Leftovers for Lunch
Healthy lunches for work can be as simple as cooking a little extra for dinner each night and packing those leftovers in a microwaveable container. You may already end up with leftovers that are sitting in your fridge, not being used. Instead, take them with you to work and save money while eating a healthy lunch each day.
Even if you only have one or two items left after dinner, you can add them to your lunch. For example, you may have some leftover red beans and a piece of grilled chicken. Pack a salad, and then toss in the leftover beans and chop up the chicken into bite size pieces and mix up a nutritious grilled chicken salad. You’ll kick up the nutrition in your salad by adding protein. Protein added to a plain garden salad will stave off hunger longer and keep your blood sugar steady.
Brown Bag Fillers
So maybe you’d rather forego the leftovers or don’t have access to a microwave. How can you eat a frugal and healthy lunch when most traditional lunch ideas revolve around convenience items that are not cheap or healthy? It’s really not that hard to choose healthier lunch foods on a budget.
Whole Grains & Protein
Most brown bag lunches start with a sandwich. Make sure your bread is whole grain. Whole grain breads are typically comparable to white breads in price, and are much healthier. Whole grains have much more fiber and the flour is not bleached. You could opt for whole grain tortillas to make a wrap as an alternative to sandwiches.
A sandwich or wrap should be filled with a healthy source of protein and some vegetables. Choose low fat turkey or chicken that is unprocessed. Most processed sandwich meats contain sodium nitrates which have been reported to cause cancer. Instead, buy the meat and prepare at home. Frozen chicken tenderloin can be cooked straight from the frozen state, and one bag makes several days worth of sandwiches, wraps, or chicken salads. Add a couple of veggies to your sandwich or wrap, or mix up a chicken salad with an egg and your favorite veggies to eat with whole grain crackers.
Fruits & Veggies
Your brown bag lunch should contain a fruit and a couple of vegetables. Try to include several different colored fruits and vegetables in your lunch. This is a great way to ensure a variety of vitamins and nutrients. While you can choose to add your vegetables to your sandwich or a salad, you might rather munch on a fresh apple and a couple of carrot or celery sticks instead. While organic vegetables and fruits are best, try purchasing produce from local growers for better deals on produce. Talk to local growers about their pesticide practices. Many farmers are following organic practices, but aren’t certified. You can get the same quality produce from these growers for much less money.
Make those fruits and veggies more appealing by packing some low fat ranch dip for the veggies. Apples with peanut butter are awesome. Sprinkle a handful of raisins on apple slices that have been spread with peanut butter for a sweet and satisfying snack. Apples can be purchased from local growers by the bushel much cheaper than at a grocery store.
Add a source of dairy to complete your brown bag lunch. Dairy foods are high in calcium and contain vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D can cause poor mood and low energy, so make sure you keep yours within normal range by eating 2-3 servings of low fat dairy products each day. Low fat yogurt is a great source of protein and probiotic microbes as well. The individual servings of yogurt are not the best choice in terms of money, however. Instead, buy a large container of your favorite yogurt and spoon it into a plastic container yourself. Sprinkle with fruit or a little granola for an special treat.
Your brown bag lunch can even include a little surprise. Complete your frugal and healthy lunch by throwing in a couple pieces of dark chocolate for a satisfying, yet healthy dessert. Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants, which protect our cells from damage by free radicals. The higher the percentage of cocoa, the more antioxidants the chocolate contains. Make it frugal by buying in bulk from a supercenter or choosing a store brand variety.
1. Web MD: Health & Cooking: www.webmd.com/food-recipes
2. LapTop Lunches: www.laptoplunches.com
3. Spark People: www.sparkpeople.com