Packing a Healthy Lunch

Bringing a brown bag lunch to work or school every day is a great way to save money.  It is also a good strategy to ensure a healthy meal.  When buying your lunch out, it can be difficult to navigate your way through the hamburgers, French fries, and pizza as well as the excessive portions for only $0.25 more!  When you are already hungry and making these choices, chances are the enticing fried, salty or sugar items will win out.  You may be in heaven during your first few bites, but by the end of lunch you realize that you shot yourself in the foot. 

Being prepared can help you avoid this situation and prevent the scale from slowly creeping up as you have a ‘special’ meal every lunch.  Over the weekend, plan out your week.  The way I see it, there are plenty of different ways to pack a health lunch but there are a couple of things that I always keep in the back of my mind.

  1. Do you have all 5 food groups? – protein, fruit, vegetable, grain, dairy. 
  2. Will this satisfy you until you get home?
  3. Do you have a beverage?

If I have answered yes to these questions, I’m in pretty good shape.  Having all 5 food groups is an easy way to ensure diversity in texture, flavor, and nutrients.  It also prevents having much of one thing.  Ever open a lunch and realize that it is all carbohydrates? UN-satisfying, which brings me to criteria number 2. 

Even with hitting all the food groups, choosing too many low calorie options can be just as bad as the opposite.  If you are still hungry after your lunch, you may go make an impulse purchase of chips or a pastry which pretty much un does everything.  If you know that you will not be satisfied without something sweet, work it in.  There is nothing to say a piece of chocolate cannot fit, just cover your bases first. 

Finally, having a beverage completes the meal.  Its unlikely that you would sit down to dinner without one, why go without at lunch?  I usually just have a water bottle but I miss it if I forget.  Drinking with your meal can help to fill you up and slow down your eating.  It can also help with satiety.  Frequently, we can misinterpret thirst as hunger and then overeat.  Toss in whatever beverage you want (avoiding empty calories would be ideal) and you have a complete lunch!

Need help coming up with ideas? Look no further!

VegetablesVegetable Collage

  • Salad – For ideas check out Making a Worth While Salad
  • Plain veggies/veggies with dip – baby carrots, celery, and peppers are easy options
  • Leftovers – That batch of roasted broccoli or zucchini will taste just as good today as it did last night

FruitFruit Collage

  • Whole fruit – toss in a banana, orange, apple, plum, pear, whatever is in season
  • Dried fruit – apricots, raisins, and dried cranberries keep well so buy in bulk
  • Fruit cups – individual servings of fruit packed in their own juice will stay fresh
  • Frozen fruit – Put your favorite frozen fruit in a Tupperware and by lunch it will be thawed. Try cherries, mango, or pineapple

GrainsGrain Collage

  • Bread or a wrap on a sandwich – whole grains are best, the fiber will help fill you
  • Crackers – triscuits, wheat thins, multi-grain, or water crackers
  • Rice or pasta – there are some microwavable options or this is another opportunity to use up what’s in the fridge

ProteinProtein Collage

  • Lunch meat – turkey, chicken, roast beef, or ham
  • Beans or chicken tossed into a salad – bring the chicken in a separate container, heat it up in the microwave and then add it
  • Nut Butter – classic peanut butter or some of the trendier types including almond butter, sunflower butter and sesame butter
  • Tuna, chicken, or egg salad – can be a sandwich or a side.  make on batch and use it for a couple days

DairyDairy Collage

  • Slice of cheese on a sandwich –
  • Yogurt – regular, Greek, plain or fruited, there are so many options now, there is one out there for you
  • Cheese spread – now I’m not talking about Cheeze-Wiz, but something like Laughing Cow Wedges to have with veggies or crackers





What are your lunch staples?


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