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Check out our tips for better bag lunches.

Nutrition Smarts

Better Brown Bagging

Bored with the menu at the corner deli? Brown bagging makes it possible to lose weight, eat more healthfully, save money and get creative with your midday meal.

Here are some ideas to make bringing lunch from home more fun:

Plan For Pleasure: Leftovers are the cornerstone of a yummy lunch. Make extra portions of fish, seafood or poultry for dinner, and use them to glorify greens or nestle between bread in sandwiches. The same goes for carbohydrates such as pasta or rice. Or make "yogurt cheese" by draining high-quality, plain low-fat yogurt in a fine meshed strainer overnight in the refrigerator. It tastes like sour cream and can be flavored with herbs or scallions. Use it as a spread, for salad dressings or as a dip for vegetable crudite.

Beyond The Bun: Use low-fat, high-fiber breads for sandwiches, such as fat-free flour tortillas, whole-wheat pita pockets and multi-grain breads. Instead of mayonnaise or butter, use spreads like salsa, chutney, hummus or mustard. Sliced tomatoes and crisp lettuce add moisture.

Salad Sensations: Keep greens and dressings separate until you sit down to eat. Reduce the fat in salad dressings by using a mild vinegar such as balsamic or rice wine or combine wine vinegar with fruit juice or stock. It will take less oil to achieve a pleasing flavor. Fish, poultry and vegetables can join leftover pasta, rice or fiber-rich grains for a salad, too.

Winter Warmth: No microwave? No problem. Preheat soups, chili or stews at home and bring them to work in an insulated beverage bottle. Making a soup is another home for leftovers. If you're using canned stock, chill the can so any fat hardens on the top and can be discarded.

Safe Sacks: Bag the brown bag, and buy a reusable insulated pouch. Wash it daily, and dry it inside out to prevent harmful bacteria from growing. To keep lunch cold, freeze juice boxes, and pack perishable foods next to them. If you're taking soups or stew, heat the insulated bottle with boiling water to sanitize and preheat it. If no refrigerator is available and you're not using an ice pack, store lunch out of sunlight and away from radiators for no more than two hours.

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  • Pack lunch the night before, and tape a slip of paper to your front door as a reminder.
  • Make your sandwich with frozen bread slices. They will thaw by lunch and meanwhile keep the fillings cool.
  • Tight for time? Microwave a sweet potato. Top it with vegetables, low-fat or yogurt cheese or salsa.
  • Try whole-wheat or flavored tortillas to add another dimension to wrapped sandwiches.
  • Make a batch of pears poached in fruit juice with cinnamon as dessert. They're fat free and last up to a week in the refrigerator.

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