English Language Blog

American Lunch Food Posted by on May 8, 2018 in Culture

Last month we took a look at what Americans like to eat for breakfast. Now it’s time to see what people usually eat for their afternoon meal. In this post we’ll learn a bit about American lunch food. I apologize in advance if reading this makes you hungry!

Lunch in the USA

What and where people eat lunch depends on the day of the week. From Monday to Friday, most people get a lunch break in the middle of the day. Usually this is about an hour long. Students typically eat in the school cafeteria. Their parents might pack a lunch for them, or they eat whatever is on the menu at school.

A popular lunch spot in my hometown of Detroit.

Adults tend to eat at or near their workplace. Some people bring a bagged lunch from home while others choose to eat out. Those who are short on time may order takeout or have something delivered.

On the weekend, there’s more time to enjoy a leisurely lunch with friends or family. Now let’s take a look at some common American lunch foods.


Americans love eating sandwiches for lunch. There really is no better food for lunch. They’re easy to make, easy to take to work or school, and easy to eat. The basic idea of a sandwich is simple – take two pieces of bread and put something in between them.

Americans start eating sandwiches for lunch when they’re young. One of the most common items school children eat for lunch is a PB&J (peanut butter & jelly) sandwich. I can remember eating these almost every day when I was in elementary school.

A New Orleans po boy sandwich.

Other than PB&J, most sandwiches are a combination of some kind of lunch meat, cheese, vegetables, and condiments. For lunch meat, you can choose turkey, ham, salami, roast beef, corned beef – the list goes on and on. You’ve got even more choices when it comes to cheese. There’s cheddar, provolone, muenster, Colby Jack, and so many more. Perhaps we should have a whole post just on sandwiches! The options really are endless.

Soup & Salad

The most popular combination for lunch is probably soup & salad. Many restaurants offer a combo meal for lunch with your choice of soup and salad. Just like sandwiches, you can make a salad in may different ways.

A delicious southwest chicken salad.

Most restaurants will have a standard house salad as well as a few other options. One of the most popular is a Caesar salad. For soup, there’s usually a soup of the day. Other common flavors include tomato, vegetable, and chicken noodle. With all the different options, you could have soup & salad every day and never get bored!


Americans love their snacks. Snacks are small items of food that you eat in between meals. With a busy day and a short lunch break, a lot of people like to bring some snacks to school or work.

A table full of snacks at a party.

Some popular snack items include sliced fruit, baby carrots, granola bars, trail mix, and potato chips. Having a snack around helps you avoid hunger and helps get you through the long day.

Fast Food

Since most people don’t have a very long lunch break, fast food is very popular. Some might even call the United States a “fast food nation.” You’re never too far away from a popular fast food restaurant such as McDonald’s, Burger King, or Wendy’s. These places are known for their hamburgers, French fries, and chicken nuggets. It’s not the healthiest choice, but it’s quick, cheap, and delicious.

American Lunch Food

In ‘N Out is one of my favorite fast food places.

In big cities, there are always food carts around big office buildings. In New York City, it seems like there’s a food cart on every corner selling hot dogs. It’s also more and more common to see food trucks, which drive to different areas throughout the day. They usually have around five different items on the menu for you to choose from.

Lunch Specials

Many sit-down restaurants will offer a lunch special to try and get people in the door during the week. Some offer a different discount each day, such as 2-for-1 or 25% off. Others have a set menu where you get a main course, a drink, and maybe even a dessert. Some restaurants even do an all you can eat buffet for lunch. There’s an Indian restaurant in my wife’s hometown that has an amazing lunch buffet and we go there every time we visit her family. Of course, after eating so much for lunch you might want to take a nap and not go back to work!


On the weekend when people are free, there’s more time to go out to lunch. Actually, weekends are usually for brunch. “What’s brunch?”, you may be asking yourself. Brunch is a meal eaten late in the morning, between the usual breakfast and lunch times. Get it – breakfast + lunch = brunch.

Mmm… Eggs Benedict!

Brunch is a very casual meal where people like to stay for a long time and enjoy the company of others. Since the weekdays are so busy, it’s nice to relax and enjoy a meal with friends or family. Most restaurants will have a special brunch menu just for the weekends. I love getting Eggs Benedict and a Bloody Mary when I go out to brunch.


Now you know a bit more about what Americans like to eat for lunch. What do people usually eat for lunch where you’re from? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.


  1. Wendy:

    I’m from China. In our country lunch is every important. We will prepare many kinds of food, such as meat , fish, seafood, vegetable and we must be eat rice. Some time we maybe have business meal , we need drinking wine, such as Chinese white wine or beer.

    • sasha:

      @Wendy Thanks for the comment, Wendy! I actually lived in China for several years, and I remember the huge lunches. I always wanted to take a nap after those, especially when there was bai jiu!