New and Healthy Brown Bag Lunches

Are you one to pack your lunch every day or do you find yourself relying on vending machines and fast food? When we eat out, we tend to take in more calories, unhealthy fats, and sodium than when we eat at home. But when you pack your lunch, you have 100% control over your meal.

Taking a homemade lunch to work or school is an easy step toward a healthier lifestyle. But you should still be aware of your food choices and portions when packing your own lunch. Check out the sample homemade lunch below, and then see how you can make some quick nutrition fixes for a more nutritious meal.

Original Lunch

1 sandwich made with:

  • 2 pieces of country white bread
  • 2 ounces of salami
  • 1 slice of provolone cheese
  • lettuce
  • 2 tablespoons mayo
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard

1-ounce bag of potato chips
2 small chocolate chip cookies
12-ounce can of regular soda

Nutrition information: 1040 calories, 108 grams of carbohydrate, 17 grams saturated fat, 1700 mg of sodium, and just 4 grams of fiber.

Some Easy Nutrition Fixes

Can you think of a few easy ways to improve this meal? Here are some quick nutrition fixes that you could start with:

On the sandwich:

  • Substitute the white bread with 100% whole wheat bread for more fiber. If you want less carbs, choose a low-carb bread or try an open-faced sandwich. 
  • Choose a meat that is leaner and less processed than salami like roast beef, grilled chicken breast, or lean roasted turkey. When buying deli meats, choose reduced-sodium varieties. 
  • Try reduced-fat cheese to cut down on saturated fat. You can also skip the cheese all together and add more veggies like tomato, cucumber, shredded carrots, or bell pepper slices. You could also add some avocado which is a good source of heart-healthy fats. 
  • Switch to light mayo which is half the calories. Or, you can skip the mayo and just enjoy the mustard. Mustard is a very low-calorie condiment whereas regular mayo has almost 100 calories per tablespoon.

For the sides:

  • Instead of chips, try a small handful of unsalted nuts, ½ cup of bean salad, or some carrots and hummus.
  • Instead of cookies, try a serving of fruit to curb your sweet tooth.
  • Remember it’s best to skip the sugary drinks like soda, fruit punch, and lemonade. Instead, get in the habit of carrying a reusable water bottle with you and drink water throughout the day to stay hydrated. You could also opt for unsweetened iced tea or even diet soda to replace the regular soda at lunch.

Meal Makeover:

1 open-faced sandwich made with:

  • 1 piece of 100% whole wheat bread, toasted
  • 2 ounces rotisserie chicken breast
  • 3 slices avocado
  • 2 tomato slices
  • Lettuce
  • a squirt of mustard

10 baby carrots
2 tablespoons hummus
1 fresh peach

You can have all this for a much more reasonable: 390 calories, 49 grams of carbohydrate, 2 grams saturated fat, 565 mg of sodium, and 12 grams of fiber!

More Mouth-Watering Lunch Ideas

Lunch can be so much more than just a peanut butter sandwich every day! Take a look at some of the sample menus below, and make lunch a meal to look forward to.

Menu #1: Pack yourself a Mediterranean Turkey Wrap along with 2/3 cup red grapes, and 8 fluid ounces of unsweetened iced tea. To cut down on the carbs in this meal, you could use a low-carb tortilla wrap.

Nutrition information: 360 calories, 47 grams of carbohydrate, 1.6 grams saturated fat, 630 mg of sodium, and 12 grams of fiber

Menu #2: Try ½ cup of our Tuna Salad with Chickpeas served on top of 5 whole wheat crackers. Have it with 10 dry roasted unsalted almonds, 10 baby carrots, and 2 tablespoons hummus. Whip up the tuna salad the night before in just 10 minutes. Then, pack it in individual containers for yourself and the rest of the family to enjoy for lunch the next day.

Nutrition information: 380 calories, 39 grams of carbohydrate, 1.8 grams saturated fat, 612 mg of sodium, and 10 grams of fiber

Menu #3: Have ½ cup of Creamy Chicken Apple Salad served over 1 ½ cups of spinach or mixed greens. Add a banana or another serving of fruit as a side.

Nutrition information: 240 calories, 35 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram saturated fat, 180 mg of sodium, and 6 grams of fiber

Menu #4: Pack ½ cup of Tomato, Mozzarella and Chickpea Salad in a plastic container.  Add an orange and a small whole wheat roll on the side topped with 1 tablespoon trans free margarine for a filling and tasty vegetarian meal!

Nutrition information: 390 calories, 46 grams of carbohydrate, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 280 mg of sodium, and 10 grams of fiber

Menu #5: Make a pot of Veggie Chili on the weekend and have it for lunch throughout the week. Pack a 1-cup serving in a thermos for lunch. After reheating it, top it with 1 tablespoon non-fat plain Greek yogurt and ¼ cup diced avocado, and add a small apple on the side.

Nutrition information: 315 calories, 54 grams of carbohydrate, 1 gram saturated fat, 500 mg of sodium, and a whopping 15 grams of fiber!

For even more lunch ideas, visit the Recipes page and search for lunch recipes from the Find More Recipes box.

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