How to Pack a Healthy Brown-Bag Lunch

Earlier this week, Disney announced that they’re requiring advertisers on their media properties to follow a strict set of nutritional guidelines. These guidelines will limit calories, saturated, fat, sodium and sugar in the foods that are advertised on Disney media. In addition, Disney will be making nutritional changes in their theme parks.

Disney is really taking a step in the right direction, and I think it’s important to follow their example. A really great way to eat healthier, and even save some money, is to pack a healthy lunch every day for work, school, or any other time you might be on the go. Eating out can lead to poorer food choices, high expenses, and expanding waistlines. Here are some ideas for easy, healthy lunches for kids and adults that won’t break the bank.

Vegetarian sandwich filling – I’m really lazy about getting out of bed early in the morning. I rarely have enough time to make a nice lunch, so this is a really great idea for something you can just throw in a bag and run out the door. Basically I make one bowl of sandwich filling at the beginning of the week, and then I have it for days to come. For the sandwich filling, you mix together a can of chickpeas (mashed), celery, onion, mayonnaise, lemon juice, dill, and salt and pepper. I always eat it with a piece of whole wheat pita bread. You can find the full recipe here. In the morning, just throw the bread and the bowl of filling in your bag, and you’re good to go.

Mozzarella and tomato salad – To break away from the usual garden salad and leave you feeling satisfied, there’s the mozzarella and tomato salad. Fresh spinach leaves are topped with tomato, cubed mozzarella, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and pepper. It’s a really fresh flavor that avoids fatty salad dressings. A good recipe for this classic salad can be found here.

Fruit and cheese plate – This is great for kids and way cheaper than pre-packaged snack packs. Fill a divided plate with your favorite fruit, cheese and crackers. You can slice up any easy-to-eat fruit like grapes, strawberries, apples, melon or whatever floats your boat. Just throw on some crackers like Triscuits or Wheat Thins, and a few slices of cheese, and you have a meal on a plate!

Fried rice – This is an easy recipe that you can eat hot or cold at lunch time. Simply toss cooked brown rice with sautéed onion, teriyaki sauce, parsley, garlic powder, pepper and egg. This is great served with a side of veggies, and the kids will love it! You can find a good recipe for fried rice here, but note that this recipe will be healthier if you use brown rice instead of white. If you want extra protein, you can add grilled chicken on top.

No lunch is quite as fulfilling without a couple of sides. Here are some of WebMD’s suggestions for ways to flesh out that brown-bag lunch.

  • fruit cups or applesauce (no sugar added)
  • nuts, like almonds, walnuts, pistachios or peanuts
  • raw veggies, like carrot sticks, snap peas, or celery
  • string cheese
  • healthy snack bars with 3 or more grams of fiber, less than 10 grams of sugar, and no more than 1 gram of saturated fat
  • yogurt – make sure to pack it with a reusable ice pack or frozen water bottle

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One Response to How to Pack a Healthy Brown-Bag Lunch

  1. Dakota June 8, 2012 at 2:44 pm #

    The vegetarian sandwich filling sounds so good. I’m going to make it this weekend to bring to work next week. Thanks for the tip!

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