Pack a Healthier and Cheaper Lunch

News and Advice, Nutrition
on September 1, 2010
Rebekah Pope

Save hundreds of dollars—and thousands of calories—a year by packing a satisfying and healthy lunch. Our team of dietitians helps you go beyond the PB&J.

Snack Stash
No fridge, no microwave? No problem. See these fresh ideas for nibbles you can stash in your desk drawer (or add to your kid’s brown bag):
Grains: Whole-grain cereal, low-sugar granola bars, multigrain crackers
Protein: Nuts, sunflower seeds, low-sodium tuna pouches
Dairy: Shelf-stable cheese (like Babybel), single-serve milk or soy milk box
Fruits & Veggies: Applesauce cups, dried fruit, bananas, apples, oranges, carrots, celery, snow peas

Sandwich Swaps
Make over this mealtime staple. Try these simple alternatives to the same-old same-old:
Instead of: White bread
Try: Whole wheat wraps, pitas, flatbreads
Instead of: Lunchmeat
Try: Broiled chicken, grilled fish, omelet (try it hot or cold!)
Instead of: Mayonnaise
Try: Pesto, salsa, avocado, hummus or bean spreads
Instead of: Iceberg lettuce
Try: Cucumber slices, zucchini strips, shredded carrots

Heat ‘n’ Eat
Cook tonight, eat tomorrow: Make extra rice, pasta or quinoa to use in these combos for the next day’s lunch (just reheat and enjoy!).

  • Brown rice, black beans, Monterey jack cheese, bell peppers, cilantro
  • Orzo pasta, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, red onions, rosemary
  • Quinoa, leftover salmon or chicken, red onions, celery, capers, parsley

For the best lunch:
Include one serving each of whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy and veggies or fruit. Frozen entrée fan? Look for at least one serving of veggies, 3 g of fiber and less than 600 mg sodium per serving.