Because the only thing better than meal prep is not having to do it as often.

By Alyssa Sparacino
Photo: Ted Cavanaugh

Lunch should be a bright spot in your day, with good, healthy food and some socializing to fuel you up. That's why we're big fans of the midday dine-together, in which members take turns making meals for the group. You get to eat things you wouldn't cook yourself, plus "it elevates your prep game, since you'll want to make a dish that shines," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D.N., the author of The Superfood Swap. These tips will keep things organized.

How to Make a Lunch Club

  1. Get four of your foodiest buds in on it. You'll have more fun with people who are in sync with your tastes.
  2. Decide on the ground rules. Should every lunch contain vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains? Are vegetarian dishes OK? Maybe even insist on experimenting with differ- ent cuisines. After all, eating a variety of foods will give you more of the vitamins and minerals you need.
  3. Create a weekly sign-up sheet. Yes, it really is worth it. You'll prevent reps and other lunch crises.
  4. Change up your location. An atrium, a park... the experience is half the fun. Sharing a meal makes you happy and relaxed, and can also lead to a leaner, healthier body, research shows.

Lunch Club Meal Ideas

Grain Bowls: Start with cooked farro, quinoa, or brown rice, then add chicken, red pepper, carrots, cucumbers, and sesame seeds. Or try salmon, tomatoes, basil, and olive oil for a Mediterranean-inspired meal (or of these other easy grain bowl recipes).

Mason Jar Salads: Put the dressing on the bottom and then layer vegetables, grains, and proteins. Try lettuce, chickpeas, tomatoes, black olives, and cheese, or spinach, chicken, quinoa, apples, and celery. (Here are 10 other mason jar meal ideas perfect for lunch.)

Chili: Make a big pot and divide into portions. Bring separate contain- ers of toppings like chopped scallions, cilantro, shredded cheese, and Greek yogurt. (Your friends will love these 15 healthy chili varieties.)

Soft Tacos: Supply all the fixings-chopped bell pepper, red onion, cabbage, tomatoes, chicken, black beans, cilantro, shredded cheese, salsa, Greek yogurt, and corn tortillas-and let everyone go to town. (These creative combos were made for Taco Tuesdays.)

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