7 Healthy Lunch Options You Can Pack

Cheap, Easy & Healthy Meals You Can Bring to Work

We’ve all been there. You finally get a break for lunch; you’re starving, strapped for time and cash. Hitting up the fast food chain would save a few bucks, but blow your healthy eating. Or there’s the organic restaurant around the corner, but it already took a chunk out of your budget last week. To pull yourself out of lunch-time purgatory, we've compiled seven healthy and delicious make-ahead lunch ideas for even the pickiest (and laziest) of eaters. Brown-bagging it is cool again.

Stuffed Sweet Potato

Sweet potato stuffed with beans and vegetables
For a healthier take on the stuffed baked potato, Holistic Health Coach Marissa Vicario recommends a stuffed sweet potato you can prepare the night before work, or the morning of if you’re an early riser. Prepare some black beans (canned ones work) and bake a sweet potato. In the meantime, steam a few of your favorite veggies. Once everything is done, stuff the sweet potato with the beans and veggies. Top with avocado and hot sauce for an added kick.

You’re getting protein from the beans, nutrients and vitamins from the vegetables, and sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin C and potassium, while avocados are packed with healthy monosaturated fats and vitamins. 


Hummus and veggie wrap
Wraps are easy to make and fun because you can customize them however you like. Vicario recommends layering hummus, sprouts and raw veggies in a wrap. For extra heft, you can also add your favorite lean protein. For the wrap itself, some healthy options include steamed collard leaves, sprouted grain tortillas, cabbage leaves or Nori sheets.

Vicario's wrap is great because hummus is packed with iron, fiber and protein, sprouts have saponins which help lower cholesterol, and the veggies full of are vitamins and nutrients. 

Stacked Sandwich: Goat Cheese & Beet

Goat cheese and beet sandwich
No matter how old we get we can still appreciate a good PB&J, but this is definitely not your average 4th grade sandwich. What's in it:

2 oz goat cheese
2 slices 9-grain bread
1 tsp shallots, minced
1 small beet, cooked, peeled, sliced (canned beets work)
1/4 watercress, chopped
1 lemon wedge

Soften goat cheese at room temperature then spread on bread. Add shallots, beet and watercress. Squeeze on a bit of lemon juice on top. Pack a side of fruit or veggies and you’re good to go.

Why this sandwich is great: Beets contain tons of antioxidants and vitamin C, watercress is loaded with vitamin K, A and antioxidants, and 9 grain bread gives you fiber and protein.

(Recipe adapted from: oxygenmag.com/Nutrition/Articles/Lunchbox-Makeover%20.aspx#page-2)

DIY Salad Bar

Tupperware salad
Because planning ahead is key to eating healthy, Registered Dietitian Jennifer Cohen Katz recommends setting up a salad bar in your fridge. Wash, chop up and store your favorite salad toppings in separate containers. Don’t forget healthy items that can really give your salad pizazz like apples or pears, dried cranberries or currants, walnuts or pine nuts, and, of course, feta or goat cheese.

The night before, prepare a lean protein to top your salad off. Try grilled or baked chicken breast, salmon or a lean flank steak. Or go for chickpeas lentils or seasoned tofu if it’s Meatless Monday. Slice the protein up and store it in a separate container so it’s ready to go when you need to grab it quick.

To really top it all off, keep on hand one of Katz’s favorite salad dressings:
Flaxseed & Olive Oil Vinaigrette
2 tbsp flaxseed oil
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup balsalmic vinegar
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients together. Keep refrigerated.  Yields ~8 salad dressing servings.

(Recipe Source: Jennifer Cohen Katz, RD via eatwellmealplans.com)

Whole-Grain Chicken Pita

chicken pita pocket
To pack fiber into your salad, try putting it into a whole-grain pita. The night before, grill some chicken breast and slice into strips. Slice a red bell pepper. Store both in the fridge in separate containers. The morning of work, toss baby spinach and bell pepper with a low-fat vinaigrette (Katz’s Flaxseed & Olive Oil Vinaigrette would be delicious on this). Load the pita up with the spinach, bell pepper and grilled chicken.

Why it’s a ChickRx fave: You’re getting lean protein from the chicken, vitamin A, iron and folate from the spinach, vitamins from the bell pepper and fiber from the whole-grain pita.

(Recipe & photo source: health.com/health/gallery/0,,20407095_2,00.html)

Avocado Tuna Salad

healthy avocado tuna salad
This recipe is a spin on the traditional tuna salad--don’t worry there’s no mayo included. You can make a sandwich or pita pocket out of this mix, go low-carb and simply serve it over a bed of greens, or just enjoy it by itself. You'll need:

2 avocados
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cucumber, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
Tuna (1 2.6 oz packet or 3 oz can of tuna in water)
1-2 tbsp Greek yogurt
Salt and pepper to taste

Drain tuna and mix in Greek yogurt. You can use from one to two tablespoons depending on how creamy you'd like the salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. For the dressing, mix all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it's a creamy consistency. Drizzle the avocado dressing on top of the tuna. Keep refrigerated until lunchtime.

We love this because tuna is low in saturated fat and packed with protein, avocado's got those healthy monosaturated fats, and the Greek yogurt's got protein, probiotics and calcium.

(Recipe source: Brittany Davila via littlebshealthyhabits.com/2012/07/tuna-salad-with-creamy-avocado-dressing.html)

Single Ladies’ Lunch
Obviously one of the easiest lunch ideas is to bring your leftovers from the night before’s dinner. What makes this so great is that most recipes are designed for more than one serving (or you can just double up a smaller recipe). Cook once and kill two birds with one stone--and avoid the grimy Tupperware filling your fridge for weeks.
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The avocado looks like a dog turd....
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