Fuel Up Smart: 5 Nutritious Brown Bag Lunches for Busy Adults

brown bag lunches

Packing a lunch can save money and help you control your calorie consumption. Restaurant meals often have higher calorie counts than expected, even if they sound healthy on the menu. By bringing your lunch to work or school, you can choose healthier options and better manage what you put into your body.

It’s a way to skip the vending machines and fast food and enjoy nutrients and sustained energy sources that will help you power through your busy day. It will save you money, too. Here are some ideas for tasty and satisfying healthy lunches to pack for work.

 Chicken Salad to Go

Chicken salad is a versatile and satisfying option for lunch that you’ll never grow tired of. By preparing a batch at the beginning of the week, you can pack it and bring it to work for a convenient and tasty meal. Skip the white bread with its refined flour and serve it on whole-grain crackers or stuffed it into a whole-wheat pita pocket for added fiber and nutrients.

To boost the nutritional value of your chicken salad, add crunchy nuts, seeds, cranberries, and other chopped fruit, as well as flavorful spices like curry or dill. For a lighter and protein-rich twist, use plain Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to reduce the calorie content. With so many ways to customize your chicken salad, you’ll never run out of delicious and nourishing lunch ideas. Don’t forget to refrigerate it.

 Put Leftovers to Work for You

Incorporating leftovers into your lunches is a convenient and budget-friendly way to add variety to your meals. One option is to prepare a dinner dish with a high-fiber grain like quinoa and then use the leftovers for lunch the next day. Mix in some black beans, cherry tomatoes, scallions, olives, chunks of broccoli, or any other leftover vegetables you have, and drizzle with olive oil for a healthy and filling salad.

Quinoa is a nutritious choice — high in protein and fiber and with more nutritional value than rice. When you cook a whole grain like quinoa for dinner, make enough to use in your lunches for the rest of the week.

Here are some other ideas for adding quinoa to your lunch box:

  • Quinoa salad: Cook quinoa according to package instructions and mix it with your choices of vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and bell peppers. Add a protein, such as tofu or chickpeas, and a dressing, such as a vinaigrette or lemon juice. Pack this salad in a container to carry with you.
  • Quinoa bowl: Create a quinoa bowl by cooking quinoa and layering it with roasted vegetables, protein (such as grilled chicken or tofu), and a sauce or dressing. Pack each component in a separate container, and mix the ingredients together when you’re ready to eat them.
  • Quinoa sandwiches: Use quinoa as a filling for sandwiches or wraps. Mix cooked quinoa with your choice of vegetables and a protein, such as shredded chicken or tofu, and spread it on bread or wrap it in a tortilla.
  • Quinoa and vegetable stir-fry: Cook quinoa and mix it with your choice of stir-fried vegetables and protein. Pack this stir-fry in a container to take with you for lunch.
  • Quinoa and bean burritos: Mix cooked quinoa with beans, such as black beans or kidney beans, and your choice of vegetables. Wrap this mixture in a tortilla and pack it in a container to take with you for lunch.

 Pita Pockets

There’s nothing easier than filling a whole-grain pita pocket with a rainbow of sliced vegetables and a sprinkle of low-fat cheese. Elevate this simple sandwich by spreading on a flavorful condiment such as red pepper hummus or indulgent basil pesto.

While basil pesto is higher in calories, it’s also packed with heart-healthy fats and pine nuts — a food that stimulates the release of the appetite-curbing hormone CCK, helping you feel satisfied faster. Pita pockets are also a convenient way to repurpose leftovers from the night before, as long as the original meal was healthy.

Skip the white-bread pita pockets. Whole-grain pita pockets are healthier than white pita or other refined grain options because they are higher in fiber and nutrients. Fiber is an important dietary component that promotes bowel regularity, maintains a healthy weight, and lowers cholesterol levels.

Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels by slowing the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Choose a whole-grain pita pocket for more fiber so it will be gentler on your blood sugar.

 Make a Big Batch of Soup

Preparing a batch of hot vegetable soup at the beginning of the week is a convenient and satisfying way to stay warm and nourished during the colder months. Simply portion out servings of the soup into a thermos and bring it to work, ensuring you have a hearty and healthy option whenever hunger strikes.

Not only is soup a delicious and comforting choice, but research shows that starting a meal with a soup can help you consume 20% fewer calories during the meal that follows. For an easy and time-efficient way to prepare vegetable soup, try using frozen vegetables as a base. By adding flavorful herbs and spices, you won’t taste the difference between fresh and frozen.

 Transform Raw Vegetables Into a Delicious and Nutritious Snack With Healthy Dipping Sauces

While raw vegetables may not be the most exciting snack on their own, adding a flavorful dipping sauce can take them to the next level. Hummus, low-calorie ranch dressing, and homemade mustard sauce are all tasty and healthy options that can turn raw veggies into satisfying snacks. For a protein-rich twist, skip the bread and use these sauces to dip chicken or salmon instead.

Another creative idea is to make kebobs by skewering chunks of salmon and vegetables and dipping them into hummus for a fun and flavorful snack. By adding a healthy dipping sauce, you can transform raw veggies into a tasty and nutritious snack that will keep you satisfied and energized.”


Sick of the same old sandwich for lunch? Plenty of healthy and portable meal options don’t require a trip to a fast-food restaurant. Here are a few other ideas to jog your culinary creativity:

  • Salad jars: Pack various colorful and nutrient-rich vegetables into a jar, along with a protein-rich topping like grilled chicken or tofu. Add a healthy dressing, and you have a convenient and satisfying lunch.
  • Whole-grain wraps: Fill a whole-grain wrap with a combination of lean protein, vegetables, and hummus or avocado for a tasty and nourishing meal on the go.
  • Energy balls: These bite-sized snacks are easy to make and pack and provide a burst of energy and nutrition.


Fong V. Eating soup will help cut calories at meal. Psu.edu. Published 2022. Accessed December 26, 2022. https://www.psu.edu/news/health-and-human-development/story/eating-soup-will-help-cut-calories-meal/

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