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Packing a Healthy Lunch

Packing A Healthy Lunch

Mid-Day Made Easy

Brown Bag for the Health of It

Mid-day meals are a pricey proposition for the quarter of our population who eats out for lunch every day during the workweek. And not only is eating out hard on the pocket book, it’s hard on our health as well. But by “brown-bagging” your weekday lunches, you can save yourself hundreds of calories a day and thousands in a single year.

To a lot of people, brown-bagging sounds like too much work for a run-of-the-mill-meal. But believe it or not, it’s not that much work, and because you have full control over the menu, brown-bagging allows you to kick your mid-day meal up a notch. This brochure is power-packed with information that will help you brown-bag for the health of it.

The Benefits of Brown Bagging

Your mid-day meal doesn’t have to cost you your health—or cost you a fortune. And brown bagging doesn’t have to be boring, either. Find out how you can brown bag with ease, avoiding the consequences of too many calories, and too much fat.

To some, bringing a brown bag lunch to work may not seem like the most exciting thing to do. Just the term “brown bag” can sound a little boring. But when you consider the benefits brown bagging brings, the prospect of packing your own lunch quickly becomes more appetizing. Check out these benefits of brown bagging and get to packin’.

Benefit #1: Brown Bagging is Healthier

Have you ever wondered what’s actually in a typical fast food burger and fries? The answer is a lot—a lot of calories, and tons of fat. Consider this. A Double Whopper® with cheese, large size fry and large size Coke® at Burger King® rings in at almost 2,100 calories and 100 grams of fat. That’s all your calories and more than your share of fat for the day in just one meal! Conversely, a home packed turkey sandwich on wheat bread with baked potato chips and an ice tea totals about 500 calories and about six grams of fat.

Anyway you slice it, packing a moderately healthy lunch from home will almost always beat the fast food competition hands down.

Benefit #2: Brown Bag And Get More Time to Relax

When you consider travel time—the time it takes to battle the traffic and the lunch crowd—going out to lunch each day can take considerable time. By packing your lunch and eating in the company cafeteria (or outside if it’s nice) you maximize your lunchtime and truly relax and enjoy. Take some time for yourself by reading a book, surfing the day’s headlines, or simply closing your eyes and taking some deep breaths. Plain and simple, if you’re not rushing to make it to a restaurant during your lunch hour, you’ll have much more time to concentrate on more important things.

Benefit #3: You’ll Save Big Bucks

Here’s a newsflash: eating out is expensive! Have you ever really considered how much you spend on eating out for lunch? The calculation is pretty simple. Take an average meal price of seven dollars (and that’s on the low-side) and multiply it by 20 (the approximate number of working days in a month). That’s $140 a month, and almost $1,700 per year. When you sit back and consider it, that’s a lot of money to save just by packing a lunch for work.

Maximizing Your Mid-Day Meal...Brown Bagging With Ease!

Make brown-bagging your lunch a habit! When you prepare your own meals you have complete control over their nutritional quality and their portions. The time and money this savvy routine can save you is precious, too!

Remember also that of all meals, studies show that going out to lunch provides the highest risk for eating too many calories—to the tune of 159 to 239 extra daily calories. To be sure, packing a healthy lunch is one of the surest ways to trim your waistline and your budget.

There’s no doubt that brown-bagging your lunch requires a little more effort than hitting a local drive thru, or standing in line at the company cafeteria. But as we’ve seen, brown bagging—because it’s cheaper and healthier—pays big dividends in the long run. Here are some quick and easy tips that will help you pack tasty and healthy mid-day meals.

  • Plan your weekly lunch menu every Sunday.
  • Pack your lunch the night before.
  • Remind yourself to take your lunch—place notes on your refrigerator or in your car so you don’t forget it!
  • Be sure to keep cold foods cold.
  • Read the Food Facts labels on items you pack.
  • Try using frozen bread to make your sandwich—this can help keep your lunch cool and at a safe temperature.

Check Out These Ideas To Kick Your Brown Bag Up A Notch

Rely on Leftovers:Leftovers, especially if they’re healthy, can make your mid-day meal—literally. When preparing your dinners in the evening, try planning ahead and making an extra chicken breast or serving of seafood that you can pack for lunch. There’s no reason you should have to settle for the typical sandwich when it comes to your brown bag lunch. Have fun and be creative.

Always Go Whole Grain:Not only are whole grains delicious, but they provide vital nutrients and can help you feel fuller longer. Replace your white bread, pasta, or rice with whole grain varieties like whole wheat bread and pasta, and/or brown rice. Look for “whole grain” on the package. Not only will you find a whole new world of taste with whole grains, but you’ll also be getting a whole host of nutrients important to a nutritious diet.

Go Green: Most people forget about salads when it comes to brown bagging. And by being creative with your greens, you can create a healthy masterpiece that will make your colleague envious. One thing to watch out for, however, are those creamy salad dressings that add fat and calories along with their flavor. Your best salad dressing bet? A little extra virgin olive oil with a little balsamic vinegar. Healthy and delicious!

Select Super Soups: Soups can make for a tantalizing lunch with low calories, but plenty of punch. There are literally thousands of soup ideas floating around, and they’re a great way to use your leftovers. Don’t have access to a microwave? Don’t worry. Heat your soups before heading off to work and use a thermos to keep them warm until lunchtime.

Upgrade Your Brown Bag: Using and tossing those brown bags is costly to your pocket book and the environment. Invest in a thermal lined lunch bag. Using it with a small ice pack at the bottom of your bag will keep your food colder and safer, for a longer period of time.

Brown Bag Ideas Made Easy

The suggestions below can help take some of the work out of packing a healthy, yet exciting lunch each day. Each of the lunches shown here contains 500 to 700 calories and less than 15 grams of fat. Use them to plan your menu in the days ahead and give your favorites a regular rotation on your lunch schedule.

Menu # 1

  • Turkey (three ounces), mustard, and lettuce on whole wheat bread
  • One small bag of baked potato or whole grain chips
  • One medium banana
  • One bottle of unsweetened tea

Menu # 2

  • Whole wheat pita stuffed with tuna, low-fat dressing, celery, sprouts, and diced tomato
  • One small can of bean soup with six saltine crackers
  • One medium orange
  • One large glass of water

Menu # 3

  • Two slices of vegetarian pizza (toppings include mushrooms, onions, tomatoes and pineapples)
  • One handful of grapes
  • Six ounces skim milk

Menu #4

  • One medium bowl of lean meat chili (prepared the night before)
  • Four saltine crackers
  • One half-cup low-fat cottage cheese with pineapple slices
  • One medium apple
  • One large glass of iced tea

Menu # 5

  • Roast beef (three ounces), horseradish, and tomato on rye bread
  • A small tossed salad with carrots and olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
  • One medium pear
  • One six-ounce glass of skim milk

Menu # 6

  • One medium chicken breast steamed with garlic, and 1/2 cup wild rice (prepared the night before)
  • One medium peach
  • Walnut and orange salad made with low-fat mayonnaise
  • One large glass of vegetable juice

Menu # 7

  • One chicken and lettuce stuffed tortilla with 1/8 cup Colby cheese and salsa
  • One small bag of baked tortilla chips
  • One cup of non-buttered corn (prepared in microwave at work)
  • One large glass of water

Menu #8

  • A small plate of penne pasta with red sauce (prepared the night before). Watch the fat and calories in the sauce
  • One slice whole wheat garlic bread
  • One medium apple
  • One large glass of 100% grape juice

Lunchtime Match-Up

Fast Food vs. Brown Bag

Take a look at how these fast food challenges match up against healthier, brown bag champions.

Bout One

Fast Food Challenger

  • Burger King Double Whopper® with cheese
  • King size fries
  • King size soda

Calories: 2,090, Fat: 100 grams


Healthy Brown Bag Champ

  • Turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread
  • Small bag baked potato chips
  • One, 12-ounce bottle of unsweetened iced tea

Calories 550, Fat: 10 grams

Bout Two

Fast Food Challenger

  • KFC “Twister” sandwich
  • Mashed potatoes with gravy
  • Biscuit
  • Slice of apple pie

Calories: 1,250, Fat: 61 grams


Healthy Brown Bag Champ

  • Steamed chicken breast on a bed of lettuce (with low-fat dressing)
  • One medium apple
  • Small chocolate chip cookie
  • • Large glass of unsweetened iced tea

Calories 570, Fat: 9 grams

For More Information

National Restaurant Association

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

WELCOA (Wellness Council of America)
17002 Marcy Street, Suite 140
Omaha, NE 68118
Phone: (402) 827-3590
©2014 Wellness Council of America

The information contained in this brochure has been carefully reviewed for accuracy It is not intended to replace the advice of your physician or health care provider.