Same sandwich, different day? Bringing your lunch to work doesn’t mean that you have to settle for a boring or (gasp!) unhealthy entree. So put down the loaf of white bread, step away from the processed lunch meat and don’t even think about reaching for the jar of mayo!
Choosing to “brown bag it” can be a great time- and money-saver. And skipping the pepperoni pizza from the office cafeteria can save you a ton of calories – if, and only if, the right foods go into your lunch bag.
You don’t need to be a dietitian (or a gourmet chef) to put together a delicious, nutritious and satisfying brown bag lunch. If fact, here’s a little cheat sheet – our top five choices for tasty, healthful boxed lunches that will give you the energy you need to get through even the most trying workday:
1. Grilled Chicken Salad. In the mood for chicken? Start with about 4 ounces of leftover (or prepackaged) grilled chicken and 2 cups of mixed salad greens. Then go wild. Add your favorite veggies (or any you happen to have on hand!) and throw in some fruit, such as apple slices, mandarin orange segments or grapes, for added flavor and nutrition. Dress it up with a little heart-healthy oil and balsamic vinegar or 2 tablespoons of your favorite low-cal dressing. Include one small, whole wheat pita on the side for a healthy-carb kick.
2. Cottage Cheese and Fruit Salad. Got a bit of a sweet tooth? Well, begin with a cup of reduced-fat cottage cheese. Then get creative with nature’s candy. Slice and dice all of your fruity favorites – apples, cantaloupe, grapes, honeydew, peaches, pears, pineapple, strawberries… the choices are endless. Sprinkle a dash of cinnamon on top for a flavor boost, and enjoy a side of whole wheat crackers to kick your energy level into overdrive.
3. Veggies and Hummus in Whole Grain Wrap. Looking for something a little more exotic? Get started by spreading 1 ounce of low-fat humus on a whole wheat wrap. The let your love of veggies take over. Add alfalfa sprouts, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, peppers … or whatever veggies you find in your fridge. You can even add some grilled chicken or other lean protein, if you desire. Finish the meal on a sweet note with a small, fat-free yogurt. Yum!
4. Hearty, Low-Fat Chili. Craving a homey, hot meal? Bring a bowl of low-fat, leftover (or store bought) chili to work in a microwave safe container. Vegetarian chili, beef chili, chicken chili and turkey chili will all work, so take your pick! Sprinkle 1/8-cup of reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese on top, along with a dollop of low-fat sour cream. Enjoy a small whole grain roll on the side (skip the fattening butter – chili is perfect for dipping!), and be sure to pack your favorite fruit for dessert.
5. Bean and Cheese Burrito. Ready for a lunchtime fiesta? Spread a few ounces of chunky salsa (mild, medium or hot if your palate can take it!) on a whole-wheat wrap. Add some black or low-fat refried beans (your choice!), corn niblets and 1/4-cup of reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese. Finish it off with a tablespoon of low-fat sour cream. This delish dish can be served either hot or cold. Don’t forget to bring something sweet and healthy, such as a small box of raisins, for dessert!
Remember, experts recommend drinking about 64 ounces of water a day. So keep a big jug on your desk and sip away during lunch and throughout the day.