The Keto diet allows for fewer than 50 grams of complex carbohydrates per day, with around 75% healthy fats, 20% protein and 5% carbs, though these percentages can vary based on individual needs. Adhering to this general rule encourages your body to get energy from ketones, burn fat and keep muscles adequately nourished. All this is easy to state on “paper,” but things can get complicated when you’re trying to make meals that adhere to the Keto plan. That’s why we put together these Keto lunch options along with items that help make things interesting.
Preparing for These Keto Lunch Recipes
If you’re like most people, lunch is most often eaten at work or on the go. If it’s a weekday, you may bring your lunch to work and eat in the office kitchen or at your desk. If it’s a weekend, you may be so busy you tend to eat lunch in the car or on the sidelines of your kid’s soccer game. If you eat lunch anywhere other than your kitchen table, you’ll need to invest in a variety of storage containers that will hold your Keto lunch and keep it fresh until you’re ready to eat.
Some people prefer plastic storage containers because they're lightweight. Others don’t want plastic touching their food, so they prefer glass. If you use plastic, be sure to opt for brands that market as “leak-proof.” In some cases, lids that screw on versus lids that snap on do a better job preventing spills. For glass storage, you can reuse sauce jars, which make excellent storage units and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. If you’re concerned about the glass jar shattering, tuck it into a beverage cozy.
If you're looking to start the keto diet- consider some of these options:
Jar salads are fun to make, appetizing to look at and easy to enjoy as a lunch on the run. To make them, just layer the ingredients in the jar with the dressing and wet ingredients on the bottom to prevent sogginess. Layer on top other items like eggs or protein, avocado, spinach or shredded cabbage, cheese, tomato, banana peppers, red peppers, shredded carrots and sesame seeds. Leave room at the top to be able to shake the jar to mix ingredients when you’re ready to eat. Makes 1 serving -- and you can add a tablespoon of the salad dressing below to add some great flavor!
Jar Salad Dressing
Try this interesting take on a traditional vinaigrette.
- ¾ cup fresh-squeezed blood orange juice
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced shallot
- 2 teaspoons mustard
- salt and pepper to taste
Shake thoroughly before dressing the salad. This recipe makes 8 servings of 2 Tbsp each.
Nutrients (per 2 Tbsp): 10 calories, 0g fat, 140mg sodium, 3g carbs, 2g sugar, 0g protein.
Old-fashioned chicken soup is a great Keto-friendly lunch, despite being a bit lower in fat content. Don’t wait until you have a cold to enjoy this classic. It’s got the protein, fat and complex carbs that fit perfectly into your Keto diet plan. Here’s a simple recipe to make from scratch. This would make 3 servings.
- 2 roasted chicken breasts, shredded
- 3 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small onion, diced
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons thyme
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Optional: romano cheese
Sautée the onion and garlic and thyme in the olive oil until tender. Toss in the carrots and stir thoroughly. Add the chicken and the broth. Bring to a boil; then cover and simmer for half an hour. Enjoy with a shaving of Romano cheese if desired. Chicken soup travels well, especially in a glass jar. If storing in plastic, allow it to cool before pouring into the plastic storage container.
Pair this warming soup with a salad with avocado and olive oil based dressing to up your meal fat content.
This recipe makes 3 servings.
Nutrients (including cheese): 320 calories, 11g fat, 3g sat fat, 1110mg sodium, 12g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g sugar, 45g protein.
If you want to reduce the sodium content, choose a low-sodium chicken broth.
Steak and Peppers and Onions
Another really simple Keto lunch is sautéed flank steak with onions and peppers. You don’t even need to add any seasoning except for salt and pepper because the flavors of the onion and other ingredients bring out the flavor in the meat. Makes 2 servings.
- ½-pound flank steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 small onion, sliced lengthwise
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 scallion, sliced
- 1 bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Sauté all the ingredients together until tender. Store in a glass container for lunch on the go or enjoy while it’s hot at home.
Nutrients per serving: 260 calories, 14g fat, 4g sat fat, 70mg sodium, 8g carbs, 2g fiber, 4g sugar, 26g protein.
Crab Cakes, Keto-Style
If you’re a fan of crab cakes, you probably thought you couldn’t have them on the Keto diet plan. But this clever variation ensures that you get the savory flavor of crab cakes without the carb overload. Makes 4 small crab cakes.
The recipe calls for ½ cup dry oats which provides 24g net carbs.
- 2-1/2 cups crab meat (be sure it’s real crab, not “krab” meat)
- 1 medium egg yolk
- ½ cup oats (not the fast-cooking kind)
- 1 avocado, mashed
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons parsley
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- Combine the crab meat, egg yolk, oats, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and parsley in a bowl. Add a pinch each of salt and pepper and mix in thoroughly.
- Form into small patties.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet.
- Fry the patties for a few minutes until golden brown on each side.
- Drain on paper towels.
- Garnish with the mashed avocado, but only when you’re ready to eat.
To bring these crab cakes to the office, wrap in paper towels and store in a paper lunch bag. Keep the mashed avocado in a separate container with a drop of lemon juice on top to prevent browning.
Recipe makes 4 cakes.
Nutrients per crab cake: 150 calories, 11g fat, 6g sat fat, 65mg sodium, 9g carbs, 3g fiber, 0g sugar, 5g protein.
When You Stick With the 70/20/5 Ratio
You don’t have to worry so much about net carbs versus whole carbs. The crab cakes recipe does call for oats, but the ratio fits in with the Keto plan perfectly.
The other consideration when eating the Keto way is to ensure that you get plenty of healthy protein, as you do with all the recipes listed. Good fats in these recipes come from avocado, chicken broth, oils and beef.
There are lots of other ways to enjoy Keto lunches without ever feeling deprived or feeling as if you’re eating the same way every day. Try adding nut butters to your diet for a good source of healthy fats and protein in every serving.
Written by Kathleen Simmons
Kathleen Simmons holds a Master's Level Nutrition and Wellness Certification from the American Fitness Professionals & Associates. She is a firm advocate of the Keto diet lifestyle, both personally and in her professional life.
Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RDN, LD.