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.