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Brown Bagging It
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Brown Bagging It

By Julie Walenta, MPH RD LDN

Sometimes the best part of your day is lunch. A great lunch can renew you with vigor to be ready to tackle the second half of your day. But, if you cringe as you look into your lunch bag, maybe you’re in need of a change.  Often, we tend to eat the same lunch day after day, which simply leads to boredom.  The following tips will give you ideas on new foods to try as well as ways to keep your food fresher as noontime approaches.

For a nutritionally complete lunch, plan it to include a fruit, vegetable, starch and protein.  Below is an easy guide, filled with suggestions which are nutritious and easy to pack to take on the go.


Try mixing and matching items from the table below for five days of healthy lunches:


Starch Protein Veggies Fruits

Pita bread high fiber, whole grain)

Peanut butter, plain or with sliced fresh fruit (strawberries, bananas, etc.), low sugar jam, shredded carrots, raisins

Baby carrots, celery sticks,

or broccoli florets with

low-fat dip

Banana, apple, pear or berries


Whole-grain high fiber bagel



Low-fat cheese



Sugar snap peas



Orange wedges



Tortillas/ wraps (high fiber,

whole grain)


Kidney beans or hummus dip

Cucumber slices

Fresh berries mixed into low-fat yogurt


Pasta or brown rice salad



Lean deli meat (turkey, ham, roast beef)


Bagged salad greens

Snack packs of pineapple or mandarin oranges

High fiber tortilla chips 

(Make them yourself: take

a high fiber wrap, spray with

non-stick spray and place in 

the oven to crisp.)

Chicken, egg, tuna, or seafood salad made with low-fat mayonnaise

Fresh green or red pepper strips

Individual applesauce container



Use frozen ice packs and insulated lunch bags to keep foods cold. Freezing drinks like bottled water can also help keep items chilled.


A thermos can keep food hot as well as cold, which creates even more lunchtime possibilities. Try a thermos of soup on a cold day.  Just fill your thermos with piping hot food and seal. It will stay hot until lunchtime.


Any sandwich can be made into a salad – just use a bed of greens in place of bread.


If you make a lot of sandwiches for you and your family, try the assembly line method: line up slices of bread, spread with mustard, mayo or other spread of your choice.  Add fillings, finishing all sandwiches with another slice of bread, then wrap.


If you and your co-workers all brown bag it, why not start a club? Each person takes a day of the week, and brings lunches for the rest of the group.  A surefire way to add variety!


If you plan ahead, bagging it can be a simple way to stay on track with your food goals and give you the energy you need to have a successful afternoon.