The Best Packaged Vegetarian Lunches from the Grocery Store

The grocery store is not an easy place to navigate for a vegetarian. There are entire departments of food to work around and food labels often present even more conundrums. No matter what your diet looks like, convenience food can be a necessity, even when you’re of the meat-free persuasion.

We recently completed our first-ever Healthy Food Awards at DietsInReview and found 13 foods in 13 categories that stood out as all stars with their nutrition, ingredient, and taste profiles. Sometimes, the vegetarian option won out, and with efforts like Meatless Monday, it’s nice to find simple ways for people to adopt this eating practice.

Two of the best vegetarian options we found also make for delicious, satisfying lunches you can squeeze in between meetings at the office. Some lunch is better than no lunch at all, but when it can be quick, easy, satisfying, and meatless, then you’ve got a serious winner.

In the frozen foods category, we reviewed a few options that met our nutrition criteria, determined by our resident nutrition expert Mary Hartley, RD. We looked for frozen meals with 300-450 calories, no trans fat, less than 3.5 grams of fat, at least five grams of fiber, no more than 600 milligrams of sodium, and a minimal amount of sugar. It wasn’t an easy task. We were excited when a lesser-known brand from the health food section revealed itself, and after reviewing the nutrition, ingredients, and taste, we deemed Lightlife the winner!

This frozen lunch met all of our nutrition criteria and blew us away with flavor. Specifically, the Ole Santa Fe Chik’n with brown rice, beans, peppers, cheese, with a spicy sauce was as good, if not better, than the usual burrito bowl lunch, but obviously way better for us! When we learned the company gives back 5 percent to nonprofits, uses recyclable packaging, and non-GMO ingredients, it was hard to pick anything else.

Another category we reviewed was canned soups, a staple in most American pantries. These cans are easy to keep at the office, affordable, and provide a satisfying lunch in minutes. It’s hard not to sing the praises of soup. However, most canned soups are chock-full of sodium, more than is necessary, so we knew our hunt would be a challenge. Hartley’s recommended nutrition for soup was no more than 150 calories per serving, less than 3 grams of fat, at least 3 grams of fiber, and no more than 480 milligrams of sodium.

The Progresso Light soups were just what we were looking for. We especially liked the classic vegetable and noodle flavor, with a mere 60 calories and 4 grams of fiber. It was filling with a delicious savory flavor that is available in their other meatless soups like Zesty Southwestern-Style Vegetable, Savory Vegetable Barley, and Homestyle Vegetable and Rice. We also liked that these soups display the Weight Watchers PointsPlus values, which for the vegetable and noodle was only 1 PointsPlus.

Keep your eyes open the next time you’re grocery shopping and you’re sure to find a few vegetarian options in unexpected places, too.

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Elisabeth T.
Elisabeth T5 years ago

Thank you for the information....

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W5 years ago

good idea

Terri B.
Terri B5 years ago

this is good to know!

Kirby Ledvina
Kirby Ledvina5 years ago

Careful about the Progresso soups. The examples you listed and many other Progresso "meatless" options are actually made with chicken broth.

Shannon A.
Shannon Adolph5 years ago

These canned soups contain BPA in the can liner, which leeches into the soup. This is incredibly unhealthy. Blech.

Sheri P.
Sheri P5 years ago

this is all well and good but homemade is better. i'm glad i don't have to rely on pre-packaged...

Barbara Charis
Barbara Charis5 years ago

Pre-packaged food is more costly and not environmentally-sound. In this day when money is tight, it is healthier to prepare one's own food.. and avoid doctor's bills, too. I can't tolerate additional sodium...600 mg is excessive to me. Forty years ago the standard was around 400-500 mg. daily. . The food industry wasn't happy with up it went to 2000

Kathy K.
Kathy K5 years ago


Kathy K.
Kathy K5 years ago


Hanna Sjoberg
Hanna Sjöberg5 years ago

Thank you for sharing.