Brown-Bagging Made Easy: 5 Healthy Lunch Ideas

By , Melissa Rudy, Health & Fitness Journalist
Between work, school, sports and countless other to-do items, finding the time to pack a healthy lunch every day can seem about as likely as having a winning lottery ticket. But with a little planning and not as much time as you might think, nutritious mid-day meals are well within reach.
We consulted with our staff nutritionist to create five healthy lunches that meet the recommended criteria for calories, fat, protein, fiber and carbohydrates. Plus, they're easy to assemble, portable and downright delicious. Give them a try, and then get inspired to plan additional healthy lunches all week long.

Try the Recipes

Greek Salad Pita Sandwich
Taco Soup
Whole-Wheat Pita Chips
Chicken and Creamy Curry Wrap
Mixed Green Veggies
Chicken Salad on Whole-Wheat Wrap
Salmon Salad with Blueberries

8 Quick Tips for Packing Easy, Healthy Lunches

  1. Steer clear of prepackaged, bagged snacks. These are usually heavily processed and often contain a slew of preservatives and artificial ingredients.
  2. Spring for a high-quality lunch container. You'll be more likely to bring a lunch if you have a spacious, sturdy place to pack and transport it.
  3. Get a hodgepodge of container sizes. You'll need larger containers for sandwiches, soups or salads, but also smaller ones for things like dips, salad dressings and nuts. Containers with dividers can do double-duty. (Make sure they're leak-proof and microwave-safe. If you don't have access to a fridge and/or microwave, invest in insulated containers to keep food hot or cold.)
  4. Make the most of leftovers. When planning dinners, choose meals that can be repurposed as the next day's lunch. It may be as easy as sealing the leftovers into a container, or you can use them to create a new dish. For instance, if you have grilled chicken for dinner, you can cut up the leftover meat into strips and mix them with some salad greens for a healthy, hearty lunch.
  5. Try to always include a fruit and veggie. Not only do they provide essential vitamins and nutrients, they're also very important for people who are trying to lose weight.
  6. Use a frozen drink in lieu of an ice pack. Freeze a bottle of water or low-calorie juice and then use it to chill the rest of the lunch. You'll conserve space in your container, and by lunchtime the drink will be thawed and cold. Between uses, store the empty container in the fridge so it stays even colder.
  7. Try this stay-hot trick: Before pouring a hot beverage or soup into a thermos, fill it with boiling water for a few minutes and then empty it. This will pre-heat the thermos to keep the contents warmer longer.
  8. Plan lunches on the weekends. If you wait until the night before or the same morning to pack a lunch, you'll be more likely to fall into the takeout trap. Set aside some time during the weekend to plan the next week's worth of lunches.
What are your favorite meals to pack for lunch? Visit SparkRecipes for hundreds more easy, healthy and yummy lunch recipes.

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ELSCO55 9/6/2020
Great Report
EVILCECIL 2/8/2020
Great ideas, thanks. Report
DEE107 2/8/2020
thanks Report
Once you start bagging your lunch using these ideas, you will get used to it and the ideas will flow. Report
1CRAZYDOG 12/18/2019
Great suggestions Report
KATHYJO56 12/17/2019
Great ideas, but lots of carbs Report
GETULLY 12/17/2019
Usually my lunches are leftovers. Report
RAPUNZEL53 12/6/2019
Great Report
I pack my lunch every day. I have to change it up every day or I get bored. I never understood the people who eat the same thing every day but to each their own Report
I normally packed a lunch with leftovers from dinner. Otherwise favorites were minestrone, navy bean or split pea soup; salad in summer w/ different veggies some grilled from the weekend; bean, turkey & salsa burritos; ants on a log; fruit salad medley; stuffed zucchini boats; chicken, cucumber & mango wraps; baked potato w/ turkey chili. Sometimes I took breakfast & I like oatmeal w/ cinnamon, nut butter & unsweetened applesauce mixed together (all my meals & snax are nondairy) or mini bagels w/ hummus or lox or smoked kippers. Report
Yay Report
Good tips and recipe examples. Good need-to-know information! Report
Great article Report
thank you Report
Love the ideas! Just curious about freezing bottled water...I heard that is unhealthy due to chemicals from the plastic ending up in the water. Is this a myth or fact? Report
Great tips! Thanks! Report
Good suggestions. Very helpful. Report
Thanks Report
Keep in mind, there will come a time when a person will tire of these same things, Day in and day out, and that’s when we hit the danger zone. Be aware that it is bound to happen, the sameness of it all. Report
Neat tips! Thanks! Report
Great ideas Report
Brown bagging helps you stay on track. Report
Great tips Report
Good ideas! Taking my breakfast, snacks, and lunch with me in the car (which I am in and out of throughout the day) has been a huge piece of my weight loss puzzle. I eat healthier and less calories now than before I made it my norm. Report
I've always brought my own lunch to work. I buy single-serve containers of fat free yogurt, single-serve "Dr. McDougall's Soups," 3-oz. cans of tuna, 100-calorie packs of almonds, and fruit; then I mix and match each day, depending on what I'm in the mood for. Often, I'll also add a salad with fat free dressing from my school's dining room. It takes me maybe 30 seconds to prepare a healthy, low-calorie lunch each morning, and there's enough variety that I'm not bored. Report
These are great ideas................Thank You. Report
Learned something new - keep hotter in thermos longer by pre-heating. Great idea. Already brown-bag everyday, usually few pieces of veggies with humus or not. . . Report
Thank You for the great ideas. This helps a lot as I tend to make the same thing over and over out of habit and it becomes very boring. Report
Usually I have a tuna salad or cheddar cheese and tomato sandwich. Number 7 isn't a trick or anything new (sorry) anyone who ever owned an aluminium "Thermos" had to do that. It was in the instructions for mine (haven't used in probably 30 years). Report
TOO many calories for lunch....would like to see ideas around 200-300 calories. Report
Great ideas Report
Great ideas thanks!
The greatest wealth is health. - Virgil Report
Great ideas! Report
Where are the vegetarian/vegan options? Report
Great ideas Report
Batch cooking is the best for losing weight. Pre-made meals for the whole week, ready to go!! Report
Remember to cook carrots, your body can't absorb Vitamin A from raw carrots...... Report
Totally needed to see this! I'm in my last semester of college which is an internship at an elementary school. As a soon-to-be teacher, I will be a 'brown bagger' for life. :) Report
Ah the joys of retirement! I eat the same kind of foods, but don't have to pack them for travel. Report
Yes, WAY too many carbs! Report
I use a portable drink cooler for my lunchbox. It fits everything. Report
Brown bagger for life. When ideas fail, PB&J on whole wheat is terrific as are hard boiled eggs and an apple. To make it appealing keep a plate at the office, and lay it out. And never, never, never eat at your desk. Report
planning and packing ahead is the key to my success with lunch and challenge second only to breakfast! Report
These new ideas are both simple and tasty. Thank you! Report
500 calories for lunch seems like WAY too much. (most diets I have seen aim for 300 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch, 500 for dinner, and two 100 calorie snacks). If you swap out the tortilla for a large lettuce leaf and make the wrap in that, you will save almost 100 calories and a lot of carbs. Report
I have a few 'lightly sauced' frozen veggies that I buy when they are BOGO. I always read the labels to make sure my selections are low in sodium, and NOT overloaded with unpronounceable ingredients.
One serving of this frozen item with some brown rice, bulgur, or quinoa gives me a tasty, healthy, inexpensive lunch.
I am very fortunate to have access to a full size freezer at the office. I keep it FULL of frozen veggies. Report
I'd be happy to eat those lunches if someone else would shop for all the different ingredients and prepare them for me. I tend to alternate leftovers with calorie controlled frozen meals. Add a simple salad and a half cup of frozen veggies and I'm good. Report
I agree with ReneeTC1 - WAY too many carbs in these meals for diabetics. How about giving us a week of suitable menus now? Report