delicacy gets its protein chops from fresh fish, such as tilapia, and an alphabet’s worth of vitamins, plus folate, from cilantro, its signature herb.
Savor Spain’s largest (and healthiest) meal of the day
Another favorite of Schweitzer’s is Spain’s paella. “Although lunch is the biggest meal of the day here, you can still eat healthy in Spain. Paella is a traditional Spanish dish, made with rice, oysters, shrimp, chicken, mussels, clams, fish, and lots of vegetables. It’s high in protein (and in taste) making it a popular choice.” Paella is usually served with other courses, such as a large, green salad, and crusty, whole-grain bread. If you’re looking for a truly authentic, Spanish lunch-time experience, savor every bit of paella slowly, with friends, and take a beneficial, midday nap, or long, leisurely walk afterwards. (Here’s why you should regularly take a nap every day.)
Staying slender in Croatia
You might think of heavy food when you think of Croatia, but natives have a few neat, slenderizing tricks up their sleeves, especially when it comes to the midday meal, Croatia’s largest of the day. “We have lots of fish, soup, and salad in our diet. Salads are our main, lunchtime side dish, and something simple as tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, marinated in vegetable oil, and a bit of vinegar, will be enough to minimize our intake of other foods. Same goes with soup. Instead of having a glass of water before a meal, we have a bowl of soup. (Try one of these chilled soup recipes for a different take!) This is part of the secret of how Europeans stay lean and skinny. It’s a habit we pick up from birth, and carry through our lives, loading up on soup and salads whenever possible,” says Croatian tech company founder, Nenad Ćuk.
Indulging in Ayurveda’s six tastes, Indian-style
Purvi Kamaliya, a travel enthusiast from India, still remembers the healthiest lunch of her life. “It was in the state of Gujarat, India. The lunch plates there are typically prepared, keeping the six tastes mentioned in Ayurveda, in mind. The food is wholesome, including grains, pulses (any dry legume that grows in a pod), dairy items, and perfectly balanced oil, combined with ghee (clarified butter). This food isn’t just healthy, but also unbelievably lip-smacking,” she says. The delicious, wide-ranging variety of lunch foods in this region include cooked, green vegetables seasoned with Indian spices, known locally as undhiyu, lentils cooked with a perfect blend of sweet, sour, pungent, salty, bitter, and astringent tastes, rice, and soft chapatis, cooked on an open fire, and greased with ghee. “Barley chapatis, seasoned with curry made from spiced up curd, (dhokla), are a distinctive dish. This scrumptious meal ends with a glass of buttermilk, mixed with cumin seed powder.” Spices and ingredients typically used in the preparation of these foods include dried fenugreek leaves, and seeds, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, chili powder, turmeric powder, lemon juice, and bay leaves. Learn more about the healing power of these 10 common spices.
You want (German) kraut juice with that?
In Germany, a healthy lunch is often built around spätzle, a German noodle made from healthy, nutrition-filled spelt flour. Guy Arthur, an American who runs an English language school here, recommends linsen mit spätzle, a super healthy version made from boiled lentils, mixed with garlic, and vinegar. “This healthy, traditional German lunch is, of course, always served with field salad, topped with shredded carrots. Germans love to make this dish extra healthy, by eating it with a nice glass of probiotic kraut juice,” he says. (These seven probiotic foods will boost your good gut bacteria.)
Local produce equals healthy eating in Switzerland
What happens when a registered dietitian has to leave sunny San Diego, and relocate to Switzerland, for her husband’s job? Amazingly healthy lunches, that’s what. “For lunch, the Swiss offer a wide variety of fresh salads (insaladas) at every restaurant, filled with local produce. By starting my meal off with a bowl of veggies, I begin to get satiated quickly from all the fiber. But, in order to still enjoy some of the delicious cheese, and bread, that’s in abundance in this country too, I’ve taken to splitting a pizza with the whole table. The pizza crust in Switzerland is so paper thin, that it’s just the right portion of delicious carbs to satisfy my fix without over doing it!” explains nutrition consultant, Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT. Birchermüesli, made especially healthy with high protein Swiss yogurt, and fruit, such as apples, and bananas, is another popular on-the-go lunch meal in this country.
Choosing healthy options in China
“It may be tempting to indulge in dumplings and egg rolls, at every meal, but Chinese cuisine offers numerous healthy lunch options,” says Schweitzer. She recommends Qīng zhēng yú, a flavorful, protein-based steamed fish dish, served with fresh vegetables. Another healthy Chinese favorite is Zǐ cài jī dàn tāng, (seaweed and egg soup), served in rich, clear broth.
Healthy feasting in Israel
Middle-Eastern cuisine is filled with healthy options. In Israel, a country that prides itself on healthy culinary choices, lunch is often comprised of Israeli salad—a delightfully simple combination of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Hummus and whole wheat crackers provide lots of healthy carbs and vegetarian protein. Shakshuka, a spicy egg dish prepared with tomato pepper sauce, is another yummy lunch go-to. Here are the best sources of plant-based protein.
Keeping it light in Italy
It may be renowned as the birthplace of pasta, and sumptuous pastries such as cannoli and tiramisu, but eating healthy in Italy is not only possible, its also delicious. “Mediterranean diets are rich in vegetables, legumes, lean proteins such as fish and chicken, and healthy fats, such as olive oil. Try ordering Caesar salad with chicken or salmon, or grilled mackerel, instead of fried calamari. You may order your pasta sinza frommagio (without cheese), or opt for an espresso, instead of red wine,” suggests Schweitzer.