Your Facebook requests: Nutritious brown bag lunch ideas


“I really need help with healthy lunches while on the go and how to increase veggie intake.  Generally I don’t have the option to heat it up. I also don’t want to buy lunches” says Enlightened Eater Facebook fan, Emma Joanne Glover.

Emma, purchasing your lunch can be very costly indeed – both to your wallet and to your caloric intake. Packing your own eats can put you in the driver’s seat and allow you to not only control portion sizes, sodium content  and calories but to also boost the nutritional value of your midday meal by including a variety of nutrient-rich options. And variety is key, not just for avoiding boredom, but to meet all your nutrient needs.

You’ve also picked a great month to look at revamping your lunch menus. It’s March and that means it’s Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month. This year’s theme is Eating 9 to 5. There are plenty of activities going on right across the country and lots of online info with tips to fuel you  through your workday with plenty of energy.  Check them out at the Dietitians of Canada website.

Here are also some of my ideas for easy brown bagging.

Firstly, consider putting together a menu that you can post on the fridge. It can be one with fixed days of the week (Monday, Tuesday etc.) or a less formal one with just a list of lunch possibilities. While heating your lunch may not be an option, consider a wide-mouth thermos for soups and casserole type dishes such as chili.

You could go for grain salads a couple of days per week. Then sandwiches as other choices two days a week  and a salad or leftover hot meal another day to avoid boredom.

Lunches should consist of selections from at least 3 out of the 4 four food groups, including a high protein offering and at least a serving of vegetable and/or fruit.  Then base your choices partially  on what you make for dinner and take the extra portions into consideration so that you don’t waste cooking opportunities. After all, who wants to spend a lot of time on packing lunches?

For example, if you are having chicken for dinner, cook extra and have it as part of your lunch along with a whole grain and some vegetables.  Enjoy it in a veggie-packed  sandwich,  wrap or in a grain or pasta salad.  If you’re cooking up a pot of pasta, cook enough for a pasta salad and while the noodles are cooking, chop some vegetables such as onions and celery.  Once you’ve drained the pasta, add a protein such as tuna, diced lower-fat cheese cubes, the chopped vegetables (along with leftovers such as snow peas or broccoli)  and a dressing  and put it away in the fridge. If you are roasting, steaming or grilling vegetables, make sure you have enough for lunches.

Here are some other ideas for quick, nutritious lunch options.

•    Always cook extra whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and millet. Freeze them in appropriate portions in labelled containers and then use them for lunches a few days per week with added protein selections and vegetables or fruit.  Use leftover protein, cooked vegetables, fruits and herbs from dinner.

•    When cooking fish for dinner, again, make enough for a fish salad or sandwich for lunch. For other protein-rich selections, consider freezing lunch-sized portions for quick lunches.

•    When preparing vegetables for dinner, make extra and then toss them with other selections such as  chopped onion,  grape tomatoes and salad  dressing; then refrigerate for lunch the next day. A simple dressing made with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar or a sesame oil and rice vinegar combo is also delicious.

•    Go skinny dipping. Enjoy cut up vegetables and fruits with a variety of tasty lower-fat dips.

•    Pack various vegetables which need minimal preparation such as grape tomatoes, baby carrots and mini-cucumbers.

•    Load up on sandwich garnishes like tomato slices, onions, roasted or grilled vegetables or even peppery greens like arugula.

•    Freeze vegetable soups in lunch-sized portions and then heat in the morning to put into a thermos for a welcome hot accompaniment to a sandwich.

Do you have any quick lunch ideas to share? Please post them in the comment section below.

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Categories: Tips and Tricks, Your Questions Answered

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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