Better Brown Bag Ideas

During back-to-school time, it can be hard to decide how to pack healthy lunches. Whether it’s for your toddlers superhero lunchbox or a college kids’ cooler bag, lunch is an important part of the day.

With all the research and energy going into school lunches and coming out with bad results, we are faced with the reality that they just aren’t getting what they should be. It’s a better idea to pack lunches and have more control over what that mid-day meal looks like. But what to pack? We often find ourselves in the pattern of making the same things over and over again hoping no one gets too tired of them. Here are a few ideas to help freshen up that sack and bring a healthier meal to the afternoon that you can feel good about.


Healthified Chicken Salad

1 cup chopped cooked chicken breast
1/3 cup chopped cored apple or finely chopped celery
1 hard-cooked egg, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons plain fat-free yogurt
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise or salad dressing
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

Simply mix all the ingredients together and you’re done!

Packed with protein and quick to make, this one sits at the top of my list. This recipe makes 4 servings, so if you have more than one lunch to pack, or just like to make a little extra ahead, definitely give it a try. It’s also easy to switch up for variety: try it outside the sandwich by tossing in some whole grain crackers and cheese squares, or fresh vegetables like squash, zucchini or cucumber to pile the salad on.


Black Bean Soft Tacos

1 can (15 oz) black beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn
1/2 cup Thick ‘n Chunky salsa
4 whole wheat tortillas (8 inch)
2/3 cup shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges, if desired

In medium microwavable bowl, microwave beans, corn and salsa uncovered on High 3 to 5 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time, then divvy everything up through the 4 tortillas.

This one is another great one if you have more than one lunch to pack because it makes 4. If you are making ahead of time though, I don’t suggest packing the tortillas. This filling can also be served up with some whole grain chips or crackers, and that can definitely be done ahead and kept in the fridge.


Parmesan-White Bean Dip

1 tablespoon canola or soybean oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 can (19 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 to 1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat oil in heavy 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic and rosemary in oil 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly, until garlic is light golden. Remove from heat.
  2. Add cannellini beans and broth to saucepan. Partially mash beans with potato masher. Stir in parsley. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until bean mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in cheese until melted.

This one is a little more involved, but it makes a good size batch that you can divide up and use a few times over again. It goes great on top of fresh veggies too!

Well, that’s it for today. I hope you find something fantastic to do with your lunches. Let me know if you try them or have suggestions in the comments below.


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