It’s in the Bag

Denise Nowack, RD

Packing a lunch is a great way to save calories, money and time. The secret to making your brown-bag lunch interesting and nutritious is to plan ahead. Keep lunch in mind as you shop for the week.

The basics
Make fruits and veggies a brown-bag basic. Choose a variety of vegetables that can be enjoyed raw, like cherry tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, jicama, broccoli and celery. Some come pre-cleaned for quick and easy use. Dip them in hummus, low-fat ranch dressing or cottage cheese.

Build a better sandwich
Sandwiches are a sack lunch staple. But there is life beyond peanut butter and jelly. Vary your sandwich options by combining any of the tasty ideas below.

Cook once, eat twice
Make double batches of chili, soup and stews. Pack and freeze in individual serving size containers that can be reheated. Add a salad and a whole-grain roll and you’ve got lunch.

Plan for leftovers. Last night’s roasted chicken can be tossed with spinach, mandarin oranges and slivered almonds for a great lunch later in the week.

Make your own snack packs

Save money and watch your waistline by making your own 100-calorie snack packs. Buy in bulk, pack in sealable bags or reusable containers and you’ll have a nutritious snack you can throw in your lunch bag. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 12-15 almonds
  • 40 pretzel sticks
  • 10 walnut halves
  • 1/3 cup of whole-grain granola
  • 1 ¾ cup reduced-fat popcorn
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 12 mini-cheddar rice cakes
  • 15 chocolate-covered raisins
  • 10 baked corn chips

Grab & go items
No time to pack lunch? Stock up on these items that you can grab & go rather than go without.

  • Reduced-fat cheese sticks
  • Prepackaged salads or lunch kits (complete with all ingredients)
  • Yogurt in a single-serving container
  • Individual packaged veggies—some come complete with dip
  • Hardboiled eggs
  • Whole fruit—complete with their natural wrapper