Brown-Bag It! Healthy, Low-Calorie Lunch Ideas

Going out to eat for lunch may be the popular thing to do at work. It’s convenient, so heading down the street to your favorite restaurant becomes part of your daily routine. But do you know how much money you could save if you brought your lunch from home? You could easily cut your lunch expenses in half by packing your own lunch. A $10 dollar lunch may not seem like much at the time, but in a month that’s $200 you can do whatever you want with.

Not eating out everyday won’t just save you money. It’ll help you save on calories, as you’ll be better able to monitor what ingredients you eat and how much. So brown-bagging your lunch is the smart way to save money and lose weight.

If your mornings are rushed and you rarely have lunch food in your cupboards, it’s time to make a few changes. With a little planning and preparation, packing your lunch can become an easy addition to your morning routine. Your wallet and waist will thank you.

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For years and years, you ate packed lunch at school. And you probably had more than your fill of peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches. But there’s good news! Any food eaten every day can get old—even PB & J. Spice things up by eating a variety of foods, and your lunch will never be dull. Who knows? You may even get hungry for that PB & J you swore you’d never eat again.

Not going for peanut butter? No problem. There are plenty of other sandwich options. Just remember to always use 100-percent whole grain bread for fiber and whole carbs. When your palate needs a change, go with pita bread, a whole-wheat bagel, or a wrap. You can also switch things up on the inside of your sandwich. Chicken, egg, or tuna salad sandwiches with low-fat mayonnaise are delicious, refreshing ways to welcome back bag lunches. Of course, don’t forget your favorite lean deli meats with low-fat cheese, and pile on the veggies!


Nothing is simpler than packing a container of last night’s dinner for lunch. Keep plenty of single-serving reusable glass or plastic containers on hand and fill them with leftovers. A couple minutes in the microwave and it’ll taste as good—if not better than—the night before.

Sometimes, it just takes a little planning ahead of time to ensure you have a hot lunch the next day. As you’re preparing dinner, make extra so you’ll have enough for a day or two of lunches. Or maybe during the weekend, make a big pot of soup, chili, stew, or pasta and divide it up into individual containers for the week ahead. Freeze the containers to have on hand whenever you need to grab a quick lunch to go.

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To make sure you’re not tempted to sneak over to the vending machine for high-fat snacks, pack enough food to keep you feeling satisfied and energized all day long. Include a balance of lean protein and carbohydrates to fuel your body.

Pack a piece or two of fresh fruit, carrot sticks or celery slices, nuts and dried fruit, cheese and whole-wheat crackers, a yogurt cup, or a wholesome granola bar. These snacks will keep you belly full and your calorie count low.

Plan Ahead

Packing your own lunch may take more work and preparation, but it’s worth the effort. A quick run to the grocery store to buy healthy ingredients and waking up five minutes earlier is all it takes to assemble a lunch. When making a sandwich or packing leftovers isn’t an option, keep healthy store-bought frozen meals on hand to take with you to work. Pack what you like and you’ll look forward to lunch break even more than before.

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