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5 Healthy Brown-Bag Lunch Ideas

Taking lunch to work with you is easier on your wallet and can save you calories as well. Most restaurant food is deceptively high in calories no matter how “innocent” it sounds when you read the menu description.

When you pack a lunch you have control over what you eat and how many calories you take in. Need some ways to make it healthy but still satisfying? Give some of these ideas a try.

Repurpose leftovers

Prepare a dinner dish using a high-fibre grain like quinoa. Make extra to “repurpose” for lunch the next day. For your brown bag lunch, add black beans, cherry tomatoes, scallions, olives, chunks of broccoli or any other veggies you have left over along with a little olive oil for a healthy variation on the traditional salad. Quinoa is a good source of appetite-satisfying protein and fiber and has more nutritional value than rice. When you make a whole-grain like quinoa for dinner, make enough to use for lunch the next day ― or for several days.

Pita pockets

What could be simpler than stuffing a whole grain pita pocket with sliced veggies and low-fat cheese? Make it even more special by adding a tasty spread like red pepper hummus or basil pesto. Basil pesto is high in calories, but it’s a good source of heart-healthy fats and pine nuts. Research shows that pine nuts activate an appetite-suppressing hormone called CCK so you’ll get full quicker. You can even stuff last night’s leftovers into pita pockets, just make sure what you ate the evening before was healthy.

Soup to go

Make a batch of hot vegetable soup at the beginning of the week to take to work. Spoon into a thermos, and carry it with you on those cold, winter days to come. It’ll keep you warm and satisfied and ensure that you meet your veggie quota. Research shows that people who start a meal with soup consume fewer calories than those who don’t. To make veggie soup preparation faster, use frozen vegetables. With the right herbs and spices you won’t notice the difference.

What’s for lunch? Chicken salad!

You’ll never grow tired of chicken salad with so many ways to prepare it. Make a batch at the beginning of the week, and carry it to work as your “go to” lunch for the week. Enjoy it on whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita pockets. For extra nutritional points, prepare it with crunchy nuts, seeds, cranberries and other chopped fruit and use curry, dill or other spices that appeal to you. To reduce calories and add more protein, use plain Greek yogurt instead of mayo.

Spice things up with healthy dipping sauces

Raw veggies may not taste so great by themselves but dip them into a container of hummus or a low-calorie dressing or mustard sauce you prepare at home, and vegetables can be a real treat. With a health sauce to dip chicken or salmon into, you can skip the bread. Another idea? Put chunks of salmon and veggies on a stick to make kebobs and dip them into hummus.

The bottom line

Lunch doesn’t have to be the same old, same old. Skip the boring sandwich and give these inexpensive and healthy portable lunch ideas a try instead of heading to a fast food restaurant.
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