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What kind of food could I pack for lunch that would be healthy and filling? — Nikki, NY

Christine Palumbo


Brown bagging lunch gives you many more options than the limited fare at the local deli or cafeteria, but these ideas might also help you create a better lunch when you need to order out.

A healthful lunch includes each of the major energy sources: protein, carbohydrate and fat. The protein will help stabilize your blood sugar and make you less drowsy after eating. Good sandwich fixings include lean ham, turkey, chicken, roast beef, and part-skim mozzarella or other cheese. As a spread, try mustard or salsa instead of mayo. Steer clear of tuna and chicken salads, which are often loaded with high-fat mayonnaise. Fatty, high-sodium meats like bologna, pastrami, corned beef and salami should also be avoided. 

Get creative with Mediterranean-style vegetarian sandwiches — roasted eggplant with tomato, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil — are tasty. Make a wrap by rolling a flour tortilla around sandwich fixings. Add vegetables like shaved carrots, sliced bell peppers, cucumbers, roasted peppers, spinach, scallions, cilantro, mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Vary your breads. Serve sandwiches on mini-bagels, whole-wheat pitas, rye bread, or even tortillas.

Don't forget a piece of fruit. Bananas travel well, as do apples, peaches, plums, grapes, and strawberries, if they're packed carefully. Raw vegetables like carrots, celery, zucchini, sugar snap peas, jicama slices, and green pepper add crunch in place of chips. If you’re strapped for time, you can buy individually wrapped and pre-cut carrots and celery.

There's always that old standby, peanut butter. Just make sure you go with an all-natural variety, without added oil or sugar. Pair peanut butter or other nut butters with sliced bananas, chopped apple, crushed pineapple, sunflower kernels, sliced celery, shredded carrot or raisins.

Try FoodFit's great recipes like Grilled Tuna Sandwiches or Four Seasons Vegetable Burgers and get more ideas from our focus on Brown Bag Lunches .

About Christine Palumbo

Christine Palumbo, MBA, RD has been a nutrition communications consultant since 1989, providing dietary counsel and analysis on various nutrition, health and weight management topics to corporate clients and news media outlets nationwide. An active member of the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the Illinois Dietetic Association, Chicago Dietetic Association for more than twenty years, she has served on a variety of boards and practice group committees within those organizations. In 1981 and 1982, Palumbo was honored by the Chicago Dietetic Association and the Illinois Dietetic Association, respectively, as the Recognized Young Dietician of the Year.

Palumbo has been featured as the expert speaker in numerous national health panels and has published many articles and pamphlets regarding nutrition and healthcare. She has been featured in national women's, health and business magazines, daily newspapers and local and national radio programs. Palumbo has also appeared on numerous local and national TV news programs, including a segment on the Oprah Winfrey Show in 1997 on the health benefits of drinking water.

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