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Brown bag lunch ideas for kids and adults

Buying lunch and healthy eating often don't mix.

  • A typical deli sandwich is oversized and loaded with fat.
  • A bag of chips usually has unhealthy hydrogenated fats and empty calories.
  • Soft drinks have no real nutritional value.

School lunches aren't always so great either. It depends on the day.

Taking lunch to work or school -- also known as "brown bagging " -- gives you control over fat and calories. And it's usually less expensive.

These sandwich ideas -- all on whole grain bread, pita, tortilla or low-fat crackers -- should keep you from getting bored with the brown bag scene.

  • Add zip to tuna salad. Try using low-fat cottage cheese instead of mayonnaise. Add chopped apples and grated carrots. If you like curry dishes, add dash of curry powder. Tuna tastes great on crackers.
  • Liven up peanut butter sandwiches. Sliced bananas are a great addition to a peanut butter sandwich. Instead of banana, try apple and a little cinnamon.
  • Dress up chicken salad. Add apple, pineapple, and a mixture of mayonnaise and yogurt seasoned with curry powder to chopped chicken. Take pita bread with you and fill it with the salad just before eating.
  • Make the most of hard-boiled eggs. Slice the eggs, and spread the bread with a little mayonnaise and some spicy mustard. Add lettuce or chopped watercress.
  • Choose lean luncheon meats. Add low-fat cheese, spinach, sprouts, onions, tomatoes or cucumbers. Leftover meats like grilled chicken breasts from a previous meal are good, low-salt alternatives to packaged lunch meats.
  • Go vegetarian. Start with low-fat cheese and pile on fresh veggies like sliced peppers, greens, tomatoes and avocado. Hummus and pita bread with veggies and low-fat cheese also make a healthy sandwich.

Don't forget to add a serving or two of fruits and vegetables to make a complete lunch.

An occasional treat also adds appeal to a brown bag lunch. Try low-fat pudding or a few chocolate kisses.

Source: Health Online, Inc.
Reviewed by: Rachel Baar, MS, RD, LD, clinical nutrition manager, Mercy Hospital
First Published: 08/01/2000
Last Reviewed: 01/22/2010